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Matthew Atha, independent Drugs Monitoring Unit
"This will partly refocus the government's priority on drugs"
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Sunday, 1 July, 2001, 17:47 GMT 18:47 UK
Cannabis price plummets
Joint rolling
Research may refocus government thinking
The price of cannabis in the UK is reaching a record low, according to research by an independent drug monitoring company.

The government has said the amount of cannabis seized dropped by around half over the past two years.

Customs officials have denied they are turning a blind eye to cannabis imports but say their priority is to seize Class A drugs.

The price trend for most drugs is downwards

Drug Monitoring Unit

The Drug Monitoring Unit, which carried out the latest research, says the "dramatic fall" in the price of cannabis since 1998 should serve to "refocus" the battle against drugs.

Spokesman Matthew Atha said: "This will partly refocus the government's priority on drugs which cause the real harm, rather than cannabis which is used by the whole cross-section of society."

Mr Atha added that the lower cost of cannabis did not automatically lead to a higher demand.

A report from Europe has already shown that more adults in Britain use cannabis than anywhere in the European Union.

Pilot scheme

The survey comes ahead of a controversial pilot scheme due to begin in Brixton, south London, on Monday, to let off people caught with a small amount of cannabis.

Police have the support of politicians and drug groups in their plans to focus their efforts on the fight against hard drugs, such as crack cocaine, and associated crimes.

Offenders will get an on-the-spot warning and the cannabis will be confiscated, but the matter will go no further.

Mr Atha said the findings of the latest research had to be seen within context.

"You have to take into account the amount seized year on year depends on a small number of very large seizures rather than a large number of small seizures."

Demand static

He said that demand was in fact little higher than it had been five years ago, when the price was 50 per cent higher.

The cost of ecstasy was falling to, he added which may be due to a drop in demand.

But the price of heroin and cocaine was relatively stable.

"The price trend for most drugs is downwards," he said.

The survey results will now be used by the Home Office, criminal courts and police forces.

One in ten British adults use cannabis, or have done in the last 12 months, the EU Drugs Agency figures suggested last year.

And the problem is also common in schools, where almost half of all pupils have tried cannabis by the time they leave.

By contrast, the figures showed that only 7% of teenagers in Portugal and Sweden have tried drugs.

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