Parliament: Drugs: Cannabis `no longer rebellious'

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THE USE of cannabis is so commonplace among British schoolchildren that it is no longer regarded as an act of rebellion, the drugs tsar Keith Hellawell admitted yesterday.

Addressing the Home Affairs Select Committee, Mr Hellawell said many children did not even associate smoking cannabis with drug-taking.

"It's almost as if it has become marginalised," he said. "Everybody does it. You are not actually beating the system and being a rebel or radical if you are taking the substance."

In a frank exchange with MPs, Mr Hellawell, the UK's anti-drugs co-ordinator, admitted that the Government's strategy for fighting drugs was unlikely to show any signs of success within three years.

He said no community was safe from the growing problem of heroin use and some youngsters were taking it as their first illegal drug. Although many new heroin users have been introduced to the smokable form of the drug, some young users were now choosing to inject heroin to satisfy their increasing craving, Mr Hellawell said.

The drug tsar promised MPs that more of the pounds 1.4bn spent annually on fighting drugs would be allocated to education, which receives only 3 per cent of the budget.

Mr Hellawell said ground had been lost by the reluctance of schools to take on board anti-drug messages. He said: "Up to four or five years ago it was taboo in schools to talk about drugs. It was outlawed by parents who said, `If they are talking about drugs in school, it's a druggy school and I will take my kids away'."