Opinion Former Article

Rethink: Cannabis - decision to reclassify is wrong (but public health campaign partly compensates)

Mental health charity Rethink has today expressed its disappointment at the government's decision to reclassify cannabis as a class B drug.

Paul Corry, director of public affairs, says:

"The government has made a mistake by choosing to reclassify cannabis as a class B drug. This decision goes against all the evidence. Use of the drug has gone down since it was downgraded to class C in 2004 and our research shows that only 3 per cent of users would consider stopping on the grounds of its legal classification.

"The reclassification process will be costly and time consuming, and a waste of valuable resources. It is clear that the government has bowed to political pressure and chosen a criminal justice rather than health focused path.

"However, we welcome the government's commitment to a public health campaign, despite the lack of detail around funding. We have been here before and been disappointed before. If this commitment is to be seen as more than just rhetoric we need money and action now.

"We also welcome the plans to amend the misuse of drugs legislation so that there are heavier penalties for dealers who target psychiatric institutions.

"We all want to see fewer people using cannabis, but the best way to achieve that is through a health information campaign backed up by mental health warnings on rolling papers used for cannabis. As the government has said, it is unacceptable for cannabis use to be glamorised in any way. It is our belief that health warnings similar to those printed on tobacco products would go some way to persuading users to quit."

How Rethink can help:

Rethink has a range of spokespeople and case studies available for comment and is widely considered to be expert on the link between cannabis use and mental illness. Many of our members - including people with mental health problems and their carers -shared their experiences with us and we gave our evidence to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to help with the review process.

Key facts:

· studies indicate a link between cannabis use and mental illnesses such as schizophrenia

· cannabis use has dropped since it became a class C drug

· only 3% of people said they would stop smoking cannabis because of illegality http://www.rethink.org/how_we_can_help/news_and_media/press_releases/keep_cannabis_class.html

· young people who use cannabis under the age of 18 double their chances of developing a severe mental illness

· 60% of people say that knowing about the adverse risks to their mental health would make them consider giving up cannabis

For comment or case studies please contact 020 7330 9129

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