Marijuana Use on the Rise Among Young People in the UK, While Penalties Decrease

By May Wilkerson 07/29/15

Anti-drug campaigns fear that the rise in marijuana use stems from law enforcement “turning a blind eye” to offenses.

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The UK has seen an “explosion” in marijuana use among young people, while penalties for pot possession among adults has declined, according to a new drug survey. The numbers suggest pot is being decriminalized “by the back door,” anti-drug campaigns say.

The Crime Survey for England and Wales found that 16.4% of young people had used marijuana in 2013-14. That’s about 1,025,000 people, and a 21% rise from 849,000 people in 2012-13. At the same time, the number of adults penalized for marijuana possession significantly decreased by 22%, to around 102,000 people.

The survey also noted an increase in ecstasy use, with one in 18 people aged 16 to 24 admitting to taking the “party drug” in the last year, compared to one in 34 in 2012-13. Overall, the most commonly used drug was marijuana: 6.7% of all adults over 16 admitted to using it in the past year. The runner-up was cocaine at 2.3%.

The rise in marijuana use has raised concerns for anti-drug campaigns in England, who claim that authorities are “turning a blind eye” to weed offenses.

Earlier this week, a police force in County Durham, England, sparked controversy after admitting to giving a free pass to people who grow and smoke marijuana. Ron Hogg, the police and crime commissioner, said his police force would “not prioritize” people who had small amounts of marijuana for personal use, letting them off with a warning instead.

Last year, police in England penalized around 102,000 people for marijuana possession, according to national statistics. But only 405 of these people were sent to jail, and 50,323 were let off with a warning—where cops give the culprit a “stern talking-to” on the street. This is a significant decrease from 70,118 warnings given in 2012.

Meanwhile, 11,417 more were given on-the-spot fines of around $100 or more, down from 15,616 in 2012.

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.