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Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘skunk

‘Gone To Pot’ Shows How Close We Are To Legalisation. Now We Just Need To Deal With The Scaremongering.

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It seems we really are on a roll now.  The cannabis campaign has gained momentum over the last five or six six years more than ever before.  It’s snowballing, the rate of progress is accelerating.

What’s made this happen? It’s recognition of the benefits that cannabis offers.  It certainly isn’t because of some crazy idea that if we exaggerate and overstate its harms, suddenly the government will recognises that legal regulation makes it safer.  No, that flawed idea has nothing to do with the fact that we are now getting very close to the change we seek – even here in backwards, bigoted Britain.

There are more and more reports of real medical benefits and also of less dramatic but very real help with conditions such as insomnia, anxiety and stress.  It’s this that is changing minds, not scaremongering and fake data from the charlatans in the ‘cannabis therapy’ business.  Sadly this is the path that Volteface, the new drug policy group, has chosen to take with its ‘Street Lottery’ report.  It’s not the first of course, Transform has also followed this misguided path but at least, unlike the newcomers, it has real credentials in campaigning for reform.

Of course, legal regulation will make the cannabis market safer for everyone but the real dangers are not of young people developing psychosis after bingeing on so-called ‘skunk’ – the actual numbers are tiny – but of the harms caused by prohibition.  It is the criminal market that means cannabis is easily available to children and no age limits can be enforced.  It is the criminal market that means nobody knows what they are buying: how strong is it, is it contaminated, has it been properly grown, does it contain any CBD? It is the criminal market that leads to violence, street dealing even involving young children, dangerous hidden grows that are serious fire risks, human trafficking and modern slavery and, of course, profits on the £6 billion per annum market being diverted into ever more dangerous criminal activities.

ITV and the production company Betty have done an enormous amount of good for our campaign and for the whole of Britain in bringing a balanced, rational, honest exposition of cannabis to our TV screens.  This series showed quite clearly how beneficial cannabis can be but also how it can bite back if you’re a bit silly with consuming too much.  Thankfully it didn’t follow the familiar path of talking up, overstating and exaggerating the very small risk of mental health effects.  It’s easy to see why those who support prohibition have used this tactic to try and demonise the plant but how anyone who claims to support reform can see it as an intelligent or positive way to create the right environment for change is inconceivable.

Volteface is the money of Paul Birch, who became a multi millionaire after his brother founded the now defunct social media company Bebo.  It was a classic flash in the pan of the dot com boom but left those lucky enough to be involved with bulging bank accounts.  Birch first tried to enter the reform movement with his Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol (CISTA) political party.  It really is a ‘volteface’ to move from that accurate if tired message to now pushing the dangers of so-called ‘skunk’ as if that’s going to encourage reform.  However, I have it on reliable authority that recently Mr Birch suffered a major panic attack (or ‘psychotic episode’) after over-consuming some potent weed, so much so that an ‘intervention’ was called for.  Many of us will know how disconcerting such an experience can be and usually we can laugh at ourselves in retrospect (just as we laughed at Christopher Biggins and Bobby George when they ate far too much cannabis-infused food on ‘Gone To Pot’).  If he’s basing an entire campaign strategy on one personal experience it’s hardly sensible.

Paul North

Birch’s money has enable Volteface to hire full time staff and now its own tame drug therapist, Paul North. He is the very epitome of the angry young man, getting into furious outbursts on Twitter with anyone who dared to challenge his view. The way people like North manipulate and misrepresent data is horrendous and when they’re challenged their answer is they were engaged in the collection of the data – well yes, duh, that’s the point!  People who work in mental health or drug therapy are always pronouncing on our mental health wards being ‘packed full’ of people with problems caused by cannabis but the facts don’t support these claims. It’s inevitable that if you spend most of your life surrounded by people who are mentally ill, you get a rather distorted perspective on the world.

