German youth becoming a'generation of pot heads'
5 July 2004 , HAMBURG - Teenagers in Germany are smoking cannabis in alarming numbers, prompting health authorities to issue stern health warnings and to call for stringent anti-drugs efforts by schools. A national survey shows nearly one out of every four 15-year-olds (23 percent) have smoked marijuana or hashish and 15 percent do so regularly. Adding to the concerns is the fact that cannabis is far more potent now as a result of the European Union's eastward expansion, permitting ready access to cannabis
5 July 2004
HAMBURG - Teenagers in Germany are smoking cannabis in alarming numbers, prompting health authorities to issue stern health warnings and to call for stringent anti-drugs efforts by schools.
A national survey shows nearly one out of every four 15-year-olds (23 percent) have smoked marijuana or hashish and 15 percent do so regularly.
Adding to the concerns is the fact that cannabis is far more potent now as a result of the European Union's eastward expansion, permitting ready access to cannabis producers in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Federal authorities in Germany say the cannabis available on street corners and in school yards across Germany these days contains five times the levels of THC - the key intoxicant in cannabis - than was the case a generation ago when pot-smoking was limited primarily to hippies.
"Smoking pot has become a fashionable pastime amongst our nation's youngsters during morning recess breaks," federal Consumer Affairs Minister Renate Kuenast warned recently.
"What we have is a generation of pot heads, many of whom become psychologically if not physically addicted to cannabis," she said.
She pointed to recent figures showing that cannabis's effects on adolescents are far more wide-reaching than they are on adults. Young people who smoke pot regularly often display longterm difficulties in memory and cognitive activities.
Some 15,000 adolescents are admitted to drug rehabilitation programmes for cannabis-related addiction annually - five times more than just a decade ago, she said.
Contributing to the widespread use of cannabis is the fact that Germany has one of Europe's highest rates of cigarette smoking among teens. Nearly 40 percent of teenagers in this country smoke at least occasionally.
Cigarette smoking paves the way for pot smoking, according to a new survey of 3,800 high school students in Hamburg. The survey's alarming results show that 77 percent of those students who smoke cigarettes have also smoked cannabis, but only 5 percent of non- smokers have ever smoked pot.
"The results are clear: Kids who smoke cigarettes are also likely to smoke pot," says Hamburg public schools administrator Alexandra Dinges-Dierig.
"We must enforce strict non-smoking policies in all public schools," she stresses. "And that goes for teachers, as well."
"We must create an awareness among pupils and faculty that smoking will not be tolerated, not only on school campuses but also on field trips, school outings and extra-curricular activities."
Some officials meanwhile are calling for legalisation of cannabis, if only so that its sale and distribution can be regulated.
"Legalization would also rob cannabis of its cult status as a forbidden drug," says Katja Husen, a Greens party politician in Hamburg. "The fact that it is outlawed makes it more attractive to rebellious teens."
In Berlin, for example, a new law is expected to go into effect this summer effectively making it legal to possess the equivalent of up to 40 joints of marijuana.
The legislation permits possession of up to 15 grams of pot or hashish "for personal use".
When the law comes into effect, possibly in a matter of weeks, it will put Berliners in the odd position of living in a city where possession of cannabis is effectively legal, and in the capital of a nation where it is not.
While purchase and sale of cannabis is still banned, the new municipal statute means police will be instructed not to go after persons in possession of small amounts of the drug.
The statute thus reflects the fact that authorities in Berlin have given up trying to police the pot possession problem, according to the bill's originator.
"The ban was based on a drug policy which has failed utterly," says Free Democrat City Senator Martin Lindner, who introduced the bill.
"We are not trying to play down this drug," he adds, "but are simply striving to attain a more realistic approach to this drug."
Berlin is considered the marijuana and hashish capital of Germany, not just its political capital. In just the past three years police have completely lost track of the cannabis market in Berlin, according to a report in Berliner Zeitung newspaper.
There is hardly a club or disco, a cafe or gallery opening where with-it Berliners are not smoking joints. And that is just the public aspect of the drug which is clearly obvious to all. Pot consumption at private parties is ubiquitous.
"We'd need 1,000 additional officers just to begin to clamp down on the cannabis trade," one drug-enforcement officer told the Berlin newspaper.
Subject: German news