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What a dopey idea! Campaigners condemn alcohol-style ‘units’ system to guide cannabis users

by David Barrett, Home Affairs Correspondent For The Daily Mail, posted 16 11 2020

  • The scheme would resemble official alcohol unit guidelines 
  • Scientific studies show cannabis is up to 24 per cent more potent than in 1970s
  • Bath researchers analysed data from more than 80,000 street dealer samples
  • Charity Cannabis Skunk Sense warns there is no safe level of consumption 

 Anti-drug campaigners have spoken out against a proposed 'units' system for cannabis users.

The scheme would resemble official guidelines that advise drinking no more than 14 units of alcohol a week, according to experts at the University of Bath.

They said the proposal was backed up by scientific studies showing cannabis is up to 24 per cent more potent than it was in the 1970s.

But Cannabis Skunk Sense, a drug advice charity, warns there is no safe level of consumption. It said someone's very first joint could cause psychosis.

The Bath researchers analysed data from more than 80,000 samples from street dealers in the UK, the United States, the Netherlands, France, Denmark, Italy and New Zealand.

They found concentrations of THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, had increased by 14 per cent in herbal varieties between 1970 and 2017. 

In resin, it rose by 24 per cent over a similar period. Also known as hash, resin had been seen as a safer type of cannabis.

'Consumers are faced with limited information to help them monitor their intake and guide decisions about relative benefits and risks,' said Dr Tom Freeman, director of the university's addiction and mental health team.

He added: 'The introduction of a standard unit system for cannabis, similar to standard alcohol units, could help people to limit their consumption and use it more safely.'

He said frequent use of cannabis loaded with THC carried increased risks: 'As the strength of cannabis has increased, so too has the number of people entering treatment for cannabis use problems.

'More Europeans are now entering drug treatment because of cannabis than heroin or cocaine.'

But Mary Brett, chairman of Cannabis Skunk Sense, said: 'This is a very dangerous drug and there is no safe limit of consumption.

'Someone smoking a cannabis joint for the very first time can become psychotic.

'Cannabis is highly unpredictable and can have a wide range of negative effects on the body, not just the brain but other aspects of health, too, including the lungs and the immune system.

'The increase in THC over the years is well known and is down to dealers developing ever-stronger strains of the drug. 

This has seen the rise of highly-dangerous skunk cannabis during the period examined by this latest report.'

Super-strength 'skunk' cannabis first emerged in drug markets in the 1980s and has since come to dominate the UK. 

It accounted for just half of police seizures in 2005 but by 2016 it made up 94 per cent, according to an analysis published two years ago by scientists at King's College London.

Another study has shown skunk users are five times more likely to show dependence on the drug, including cravings that disrupt their day-to-day lives.

The study by the Bath University team said: 'Exposure to increasing doses of THC over time could increase long-term health risks such as severity of cannabis use disorders, risk of developing psychosis and risk of relapse in people with psychosis.'

Its study, which was funded by the Society for the Study of Addiction, is published in the journal Addiction. 

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