In many previous articles, I’ve laid out the facts of the number of people admitted to hospital and in GP community health treatment for cannabis.  The truth is that those with an agenda don’t care about facts.  They prefer the wild, speculative studies from Professor Sir Robin Murray and the Institute of Psychiatry with their bizarre statistical tricks that would make you think there are cannabis-crazed axe murderers on every street corner.  Journalist Martina Lees recently published two articles in the Daily Telegraph where she exaggerated the number of people admitted to hospital for cannabis related problems by 50 times!  Of course, we’re used to this sort of thing and it’s a sad fact that when it comes to science or medicine reporting, even in the so-called ‘quality’ press, Fleet Street is not just incompetent, journalists don’t just exaggerate, they’re systematically mendacious whenever it’s possible to be sensationalist about cannabis.

So let’s be grateful for the light that ‘Gone to Pot’ has shone on the reality of cannabis and let’s continue to reject the falsehood, deception and exaggeration that Volteface and others try to bring to our campaign.  I have no doubt that when legalisation finally arrives some politicians will use their argument to post-rationalise their ‘volteface’ on policy but it’s not the truth and it never has been.  The simple truth is that for 99% of people, not only is cannabis benign but it’s positively beneficial.

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The Daily Telegraph Misrepresents ‘Skunk’ Cannabis Mental Health Cases With Figure of 82,000. True Figure is 1,600.

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Martina Lees

Two almost identical articles were published in The Daily Telegraph on 11th and 12th August 2017

Does smoking skunk trigger psychosis? And if so… why aren’t we doing more about it?

The secrets of skunk

In both articles, journalist Martina Lees wrote that:

“…hospital admissions with a primary or secondary diagnosis of drug-related mental and behavioural disorders have more than doubled over the past decade, to almost 82,000 a year. Most are believed to be cannabis-related.”

This is a combination of wildly misleading manipulation of data and brazen falsehood.

Hospital Episode Statistics are maintained in great detail by the NHS using a system of coding called ICD10 – a medical classification list by the World Health Organization (WHO). containing codes for diseases, signs and symptoms, abnormal findings, complaints, social circumstances, and external causes of injury or diseases.

The specific code for ‘mental and behavioural disorders due to use of cannabinoids’ is F12.  For the past 11 years, ‘finished admission episodes’ (FAE) for F12 have averaged 973, so the claim that most of the 82,000 are cannabis-related is simply false. (Unless of course, Ms Lees is going to claim she made a mistake.)

So where does the extraordinary figure of 82,000 come from (the exact figure is 81,904)?

Firstly, it is for all illicit drugs or ‘drug misuse’ including the following ICD10 codes:

F11 Mental and behavioural disorders due to use of opioids
F12 Mental and behavioural disorders due to use of cannabinoids
F13 Mental and behavioural disorders due to use of sedatives or hypnotics
F14 Mental and behavioural disorders due to use of cocaine
F15 Mental and behavioural disorders due to use of other stimulants, including caffeine
F16 Mental and behavioural disorders due to use of hallucinogens
F18 Mental and behavioural disorders due to use of volatile solvents
F19 Mental and behavioural disorders due to multiple drug use and use of other psychoactive substances

Secondly, the figure is not just for primary diagnosis but for secondary diagnosis.  So the primary reason for one of these cases might be a broken leg or any other medical condition. The secondary diagnosis might be that the person was high on speed or any of the drugs mentioned.  The primary diagnoses for all these codes adds up to about 8,000 FAEs but the figure is inflated ten-fold by the inclusion of secondary diagnoses.  Why do this?  Why have the figures been presented in this way?  With what purpose?

If the whole premise of her article is about the mental health effects of cannabis, why does Martina Lees use this massively larger figure for all illicit drugs when the specific figure for cannabinoids is easily available?  And if the purpose of the article is to investigate the effect of cannabis on mental health, why look at secondary diagnoses – except that it handily inflates the figure ten-fold?

