Studies linking cannabis use to mental illnesses and addictive drugs such as heroin are compelling reasons for the State Government to revise its soft-on-drugs legislation, the Australian Medical Association (WA) said today.
"The Government's whole strategy on cannabis use has been based on misinformation," said association President Dr Paul Skerritt.
"Law makers never understood the psychological damage done to young people who smoke the drug - and they never listened to doctors who warned cannabis was a pathway drug leading to heroin and more addictive drugs.
"Research is now proving these concerns are valid - and the Government should recognise the truth and change its drug laws accordingly."
Dr Skerritt said Drug Action Week 2005, launched this week by the Alcohol and Other Dugs Council of Australia with Federal Government funding, was a good opportunity for Health Minister Jim McGinty to address a problem which would continue to grow worse under present State legislation.
"The Government is sending the wrong signal to young people who will ignore the health consequences of cannabis as long as the law implies it's not such a big deal to be caught in possession of the drug," he said.
"Yet world research shows that 80 per cent of long term psychiatric patients are regular cannabis users and 39 per cent of kids aged 14 and over have tried the drug."
Dr Skerritt said it came as no surprise that research in Sweden confirmed that chronic periodic use of cannabis could interfered with brain development and that young people who smoked the drug were more likely to turn to heroin and other addictive drugs.
"Ironically, the WA Government is about to toughen up its road laws regarding motorists caught driving under the influence of drugs," he said.
"But the message may not get through to young people if being in possession of cannabis only results in a slap on the wrist in many cases."