• Researchers have found that tough laws on cannabis do not prevent youth use
  • Over 100,000 teens’ use of cannabis were analysed
  • If prohibition is failing, is it time for the British Government to legalise cannabis across the board?

A new study has found new evidence supporting the argument against cannabis prohibition.

One of the strongest arguments used by prohibitionists is that legalising cannabis will lead to more young people using it.

There is a legitimate fear, especially due to the potential impact cannabis can have on a developing brain, that wider access of cannabis to youths could lead to serious health and societal issues.

This would be a good argument against legalising cannabis, if it were true.

A new study, from the University of Kent, has found that there is no evidence that strict policies actually deter young people from using cannabis.

Researchers analysed data concerning cannabis use in more than 100,000 teenagers in 38 different countries, including the UK, Canada, Germany, France, Russia and the US.

From this extensive research, the data suggests that there is no association between a more relaxed approach to cannabis and a higher rate of use among teenagers.

Challenging a controversial 2015 study which claimed that there was a direct link between relaxing cannabis laws and a greater chance of teen use, the University of Kent’s study directly contradicts the former, which was used a justification to reject calls for legalisation of cannabis.

Discussing the study’s results in The Guardian, lead researcher Professor Alex Stevens, explained why the results of the study should be listened to by the British Government:

“My new study joins several others which show no evidence of a link between tougher penalties and lower cannabis use.

“This is useful information for governments as they consider the best way to deal with cannabis.

“As it is, the harms and costs of imposing criminal convictions on people who use cannabis do not seem to be justified by an effect in reducing cannabis use.”

Niamh Eastwood, executive director of Release, a UK charity dedicated to aiding those in need of expert knowledge on drug laws, supported Stevens’ conclusions, arguing that the study’s results add even more weight to the idea that prohibition actually creates more users than it deters.

“Every year tens of thousands of people, including many young people, are needlessly criminalised in the UK for possession of a controlled drug, resulting in a criminal record that will devastate their future in terms of employment and educational opportunities.

“Countries that have ended criminal sanctions for possession of drugs have shown they have better health, social and economic outcomes, yet the UK government continues to have an evidence-free approach when it comes to the law around drugs.”

My new study joins several others which show no evidence of a link between tougher penalties and lower cannabis use.
– Professor Alex Stevens, University of Kent’s school for social policy, sociology and social research

Conversely, Ian Hamilton, a lecturer in mental health and addiction the University of York, argues that teenagers are unlikely to be persuaded to use cannabis on its legal status:

“For some of them the fact it is illegal will be part of the appeal, so if a country decides to open up access and allow regulated cannabis this may reduce part of the appeal the drug has.

“Also, there is increasing attention given to the benefits of using cannabis, particularly for health, so many young people will think cannabis is a safer drug than tobacco.”

With more evidence supporting the complete legalisation of cannabis, how much longer can the British Government pursue its archaic approach to cannabis?

For those genuinely concerned about their children accessing cannabis, the only logical approach is to legalise, or at least decriminalise.

For many youths, the only way cannabis can ruin their lives is if they get caught.

Tarring people with a drug conviction can prevent them from a life of opportunities. With evidence suggesting this simply does not deter use, why would a Government still implement a clearly fallible law?

The argument for prohibition of drugs is that they are dangerous, and the best way to prevent citizens from ruining their lives is to prevent them from accessing the drugs in the first place.

If this is not true, what justification does any Government have for their continued pursuit of these policies?