The Independent on Sunday's headline story today, is the ending of its 10 year campaign supporting the legalisation of cannabis:
More than 22,000 people were treated last year for cannabis addiction - and almost half of those affected were under 18. With doctors and drugs experts warning that skunk can be as damaging as cocaine and heroin, leading to mental health problems and psychosis for thousands of teenagers, The Independent on Sunday has today reversed its landmark campaign for cannabis use to be decriminalised.
One of the big reasons for this turn around seems to be the psychiatric position that cannabis use is implicated in schizophrenia. More from the Independent:
Many medical specialists agree that the debate has changed. Robin Murray, professor of psychiatry at London's Institute of Psychiatry, estimates that at least 25,000 of the 250,000 schizophrenics in the UK could have avoided the illness if they had not used cannabis. "The number of people taking cannabis may not be rising, but what people are taking is much more powerful, so there is a question of whether a few years on we may see more people getting ill as a consequence of that."
Now there seems to me to be a number of flaws in the argument that the Independent is now espousing. The fact is, psychiatry has very little understanding about schizophrenia, and the claim that 10% of schizophrenics could have avoided their illness had they not used cannabis, is a correlation - is it not also likely that the schizophrenia population reflects a widespread use of cannabis in the general population (and that they would have got sick anyway)? The influenza virus has also been implicated in schizophrenia, but that doesn't mean there is a direct cause and effect going on - in fact with things as complex as mental health we can be certain the answers aren't going to be straightforward.
Mental health aside, the Independent seems to be crying "but somebody think of the children", arguing that some 10,000 kids were addicted to cannabis. Is the behaviour of a small number of children, supposed to dictate to the wider population? Isn't this a failure of parents and government to control the children, not an opportunity to dictate to tax paying adults (who may or may not have children themselves)?
A recent RSA report into drugs concluded amongst other things that:
The evidence suggests that a majority of people who use drugs are able to use them without harming themselves or others. The harmless use of illegal drugs is thus possible, indeed common.
From a BBC article on the report:
An investigation by the RSA says illicit substances can be "harmless", while drinking and smoking can cause as many problems. It says the law has been "driven by moral panic", and suggests policy-making should be left to drug teams and local authorities.
And isn't this what the Independent reaction appears to be? Moral panic? Every weekend, I hear the sirens of emergency vehicles, and the rowdy fighting masses as they go about on their alcohol binges. All around the country, hospitals and police are inundated with the inebriated. And yet it is cannabis that is the demon of society. No, I think someone's confused.
Not everyone reacts identically to a given dose of one drug or another. Obviously, however, it is dangerous to play with the chemical mechanism of the brain. To become a mental cripple is a price surely too high for any amount of "mind-expanding" fun. Nevertheless, the reaction of society to drug use - particularly to that of marijuana, which has not yet been definitely shown to be as harmful as other hallucinogens - tends to be over-strenuous. Many of those who inveigh against the use of drugs of one sort or another are themselves thoroughly addicted to the use of alcohol or tobaccos, both of which, in the mass, are responsible for much harm both to the individual and to society. Hypocrisy of this sort tends to decrease the credibility of much of the anti-drug movement.
We either live with drug and alcohol use, or we ban it altogether. Smoking and drinking in public is slowly becoming completely frowned upon by society (with good reason) but it's ridiculous that people can walk into shops and buy huge numbers of cigarettes (and quantities of alcohol) to kill themselves (quickly or slowly) at home and this is okay with society. Tax it, educate, license and legalise (criminalise selling to children and other vulnerables) and then the law will be much clearer for everybody. If a man has the means and will to spend his life in a drunken/stoned/high stupor, who is anybody else to dictate to him, as long as he doesn't hurt anyone else...Go Top