Britain: Pot Use Drops Following Drug’s Reclassification - Illicit drug use hits record low after cops cease arresting minor pot violators

Thursday, 01 November 2007

London, United Kingdom: Self-reported cannabis use among Britons has declined sharply in the three years following the government’s decision to downgrade pot possession to a non-arrestable offense, according to figures compiled last week by the Home Office’s annual Crime Survey.

The Home Office statistics show that marijuana use by young people age 16 to 24 has fallen approximately 20 percent since 2004. Overall, 21 percent of young people admit having tried pot, with eight percent of young people saying that they’ve used it in the past month. By contrast, more than twice this percentage of Americans age 18 to 25 say that they’ve used pot during the past 30 days, according to 2006 data reported by the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA).

Among all age groups, only eight percent of Britons say they’ve used cannabis in the past year. Ten percent of the population said that they had used at least one illicit drug over the past year – the lowest percentage ever recorded by the British Crime Survey.

In July, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called on lawmakers to increase marijuana penalties by rescheduling cannabis from a Class C to a Class B controlled substance. At that time, Brown claimed that downgrading pot’s legal status in 2004 had led to a significant increase in the drug’s use.

Under reclassification, police have the discretion to verbally warn – rather than arrest – adults found with small amounts of pot. Since the enactment of the policy, police seizures of cannabis have increased sharply, though the total number of citizens’ arrested for pot-related violations has fallen.

"A far smaller percentage of young people smoke cannabis in the United Kingdom than in America – despite Britain’s enactment of far more liberal pot policies," NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said. "The Gordon Brown government would be taking a drastic step backwards by reverting to the sort of US-styled ‘Do drugs, do time’ mentality that has resulted in making America the world’s leader in illicit drug use and in the incarceration of its citizens for non-violent drug violations."

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500 or Paul Armentano, NORML Senior Policy Analyst, at: paul@norml.org.

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