Three other important points about this data:

1. ‘Finished admission episodes’ is not the same as people, its caseload, so those 1606 cases in 2015-16 almost certainly includes cases where the same person has been admitted more than once.

2. ‘Cannabinoids’ includes synthetic cannabinoids such as Spice and anyone with any knowledge of current affairs will know how problems with Spice have exploded in recent years.  It is a fact that Spice is much more harmful to mental health than cannabis so the increase in F12 FAEs in recent years is almost certainly explained by this.

3.  I’m not a believer in always comparing any data about cannabis with equivalent data for alcohol but it is worth noting, to put these figures into perspective, in 2015-16 the number of FAEs for mental and behavioural disorders due to use of alcohol was 44,491.   As there about 10 times more people use alcohol regularly than cannabis, that means anyone is nearly three times as likely to be admitted for ‘alcohol psychosis’ as ‘cannabis psychosis’.

I have written to Martina Lees asking her to comment on this data and explain why she has used it in such misleading fashion.

 

 

Irresponsible, Reckless BBC Broadcasts Dangerous Claim That So-Called ‘Skunk’ is More Harmful Than Heroin.

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Louisa Philips Kulukundis. Psychotherapist at Soul Counselling, counsellor at Steps2Recovery, member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.

“I would say give me a room full of heroin addicts than skunk addicts…

I remember saying to my older son I would prefer you to take heroin than to smoke skunk…

There will be generations of kids with severe mental health issues.”

Source: ‘Cannabis: Time for a Change?’ From 28:20

There is huge and justifiable righteous anger about the idiotic words spoken by this woman on the BBC Newsbeat documentary ‘Cannabis: Time for a Change?’

It would be easy to launch into a tirade against Ms Kulukundis but her words and their crass stupidity speak for themselves. I wonder how many kids, listening to her recommendation on the BBC’s ‘yoof’ channel will think ‘Well I’ve smoked weed loads of times with no trouble, now this woman who’s an expert says heroin is safer, maybe I’ll see if I can get hold of some.’

I understand that Ms Kulukundis supports the idea that cannabis with a higher proportion of CBD should be legally available instead of so-called ‘skunk’ which with zero or very little CBD dominates today’s illegal market.  She deserves credit for this and I would be very surprised if she wasn’t already regretting the very serious mistake she has made.

Ms Kulukundis does however subscribe to the falsehood that cannabis is a major cause of mental health problems.  The facts of hospital admissions and GP/community health service treatment prove this is not the case.  While we shouldn’t turn away from protecting those very few people who can be vulnerable, it is about time that the media started reporting accurately instead of the gross distortions and misrepresentation seen recently, particularly from the brazenly dishonest and ‘fake news’ Daily Telegraph.

Far, far more serious and the place where responsibility really lies for this broadcast is with the BBC.  Its negligence in allowing these words to be broadcast is unforgivable and CLEAR is pursuing a complaint.  The BBC’s complaints procedure is of course notorious for its determination to brush aside viewers’ concerns with anodyne responses that mean nothing. Many don’t realise that until you get to stage three you’re not even communicating with the BBC but with Capita to whom it outsources its complaints handling.  We will pursue this complaint until it reaches the BBC Editorial Complaints Unit and if necessary we will appeal it to OFCOM which, with the demise of the BBC Trust, is now the independent regulator.

It is a shame that the BBC has spoiled what is a clear shift in its position on cannabis.  Instead of mindless obedience to the government’s bad science and propaganda it is now recognising that reform is the only rational way forward.  As usual its coverage is dominated by stereotypical caricatures of what it regards as cannabis users.  It still seems incapable of recognising that most of the three million regular cannabis consumers in the UK are not relics of the hippy era but hardworking people with families and ‘ordinary’ lifestyles.  It also allowed its debate programme ‘Newsbeat Debates. Legalising Cannabis’ to be dominated by the ‘Gateway Theory’, an idea comprehensively disproven many times over, which even our prohibitionist government recognises is invalid.  What is the point of debate if it is hijacked by misinformation and not informed by science and evidence?

