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420: Seven graphs showing the change in cannabis use

A cannabis plantimage rights
Reuters

Worldwide, on April 20 – or "420" – cannabis users will light to celebrate the "weed culture" and protest in many countries against their ban.

Although recreational cannabis has been illegal in the United Kingdom since 1928, evidence shows that the punishments for its possessions have declined in recent years in England and Wales.

Comparative figures for police work in Scotland and Northern Ireland are not available.

Today, cannabis is classified as a Class B or Medium Danger substance.

Nonetheless, prosecution is lower than it was in 2008, when it was classified as a low-risk Class C drug.

Number of cannabis possessions

Out-of-court injunctions and prosecution for possession of cannabis, England and Wales

Theoretically, you can still get cannabis after five years in jail.

However, if you carry a small amount, you are more likely to receive a cannabis alert, which is often used by first-time offenders. These warnings are not displayed in criminal record checks, but recorded in the police database.

Repeat offenders could face a fine, a warning or prosecution.

A spokesperson for the Interior Ministry said enforcement of cannabis laws is "an operational decision for police chiefs, but we recognize that we expect them to enforce the law."

Some police forces have openly cracked down against small business owners. For example, Somerset and Avon Police have offered drug education courses for people who have been paid small amounts while remaining persistent with traders and breeders.

Assistant Chief Constable Dr Jason Harwin, the chief of police, says it is up to the police chiefs to set 'operational priorities'.

"However, there is strong evidence that recommending minor offenders for early intervention rather than convictions can lead to a repeat offense and is the best outcome for both the user and the criminal justice system," he says.

Nevertheless, the vast majority of police seizures are less than five ounces (0.18 ounces) – or about twenty-five pounds of street value in the UK.

Number of seizures of cannabis

Total Strokes of Herbal Cannabis and Cannabis by Weight Groups, 2017-18, England and Wales

Last year, nearly 36,000 kg of cannabis were confiscated by the police and the Border Force, with the largest attack exceeding 100 kg.

Racial differences

In most cases, there are small seizures of cannabis through stops and searches. The police force allows officers to search someone under the "reasonable" suspicion that they are engaged in an illegal activity.

Stopping and searching involve disproportionately black people, who are nine times more likely to be searched for drugs than white people.

  • Reality Check: How successful is the tactic of the police?
  • Stop-and-search of ethnic disparity "disturbing"

Research conducted by the London School of Economics suggests that black people are so heavily represented in cannabis persecution, with more than 20% of those convicted being blacks. which make up only 5% of the population.

Ethnicity and cannabis

Drug use and searches as well as cannabis tracking by ethnicity, England and Wales

In 2016, the College of Policing issued guidelines stating that the smell of cannabis was no longer a good reason for a stop and a search.

Currently, nearly half of all stops and searches are linked to suspected drug possession.

The most popular illegal drug

Cannabis is still the most popular illegal drug in the country.

In England and Wales, 30% – or around 10 million – adults aged 16 to 64 have tried to investigate the drug at least once.

Regular cannabis use has dropped

Percentage of cannabis users by age group and frequency of use in England and Wales

Regular use is far less common, with only 3.3% of adults saying they used it in the last week.

Cannabis is more commonly used in young adults. Since 2002, weekly consumption has more than halved to 7.3%.

health problems

The NHS warns that regular cannabis use can lead to alcohol-like dependencies and severe mental health problems such as psychosis.

  • Cannabis: What are the risks of recreational use?

In 2017 and 1818, nearly 55,000 people received support for cannabis use in England. This makes it the fourth most popular substance after opiates, cracking cocaine and alcohol (although in many cases it is misused alongside other drugs).

People who receive substance abuse help with drugs

% of individuals who have received substance after drug use, 2017-18, England

The number of persons under the age of 18 receiving support is 12,066; a small decline compared to a decade earlier.

Due to its illegal nature, it is impossible to fully assess the potency – and thus the health risks – of selling cannabis on the street, but research in 2016 has shown that people are selling strains with higher potency of the drug.

  • Cannabis is more harmful than alcohol for teenage brains

The research is conducted as an A & E approval because in England the mental and behavioral problems associated with cannabis have increased by 50% in five years.

A & E approvals for cannabis

Approvals for mental or behavioral disorders related to cannabis, England

However, when the chemicals in the plant are controlled, there is some evidence to suggest that medical cannabis can help patients suffering from conditions such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis or chemotherapy.

Cannabis was reclassified towards the end of 2018, so some cannabis medications may be prescribed by specialists in limited situations. So far, however, very few prescriptions have been issued.

  • Reality Check: Why has medical cannabis taken so long to reach patients?
  • Are there any reasons for legalizing medical marijuana in the UK?

England's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, has asked for more research on the benefits of the plant, so future guidance on prescribing cannabis-based medicines will have a solid scientific foundation.

Great Britain is in a good position to lead this research.

According to the United Nations, in 2016, the UK produced 44% of the world's cannabis plants destined for medicine and scientific research, although the end product is still severely restricted.

Top cannabis production for medical and scientific purposes

Kilograms of cannabis by country, 2016

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