Children are increasingly being prosecuted for selling cannabis and should be treated like victims of exploitation and not criminals, a report has argued.
Research released on Wednesday found prosecutions of young people for supplying cannabis increased 26% between 2012/13 and 2016/17.
This is despite a 16% drop for adults, according to the report from drugs policy think-tank Volteface which argued children could be being "exploited" to deal cannabis on adults' behalf.
Politicians said the report showed the "war on drugs has failed" and that children were paying for "outdated" policies.
Volteface argued: "Dealing cannabis as a young person be considered a potential indicator of vulnerability, rather than criminality, and should be treated as a safeguarding concern, much like in instances of child sexual exploitation."
Its Survation poll of more than 1,000 16 and 17-year-olds across Britain suggested the banned drug was easier to access than the heavily-restricted alcohol.
Some 22% of those who had drunk alcohol said it was easy to buy, compared to 44% of those who had used cannabis saying the drug was straightforward to obtain.
Labour MP David Lammy said the report shows "the war on drugs has failed" and "all options" including legislation should be considered as a remedy.
"Cannabis specifically has become the substance of choice for young people, who are unable to purchase alcohol because of its strict regulation," he said.
"Therefore the criminalisation of the drug has had the exact opposite effect to the deterrence it was meant to induce."
Liberal Democrat former health minister Norman Lamb said children are "paying the price for the UK's outdated" drugs policy.
"The Government is directly putting children and teenagers at risk by leaving the supply of cannabis in the hands of organised crime," he added.
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