Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Channel 4 Drugs Live. How To Cause Confusion About Cannabis.

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Hash

Hash

What is this ‘hash’ that looks like weed and this ‘skunk’ that isn’t cannabis?

Channel 4’s ‘Drugs Live:Cannabis On Trial‘ played fast and loose with facts, terminology and ethical considerations.

Cannabis

Cannabis

To be fair, I greatly enjoyed the programme (well I would wouldn’t I) and there was some fascinating science. Particularly about how the brain responds to music when you’re high and about how CBD protects the ‘salience network’, the key to motivation.  This gives weight to the theory of an ‘amotivational syndrome’.

In a week’s time though, all that most of the public will remember is Jon Snow saying that using ‘skunk’ was more terrifying than being in a war zone and his distorted reporting of the recent study by which he implied that 25% of people who use ‘skunk’ will become psychotic.

So I am left with very mixed feelings.  The pre-publicity was a disgrace: inaccurate, misleading, unethical  – words I have already published and I stand by them.

The brazen misuse of the terms ‘skunk’ and ‘hash’ is an appalling error of judgement by Channel 4, Renegade Pictures and yes, sadly, by two scientists for whom I have the greatest  of respect: Professors Val Curran and David Nutt.

Why would you choose to use the same word as the gutter press chooses to demonise cannabis? ‘Skunk’ is a scary word and what it really means is a sativa dominant strain with a modest THC content of 8% and only traces of CBD.

As for hash, it also has a specific meaning: the compressed resin, derived from the plant by sieving or by hand rubbing.  By definition a more concentrated form of cannabis, yet the programme claimed exactly the opposite.

A far better, more accurate, more scientific and informative shorthand would have been to describe the cannabis as low CBD, high CBD and placebo.

Surely, whether we agree or disagree with their evidence, we are entitled to expect precision and accuracy from scientists?

The fundamental problem with this programme was that there were no cannabis experts present, only detached academics and scientists or cannabis users who were hardly well informed or articulate.  I did of course volunteer but for some reason the producers saw fit to exclude anyone from the cannabis campaign or anyone who has both in depth knowledge and real experience.

Unfortunately, this programme will go the same way as all those other earnest endeavours, ‘The Union’, ‘The Culture High’, ‘In Pot We Trust’, etc – all very enjoyable, self-affirming and satisfying but all preaching to the choir. I’ll be interested to see what the viewing figures were for last night’s programme.

Professor David Nutt and his Harm Index.

Professor David Nutt and his Harm Index.

The best bit was David Nutt’s final conclusion. On his scale of harms, even low CBD cannabis (the demon ‘SKUNK’)  is less harmful than alcohol, heroin, crack, meth, cocaine, tobacco and speed.  After the study he concludes that high CBD cannabis is the least harmful drug of all.

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