Peter Reynolds

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Home Office Backtracks On Cannabis – Part 2

with 12 comments

See the original article here.

The Home Office has been denying to me all week that it had changed its story.  It claimed that it had said “Drugs such as heroin, cocaine and cannabis are extremely harmful and can cause misery to communities across the country.”  It claimed that cannabis was never included in this statement.

Today it finally owned up.  It issued this statement at 5.18pm this evening:

A Home Office spokesperson said:

“There is clear evidence that drugs such as heroin and cocaine are extremely harmful substances.

“There is also clear evidence that cannabis is a harmful drug which can cause both physical and psychological problems. Even the occasional use of cannabis can be dangerous for people with diseases of the circulatory system, and it can contribute to heart disease and lung cancer.

“In this instance there was a drafting error with the original version of this statement, which was subsequently rectified.”

Does It Look Dangerous To You?

Now, I understand and respect the professional efforts of the Home Office PRs to damp down this story.  It just doesn’t wash though does it?

Why did it take nearly two weeks to correct this error?

Why did they try to cover up the error in the first place?

All this from a government department that emphasises how important are its “health and education messages” and that it must not send “the wrong message – to young people in particular.”

Of course, the truth is that the Home Office sends inaccurate and misleading messages about drugs all the time.  Everyone, except the Home Office ministers and mandarins, agrees that the present drug classification system is nonsense, that it amounts to nothing less than misinformation.  In fact, the Home Office is currently less than seven days away from a judicial review of its political manipulation of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.  The Drug Equality Alliance co-founder, Casey Hardison, has taken it upon himself to challenge the Home Secretary and the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) in the Administrative Court for its irrational, unfair, and possibly illegal exclusion of alcohol and tobacco from control under the Act.

Even David Cameron agrees that ecstasy should not be a class A drug – see here.  The debacle and embarrassing nonsense about the ever-changing classification of cannabis destroyed Alan Johnson’s integrity for good.  Young people have been watching the government’s “messages” for years, comparing them to their own experiences and realising  that the government talks rot when it comes to drugs.  The Home Office is inconsistent, unreliable, contradictory and nothing short of dangerous when it comes to messages about drugs – as they’ve just proved, yet again.

As for the revised statement, there is evidence to show that smoking cannabis can cause the same damage to the cardiovascular system as smoking tobacco, but no one smokes anywhere near the same amount of cannabis as they do tobacco – they’d be asleep!  In fact, the very latest research shows that cannabis has an extraordinary protective effect for tobacco smokers and may actually reduce the likelihood of lung cancer.   Other recent research has also shown cannabinoids to have remarkable effects in shrinking brain, head, neck and breast cancers.

The Home Office is so far out of date it’s difficult to believe.   It still talks sensationally about the dangers of “new stronger strains of cannabis known as skunk”.   The truth is that skunk has been the predominant type of cannabis available in the UK for more than 20 years.  That’s how up to date the Home Office is.   Finally, the “psychological problems” story.  Sure, any psychoactive substance has the potential for harm but increasingly there’s evidence to show cannabinoids actually have an anti-psychotic effect.  One of the most useful applications of medicinal cannabis is in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

To those who don’t already know the facts, I say simply google your questions.  Even the Home Office, much as it might try, has not yet found a way of silencing the truth.

12 Responses

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  1. I’m getting increasingly angry at the home office day by day, and hope more than anything that they see sense in the near future. If everybody that smoked cannabis stood up and said “You know what, i’m not going to take this anymore” then we’d be a force to be reckoned with! Are there even six million police in the UK?


    September 3, 2010 at 6:56 pm

  2. you have to be careful with the cannabinoids-cancer research which, as i undestand it involved injecting isolated plant extracts, and were mouse/rat studies.

    Its not useful or accurate to deploy use that as part of the smoked cannabis is safer than alcohol / tobacco argument (the utilityb of which I question in the legalisation debate anyway, but thats another point). in the UK ofcourse cannbis is usually smoked with tobacco – another issue again.

    sorry – good for getting the correction. Im just being a pedant.

    Steve Rolles

    September 7, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    • No, you’re not being a pedant. It’s important that the argument is presented in a coherent and consistent way. Particularly on cannabis, the failure to do that over 30+ years is probably the reason there’s been no law reform.