The BBC should take the initiative in apologising, correcting and broadcasting a full explanatuion of why Ms Kulukundis’ claim is scientifically inaccurate and extremely dangerous. Sadly, it will almost certainly have to be dragged kicking and screaming to provide any meaningful response at all.

 

 

 

UK Drugs Policy Equivalent To A Grenfell Tower Tragedy Every Fortnight, Yet Ministers Prescribe More Of the Same.

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The scandal that is UK drugs policy deepened last month as the Home Office published what must be one of the most irresponsible government reports ever.

UK Drugs Policy Kills As Many People Every Fortnight

The 2017 Drug Strategy adds nothing of any significance to the same document published in 2010. Since then, deaths from drug overdose have reached an all time high of 2,479 (latest 2015 data). There has been an explosion in highly toxic new psychoactive substances and the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 has increased harms, deaths, associated crime and potency, exactly as was predicted, warnings the government chose to ignore.  The government has refused to consider or take any expert advice on introducing legal access to medical cannabis, something that virtually all other modern democracies are moving forward on. Its continuing policy on cannabis defies scientific evidence and real-life experience from places where reform has been implemented.  It also supports and encourages the criminal market, encourages street dealing, dangerous hidden cannabis farms and the production of poor quality, low-CBD, so-called ‘skunk’ cannabis.

Do not doubt that this dreadful toll of death could be drastically reduced, at least halved, by a more responsible, progressive and evidence-based policy.  We should treat those with the disease of addiction humanely, not criminalising them for their drug use, prescribing pharmaceutical heroin where necessary, introducing drug consumption rooms and giving far more weight to harm reduction rather than the unrealistic and ideological pursuit of abstinence.  That would deal with the problem of drug deaths but millions more could have their lives improved, billions in public expenditure could be saved and many divisions and causes of conflict in our society could be swept away by a new approach to drugs policy in general.

Sarah Newton MP, Minister of State, during the drugs debate

The subsequent drugs debate in Parliament exposed the brazen dishonesty and deceit of Home Office ministers. The home secretary, Amber Rudd, couldn’t be bothered to show up so it was left to Sarah Newton, MP.  Her performance consisted only of lies, deceit and trickery, the like of which I have rarely seen before.  For many years, the Home Office has been systematically misleading and misinforming the public about drugs but here was a minister, clearly, deliberately and without compunction, misleading Parliament.  As with so much of the wickedness enforced by the Home Office, Ms Newton is now beyond redemption.  There can be no doubt at all about the depth of her dishonesty and the effect on the lives of millions of people should, surely, amount to a very serious crime.  Its consequences are far, far more serious than the failure of national and local government that led to the Grenfell Tower tragedy but they are caused by the same mindset of arrogance, prejudice and refusal to listen to expert evidence.

If there is any reason behind what comes out of the Home Office on drugs then it is most certainly corrupt.  It may not be plain brown envelopes changing hands but at best it is negligence, failure to act responsibly and in the interests of the public. This is corruption and there is no doubt it is firmly embedded amongst Home Office civil servants.  Their reputation is in the gutter: other government departments, universities and research institutions, drug licence applicants and holders, politicians – they all report stubborn, intransigent, uncooperative conduct.  While giving evidence to a Parliamentary Committee a year or so ago, I was nervous about how trenchant was my criticism of the Home Office.  I needn’t have been.  Every member of the panel nodded and agreed with me that Home Office is impossible to deal with.

Nothing can absolve ministers of their responsibility but after nearly 40 years I have seen many of them come and go while the Home Office remains exactly the same.  There is a culture amongst the civil service that resists any move towards any drug reform using whatever methods it deems necessary.  This is nothing less than subversion of our democracy and it is senior civil servants engaged in this treachery.

