Pupils given tips on smoking cannabis

A booklet containing advice on how to smoke cannabis has been given out to schoolchildren in the North East of England.

The 20-page booklet, entitled Know Cannabis, tells readers that cannabis can make music “sound better” and explains how to roll a joint.

The fact that cannabis is illegal is not pointedout until over halfway through the booklet.

A spokesman for North Tyneside Council said the booklet was part of a programme aimed at alerting students to “the risks and harm caused by drug misuse”.

But horrified parents are demanding its withdrawal.

One mother from North Tyneside said her 15-year-old asthmatic son came home and told her he had been give a “lesson on how to smoke cannabis safely”.

She said: “What is this school thinking of? The only way to avoid the risks of illegal drugs is to keep well away from them.”

She added: “The booklet does mention the dangers of cannabis use. But this is mixed in with messages that suggest cannabis use is normal and ‘acceptable’ even, which I am sure most parents will disagree with.”

The booklet was supplied by Merseyside-based HIT, a social marketing company which runs campaigns on behalf of local authorities and health services.

The law on cannabis was tightened up on Monday, although critics say the penalties attached to it are not strong enough and send a confusing message.

Users will only be arrested after a third offence. They will first be given a warning, and will face an on-the-spot fine if caught a second time.

The drug was moved down to class C in 2004, but the decision was reversed after mounting evidence of the harm associated with cannabis use.

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 per cent and 80 per cent of samples seized by police, compared with 15 per cent six years ago.

A study lasting 27 years involving 50,000 people showed that smoking cannabis trebles the risk of a young person developing schizophrenia.

Cannabis-related admissions to mental hospitals have risen by 85% since Labour came to power according to Government figures.

Last year there were more than 22,000 people a year, almost half under the age of 18, being treated for cannabis addiction. In 1997 the number was 1,600.