LibDems: Correct On Cannabis Policy, Wrong On Scaremongering.
The Liberal Democrats are doing great work on advancing the cause of cannabis law reform. Their policy proposals are sensible and their arguments for change are irrefutable but they are wrong to buy into and sustain the myths and scaremongering that have dominated the cannabis debate for so long.
Cannabis does not cause psychosis. Stronger strains do not present serious health risks. Memory loss is not a significant issue and no issue at all in comparison to the health harms of alcohol or tobacco. Cannabis cannot be described as dangerous unless you also apply that word to hay fever remedies, over-the-counter painkillers and energy drinks. There is not and never has been any scientific evidence to support these myths.
Of course, we must be sensitive to people’s fears and concerns. For more than 50 years the British people have been fed a stream of lies and exaggeration by the tabloid media. The Home Office, right up to today, is engaged in a systematic and deliberate policy to mislead and misinform on cannabis. Shocking though that fact is, this policy transcends successive governments and continues irrespective of ministers’ views. It clearly emanates from dishonest and corrupt officials who are determined to pursue their own agenda, irrespective of truth or concern for the massive harms and cost of cannabis prohibition.
Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat MP and health spokesperson, who is leading the party’s campaign, is a brave, sincere and conscientious politician. One of the few in Westminster that matches up to the high standards of probity and wisdom that we should be able to expect from all MPs. Similarly, Nick Clegg, former leader, and Tim Farron, current leader, have spoken out strongly on the need to reform the law. Now is the time for them also to start telling the truth about cannabis, about how its dangers have been vastly exaggerated, how for adults, in moderation, it can actually be very beneficial and far preferable as a choice of relaxant to alcohol. Indeed, if people substituted cannabis for some of their alcohol consumption, it would be a public health revolution. It would save the NHS billions and transform the health of our society.
The cannabis campaign will not succeed unless we tell the truth. We cannot compromise facts and evidence for the illusory belief that buying into the scare stories will somehow advance the cause. We need to push back at the scaremongering, acknowledge there are risks but that they are extremely small. They really only apply to use by children or to behaviour that is analogous to a ‘white cider drinker’. Consume anything to excess, regularly, without a break, without regard to other aspects of life and it will cause harm but even then, cannabis will cause less harm than any other substance.
As for children, one of the main aims of reform must be to minimise underage use. Even then, the scare story that cannabis is causing significant mental health problems amongst young people is untrue. The Department of Health’s own data shows that in the last five years, there has been an average of just 28 episodes per year of care for ‘cannabis psychosis’ in young people. 28 individual tragedies but an insignificant problem in public health terms.
The misuse of the term ‘skunk’ is also unhelpful. The Channel 4 ‘Drugs Live’ debacle last year was based on reckless, irresponsible overdosing of inexperienced users by a scientist who should know better. All the time calling the cannabis was called ‘skunk’ when it is a matter of fact that it was silver haze as grown by Bedrocan, the Netherlands’ government producer of medicinal cannabis. Skunk is actually the name of one particular cannabis strain and not an especially strong one. Cannabis is available in Britain that is twice, sometimes three times as potent as skunk but the word has been selected and promoted by the tabloid press because of its obvious, sensationalist, negative connotations.
Thank you to the Liberal Democrats for the fantastic work they are doing. All we need now is a little adjustment and focus on truth rather than scare stories.