Teens in favour of legalizing cannabis
The majority of young Austrians are in favour of legalizing cannabis and think that regular use of drugs is less dangerous than frequent alcohol consumption.
However, young people are more sceptical about other drugs, according to a European-wide survey published by the EU Commission in June.
According to the figures, 52 percent of young Austrians between the ages of 15 and 24 are in favour of a regulated declassification of cannabis, and only one percent think the drug should be completely unregulated.
In contrast, 47 percent are in favour of a continued ban on cannabis. A large majority - 62 percent of young people - have never tried the drug and a similar number say they have never tried hashish or marijuana.
Nine percent said they had taken cannabis at least once during the past 30 days, and 29 percent had taken it more than once.
Of the 501 young Austrians questioned 56 percent thought that smoking the occasional joint was not dangerous, and around 16 percent thought that regular use of marijuana or hash held little or no risk to human health. However, only one in ten believed the same was true for alcohol.
In Austria, possession and cultivation of marijuana is illegal and punishable by jail sentences of up to ten years.
Drugs such as ecstasy and cocaine are viewed as being more dangerous, with 86 percent of teens saying that taking ecstasy just once or twice would be a serious health risk. Only one in 20 thought ecstasy should be legally available. They were also wary of so-called “legal-highs”, with 93 percent saying they had never tried one.
Designed to mimic the effects of illegal drugs, "legal highs" are chemically different enough to not be covered by the law.
The EU Commission is concerned about the rise of pan-European “legal highs”. Consumption amongst adolescents has increased since 2011, from five to eight percent.
They cannot be sold for human consumption, but are often sold as bath salts or plant food to get round the law, and are easily available.