Use of marijuana in England and Wales has fallen in the three years since penalties on the drug were eased, the Independent reported Oct. 14. The trend defied predictions that use of the drug would rise as a result of the change.
Marijuana was downgraded from a Class B drug to a Class C drug in 2004. Britain's Home Office reported that use of most Class A drugs has remained flat since then, but that cocaine use has risen.
In 2006, 8.7 percent of residents of England and Wales were marijuana users, the Home Office reported, the lowest level in 10 years. The downward trend also applied to 16- to 24-year-olds. Still, marijuana remains the most popular illicit drug in the U.K.
Since 2004, police have treated marijuana possession as a non-arrest offense. "The fact that cannabis use has continued to fall to its lowest level in nearly 10 years is further evidence that the decision to reclassify the drug to Class C was sound," said Martin Barnes, chief executive of the charity DrugScope. "Some warned that the change would lead to an increase in cannabis use, yet the reverse has happened, possibly because there is more awareness of the possible harms.
"The fact that cannabis has been linked with triggering mental conditions could have changed people's attitude towards the drug. Another possible explanation is the rise in binge drinking, which some people may be doing instead of taking cannabis."
The report is Drug Misuse Declared: Findings from the British Crime Survey 2005-06 (for PDF, click here).