Cyprus Mail
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Our View: Authorities taking a more measured view of cannabis use

IF THE MEDIA reflect society, then we could say that Cypriot society is now taking a much more sensible approach towards cannabis use. The sensationalist coverage, exemplified by banner headlines about “white death” or “slow death” and by reports portraying cannabis users as “addicts desperate for their fix”, has completely disappeared, with the media abandoning its mission to spread unjustified alarm among the population.

Things began changing back in 2007 when presidential candidate at the time, Nicos Anastasiades, spoke about legalising cannabis. This may have won him the dope-smokers’ vote, but he dropped the idea once he was elected, probably sensing that conservative Cypriot society was not yet ready for such a big leap. Nevertheless, the fact a presidential candidate considered legalisation went some way in ending the demonisation of cannabis.

In fairness, the attitude of the authorities towards users has also changed. Gone are the days when a youth, caught in possession of a couple of grammes of weed, was treated like a drug fiend, dragged to court, remanded in custody and subsequently charged. The police have gradually adopted a much more tolerant approach towards youngsters and the reported drug arrests are of traffickers in possession of large quantities of marijuana. This is how things are in the rest of the developed world.

The new tendency was evident at the presidential palace on Monday when the head of the National Addictions Authority, Dr Chrysanthos Georgiou delivered the 2017 report to the president. Gone are the days when rabid anti-drugs campaigner, Dr Veresies was on a mission to spread alarm. Dr Georgiou, in contrast, gave a sober account, saying that cannabis use remained at the same level – 12 per cent said that they had used it at least once, while the tendency to try it was greater in the 18 to 22 age group. Only 4.4 per cent of the 15 to 34 age group used it in the last year.

These are hardly alarming statistics, considering how widespread cannabis use is across Europe. Cyprus, according to the report, is among the countries of Europe with the lowest use of illegal substances. Only 1.4 per cent of the age group 15 to 64 had tried cocaine at least once in their life, Dr Chrysanthou said, although he warned of a glut of the drug in Europe and speculated it could find its way to Cyprus; heroin use, that was never high, had reportedly decreased.

It was refreshing to hear such a sober and rational account of the drug situation, far removed from the alarmist propaganda of the past. The sensationalist scaremongers are finally out of the picture and not before time.


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