Using illegal drugs 'is like eating junk food or gambling': Row as charity calls for a softer line on cannabis
Taking cannabis classed as another 'risky' behaviour like a poor diet, finds the UK Drug Policy CommissionIndependent advisory body say growing cannabis for personal use should not be a criminal offence
07:11 GMT, 15 October 2012
Taking drugs is just like eating junk food, a controversial report claims today.
The UK Drug Policy Commission says drug-taking is simply another 'moderately selfish' or 'risky' behaviour, similar to gambling or a diet of burger and chips.
It also says it should not be a criminal offence to grow cannabis for personal use.
Cocaine user: A report by the UK Drug Policy Commission says drug-taking is simply another 'moderately selfish' or 'risky' behaviour
And rather than trying to ban drugs completely, the Government should concentrate on ensuring that addicts take substances 'responsibly', the report's authors say.
The commission's findings were condemned by campaign groups.
Mary Brett, of Cannabis, Skunk, Sense, which aims to prevent the use of drugs, said: 'They just haven't thought it out. Drugs are illegal because they are dangerous. Cannabis is getting stronger each year.
'People haven't grasped how cannabis affects the brain. It contains chemicals within the plant that stick in the brain cells. This impairs the transmission of all the other chemicals that carry out functions in the brain.'
According to the commission, the Government's efforts to ban drugs have not reduced their availability – and may have even worsened the situation. So rather than trying to prevent their use 'entirely', ministers should focus on limiting the damage.
The report states: 'Just like with gambling or eating junk food, there are some moderately selfish or risky behaviours that free societies accept will occur and seek to limit to the least damaging manifestations, rather than to prevent entirely.
Professor Colin Blakemore, who helped write the report, said the Government needs to reform its drug policy
'Seeing all drug use as invariably problematic can reduce the cost-effectiveness of policy.
'Taking drugs does not always cause problems, but this is rarely acknowledged by policy makers.
'We do not believe that pursuing the goal of encouraging responsible behaviour requires the prevention of all drug use in every circumstance.'
Controversially, it also recommends changing the law to allow people to grow small amounts of cannabis in their homes. This would help 'undermine' the mass production of the drug illegally.
Professor Colin Blakemore, who helped write the report, said: 'The overwhelming consensus now is that it is unethical, inefficient and dangerous to use untested and unvalidated methods of treatment and prevention. It is time that policy on illicit drug use starts taking evidence seriously as well.'
The commission is an independent charity set up in 2007 to analyse drug policy in the UK. It is not funded by the Government and claims not to have any particular 'standpoint'.
This is the final report from the charity, which will shut down in December.
Although drug use in Britain has fallen in recent years, it is still higher than most other countries. About one in ten adults has taken an illegal substance in the past year compared to a global average of one in 20, the report states.
A Home Office spokesman said: 'We remain confident that our ambitious approach to tackling drugs – outlined in our Drugs Strategy – is the right one.
'Drug usage is at its lowest level since records began.'