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Cannabis use levelling off after sharp rise in 90s - 30/07/2008

Cannabis plants being grown illicitly in a specially illuminated room

Popularity of cannabis waning among the young.

The trend is discussed in an EU cannabis report that aims to serve as an authoritative reference for what continues to be a controversial drug. At over 700 pages, the report by Europe’s drugs watchdog, EMCDDA, is one of the most comprehensive surveys on the subject to date.

From the plant’s use as a medicine in the 19th century, the two-volume opus traces the history of cannabis in Europe, including the Dutch “coffee shop” phenomenon and the drug’s UK decriminalisation in the 1960s. The report explores patterns of use, health effects, treatment, supply, legislation – even street prices and potency.

Cannabis has long been the drug of choice in Europe, with nearly a quarter of all adults trying it at some time in their lives. But it has also been a major source of division and debate among policymakers, scientists, law enforcers and activists.

“As a result, the public is faced with a daily flood of information on cannabis, some of it well-founded, yet some campaigning in nature and at times misleading,” said Wolfgang Goetz, the agency’s director.

EU countries differ in how they deal with cannabis use with a wide variety of laws and procedures addressing cannabis with varying degrees of severity. The report comes amid growing concern that a 'soft line' on cannabis could undermine international crime-fighting.

Cannabis use escalated in Europe during the 1990s, but now appears to be peaking. In some countries, use is levelling off or has even decreased. In others the increase is less marked.

The report calls for closer monitoring, noting that regular use is also becoming more common. Some 3m Europeans use cannabis almost daily - about 1% of adults.

The agency gathers and publishes information on drugs from 30 national centres, to provide an overview of European drug problems. Founded in 1993, it is based in Lisbon, Portugal.

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