08/07/2013 13:29 BST | Updated 07/09/2013 06:12 BST

Smoking Cannabis Can Lead to Harder Drugs


I knew something was up with the person who was supposed to meet me today at 11.30am when there was no sign of him just around 11.45. The lad in question had reached out to me for help as his life was spiraling out of control because of drugs. Like so many other young people who I work with who are addicted to drugs the lad who I was supposed to meet today smoked cannabis at a young age that lead him to trying harder drugs. Yesterday I read Nicholas Almond's blog calling for the legalisation of cannabis. Reading your blog Nicholas you sound like quite a decent person but I can't help wondering to myself if you have ever had to deal with someone who is addicted to heroin because they decided to smoke cannabis when they were young? Or have you ever sat with a parent who is in tears because their daughter is lying in hospital fighting for her life as a result of a heroin overdose? I have and I can tell you here and now that I think it is a huge mistake to legalise cannabis use because I have seen and witnessed first hand how smoking cannabis at a young age can ruin a persons life. Instead of saying to our young that it is acceptable to smoke cannabis we need to educate them to make better choices and to inform them of the dangers of taking drugs.

I am learning a great deal about addiction as a result of the work that I am doing in establishing the San Patrignano Association here in the UK. Some of the stories that the addicts tell me are shocking and downright infuriating. Two people now have told me that one of the best places for drug dealers to deal is to wait outside NA meetings and to follow those brave souls who are doing their best to rid themselves of their addictions forever to sell them drugs. I am also working with another lad in Bradford who finds it impossible to get away from drug dealers as they continually offer him free crack and heroin to test in order to grade it. What hope and chance does this lad have?

I work with anyone who is addicted to drugs and I also help the young people from San Patrignano to come to the UK to find work and start a life for themselves here. They continually guide me and teach me valuable lessons so that I am able to help addicts enter San Patrignano. Their experience and skills are not based on any textbook or degree, rather they know first hand how to deal with addicts and importantly how to help them because of what they have experienced and the lessons that they have learnt. Having said that I don't think for a minute that any of them could have helped me today, for when I finally got hold of the lad who I was supposed to meet he was distraught as he had been up all night drinking. He said that he had not taken any drugs and he certainly was not in state to meet with me to discuss entering a long term residential drug rehabilitation community where the residents stay for a minimum of four years.

The boy today was completely lost and for an hour and a half I waited for him. We both gave up in the end, he was crying and he said to me that he had tried so hard to get to the tube station where I was waiting for him. I am here if he needs me but in truth I know he has a long way to go before he enters the community in Italy as he could not even stay sober to make our meeting. As I took the tube home and reflected on Nicholas's blog and my day I could not but help think what this lads life would have been like if he had not smoked his first joint? To Nicholas and anyone else who is reading this who thinks that it's a good idea to legalise cannabis please take the time to read Achim's blog. He is a young resident and a good friend of mine who is about to leave San Patrignano. He too smoked cannabis at a young age and now he has his life back thanks to the hard work that he did to finish his time at San Patrignano. Finally, if you have some time please watch my video on San Patrignano - it has a 72% success rate and it is completely free.