Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

“Outrageous Scaremongering” Over Cannabis

with 15 comments

Last October,  36-year old Julie Ryan was found dead in bed by her three children, now aged 14, 13 and 8.  At a coroner’s inquest in Oldham last week, pathologist Dr Sami Titi said “The direct cause of her death was cardiac arrest because of a history of smoking cannabis”.

Dr Sami Titi

Julie’s family claims that this is not true, that Julie’s cannabis use has been blamed because the Royal Oldham hospital failed to treat her properly. In Britain, there has only been one previous occasion when a death has been attributed to cannabis. In 2004, Lee Maisey, 36 of Pembrokeshire, who smoked half a dozen “joints” a day, was found dead on his living room floor after complaining of a headache.

At the inquest in Oldham, the coroner, Simon Nelson, was said to be surprised at the pathologist’s story and questioned him closely. Dr Titi insisted that “smoking of cannabis is well known to have a negative impact on the heart and can cause heart attacks in young people”. The coroner said that in 15 years he had never heard a pathologist so confident that cannabis could be fatal. He recorded a narrative verdict of “death from cardiovascular complications induced by cannabis smoking”.

Coroner Simon Nelson

Julie’s brother, Kevin Ryan, says that the pathologist’s remarks are “outrageous scaremongering”. Her mother, Linda, is bewildered by events. As planned, Julie’s children had stayed with her while the inquest was taking place. Now they have returned home to the furore of this extraordinary verdict and are extremely distressed.

Julie had visited the Royal Oldham hospital several times complaining of chest pains but been sent away with a diagnosis of heartburn. The post mortem examination revealed she had a severely enlarged heart and had suffered a previous heart attack which had not been diagnosed. Family sources said “It’s a cover up. Cannabis doesn’t kill. They made a big mistake.” Mary Burrows, Julie’s cousin, who was very close to her, said she preferred to smoke cannabis rather than have a drink and that “she was a wonderful mother and her kids miss her so much”.

Dr Mark Eckersley, a local Manchester doctor, said “More and more pressure is being piled on medical professionals to propagate this type of untruth by the powers that be.” He said doctors need to maintain credibility with the community and that “this type of nonsense makes my blood boil”.

A spokesman for the Royal Oldham hospital said “Miss Ryan died from a heart attack and cardiovascular problems. Our thoughts and sympathy go to her family.”

On 2nd November in California, Proposition 19 is expected to permit the personal use of cannabis for the state’s 28 million adults. As a result, new tax revenues of $1.4 billion are anticipated, up to 110,000 new jobs and a boost of up to $18 billion to the state’s economy from spin-offs such as coffee shops and tourism.

In America, any health concerns about the plant are far outweighed by health benefits. Medical cannabis is already regulated in 14 states with another 12 in the planning stage. In Britain, Sativex, a whole plant extract of cannabis, was recently authorised as a treatment for MS. It costs about eight times what medical cannabis costs in America, Holland, Spain, Israel and very shortly Germany, where there is a fully regulated supply chain. In Britain, despite a House Of Lords Scientific Committee recommendation, the government refuses to consider such a move. Many patients whose doctors have prescribed Sativex have been denied funding from their health authority. In some of these cases, criminal prosecutions have been brought against them for cultivating their own plants.

A spokesman for GW Pharmaceuticals, developers of Sativex, said “The therapeutic ratio for cannabis is so high that it is virtually impossible to ingest a fatal dose”.

Prof. David Nutt

Professor David Nutt was sacked as chairman of the Home Office’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs last year after claiming that cannabis was less harmful than alcohol and tobacco. His successor, Professor Les Iversen, also maintains that cannabis has been “incorrectly” called dangerous and says it is one of the “safer recreational drugs”.

On Friday, Professor Nutt said cannabis “seems to cause much less harm than alcohol and that banning the plant is “unjust and therefore undemocratic”. He added: “The previous government’s policy to deter cannabis use by forceful policing increased convictions for cannabis possession from 88,000 in 2004 to 160,000 in 2008. As well as ruining many lives through getting a criminal record, this added massive costs to taxpayers in extra policing and prison costs.”

Prof. Les Iversen

Dr Sami Titi, the pathologist, was unavailable for comment and did not respond to emails. It has not been possible to identify any scientific support for his conclusions.

Julie Ryan’s family is left bemused and uncertain by this verdict. Three children are without a mother and confused about contradictory messages. The 13 year old has been posting on websites about her concerns. Meanwhile, the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office have criticised the government for basing drugs policy on opinion rather than evidence. James Brokenshire, the Home Office Minister, in direct contradiction to his own advisers, continues with the story that cannabis is “extremely harmful”.

