ENGLAND - A pilot project in the North East which aims to tackle the “missed market” of cannabis users among offenders is already making an impact and has led one of its first course members to ditch the drug.
The recently-introduced course is being tried out through the city centre magistrates’ court in an effort to address the problem of crime and cannabis abuse and, thanks to its initial success, the hope is that it will be rolled out further afield. An offender can be referred to the short education-based course, which can run as part of a community order or suspended sentence, if he or she uses cannabis weekly or more often. It’s not an easy option and offenders will be assessed to see if they are suitable then they have to agree to take part.
The aim is to help break the cycle of re-offending linked with a drug which tends to fall under the radar as it’s not classed in the same category of “serious” drugs like heroin. “We’re finding a missed market with cannabis use,” explained probation Heather Johnson. “It’s seen as being low level, not as much of a problem - but is a big problem.”
The course is run by Northumbria Community Rehabilitation Company - which is responsible for probation services across Northumbria and aims to reduce re-offending - in partnership with NECA, the North East Council on Addictions. And its drug rehabilitation side certainly appealed to 30-year-old offender Jay, from Walker, who said he has now managed to escape the hold that cannabis has had on his life for years. “It just made me see sense,” he said.
“On the course you see the effects of drugs and what it does to you. I’ve been wanting to come off it. I’ve quit twice before, for previous partners, but now this is for myself. I’ve quite smoking cannabis and started getting on with my life and enjoying it. When I think about drugs now, it’s totally different,” he said.
The course, the first of its kind, is targeted at offenders who are arrested for cannabis-related offences or reveal they have a problem and it features a three-hour sharp examination of what the offenders actually know about the drug, the legal implications of using it, and the long-term impact on the physical and mental health of regular users. Follow-up help is then available throughout the sentence.
Jackie Johnson, NECA area manager, called the course “innovative” and said: “Participants are encouraged to look at how their cannabis use has impacted on their family, social life and work prospects.
Chronicle Live/ August 25, 2014
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