|Add Young people say they are able to obtain cannabis more easily than alcohol and cigarettes|
Dramatic increase in mental health referrals linked to drug soar while prosecutions for possession have halved Cannabis should be legalised in order to prevent a mental health crisis among young people, a report suggests.
High-potency cannabis has become almost ubiquitous on the streets, the study by drugs think-tank Volteface and researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University and King’s College London found.
At the same time, there has been a dramatic increase in referrals for mental health conditions linked to cannabis use, while arrests and prosecutions for possession and production of cannabis have halved in the past 10 years.
Young people have also reported being able to obtain cannabis more easily than alcohol and cigarettes.
“Leaving cannabis policy out of control and wholly in the hands of criminals is no longer an option,” Volteface said.
The authors of the report called on the Government to create a tightly regulated legal cannabis market in order to manage the harmful effects of new strains.
Under the current system, described as “strict illegality but patchy enforcement,” an unregulated street market incentivises dealers to produce more potent, addictive versions of the drug.
Almost all of the cannabis sold on the UK’s streets today is high in THC, the chemical which gets users “high” but is associated with addiction and negative side-effects when consumed in high amounts, but low in CBD, which mitigates against THC’s negative effects.
From 50 samples bought in Manchester and tested by researchers, all were found to have high levels of THC around 15-20 per cent and a negligible CBD content.
Steve Moore, Director of Volteface, said: “We need an honest and open dialogue about the harms of street cannabis and how the Government’s approach to tackling this issue is making the situation worse. We cannot turn our back on this or fudge the issue any longer.
“We need to give a clear public health message and educate society that high potency cannabis use for many people is deeply problematic. Regulation provides answers across the board and is the only sensible way of addressing the issue.”