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UK will NOT legalize cannabis, government declares - despite surge in medical marijuana laws across the world
Friday 14 Jul 2017
In a new crackdown on drugs, the Home Office has announced this will remain
In recent years, Spain and several states in the US have made cannabis legal
The Government has 'no intention' of making cannabis legal in the UK, officials have announced in a new blitz on drugs.
Despite a growing body of evidence showing the world's favourite recreational drug to be safe, possession will remain punishable with jail.
Experts have slammed the Home Office's controversial decision, describing it as a 'missed opportunity' to legalise the herb.
But ministers pointed to various studies that have shown cannabis to be detrimental to human health, with significant links to schizophrenia.
Such worrying associations have existed for decades, and were responsible the decision to reclassify the drug to a Class B nine years ago.
In recent years, Spain, South Africa, Uruguay and several states in the US have made cannabis legal for recreational use.
Pressure has been increasing on the UK to follow suit and update its drug policy, with many citing weed's medicinal properties.
But Ian Hamilton, a drug researcher based at York University, told MailOnline the UK's updated stance shows it's falling behind.
He said: 'The government has missed an opportunity to provide less harmful ways of people accessing and using cannabis.
'The UK is falling behind many other countries who are adopting progressive policies towards drug use.
'These countries have embraced the evidence and recognise that punishing people who use drugs does not improve their health and adds to social inequality.'
Cannabis is currently a Class B drug in the UK, and anyone found in possession can face up to five years in prison.
Selling the drug can get someone 14 years in prison and an unlimited fine. The same punishment exists for giving it to friends for free.
Having this on a criminal record can restrict employment opportunities and prevent travel to countries like the US.
In the Home Office's annual drug strategy released today, which focuses on all substances, not just cannabis, it said: 'We have no intention of decriminalising drugs.
'Drugs are illegal because scientific and medical analysis has shown they are harmful to human health.'
Despite being illegal, the latest figures available showed that more than two million people in England and Wales smoked cannabis in 2016.
Mr Hamilton said that regulating cannabis would allow the millions of people who use it the opportunity to know what they are smoking.
The decision would stop weed users from getting their hands on dangerous super-strength strains of the herb purposely grown by criminals.
Figures estimate that 80 per cent of Britain's street supply of cannabis is THC-heavy skunk, which is said to be twice as addictive as cannabis.
Improve public health
The Home Office's announcement comes months after former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said making cannabis legal in the UK would improve public health.
He made the claim before he lost his Sheffield Hallam seat in last month's General Election after 12 years of representing the constituency in parliament.
As well as protecting them from devastating side effects of smoking 'skunk', it would raise a much-needed £1 billion each year in taxes, he claimed.
Over the years, a host of previous research has pointed to a link between the popular recreational drug and mental health conditions.
A US study published in 2013 found that teenagers who regularly smoke weed suffer long lasting brain damage and are in danger of developing schizophrenia.
And in January, the most significant study on the drug's effects to date had similar findings - and noted it can trigger a heart attack.
At the same time, a federal advisory panel admitted cannabis can almost certainly ease chronic pain, and might help some people sleep.
After reviewing previous studies in April, British researchers found no link between smoking weed and schizophrenia.
Instead the greatest danger of smoking cannabis is by mixing it with tobacco, Mr Hamilton stressed.
He previously told MailOnline that teenagers should smoke the drug on its own if they want to get high - and avoid cancer.
Tobacco is linked to 17 types of cancer, including lung, throat and bladder - and is deemed to be the most preventable form of the disease.
But no such links to cancer have ever been found with the herb, meaning users are risking their long-term health by mixing it with tobacco.
CHEMSEX DRUGS TARGETED AS PART OF GOVERNMENT BLITZ
So-called 'chemsex' drugs and former legal highs will be targeted as part of a new government blitz.
The strategy, launched by ministers, aims to reduce illicit drug use and improve dependence recovery rates.
Figures show drug misuse has been falling, but the Home Office said new threats were emerging.
It cited new psychoactive substances (NPS), which were previously known as legal highs, image and performance enhancing drugs, chemsex drugs and misuse of prescribed medicines.
Chemsex is officially defined as the use of drugs before or during planned sexual activity to sustain, enhance, disinhibit or facilitate the experience.
It commonly involves the use of crystal methamphetamine, GHB/GBL and mephedrone.
Chemsex carries serious physical and mental health risks, including the spread of blood borne infections and viruses, according to the new strategy.
CANNABIS: THE UK'S RECLASSIFICATION
The Government decided to reclassify cannabis as a Class B drug in 2008, upgrading it one ranking.
As a result, those caught in possession of the herb face a higher maximum prison sentence.
At the time, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said the decision was based on unconfirmed evidence about the lasting mental health impact from smoking the drug.
She said she was going to 'err on the side of caution and protect the public', BBC reports.
However, the decision went against the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs recommendations.
But research published in April suggested her decision was correct - that regular cannabis users are five times more likely to develop a serious mental health disorder.
Weed creates a greater mental health risk than any other substance, including class A drugs, Danish scientists found.
Those who abuse the drug – now more potent than ever in the form of super-strength ‘skunk’ – are 5.2 times as likely to develop schizophrenia as someone who had never smoked it.
But pro-cannabis campaigners say the drug cannot be proven to have caused the psychotic disorder.
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