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The UK needs to catch up with rest of the world on cannabis laws to make it safer for consumers.

• Researchers say that the UK needs to take steps to reduce harm from cannabis use
• Cannabis combined with tobacco, mainly used by Europeans, poses the most serious health risks

Following a new study, scientists are now calling for the UK Government to take a serious look at how they can make cannabis even safer than it already is.

Researchers at King’s College London and UCL have claimed a major effort is needed in order to make cannabis use less harmful.

More and more countries and States have been relaxing their laws on cannabis, and are looking to replace draconian and antiquated laws which place a total ban on the cannabis with more lenient legislation.

The study from researchers at King’s College and UCL have said it is now crucial for UK health officials to consider measures to reduce the harm from cannabis use.

By far the biggest potential health risks from using cannabis are associated with its combined use with tobacco.

The study has suggested that this risk could be reduced by discouraging people from smoking it with tobacco, using vaporisers instead – a bit of cannabis education!

Evidence from studies also suggests that CBD can counteract THC, including reducing paranoia, anxiety or memory loss, with some scientists claiming this is why high THC/low CBD cannabis products can be linked to higher chances of setting off psychotic episodes in those predisposed to psychosis (i.e. already suffer from psychosis or in those who have a family history of psychosis).

Interestingly scientists also state that most of the cannabis seized contains mainly high levels of THC, with the CBD levels often minimal. Scientists have proposed that by boosting the levels of CBD in these street strains, users can enjoy a much safer high.

Amir Englund and his co-authors, writing in the Lancet Psychiatry journal, have said that with due to rapidly changing laws concerning cannabis, the need to protect users from the most harmful effects has never been more urgent, while more research is urgently needed to inform fresh drug policies.

Several European countries have joined the 27 States in America by relaxing their laws around the use of cannabis use, including Spain, Portugal, Germany and, of course, the Netherlands.

With Canada to follow in the footsteps of 8 US, by formally legalising cannabis for recreational use, the UK needs to do some serious catch up before we get left behind.

Legalisation of cannabis will obviously slash the costs of cannabis-related crime, according to researchers. However, they added that it is fairly unlikely that the number of users will decline if the medical drug is legalised.

Englund said: “A lot of countries are deciding to change their cannabis policies to more permissive ones and we don’t know whether that will lead to significantly more use and problems, but we do know there are vulnerable groups out there.

“We don’t always have the luxury of waiting for a lot of research and we can sometimes use the scant evidence we have to try and make some kind of best case judgment.

“We are fairly confident that higher THC levels in cannabis are not a good thing, and it does seem that higher CBD levels in cannabis are protective, at least to some extent.”

Englund will conduct a further study later this year, funded by the Medical Research Council, testing whether differing levels of CBD in cannabis strains can reduce the potency of THC.

A lecturer on mental health at York University, Ian Hamilton, also said that while the European habit of smoking cannabis with tobacco was the greatest health risk users faced, it had ignored by public health. It is certainly ignored by a large number of cannabis users in England, where combining cannabis and tobacco into a “spliff” (cannabis joint with tobacco) is considered the norm.

He said that there was now “a real opportunity to minimise such harms by adapting the strategies that have proved to be effective in reducing smoking incidence and prevalence in the general population.”

A note from our editor Tyler Green

I gave up tobacco last September and since then have found a massive improvement to my general health. As an asthma sufferer, I was really feeling the negative sides of smoking, with a regular tight chest and wheeziness that was quit unpleasant.

After quitting tobacco and continuing to smoke cannabis every day, I have found my breathing has improved, that I am suffering less asthma attacks and that things that were previously giving me asthma e.g. exercise, the occasional bong hit (if I pack it to much, of course) now no longer make me tight-chested.

I’d recommend quitting tobacco to anyone, particularly if you suffer from breathing problems – I look at it as me having had an extra incentive to quit that most people don’t get.. Take my advice and quit tobacco if you want to use cannabis and be healthy!

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