US states back decriminalisation of cannabis

Four US states have backed the complete decriminalisation of cannabis, while several have given the green light to medical use of the drug.

Voters in California, Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine backed decriminalisation, bringing the total number of states where it is legal to eight. Voters in Arizona opposed a pro-cannabis measure.

Ministers in the UK have also faced calls to relax the law recently, but the Government insists cannabis is a “harmful drug which can damage people’s mental and physical health”.

Drug abuse

On Wednesday The New York Times reported that the development means 20 per cent of Americans now live in a state where the drug is legal for adults, compared to 5 per cent before the vote.

Florida, North Dakota, Arkansas and Montana voted either to permit or expand medical use of the drug.

Cannabis remains illegal under federal law and opponents say cannabis shops pose a safety risk, leading to an increase in drug abuse amongst teenagers.

Medical cannabis

In the UK, the Government has faced calls to relax the law on cannabis for medical reasons.

In September, a report by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform claimed there is evidence in favour of using cannabis in the treatment of certain conditions.

However, the Government argues that there is a “substantial body of scientific and medical evidence to show that cannabis is a harmful drug which can damage people’s mental and physical health”.

A spokesman for the Home Office said: “There is a clear regime in place, administered by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, to enable medicines, including those containing controlled drugs, to be developed.”