Experts tell drug advisors to toughen cannabis laws

Leading experts on mental health and crime have told the body reviewing the law on cannabis to return the drug to class B status.

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) was commissioned last year by the Government to review the law on cannabis, controversially relaxed in 2004.

Since then, cannabis has become a “potentially lucrative field of criminal activity”, says Simon Byrne of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), which has told the ACMD that cannabis should be reclassified to class B.

The availability of skunk – the strongest form of cannabis – has soared since the law was weakened. According to Home Office research, it now accounts for between 70% and 80% of samples seized by police, compared with 15% six years ago.

Marjorie Wallace, of mental health charity Sane, said that young people using ca

nnabis regularly “can double their risk of developing schizophrenia, in which a person may hear voices, and experience strange thoughts and paranoid delusions.”

One expert, Professor Louis Appleby, the National Director for Mental Health at the Department of Health, told delegates: “We have become complacent on cannabis, based on concern about how widespread it is and some scepticism if it is generally harmful. That complacency has to come to an end.”

On launching a review of the law on cannabis in 2007, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: “Why I want to upgrade cannabis and make it more a drug that people worry about is that we don’t want to send out a message, just like with alcohol, to teenagers that we accept these things.”

The ACMD is expected to conclude its review in coming months. Whitehall sources have indicated that ministers are keen to see the drug restored to class B.