Cannabis is less harmful than alcohol or tobacco and should be legalised so it can be properly regulated, a report has said.
There should be a "serious rethink" of drugs policy as bans have had little or no impact on supply and have only resulted in turning users into criminals, the Beckley Foundation's Global Cannabis Commission said.
"Although cannabis can have a negative impact on health, including mental health, in terms of relative harms it is considerably less harmful than alcohol or tobacco," it writes.
"Historically there have only been two deaths worldwide attributed to cannabis, whereas alcohol and tobacco together are responsible for an estimated 150,000 deaths per annum in the UK alone.
"Many of the harms associated with cannabis use are the result of prohibition itself, particularly the social harms arising from arrest and imprisonment," the authors conclude.
Legalising dope would allow it to be regulated, and make it easier to stop children becoming users.
The commission writes: "It is only through a regulated market that we can better protect young people from the ever more potent forms of dope, known as 'skunk'."
Mental health experts have warned that stronger, more damaging, strains of dope have become more widespread in recent years. Four fifths of cannabis seized by police is the strong form known as "skunk".
The latest Nursing in Practice survey focuses on wound care. Completing the survey will take just 5 minutes and the survey results will be reported in the November/December 2008 issue of Nursing in Practice magazine. There will also be a prize draw where four lucky winners will win £50 worth of Marks & Spencer vouchers. Click here to take part.
"Firstly, I need to say that when I drink alcohol I become violent and it affects others exactly the same, putting everyone around at risk. There are thousands of alcoholics and deaths related to drink driving, yet it is legal. The reason the government won't make alcohol illegal is because: 1. They make too much money from it and 2. BECAUSE THEY DRINK AND ENJOY IT. It has nothing to do with health, only publicity. I have just returned from Amsterdam, and not once did I witness any underage sales of cannabis (I'm 27 and was asked for I.D!). There were no fights in the streets, like the alcohol-related violence in this country. Being in a coffee shop allowed me not to mix with dangerous drug pushing dealers and to be in a calm, SAFE, relaxing environment. I agree Cannabis is not good for your health, but neither is too much salt, fat, red meat... It boils down to two things: responsibility and quantity. Lastly, one thing I need to say - these strong forms of cannabis, or 'skunk', are stronger so you smoke less - instead of smoking five joints of hash, you'd have two skunk for the same feeling, after all you wouldn't drink three pints of Jack Daniels would you?" - A Heartfield, W Yorkshire
"Cannabis is a health issue, not a legal one. Prohibition's impact on society is worse than the drug itself. Clearly it is not SAFE, but it is SAFER than legal alternatives. The public know this generally but wish to follow the law to be good citizens. Educate and set controlling limits on supply is the always the best solution." - M Devonport, Reading