Source: BBC on-line
Pub Date: 15 January 2004
Subj: Cannabis reclassified
Author: Chrissy Sturt, Researcher, Politics Show South
By the end of January 2004, it will no longer be an arrestable offence to possess cannabis. What impact will this have on the South? The Politics Show investigates.
With cannabis on the verge on re-classification from Class C to B, we ask - what message about drug use is this sending to young people?
What impact will it have on society?
What are the links between cannabis and mental illness?
Cannabis continues to attract big headlines in our region.
In the last couple of years at least four cannabis cafes have sprung up on the coast.
They did not last; their attempt to enforce social change from the bottom up was ground to dust by a combination of police retaliation and local opposition.
Last week Kent Police released six men on bail whilst they launch an investigation into a sophisticated cannabis factory.
Around 1,500 plants, with a street value of more than £1m, were discovered in the building at Marden near Maidstone.
On the same day Chris Baldwin, 53, the founder of two cannabis cafes in Worthing, was sent to jail for six months.
The Politics Show visits one of Mr Baldwin's cafes in East Worthing.
With the help of Dutch retailers and local friends Mr Baldwin set up an illegal cannabis café. Sussex police adopted a zero tolerance approach, as did Worthing East MP Tim Loughton (con). Eventually it was shut down.
We talk to Sarah Chalk of the Legalise Cannabis Alliance in Sussex about her reaction to the incarceration of Mr Baldwin, her former boss. Sarah used to manage Buddies and still believes the cafe provided "a valuable community service".
Cannabis in the Netherlands
What lessons can we learn from this abortive attempt, and from legal cannabis cafes in the Netherlands?
Politics Show Reporter Chris Coneybeer visits Amsterdam to explore the social impact of the Dutch drugs policy.
He talks to Harald Wychgel, spokesman for the Trimbos Institute of Mental Health and Addiction, who believes they have succeeded in restricting the use of dangerous drugs.
Without the need to visit drug pushers, the link between cannabis users and hard drugs has weakened.
Mr Wychgel claims that cannabis doubles the risk of schizophrenia and other psychiatric conditions. Cannabis use leads to 200 additional cases of schizophrenia each year in the Netherlands, according to his study. And of the 400,000 Dutch youngsters who regularly smoke cannabis, 400 will fall victim to psychiatric difficulties or schizophrenia.
This is certainly the concern of mental illness charity SANE, whose staff strongly believe there is a growing link between cannabis and psychosis.
We speak to Chief Executive, Marjorie Wallis, who said;
Each study that emerges is building a large body of evidence showing just how dangerous cannabis can be for those who are vulnerable to psychotic illness.
For those individuals, what may be a common way of chilling out may set them on a journey of mental disintegration and damaged lives.