On 29 January 2004, cannabis was reclassified from a class B to a class C drug across the UK. As a controlled drug, production, supply and possession remains illegal. Cannabis will still be illegal. It is only the penalties that will change.
Supply, dealing, production (including cultivation) and trafficking
The maximum penalty will remain at 14 years’ imprisonment. In addition, the maximum penalty for dealing all class C substances will increase from 5 to 14 years’ imprisonment. Other class C drugs include GHB and Valium.
The maximum penalty will be reduced from 5 years’ to 2 years’ imprisonment. Under new police guidance, there will be a presumption against arrest for adults, but not for young people.
Most offences of cannabis possession will likely result in a warning and confiscation of the drug – unless there are aggravating factors, such as smoking in a public place or repeat offending, which may lead to arrest and prosecution.
For young people under 18
For a first offence of cannabis possession, young people under 18 will be arrested, taken to a police station and given a formal warning or reprimand. Further offences will lead to a final warning or charge.
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Who are NUS-USI?
We are the representative body for students in Northern Ireland and the local office of the National Union of Students UK and the Union of Students in Ireland. We support a network of Students' Unions and colleges in campaigns designed to improve the student experience on campus, including issues relating to drug abuse. Check out our web site www.nistudents.org for more information on our work.
What's the situation for students in Northern Ireland?
We believe drug taking here is on the increase but that the use (misuse) of drugs is probably similar to that in the general youth population. The most commonly used drugs are cannabis, LSD, speed, ecstacy and magic mushrooms. Heroin and cocaine use when compared to Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland is still comparatively low, but on the increase.
What is the latest evidence for drug usage among young people?
The Young Persons’ Behaviour and Attitudes Survey 2002 is a report published by Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) on research carried out between October and November 2000. The research outlines the behaviour and attitudes of young people towards a range of different issues including: school, nutrition, sports, smoking, alcohol, solvents, drugs, policing, personal safety, sexual experience and knowledge, relationships, the environment and travelling to school. The key findings of the report in relation to solvents and drugs are outlined below.
One fifth of pupils have been offered solvents on at least one occasion. Most pupils who have used or tried solvents were 12 years old the first time they tried them.
A minority of pupils claim to have used or tried the following solvents to get high at least once: Butane gas or lighter refills (6%), aerosols (8%), glue (6%) and Tippex or correcting fluids (7%). Two percent stated that they have used or tried at least one other solvent such as petrol, permanent marker or nail varnish.
Over a quarter (28%) of pupils say they have been offered drugs, the most common being cannabis.
Most pupils were 14 years of age the first time they were offered drugs. Seventeen percent of pupils said they have used or tried drugs, mainly cannabis.
Of those who have tried drugs, 17% have been in trouble with their parents or family, 14% in trouble with local people, 10% in trouble with school authorities, 6% in trouble with the police and 22% in trouble with friends because of having used or tried drugs.
Just under a third of all pupils (32%) say that they know a lot about the effects or risks of taking drugs.
In the previous school year almost three quarters of pupils (73%) have had some form of drugs education at school and just over a fifth (22%) at a youth club or community centre.
Copies of the report and the entire survey results (in PDF format) are available from either the OFMDFM research website or the NISRA website at:
www.research.ofmdfmni.gov.uk or at www.nisra.gov.uk
What about the use of solvents? Is it more common in N.Ireland?
The use of solvents or volatile substance abuse (VSA) in Northern Ireland has caused concern for many years. The ten reported deaths from solvents in 1991 caused particular concern at the time. Since then, with the number of deaths per year remaining low, attention has concentrated on the use of the so-called dance drugs.
However as the 1994 HBSC Report, and, more recently, the HBSC 1997/98 survey show, the use of solvents by young people in Northern Ireland remains a significant feature of illicit drug use. In 1998 a total of 15.5% of the whole sample had tried solvents and 8.6% reported current use. Of those currently using solvents 26.3% were using solvents at least monthly, and 5.5% reported daily use. Of the entire sample, 6.4% were using both solvents and illicit drugs.
The most popular solvent reported was typewriter correcting fluid and thinners, followed by butane gas, glue and petrol/diesel. Check out www.drugsprevention.net for more info.
Why the UK and Ireland are in the top three of Ecstasy use?
The UK and Ireland lead the figures of ecstasy usage, topped only by Australia, reveals a new study released by the UN.
The first ever UN global survey on ecstasy and amphetamines reveals a striking picture of increased production, trafficking and use of synthetic drugs worldwide. Numbers of people using these drugs now exceeds the numbers of cocaine and heroin users combined. The main findings include:
- Over the last decade, seizures of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) have risen tenfold from about 4 tons in 1990/91 to almost 40 tons in 2000/1;
- Estimated production has reached more than 500 tons a year;
- ATS use is spreading at an alarming rate, with more than 40 million people having used them over the past 12 months
"ATS are emerging as a 'public enemy number one' among illicit drugs. Neglected by societies as an almost acceptable feature of the 'let's have fun' culture in clubs and dance settings, synthetic drugs abuse begins with experimental use among mostly young people. Gradually, it may lead to dangerous polydrug use and addiction with severe health consequences," said Mr Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The UNODC survey points to the global nature of the ATS problem. Unlike cocaine and heroin, whose production is limited by geography and climate, ATS can be produced anywhere. Currently, production is mainly in Europe and North America. Tables showing the annual prevalence of ATS use in selected countries reveal that Australia has the highest percentage of its population using Ecstasy (2.9%), followed by Ireland (2.4%) and the UK (2.2).
Frank Warburton, Acting Chief Executive of DrugScope commented: "Five out of six ecstasy deaths occur following polydrug use. We need to make sure we are getting this message across, as there seems to be a new generation of users who are not aware of the harm-reduction messages of a few years back."
The full report can be downloaded at: www.unodc.org