Cannabis makes young people depressed, but law should still change - expert

A substance abuse expert has defended a proposed law change on cannabis, despite new research showing it increases the risk of depression and suicide in young adults.

Dr Joe Boden told The AM Show the research gave a precise picture of the effects of cannabis on young people who regularly use the drug.

"In this group of people who are to be, if I'm frank, high risk of a number of things already, the risk of depression is increased by about 30 percent."

Dr Boden said removing cannabis from the equation would decrease the risk of depression, but only slightly.

The AM Show host Duncan Garner, who has openly admitted he is against cannabis reform, pushed Dr Boden on whether New Zealand should indeed consider changing the law cannabis.

Dr Boden said the benefits of a law change outweigh the risks.

"Eighty percent of our cohort has used it and people who get arrested and convicted for cannabis offences go back to doing it and the law is applied in a biased manner against Māori.

"So, our view is that the law should be changed because what we're doing isn't working in terms of stopping people using cannabis and it probably would be more effective if we had some sort of legal means to do it."

But he said any law change needs to be carefully considered.

"We have to evaluate the effects of any change that we make so that we ensure that we're not increasing harm, and secondly we've got to put many more resources into mental health of young people.

"There will be some increase in cannabis use disorders and related disorders such as depression and suicidal behaviour. Irrespective of cannabis, these people need help."


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