There is blood on the hands of Sarah Newton, Amber Rudd and, of course, the former home secretary, Theresa May.  That’s on the top of the misery, deprivation, violence, poverty, crime and ill health that their policies cause.

Change is inevitable but only after many more have died and others have had their lives blighted or ruined by this oppressive, unjust persecution. Although the drugs debate was once again sparsely attended, it was better than the last time the subject was discussed and more MPs from all parties are at last beginning to see the light. The Labour Party remains disgraced.  Its record is even worse than the Conservatives and despite some positive words from Corbyn about medicinal cannabis, this is not reflected in policy and flatly contradicted by John McDonnell.  Diane Abbott, as shadow home secretary, was truly pathetic in the debate and she offered no real opposition at all to the government.

From the campaign point of view it’s very disheartening but reformers should not despair.  We are making steady progress, not just among MPs but also within the media.  Even the Murdoch press, the Mail and all the tabloids have changed their position.  The darkest time of the night is just before dawn and I do believe that shortly we will see the first glimmers of light.  We are on the cusp of change and legal access to medical cannabis will almost certainly come first.

Why Is CLEAR Supporting Lord Monson In His Campaign Against So-Called ‘Skunk’?

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Lord Nicholas Monson

Lord Nicholas Monson

CLEAR’s first and overriding objective is to end the prohibition of cannabis.  The tragedies that have struck the Monson family demonstrate all too clearly that prohibition of cannabis is futile.  Not only does it not protect people from harm, it actually maximises the harms and dangers of the cannabis market.

Nicholas Monson’s eldest son, Alexander, was arrested in Kenya in 2012. allegedly for smoking cannabis.  Toxicology reports found no evidence of cannabis in his system. According to both a government and an independent pathologist he died from a fatal blow to the back of his head while in police custody.  Clearly, it was the law against cannabis that led directly to Alexander’s death.

Nicholas Monson with his son Rupert

Just three months ago, Rupert, Nicholas Monson’s younger son, took his own life after a descent into depression and psychosis in which the excessive consumption of so-called ‘skunk’ was clearly a significant factor.  Rupert himself said that he was addicted and there is good evidence to show that cannabis without CBD is more addictive.  It is well established from research as far back as the early 1990s that approx 9% of regular users develop dependence which produces real physical withdrawal symptoms: insomnia, lack of appetite and irritability, sometimes a headache.  For most people these are easily overcome within a week or so but not for everyone.  Most importantly though, cannabis in the early 1990s contained, on average, half to a third as much THC as it does now and always a healthy buffer of CBD.  The addictiveness of so-called ‘skunk’ with zero or very little CBD, is several times greater than the cannabis available 20 to 30 years ago.

It’s important to add that Rupert was also very badly failed by the dire state of mental health services. Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, a specialist provider of mental health and drug treatment services said that he needed to be admitted but a bed was not available.  It was just a few days later that he committed suicide.

Nicholas Monson has called for so-called ‘skunk’ to be made a class A drug but also for lower potency cannabis, with a maximum THC:CBD ratio of 3:1 to be made legally available through a regulated system.  Theresa May wrote to him after reading coverage of the story in the press.  She expressed her sympathy and said how she shared his concerns.  Importantly, she suggested that Lord Monson prepare a paper and a presentation to the Home Office on his proposals.  This is a tremendous opportunity towards introducing measures that will better protect vulnerable people like Rupert and also for wider reform of the cannabis laws that will reduce all the harms presently caused by prohibition.  Cannabis would be purchased from government licensed outlets just like alcohol and the aim would be to collapse the criminal market just like the market in dangerous, ‘moonshine’ whisky.

CLEAR does not agree that raising so-called ‘skunk’ to class A would be an effective measure.  It would be virtually impossible to enforce, requiring a massive increase in laboratory testing of cannabis and the supply of high potency varieties would simply be pushed underground. The price will go up and all the harms of a criminal market will be increased.  All the evidence is that drug classification or penalties have absolutely no effect whatsoever on consumption.  However, Lord Monson suggests that all personal cannabis possession should be decriminalised and police would focus only on dealers in so-called ‘skunk’.  There is a very strong argument that with high quality cannabis available legally, people would turn away from the black market.

