Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘Daily Telegraph

A Small Victory Against Misleading Reporting on Cannabis in the British Press

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The peculiar relationship between drugs policy and evidence in Britain is caused largely by inaccurate, misleading and sensationalist reporting in the press. Our politicians’ inability to deal with this subject, even to engage in serious debate about it, is all about their fear of being dubbed ‘soft on drugs’ by the newspapers.

At last, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) has upheld one of my many complaints about inaccurate reporting. This was a particularly egregious example of distortion and twisting of facts to suit a newspaper’s anti-cannabis agenda.

In January 2021, the Daily Telegraph published an article headlined “’Super skunk’ cannabis led to surge in mental health crisis”. This old trope, that cannabis causes mental illness, is now confined almost exclusively to our corner of North-West Europe. The Irish also suffer under this myth and to a lesser extent, so do Australia and New Zealand but everywhere else in the world a far more balanced and realistic view is taken.

There is no evidence to support it as a direct causal effect, only that it may, in some instances, be one of a number of component factors. Science shows that cigarette smoking and traffic pollution may be far more potent factors, not to say general adolescent angst and many other issues of modern life.

Nevertheless, in Britain, the press and therefore our politicians are obsessed with the idea and regard it as fact. It is this wicked prejudice that for decades has held back access to cannabis as medicine and still does so today. Our most senior clinicians have shown themselves incapable of separating fact from fiction and in a wider context, this myth is probably still the most important factor in holding back general drugs policy reform.  Because of politicians’ weakness in the face of newspaper sensationalism, they have enabled a massive £6 billion market to develop under the control of organised crime which now causes enormous harm throughout society.

My complaint read as follows:

“This article asserts that “cannabis has contributed to a record 100,000 people admitted for NHS treatment for drug-related mental health problems”

In fact, in deliberately misleading and sensationalist fashion, figures for primary diagnosis and secondary diagnosis have been combined. Total figure for primary diagnosis in relation to all drugs is 7,027, secondary diagnosis accounts for the other 93,000+ and means that for 90% of these admissions, the primary reason may have been nothing to do with drugs.

The 100,000 figure is clearly associated with cannabis yet the actual figures for cannabis show a decline from 1135 in 2018/19 to 1087 in 2019/20.

It is crystal clear that this presentation of the data is deliberately designed to mislead and sensationalise.”

What has always surprised me in running many of these complaints is the vehemence with which the newspapers have tried to defend what are nothing more than lies.  The Daily Telegraph did exactly the same this time, trying to adduce a large volume of irrelevant information that had nothing to do with its inaccurate journalism but was just about pushing its anti-cannabis agenda. As I wrote to IPSO at one stage:

“The Telegraph is entitled to publish as much one-sided, cherry picked evidence as it wishes except that if it does not do so accurately or distorts it to the point that it is misleading, it is in breach of clause 1 of the Editors’ Code.

I have no doubt that the newspaper will continue its current policy until the flood of money into the cannabis sector reaches such a level that it will be acting against its own self-interest.  That day is now very close and then the Telegraph will face the challenge of explaining to its readers why it has misled and deceived them for so long.”

So, IPSO has upheld my complaint and its full decision can be seen here. On the face of it, the result will just be another small correction that few people will read. But I hope that the time and money it has cost the Telegraph to deal with this might have some impact in future.

I’ve just heard that the Telegraph has appealed against IPSO’s decision which demonstrates just how keen it is to continue misreporting about cannabis!

 

 

 

Written by Peter Reynolds

July 26, 2021 at 5:46 pm

Top UK Soap ‘Coronation Street’ To Run Medicinal Cannabis Storyline.

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izzy corrie

Coronation Street Character, Izzy Armstrong

Could This Be A Breakthrough In The UK Campaign For Medicinal Cannabis?

Cannabis used as medicine has appeared before in UK soaps but the news is that this Coronation Street storyline could be less jokey and trivial and actually deal in science and truth.  If so it could be a major breakthrough against an intransigent government that flatly refuses even to consider the evidence.

Coronation Street is the world’s longest running soap opera still in production.  Each episode reaches an average of between five and eight million viewers.  It is deeply enmeshed in the fabric of British working class culture.  If it puts a positive spin on medicinal cannabis it could change public opinion quicker than almost anything else.

Most senior politicians know the truth about medicinal cannabis but refuse to act, leaving millions in unnecessary pain and suffering for fear of a media backlash.  But the media is changing too.  Aside from a few individual dinosaur journalists and the bigots who edit the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph, the rest of the media is pretty much onside.

population membership adThe UK government’s position is nothing short of ridiculous, particularly given developments throughout the rest of the world.  Look to Australia for the latest progressive, evidence-based change in policy, where very soon 23 million people will gain legal access to medicinal cannabis.

A positive Coronation Street storyline will give the cowards in the Department of Health and the refuseniks in the Home Office a way out. It is inevitable that reform will come. This could mean it is sooner rather than later.

Written by Peter Reynolds

December 19, 2015 at 2:11 pm

For All The Hysteria About Cannabis And Psychosis, Here Are The Facts.

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Charles Walker MP. A Scaremonger Without A Cause.

Charles Walker MP. A Scaremonger Without A Cause.

Charles Walker MP, Parliament’s cheerleader for the ‘skunk scaremongerers’ shot himself and his hysterical campaign in the foot yesterday.