      Do you think it makes sense to have a separate argument for cannabis or does that challenge the integrity of the overall anti-prohibition message?

      Peter Reynolds

      September 7, 2010 at 6:48 pm

  3. I think its fine to talk about them seperately – cannabis is unique in some ways: its nature, because it is used so extensively, and because we have some decent models of decrim and quasi-legal supply.

    Im not keen on the ‘legalise because its safer than alcohol or tobacco’ argument though. This is widely deployed in the Us and you can see the appeal – it exposes the hypocrisy of the arbitrary legal/illegal distinction, and also gives some perspective. BUT…it makes life more difficult for those arguing for regulation of drugs that are clearly higher risk. The argument being that no drug is safer when supplied illegally, and in some respects the more risky a drug is, particularly when much of the risk is illegal supply and use related (heroin being the obvious example)the more important it is to bring it with govt regulation and control.

    Ive written about this in a bit more detail in Transforms ‘Tools for the debate’ book, and the cannabis chapters in Blueprint (both online)- some of Tools is a bit out of date now but the core is still useful.

    Steve Rolles

    September 7, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    • Thank you Steve. Really what you’re saying is that campaigning for cannabis does challenge the integrity of the overall anti-prohibition message. I understand this but cannabis is different not only because it is used so extensively and because we have existing “models of decrim and quasi-legal supply”. It also has much less potential for harm and offers positive health benefits.

      My view is that a future of regulated drug supply would mean that opiates and cocaine would still be very tightly controlled. I would suggest that opiates would only be allowed with medical supervision. The right balance has to be struck between limiting use of Class A drugs for public health reasons and allowing access to safe supplies for those that need it. I would see a slightly lighter touch for cocaine, recognising recreational use but not encouraging it. MDMA and amphetamines would be lighter still and cannabis would be much the same as cigarettes and alcohol are today. Controls on alcohol would have to be tightened. I don’t think pricing issues would prove to be a great problem. The benefits of safe, consistent quality of product would be key.

      I have to confess that I haven’t read the detail of Transform’s “Blueprint” document but I wouldn’t expect that we’re that far apart.

      I think though that there is a moral, medical and libertarian imperative for cannabis law reform over, above and before the general argument for the appropriate regulation of all drugs. I understand the argument that regulation is actually more urgent with more harmful drugs but, pragmatically, surely it is more likely that we will achieve some sort of cannabis law reform first?

      Peter Reynolds

      September 8, 2010 at 4:33 pm

  4. Peter, i am not sure if u are aware of the studys on Cannibis smoke vs Tobacco smoke, but basically even though both smokes contain similiar amounts of carcinogens, they are infact polor opposites when it comes to actual effects on the body.

    The crux of the science comes down to the main active ingredients (nicotine vs thc) and how the body reacts and metabolises the carcinogens while in their presence. THC and the other cannabiniods evoke an ‘immunse response’ like effect which protects and buffers the cannibis smoke effects on the body. Meanwhile, nicotine has the effect of ‘turning off’ or disabling this ‘immune response’, and actually promotes the cancer causing effects the body leading to more harm.

    Sorry i cannot find the exact study at the moment (published in 2005), but this will do as a reference.


    September 8, 2010 at 2:12 am

    • Thank you for this.

      Peter Reynolds

      September 8, 2010 at 7:13 am

  5. Peter: Re MDMA in your second reply to Steve – MDMA is safer than cannabis, by all accounts. I’d like to see that sold like alcohol and tobacco, rather than in that intermediate category below cocaine you suggest.


    September 9, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    • Fair enough. I can believe that. I’d have some questions about it but the point is that the decisions need to be based on scientific fact and evidence, not prejudice.

      Peter Reynolds

      September 9, 2010 at 10:26 pm

  6. Hmmm, legalise cannabis like they have tobacco.. Awesome, now my weed is pumped full of harmfull poisons and additives to make it more addictive.. still, i suppose it’s better than crushed glass, plastic n dog poo 😉

    Maybe we should campaign to tobacco companies, they have the money and clout…
    “Tobacco causes cancer, Cannabis cures cancer, smoke 20 Splifter kingsize a day and everythings A ok ;)”


    September 10, 2010 at 2:17 pm

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