Of course, we support the idea of legally available cannabis with a maximum THC:CBD ratio of 3:1.  This could be the basis of a system that could work very successfully. The product would be available only through a limited number of licensed outlets to adults only.  It would be supplied in appropriate packaging with detailed labelling of contents.  Possession of any cannabis not in this packaging would be reasonable grounds for it to be seized and tested.

Lord Nicholas Monson, Peter Reynolds

This will, of course, provoke outrage amongst many cannabis consumers, particularly those who grow their own but it would be fantastic progress.  It would usher in a far more rational, sensible regime where we could establish real data about harms and risks.  If appropriate, this could lead to the regulation of higher potency varieties.  Of course, we recognise that for medical use, a completely different approach to cannabinoid content is required and much higher potency may be necessary in some instances.

CLEAR is in the business of reform and this is the most likely path to reform that has ever emerged in the UK.  We are not in the business of promoting a cannabis market which enthusiasts and connoisseurs would regard as some sort of utopia.  The only purpose of any drugs policy must be to reduce harm and this proposal, if implemented, would massively reduce all the social harms caused by prohibition and reduce the risk of health harms.

Finally, it has to be said that, in typical fashion, a substantial part of the cannabis community has reacted in almost hysterical anger to Lord Monson’s proposals.  The only effect of such behaviour is to hold back reform.  We have been horrified and disgusted at the abuse directed at the Monson family.  It has shown cannabis consumers in the very worst light and demonstrated that some are so stupid that they damage the very cause they seek to advocate.  Nicholas Monson is a grieving father who, despite his agony, has seen the rational way forward and lent his energy and commitment towards reform that will benefit everyone.  We stand alongside him and we urge all cannabis consumers to consider these ideas carefully – and please, lend us your support!

Lord Nicholas Monson adds:

“The motivation for my campaign is to protect the young and vulnerable in particular from ingesting any substance whose contents can have a deleterious short or long term effect on their minds. To watch one’s son spiral into psychosis from a heavy usage of skunk is distressing to behold. Rupert’s psychiatric team put his psychosis down to skunk. This is unequivocal. Yes there are other psychoactive drugs around but skunk is what did for Rupert. It so happens that the remedy for skunk is a legalised and regulated market in cannabis where clear information is available. This should be applauded by the recreational cannabis community. Separately I have long supported the medical community’s initiatives to prescribe variants of cannabis with high CBD for people suffering from a wide variety of conditions.”

Written by Peter Reynolds

June 7, 2017 at 7:10 pm

Lord Monson and CLEAR to Campaign for a Regulated Cannabis Market.

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Lord Nicholas Monson, Peter Reynolds

Lord Nicholas Monson, whose son Rupert committed suicide after he had become psychotic from ‘skunk’, has teamed up with CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform to campaign for a safer, regulated cannabis market.

‘Skunk’ is a form of cannabis with zero or very little CBD that can be harmful to young people and the vulnerable. The criminal market has driven the production of ‘skunk’ with high levels of THC, the psychoactive compound and low levels of CBD, the protective, anti-psychotic compound. The absence of regulation and control has also led to sales of highly dangerous products such as ‘Spice’ which contain an extremely potent, synthetic form of THC without any balancing CBD.

Lord Monson says:

“It is urgent that the government takes the historic step of legalising and regulating more traditional forms of cannabis and puts severe penalties in place for those dealing in skunk.”  

CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform is the UK’s largest and longest established drugs policy reform group.  It campaigns for medicinal cannabis on prescription by doctors and a regulated market for adults.