James Brokenshire

Both David Cameron and Nick Clegg are on record over the last 10 years as consistently calling for reform in drug policy. The Your Freedom website has been overwhelmed with requests for evidence based regulation of drugs and the legalisation of cannabis but the government is riding roughshod over this public outcry. A consultation document on a new drugs strategy was issued just over a week ago but it seems meaningless and dishonest as all the big decisions have already been taken. Cannabis campaigners, working on behalf of six million regular users in the UK, are outraged at what they see as hypocrisy, misinformation and regressive government action.

Dr Mark Eckersley, exasperated and concerned at the pathologist’s evidence said “This is simply not true. Hearing this story is more likely to cause a heart attack than the ingestion of any cannabinoid”.

Written by Peter Reynolds

August 31, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Posted in Health, Politics

Tagged with , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

15 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Excellent article Peter must write to old broken face

    John Ellis

    August 31, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    • I’m seeing my MP tomorrow. The main thing I’ll be pointing out to him is the damage that Brokenshire is doing to the government and the Tory party.

      Peter Reynolds

      August 31, 2010 at 4:54 pm

  2. This is a brilliantly insightful article Peter, thanks for the post. I found a link to Brokenshire’s site news speaking in 2008 about the re-classification of cannabis to class be – what a joke.

    Also if anybody wants to know just how harmful cannabis can be, then check out my posts –



    August 31, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    • Thanks Toke!

      Peter Reynolds

      August 31, 2010 at 5:15 pm

  3. just mailed him 🙂

    I was talking to my local conservative counclier today about our drug problem, how there is no cannabis to be found just pills n powders of many forms, how we are overrun with addicts on community care, who while i feel very sorry for the way they are treated are a major pain in the local residents.

    John Ellis

    August 31, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    • John, at your inspiration, I just emailed Brokenshire:

      Dear Mr Brokenshire,

      As a lifelong member of the Conservative Party, I have been dismayed to see your conduct as a minister at the Home Office in recent weeks. You are doing the coalition government and the Tory party immense damage with your ill-considered, badly-judged announcements on drugs policy. Your Drugs Strategy consultation document is a disgrace. It is a sham and a deception, pretending to ask for input when you have already made all the strategic decisions. I am appalled that a member of my party is putting out such dishonest propaganda and misinformation. So much of what you say is in direct contradiction to your own scientific advisers. I cannot express strongly enough how opposed I am to your policies and your style of working.

      I very much hope that you will be removed from office as soon as possible. Both David Cameron and Nick Clegg have consistently called for drug policy reform over the last 10 years. You are at least 20 years behind the times. You make Alan Johnson look progressive! You are misguided and either appallingly badly informed or determined to promote lies. Which is it?

      I am afraid that as far as I am concerned, the gloves are off. You are a danger to our society, to health, liberty and freedom from crime. I shall be doing everything I possibly can to oppose you both as a journalist and as a party member. You and your mad, oppressive ideas have got to be stopped! You are every bit as dangerous to the future of this country as any Labour or BNP politician.

      Take a look at this:

      Peter Reynolds

      Peter Reynolds

      August 31, 2010 at 5:55 pm

  4. Good afternoon James.

    I am taking time to ask you why you are failing in your job to send out the right messages with regards to drugs why this country is failing in its policies towards a minority group?
    I ask this as a community leader whose community is being overrun by heroin cocaine legal highs crack cocaine all manner of pills. We have addicts begging in our streets.. Funny thing is there is no cannabis available and supplies have been low since the former governments insane move of declaring cannabis dangerous/lethal and upping it to class B. When in-fact all it has done is put and extra 5 billion in the hands of none taxable business. This in turn has lead to an alarming rise in these so called legal highs the first of which thankfully have proven to be nothing to dangerous. This however is were it stops you are now playing a very dangerous game with the lives of our younger generations, research chemicals are here to stay and will prove to be unbannable for all peoples efforts to stop people using them.

    I would be interested to know your history and experience around the drug communities of this country? I buried my brother 7 years ago after a heroin overdose. I work with the local police in pinpointing dealers and problem drug users.. We as a community are loosing in your war on people(drugs) The madness must end the government must move towards a new drug policy one that does no discriminate one that does not place social stigma on addicts. one that works.!!!
    May i also suggest you stop saying cannabis and its constituent components are dangerous, they are not they promote good health and long life. Most current medical research for many illness are targeting the human endocannabinoid system network.

    Highest regards

    John Ellis

    John Ellis

    August 31, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    • Spot on mate!

      Peter Reynolds

      August 31, 2010 at 6:40 pm

  5. Hi Peter,
    Thought you’d like to know that the Home Office website has now ‘redacted’ (god, I love that word) the statement that lumped together cannabis with heroin and cocaine as ‘extremely harmful’. This begs the question, did Mr. Brokenshire simply ‘misspeak’? What did he say orginally, or did he even make a statement at all? If he did, then why does the Home Office website now not reflect what he actually said? Does he now accept that cannabis is not so ‘extremely harmful’? If so, does that not mean that the justification for keeping cannabis (on their terms) as a scheduled drug is now unjustifiable?

