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CSJ - Charities warn against drug legalisation on eve of Clegg announcement

A new poll of over 100 charities by the think-tank, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) found that 69 per cent would be concerned if the Government decriminalised cannabis and 73 per cent were concerned of the effects that cannabis had on their clients and families.

Charities on the front-line of the battle against poverty are opposed to liberalising cannabis laws, a new think-tank survey finds. A new CSJ poll of over 100 charities – many of them are working directly to combat addiction or are supporting those with addictions back into education and work – has found over two-thirds (69 per cent) would be concerned if the Government decriminalised cannabis because they say it would lead to greater drug abuse.

The poll comes on the eve of the Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg’s announcement that the Liberal Democrats want to decriminalise cannabis.

Nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of the charities surveyed by the CSJ were concerned about the effect cannabis use had on their clients and families. Over half (56 per cent) felt the decriminalisation of cannabis would lead to an increase in its use. Less than a quarter (23 per cent) thought it would not.

Commenting on the findings, Christian Guy, Director of the CSJ said:

“Drug addiction is ripping Britain’s poorest communities apart. Our network of 300 front-line charities sees this on a daily basis. Many are right to be worried that liberalising cannabis laws will lead to more people taking drugs and developing harder use. Politicians need to listen to these experts. They are the people who witness the devastating impact of drugs in our poorest neighbourhoods day in, day out.”

While the survey was anonymous, a number of charities wanted to make their voice heard publically on this crucial issue.

Andy Cook, CEO of Twenty Twenty, who work with disadvantaged young-people, said:

“We are scared by the idea of liberalising cannabis laws. We work tirelessly to get the most disadvantaged and disengaged young people back into learning and to hold down jobs. If they are taking cannabis it makes it almost impossible to succeed – sapping their motivation and effectively tying our hands in the support we can give. Cannabis is ruining the life opportunities of those we work with, so the idea that society would be better off if this stuff was decriminalised is crazy. Making it more easily available and more culturally acceptable will mean that more of our young people would take it. The result will be that more of our young people would fail to make the most of their potential.”

Data shows that cannabis addiction is a growing problem. In 2005-6, nine per cent of those presenting to treatment for the first time were doing so for a cannabis addiction.

Data for 2013-14 show this has almost doubled to 17 per cent. Figures also suggest there is a particular issue with young people – 43 per cent of those aged 18-24 who were presenting to treatment for the first time were doing so due to a cannabis addiction.

This report also comes weeks after an academic study found that: “the risk of individuals having a psychotic disorder showed a roughly three-times increase in users of skunk-like cannabis compared with those who never used cannabis”.

For media inquiries, please contact: - Centre for Social Justice – Media: 07780 707322 - Alistair Thompson, Media Intelligence Partners Ltd – Mob: 07970 162 225 - William Walter, Media Intelligence Partners Ltd – Mob: 07971 441 735

NOTES TO EDITORS

The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) is an independent think tank established in 2004 to put social justice at the heart of British politics. In June, the CSJ was awarded UK Social Policy Think Tank of the Year 2013 at Prospect magazine’s Think Tank Awards. In 2007 the CSJ published its landmark report, Breakthrough Britain. This publication, which set out 190 evidence-based policy recommendations to tackle poverty in Britain, transformed the social policy and political landscape and was awarded Publication of the Year by Prospect Magazine in 2008. Since Breakthrough Britain the CSJ has published over 40 reports which have shaped government policy and influenced opposition parties. These have included the seminal papers Dying to Belong and Dynamic Benefits, which has led to the Coalition Government’s gang strategy and welfare reforms. Further to this, the CSJ manages an Alliance of over 300 of the most effective grass roots, poverty-fighting organisations. The CSJ is able to draw upon the expertise and experience of Alliance charities for research work and media inquiries. Journalists wishing to conduct grass-roots research into social problems can be put in touch with front-line charity directors and staff.

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