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PCCs back research warning on cannabis legalisation

Conservative PCCs have backed research warning millions of people would use cannabis if it was legalised.

A report predicting a huge increase in cannabis users if the drug is decriminalised has been supported by Conservative PCCs.

Research by the Conservative-leaning think tank Civitas, claimed legalising cannabis would lead to a huge increase in cannabis use, with 6 million adults saying they would try it for the first time if it were legalised.

It projected that if cannabis was legalised there would be an extra 775,000 Londoners using the drug with an increase of 100,000 in Surrey and 112,000 in Leicestershire.

The think tank also concluded just over six in ten (61%) London parents thought that drug dealers would target under-18s more if cannabis were legalised.

And nationally, 52% of parents had a similar concern.

Two PCCs, representing Surrey and Leicestershire, backed the report’s findings.

Leicestershire PCC Rupert Matthews said recreational cannabis should remain illegal.

He said: " In my view Cannabis is a gateway drug to other, harder, more dangerous substances. While in itself habitual use can cause long term health issues, there is a clear trail from cannabis to Class A drugs.

"I strongly believe that we will not enforce our way out of this tragic scourge in society.  The only way to successfully overcome the problem is to develop greater and more productive partnerships across the social sectors including police, health, education, social services and housing.”

Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner Lisa Townsend said: "I have serious concerns about the effect that cannabis use can have on the mental health of users.

"I am not in favour of any changes to the current legislation which I don’t believe would benefit either the police response or those services my office help support for those with addiction or substance misuse issues.”

The research followed the decision in May by London Mayor Sadiq Khan to launch a commission that will review the effectiveness of the UK’s drug legislation and policing in the city, with a particular focus on cannabis.

Mr Khan has no powers to change laws.

His decision was not backed by labour’s shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper.

But campaigners have challenged the report’s projections.

Transform Drug Policy’s senior policy analyst Steve Rolles said the predictions did not match data from countries that have changed legislation.

He argued places such as the United States here the drug has been decriminalised have only seen a temporary and moderate increase.

He said: “Our current system was designed to prevent people using and to prevent availability. With cannabis it's clearly done neither of those things. Prohibition criminalises a lot of young and economically marginalised people, alienates people from the police, creates an enormous burden on the criminal justice system and costs billions each year to enforce.”

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