logo Burngreave Messenger Issue 32 - June 2003.

Drugs in Burngreave
Compiled by
Mark Lankshear and
Ian Clifford

page 5 of 5

Cannabis facts

Recent figures suggest that between 25–30% of 14–15 year olds in the UK have smoked cannabis, and a home office document estimates that there are 3.2 million cannabis smokers in Britain. There are written records of cannabis being used as a medicine in 2700BC and it has been grown in this country since 400AD. Its use was made illegal in Britain in 1928. In 2000 75,000 people were found guilty of a cannabis-related offence, three-quarters of the total drugs offences in the UK.

Good for your health?

There are many claims for the benefits of cannabis, and a medicinal form is now sometimes used by hospital doctors, but there is other evidence that, for some it can worsen, and even cause, mental health problems. Others argue that it is not as serious a problem for society as alcohol. Doctors are increasingly concerned about the effects of the smoke. There are 13 million tobacco smokers in the UK, and we know 120,000 people die early every year because of the cancers, chest and heart problems caused by smoking.

There isn’t any good evidence about the long-term effects of cannabis smoking, but early studies suggest it’s just as bad, if not worse, than cigarettes. The British Medical Journal recently pointed out that even if it was only as bad as fags, with 3.2 million cannabis smokers, we should expect 30,000 early deaths a year, and that is a serious public health problem!

Know the Law

Cannabis is illegal and none of the proposed changes are going to change that, but police say they are not targeting cannabis users. If you are found in possession of a small amount you may not be arrested, if the police don’t think you’re dealing, carrying a weapon, got previous convictions or are resisting arrest. You may just be given a warning and have the cannabis confiscated if it’s the first time, but you always risk being taken to court and being given a criminal record. In 2000 half of those found charged with a cannabis related offence received a caution.