Wide-ranging study: punitive cannabis policies do not deter young people

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A wide-ranging study has found that there is no evidence that punitive policies deter young people from using cannabis.

In a study of data of cannabis use among 100,000 teenagers in 38 countries, the University of Kent study found no association between more liberal policies on cannabis use and higher rates of teenage cannabis use.

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

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

That might be the case if 21st century politicians based drug policy on evidence.

“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,” added.

The costs – ah, maybe they’ll listen to that part?

Published in the International Journal of Drug Policy, the new study challenges analysis from 2015 that concluded liberal policies resulted in higher adolescent use and was used by prohibitionists to justify their stance.

But Stevens said that finding was based on misinterpretation of that study’s own numerical results. In contrast, his study took in a wider collection of data, accounting for the differences in cannabis use between boys and girls in different countries.

Meanwhile, 69% of responders to a Twitter poll by Channel 4 said that the UK should legalise cannabis use. Nice.


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