Peter Reynolds

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The Fleet Street Mafia Needs To Wake Up To The Fact That We Won’t Be Misled On Cannabis Any More.

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Rebecca Smith, The Daily Telegraph

Rebecca Smith, The Daily Telegraph

Rebecca Smith, health editor and Martha Gill, blogger, both of the Daily Telegraph have been getting a hard time in the comment threads of the pieces they published on cannabis yesterday and deservedly so.

Even casual use of cannabis alters brain, warn scientists. By Rebecca Smith.

Smoking cannabis will change you. That’s not a ‘risk’, it’s a certainty. By Martha Gill.

Rebecca Smith is by far the worst offender, publishing such gross distortions of the study she was reporting on that I have submitted a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission.  It’s dreadful that someone granted the title of health editor can be so casually ignorant of science, evidence and ready to mix up her opinion and wild speculation with just a smidgin of fact here and there.  Incidentally, I expect no satisfaction from the PCC.  Three years and nearly 100 complaints show that it is a deeply corrupt organisation that acts only in the interests of the press to find excuses for breaches of the Editors’ Code.  Its nothing to do with protecting readers from inaccurate, misleading and distorted reporting.

Martha Gill, The Daily Telegraph

Martha Gill, The Daily Telegraph

Martha Gill does a bit better because she points out what a vacuous and meaningless piece of research Rebecca Smith has made such a fuss about.  But Martha, apparently, writes for the New Statesman on ‘neuroscience and politics’.  She’s entitled to her political views, which are self-evident given the publication concerned but on neuroscience, the clue is in the third and fourth syllables.  It’s science, not opinion and Martha is woefully out touch with the evidence.  If she’s not careful she”ll grow up into a mumsy moraliser like Libby Purves or Lowri Turner.  She should try reading Professor Gary Wenk, Professor David Nutt, Professor Les Iversen, Professor Peter Jones, Professor Terrie Moffitt or Professor Roger Pertwee.  They and many others could give her a grounding in the neuroscience of cannabis: it’s almost undetectable toxicity, its powerful antioxidant and neuroprotective qualities, its anxiolytic and antipsychotic effects.  Her sweeping statement that “cannabis bad for you” is simply wrong.  For most adults, in moderation, it’s beneficial.

Martha is also detached from reality and distant from the evidence, as is all of Fleet Street, when it comes to the risks of cannabis.  The endless screeds that are written about the risks of cannabis use correlating with schizophrenia or psychosis are ridiculous when you consider the evidence.  Hickman et al, 2009, a review of all published research so, by definition­, not cherry picked,  shows  the risk of lifetime cannabis use correlatin­g with a single diagnosis is at worst 0.013% and probably less than 0.003%.  By contrast, correlation between cigarette smoking and schizophrenia is 80% – 90% (Zammit et al, 2003) but when  do you ever read that in a newspaper?

I’m sorry you’re getting a hard time Rebecca and Martha but you and the ‘capos’ of the Fleet Street Mafia need to realise that people have had enough of your bad science, sensationalism and scaremongering about cannabis. The internet means we can’t be bullied and misinformed by newspapers anymore which is why your circulation is plummeting and journalists are held in ever lower esteem.  We know you’ve spent years supporting Big Booze with its £800 million pa advertising budget.  Obviously it’s desperate to hang on to its monopoly of recreational drugs but if you want to stay in business you’re going to have to start treating readers with respect and with facts and evidence, not baloney.

The Daily Telegraph has become a broadsheet-sized tabloid since it broke the MPs expenses scandal and it is genuinely difficult to distinguish its headlines, writing and content from The Daily Mail these days.

Of course, there’s a lot of rubbish in comment threads but there’s also a lot that’s better informed and considered than in the articles themselves.

People like cannabis, they find it effective, they know it’s safe. 5% of the population uses it regularly. That’s three times as many people as go to Catholic Church regularly.

Expect to be pulled to bits if you try to go back to bad science and reefer madness hysteria.  The world has moved on.

6 Responses

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  1. […] The Fleet Street Mafia Needs To Wake Up To The Fact That We Won’t Be Misled On Cannabis Any Mo…. […]

  2. Just read the outline of the Zammit et al paper – by the looks of things the correlation implies that cigarette smoking REDUCES the risk of schizophrenia! I’m a Cannabis advocate so I’m not trying to argue with your conclusion, but the wording of the comment “correlation between cigarette smoking and schizophrenia is 80% – 90%” implies a causal link. Be careful you don’t end up writing like the very people you criticize!

    Charles Arthur

    April 17, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    • No, it’s correlation. That’s the point. Self-medication may well be the reason that schizophrenics smoke cigarettes, just as it may be with cannabis. This isn’t a scientific paper so it’s not referenced in detail but if you simply google [cigarette smoking, tobacco, psychosis, schizophrenia] you will find there are many studies supporting 80% -90% correlation.

      Peter Reynolds

      April 17, 2014 at 12:34 pm

  3. It’s not just cannabis. Ben Goldacre has been on at the press for their woefully ignorant reporting of science stories. Science journalism in general is pitiful in this country with ‘journalists’ cherry-picking quotes and presenting them out of context. Presenting statistical percentages without specifying what they are percentages of.

    Newspaper’s primary purpose is no longer to diseminate truth, it is to make money and they’ve learned that sensation sells papers. So “BREATHING CAUSES CANCER” sells more papers and makes more money than “EVERYTHING IS OK, CARRY ON AS NORMAL”.~

    I stopped reading the mainstream press years ago as I refuse to let them piss on me and tell me it’s raining.


    April 17, 2014 at 3:57 pm

  4. @Peter, noting the 800 pound Big Booze advert budget, like “gorilla in the room”. I realize Big 2WackGo isn’t allowed to advertise everywhere it used to and haven’t checked what the competitive adbuy figure would be, but in both cases there is also more money at stake through OTHER products and services that are helped to sell by indirect effect of Booze and Tobacco. Biggest example: pHARMa– all the BILLIONS of pounds’ worth of drugs, hospital bedding, doctor services etc. purchased to TREAT preventable but not curable (ha ha) follow-on diseases from tobacco and alcohol. I.e. the health care industry has an interest in NOT letting cannabis (or anything else) take down those two drug monsters!

    An example of how one corp colossus profits from $igarette addiction: the top advertiser conveniently named Propa & Ganda Company:

    1. Tide and other soaps– $igarettes cause a high percentage of the disgusting dirt and smells causing the need to wash clothing.

    2. Mr. Clean, Comet Cleanser, Spic n Span– to clean the filth and film off baseboards, walls etc. caused by smoking in interiors. And ash trays etc.

    3. Wash your mouth out with Scope– to get rid of $igarette breath.

    4. Secret (as in $igarette, get it?) Deodorant, to take away world’s worst stink.

    5. Crisco, Pringles etc.– $igarette smoking (unlike cannabis) dumms down sense of smell and taste, suckers pay more money for heavily salted “sugarfat” junk foods.

    6. P&G has been buying up pHARMaceutical companies, putting out drugs to “treat” avoidable $igarette diseases.

    This oligarch and its main competitors buy a huge percentage of mainstream media advertising. Remember the Soap Operas?

    Worst of all, knowledgeable cannabis users always have something more interesting to do than read those papers…

    mexander woodruff

    April 17, 2014 at 11:22 pm

  5. […] The Fleet Street Mafia Needs To Wake Up To The Fact That We Won’t Be Misled On Cannabis Any More. (peter Reynods Blog) – Read More […]

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