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Monday, 4 February, 2002, 13:02 GMT
Cannabis: Should parents intervene?
The drug taking of Britain's Prince Harry, the son of the Prince of Wales, has renewed the debate - in Europe - about parental responsibility and youthful behaviour.

The prince admitted drinking heavily and smoking cannabis when he was 16 years old.

Prince Charles dealt with the matter by sending his son to visit a rehabilitation unit to see for himself the effects of serious drug abuse.

How far should parents be concerned about their late teenage children experimenting with drugs such as cannabis?

For this week's Europewide Debate, Europe Today's Mark Reid brought together two commentators, the Irish writer Mary Kenny, and in the Netherlands Bernadette de Wit.

This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.

Your reaction:

While in graduate school I wrote a paper on the harmful effects of marijuana. Contrary to what some pro- marijuana physicians might report, I discovered that there are in fact real risks involved with using the drug. This includes chemical alterations in the brain that can depress and, in some cases, damage the memory and motor functioning. I believe that parents should be concerned about their child smoking marijuana and try to discourage its usage in appropriate way.
John, U.S

I am a 24-year-old French person living in London and working in the insurance industry. I have been smoking cannabis for nearly ten years now. I probably smoke one joint a day in average. I am not saying that it's something everybody should do am just saying that everybody should be informed of the effects of it.
Guillaume M, England

Having witnessed first-hand the transformation of a teenage son from a pleasant positive person to a lying, stealing, unmotivated individual I would give a resounding 'yes' to the question. As I think Dr Thomas Stuttaford of the Times pointed out recently, there is a small but significant group of young adults (about 12% of young cannabis users) for whom use readily becomes abuse to the detriment of their health and potential.
Bill, UK

I've taken drugs regularly over the last twenty years. All sorts of drugs including "hard" ones; and happily continue to do so. Why? Because in their place they are fun and increase life's experience. Sometimes for the worse, often for the better. It really depends on the person taking them and the drug in question. Too much of anything creates imbalance. In this case, drugs are no different to food, drink or other of life's offerings. Too much is too much. The trick is remaining in control. And that means the ability to say no when you need to. When no favours are being done by indulging in drugs then it's time to back off.
Steve, Melbourne, Australia

He smoked pot whenever he could get it

Dave Goulding, Germany
I have experience of my son using cannabis with other drugs (barbituates and magic mushrooms). All I can say is that they affect people in different ways. Friends of my son have no real after effects. Unfortunately my son has now a psychosis and is a nightmare to live with. He smoked pot whenever he could get it and the change in his personality was awful. I feel there is still a lot to learn about this "safe drug"
Dave Goulding, Germany

To make these things legal is defeatist. We need more police then we need to arrest the dealers. Ganja is about as safe as shooting yourself in the head because it's more carcinogenic than cigarettes.
James Clarke, Wales

Parents can only try to instill in their children what is right and wrong

Niven Maynard, Kentucky, USA
I am 36 and have a son 16. Parents can only try to instill in their children what is right and wrong. Then you have to let them make the decision, with the understanding that everything has consequences. This is part of teaching them to be adults. I personally have told my child about my experiences with pot to let him know I do know what I am talking about. I also tell him he can come and talk to me about this and anything else, so he can use my experiences to his advantage.
Niven Maynard, Kentucky, USA

Any parent should be concerned about drugs, because drugs often leads the youth to petty crime and HIV infection. My experience in working with incarcerated population made me realize that hard drugs lead the youth to the highest level of poverty and to a total loss of hope.

On the other hand, before teaching lessons, parents should be educated on being able to differentiate life-threatening drugs from re-creative ones such as cannabis. Serious research should be put on identifying the secondary effects of cannabis on the physical and psychological health of human beings. It should be the role of World Health Organization to conduct such a survey and the role of individual governments to publish the results. There is however something hilarious about the Royal Family criticizing one member for smoking cannabis and on the other hand accepting the Queen Mother's consumption of Gin and Tonic... people should check which drug of the two is the most addictive one and avoid double standards at home!
Eric D, France

Soft drugs are in my opinion just another tool for broadening consciousness

Paul Gebuis, Czech Republic
Parents should not have to be concerned about it but monitor/educate their late-teenagers about substance usage. Since 14 years old (aged 37 now) I have experimented with and been around drugs. The only true danger is the over-indulgence of drugs and so is the over-indulgence of alcohol, sugar, work, sports you name it. Addiction to whatever your drug of choice might be, i.e. work, sport, candy, drug etc., lays within the personality as a effect of upbringing, education, morals and values and usually the need for trying to escape and not having to face a problem by creating another "socially accepted" problem. Soft drugs are in my opinion just another tool for broadening consciousness, self-awareness and sensitivity and "relatively harmless" as long as the body is maintained and nurtured well.
Paul Gebuis, Czech Republic

I think that the country should open its eyes; every young person has tried it or does it, the laws in Holland take this into account and deals with the situation rather than banning cannabis and therefore causing a lot more hard drug-related problems. Why do you think Ecstasy is such an issue in the UK? Last time I went to London I saw more people taking cocaine than I have ever seen in 15 years of living in Holland, if people can get soft drugs legally then why would they risk anything stronger, and those that are set to taking grade A drugs will take them no matter the laws on cannabis.
Tom Rio, England

Why should taking cannabis be a crime when alcohol and cigarettes are classed as legal? It is well known that these socially acceptable drugs cause more physical and mental damage than cannabis itself. By legalising cannabis the Government can dramatically reduce the profit made by illegal drug running cartels and the like and also provide the public with the safest most purified form of cannabis where the drug can be monitored and controlled.
Gareth Guild, United Kingdom

I have been smoking cannabis since I was 14

B.Bertka, USA
Only if they are involved in street transactions. I have been smoking cannabis since I was 14, I have proven time and time again that I am the smartest, most productive person at work. If we made laws like these surrounding hamburgers or French fries, or like the Taleban's ban on entertainment, we would have the same problems. The hamburger and Cher video are relatively harmless, but the laws are what create the crime, and in Afghanistan get people killed.

If it was legal we would have a very large percentage of the population not having to go to so much trouble to get it...less crime, because its no longer this important thing. Why can't everyone see this is history repeating itself? Any educated person should.
B.Bertka, USA

I do not think that there is any thing for any one to worry. The British media needs to find something better and constructive to report. Do not get me wrong, Charles should first act as a father before his princely duty. He should spend more time with his son and turn him into a good citizen. That is his obligation to the UK. If he failed in his duty to bring up his sons, it makes me wonder, how he can lead the UK?

But if the British press had even slightest interest in the boy (or for that matter the country) then would not have blown it out of proportion. I say this to the British Press - give the Royals a break and find something constructive (for the country) to do.
Charles Hayworth, USA

Parents should be as concerned about cannabis as they are about alcohol, tobacco, unsafe sex and table manners. Parents have to realise that they cannot dictate the behaviour of a late teen. In the earlier years the parents can teach safe, not safe, acceptable, not acceptable, and hope the child makes the right decision when the time comes.
Frances M, Wales

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