Submission to ACMD on Cannabis Review
Drug Education and Cannabis Classification
The Drug Education Forum as a group interested in educational outcomes and the wellbeing of children and young people believe that, as far as possible, classification should be intelligible and logical so that it can be explained in a justifiable and rational way. To that end, frequent changes are not helpful in enhancing credibility of politicians or scientists unless there are new facts available to justify a change of opinion or politicians are prepared to say their previous decisions were mistaken.
It is important that children and young people get clear and consistent messages about drugs, both legal and illegal. This would include cannabis, the most widely used illegal drug by young people.
Effective drug education seeks to improve children and young people’s knowledge, skills and attitudes towards drugs. Included in this will be information about the legal status of particular drugs.
However, it is important that, should cannabis be reclassified, that this is accompanied with the appropriate resources are made available to ensure that children and young people understand the law and the consequences that flow from breaking it. These resources need to be appropriate for delivery in a variety of different settings (including schools, colleges, PRUs and informal settings such as youth clubs) and for different age groups.
Evidence suggests that drug education is more effective when it is combined with wider drug information campaigns. Should cannabis be reclassified it would be essential if schools and other educational settings receive guidance on the changes to the legal position in time for them to be able to plan and deliver sessions during the same period as any public awareness campaigns are programmed.
We believe that information and guidance is needed at both national and local level, as interpretations will vary in terms of local policing and prevention priorities and activities. We would stress that everything should be done to avoid the needless criminalization of young people – which may after all represent one of the greatest harms from cannabis, depending on levels of use.
We also commend the uptake of the kind of sensible advice contained in the guidance documents for schools, youth services and police produced by the government (in the case of the former) and Drugscope (for the latter two) – although these may well need to be updated to reflect any changes in the classification of cannabis.