He had submitted a parliamentary written question asking:

“…how many people under 18 years of age have been treated in NHS-funded mental health units for cannabis-induced psychosis in each of the last five years?”

The answer from Jane Ellison MP, minister of state at the Department of Health, must have gravely disappointed Mr Walker.  She revealed there have been average of just over 28 ‘finished admission episodes’ for each of the past five years.  That doesn’t necessarily mean 28 people as it could include the same person being admitted more than once.

Of course, each of these 28 cases is a tragedy for the people involved and nothing must distract from that but it clearly shows that in public health terms, ‘cannabis psychosis’ (which some senior psychiatrists don’t even believe is a genuine diagnosis) is virtually unheard of.  So much for the endless newspaper columns, the endlessly repeated ‘studies’ that never reach any conclusion and the endless moralising and deceit from those who make money from this scare story – either from providing ‘therapy’ or by fleecing money from those prepared to fund so-called science that sets out to reach a pre-determined conclusion.

Of course, not only are these cases very, very few in number but they have arisen under the present policy of prohibition when the market is in the hands of criminals.  How much could we reduce this number if government took a responsible approach and regulated the market?  With proper quality control, age limits, better education and harm reduction surely we could make the cannabis market safer than it is in the hands of the criminal underworld?

Dr Trevor Turner, Consultant Psychiatrist

Dr Trevor Turner, Consultant Psychiatrist

“I don’t think it causes mental illness. I have never seen a case of so-called cannabis psychosis.”

Dr Trevor Turner, East London and City University Mental Health NHS Trust

 

So this is very, very bad news for Charles Walker, for his sponsor, Mary Brett of ‘Cannabis Skunk Sense’, for Peter Hitchens, David Raynes, Sarah Graham, Theresa May and hundreds of rehab clinics, therapists and charlatans who talk up the cannabis psychosis scare story.  The Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph, which systematically misrepresent and distort evidence on the subject are exposed for what they are. Even those on the reform side like Transform, who have chosen the dubious path of talking up cannabis as ‘dangerous’ in order to sell their consultancy services, are disgraced.  Their credibility is destroyed.  Their argument is false and it always has been.

The husband and wife team of Professor Sir Robin Murray and Dr Marta Di Fiori, have built up a family business in skunk scaremongering.  Every year they release another ‘study’ which says almost exactly the same as the last one, never shows any causative effect but is relentlessly exaggerated and regurgitated for those who want to demonise cannabis and cannabis users.  Their last point is always ‘more research is needed’.  I wonder is there anyone stupid enough out there to continue funding this vendetta against the three million people in the UK that enjoy cannabis or use it as medicine?  Similarly in Australia, Professor Wayne Hall and his colleagues at the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre, have built their careers and made a lot of money pursuing this futile goal of proof that cannabis cause mental illness.  The figures prove them all wrong. They are all self-serving propagandists and deceivers, nothing more.

These figures are more than evidence, they are facts and they prove that ‘cannabis psychosis’ is such an infinitesimally small risk, that we really need to stop wasting so much time, energy and money on it. We need to get on, legalise, regulate and start bringing the market under proper control, stop wasting money on futile law enforcement and research and start generating tax revenue and providing therapeutic and financial benefits for the whole community.

‘Skunk’ Drives Tabloids And Politicians Mad.

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Tom Chivers, Ian Dunt and Jonathan Liebling expose the dreadful reporting of the latest cannabis harms study from the husband and wife team of Professor Sir Robin Murray and Dr Marta Di Forti.

The British tabloid press has long been engaged in the corruption of our society and successive governments’ ability to deal with drugs policy by its sensationalism, distortion and dishonesty.

In fact the worst offender now is the Daily Telegraph, a tabloid in everything except format. It now eclipses the Mail newspapers for inaccurate, misleading and distorted reporting on all aspects of drugs policy. Its science and medicine writers are either deliberately engaged in deception or utterly incompetent. Virtually every story it publishes on drugs these days has to be retracted but you never hear about it because it’s buried in a tiny, tiny correction.

Here’s what happened to its ridiculous claim recently “cannabis as addictive as heroin”

DT headline 071014

The Mail newspapers can’t resist the stories about the miraculous medicinal benefits of cannabis because they make such good sensationalism. So although they still publish hogwash, like this latest distortion, they’ve actually become more balanced almost by mistake.

Why is the British press so incompetent and/or malevolent on drugs? Is it anything to do with the £800 million pa that the alcohol industry spends on press advertising? I don’t know. Maybe it just likes to appeal to the fast dwindling band of bigots that actually buy newspapers these days.

We are a laughing stock across the world for the idiocy of our press and government, particularly in respect of cannabis. In Canada and Israel, hospitals provide elderly patients with cannabis vapourisers on trollies, so strong is the evidence for its beneficial effects on aging and dementia. Here of course we prefer to let them lie in their own excreta while feeding them with scaremongering nonsense, distortion and exaggeration of scientific studies.

Sugar, peanuts, hay fever remedies, aspirin, paracetamol and traffic fumes cause far more health harms than cannabis.

In Colorado, in 2014, $44 million in cannabis tax revenue was ringfenced for schools and hospitals. Since legalisation, crime and fatal traffic accidents are down 15%, murder is down 50%.

Far too sensible for Britain isn’t it? And it’s the work of our gutter press that prevents such progress here because politicians still give newspapers far too much respect.