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Easing penalties for marijuana use has not caused a feared explosion in use of the drug in the U.K.; in fact, some observers say that marijuana is less popular now than before the drug was reclassified as a less-harmful substance.
The Observer reported March 27 that since cannabis was downgraded from a Class B drug to Class C in January 2004, the growth in new users has slowed to 0.5 percent annually. Moreover, user ratings of the drug have declined from 8.8 (out of 10) in 1997 to 7.6 in 2004, even as ratings of drugs like ecstasy, crack, and heroin have risen.
"When the user rating falls it is like a drug is going out of fashion," said Matthew Atha, director of the Independent Drugs Monitoring Unit, which conducts the user study. "It is also a good indicator of intention to use and whether someone is likely to become a regular user."
Former U.K. drug czar Mike Trace warned that, "It is dangerous to try and assess overall trends in a 12-month period." However, he added, "One of the fears of reclassification was that there would be a sudden leap in use, and this shows that has not happened."
It doesn't help when the tabloid trash papers that the majority of the public read keep saying cannabis use has rocketed since being changed to Class C. Clearly not based on any actual evidence.. just made up stories.