Peter Reynolds, president of CLEAR, says:

“We are honoured to work alongside Lord Monson towards a safer cannabis market that will reduce harm instead of the present policy that maximises all harms.  Just like the policy that President Trudeau is introducing in Canada and already exists across much of the USA, we must rigorously restrict access by children and those with developing brains and ensure that safe, properly regulated cannabis with a good proportion of CBD is available for adults.”

Written by Peter Reynolds

May 18, 2017 at 2:18 pm

Even The Guardian Is Now On The ‘Skunk Scaremongering’ Bandwagon.

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guardian cannabis psychosis headline picRead The Guardian’s Editorial Here

In the last couple of years, even the Daily Mail has shifted its stance on cannabis as it sees opportunities to sensationalise ‘miracle cures’ from medicinal use – the epileptic child now smiling, the cancer patient whose tumour has disappeared. Truth and balance are irrelevant when a dramatic headline is all you’re after.

The Daily Telegraph has become the new home of ‘reefer madness’ with bad science, nasty prejudice and booze-fuelled fear of a safer recreational drug threatening the massive profits of the alcohol industry.

Now, even the Guardian jumps on the ‘skunk scaremongering’ bandwagon with the exaggerated claim that “the risks of heavy teenage cannabis consumption should frighten all of us”. In a backhanded editorial it suggests legalisation because cannabis is dangerous. It claims the consequences of cannabis “abuse are devastating. Psychotic breakdowns smash up lives and can lead to full-blown schizophrenia.” There is little evidence to support such hysteria. In reality, such effects are so rare as to be virtually unheard of and it’s impossible to prove they are caused by cannabis.

Of course we must protect young people, particularly from the high-THC/low-CBD ‘moonshine’ varieties that are a direct result of government policy. However, we cannot compromise facts and evidence for the illusory belief that buying into scare stories will somehow reduce harm. The only way to protect children is by legal regulation with mandatory age limits.

The Guardian makes much of Public Health England’s (PHE) figure that “there are more than 13,000 under-18s in treatment for the consequences of heavy cannabis use in England”. It neglects to mention that PHE also publishes more than 69% are referred by the criminal justice, education and social care systems while only 17% are referred from healthcare and just 11% by themselves or their family. Thus, more than two-thirds are receiving coercive treatment and only 11% actually consider they have a problem.

It is government propaganda that thousands of young people are suffering from mental health problems due to cannabis. Why is The Guardian promoting this myth? Last year, in answer to a Parliamentary question, Jane Ellison MP, minister of state at the Department of Health, revealed there have been average of just over 28 ‘finished admission episodes’ (FAE) for ‘cannabis-induced psychosis’ in young people for each of the past five years.

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’ is of negligible significance. To put it into perspective, there are an estimated 3,000 FAEs for peanut allergy each year but we don’t waste £500 million pa on futile law enforcement efforts to ban peanuts!

For 50 years, the Home Office has systematically misled and misinformed the British people about cannabis. Successive generations of young people know they have been lied to. Such dishonest health information is counterproductive. As a result, many children may think that heroin or crack are not as harmful as they have been told.

Cannabis is not harmless but neither is it ‘dangerous’. If you apply that description to it you also have to apply it to energy drinks, over-the-counter painkillers and hay fever remedies. Similarly, whatever scaremongering there is about ‘addiction’, the scientific evidence is that dependency amongst regular cannabis users is slightly less than caffeine dependency amongst regular coffee drinkers – and withdrawal symptoms are similar in nature and intensity.

What we need is evidence-based policy. Government needs to take responsibility for the £6 billion pa cannabis market instead of abandoning our young people and communities to street dealers and criminal gangs. The benefits to be gained from cannabis law reform are reduced health and social harms, massive public expenditure savings, increased tax revenue and proper protection for the vulnerable, including children.

References

Young people’s statistics from the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS), Public Health England, December 2015
Drugs: Young People. Department of Health written question – answered on 20th March 2015.
Relative Addictiveness of Drugs, Dr. Jack E. Henningfield, NIDA and Dr. Neal L. Benowitz, UCLA, 1994