    I don’t however regard this as progress, simply the Govt trying to dig themselves out of various holes. Nice to know they are still squirming about in their moralistic maze of their own making.


    September 1, 2010 at 5:15 am

    • Thank you Olly. That is worth an article in itself I think!

      Peter Reynolds

      September 1, 2010 at 6:31 am

  6. Great piece and comments all round on this one.

    It still maddens me to an inconceivable level that medical professionals still push forth these nonsensical myths. It is a direct insult in my opinion. Every time a scare story like this emerges, it sets back the genuine plight of people like myself.

    As Dr. Titi tries to dissuade the masses from taking cannabis, it is indirectly endangering lives. I have been in the midst of a near breakdown this last month, I have been awaiting test results on my liver, it was 50/50 which way the results were to go; prescribed medication has ravaged me and put me in the grips of complication. There is no such thing as a guilt free painkiller, if they don’t take out your stomach, they’ll see off your liver, and I know this all too well.

    I got my results today, I’m in the clear, the weight that has been lifted is something I will not even try to convey. I’ve been in a face off with death and mortality for a few weeks (well, years technically) and the mind has a funny way of dealing with things.

    If cannabis had been on offer to me, I would not have faced this anguish, cannabis is the dream of guilt free pain relief, one that does not need organ transplant, one that does not need extra tablets to counteract side effects, as long as you respect it, the plant will respect you, it is a simple rule.

    I will not be the only one to face this trial of waiting on test results to see if my life is to take a abrupt turn, many others will have to go through this also, and I don’t want that, I would not want another soul to go through the anguish.

    So when a doctor (who should have a better understanding considering it is their job) comes out with such irrational statements that can not be substantiated, I unfortunately do take it personally, I see it that he has hindered the plight of thousands of genuine medical users of this guilt free medication.

    The UK still can not connect the dots of the human cost of this war. And cases like this one proves we are now perhaps the most backward nation with this issue.

    When we’re behind Israel in compassion and humanity, it makes for some troubled ideologies.


    September 15, 2010 at 1:45 am

    • Thank God for your good news. Selfishly, all that weed means to me is pleasure. I am horrified though at the stories I am gathering about those who are denied access to Sativex then criminalised for growing their own medicine. This is a scandal that is set to explode in coming months.

      The irony of Israel’s compassionate attitude to cannabis is not lost on me but then there are good people everywhere.

      Stay well.

      Peter Reynolds

      September 15, 2010 at 8:21 am

  7. Thanks Peter, it’s been a hard few weeks as you can see. Even though my results are good, I still don’t feel I’m out the woods yet. The only part of this that makes it worse is that I am a very private person, and the fact that I have to own up to these trials just so the UK can get a grasp of the human cost is not great for self esteem.

    On another note, I’m pretty much confirmed as being in the new BBC documentary on cannabis, had a meeting with the director on Monday, nice chap, really got on. They’re still looking for people and stories, so if anyone is interesting in talking to them, I’ll send you contact details if requested via here.

    I’m keeping my guard up as you can imagine with the doc, but it does sound like it is set to be far more of an objective viewpoint than previous BBC outings.

    Jason (HomeGrown Outlaw)

    September 16, 2010 at 12:35 am

    • Please put me in touch.

      Peter Reynolds

      September 16, 2010 at 8:40 am

  8. Will do Peter:

    Here’s the blurb:

    “My name is Bart and I’m part of a small team making a new observational documentary about Cannabis for BBC3.

    We are very keen to talk to a wide range of people who use the drug and are passionate about it. Whether you smoke it for medicinal reasons or just for fun and relaxation, I’d be keen to hear from you. I’m also looking to speak to home growers or even guerrilla growers who grow small amounts to provide themselves and friends with a supply so they can cut out the dealers.

    Our film will explore what it’s like to be a young cannabis user in Britain today. We want to show the truth, and not the usual stereotypes that other parts of the media often portray. Hopefully with the help of genuine users, growers, and other young people who smoke cannabis recreationally we can reflect more accurately what the ups and, admittedly in some cases, the possible downs of using cannabis can be like.

    I can assure you this film will be intelligent and thoughtful. We want to give young cannabis users the chance to have their thoughts and feelings expressed in a fair and balanced way. I’m also aware that when it comes to filming some people might prefer to remain anonymous, which is certainly something we’d be happy to consider given the legal situation with growing and using cannabis in Britain today.

    We will be filming later in the year. Right now I’m very keen to hear from anyone who wants to know more about the documentary and is happy to share their personal experiences with me. Let me stress, however, that having a chat does not mean you have to take part in the actual programme. or call him direct on: 0117 9746861″


    September 16, 2010 at 10:03 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: