Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Cannabis U-Turn

Since this is the year for Labour U-Turns, it was only a matter of time before the Government realised it had got it fundamentally wrong on the reclassification of cannabis and re-grade it a class B drug. And rightly so. It should never have been downgraded in the first place.

The Home Secretary was right to point out that, given the increasing strength of modern day cannabis varieties, there is huge uncertainty over the impact on users' mental health. Shadow Home Secretary David Davis highlighted the dangers of the downgrading of cannabis to a Class C drug four years ago in a speech to Spring Forum. He said:

One thing can wreck opportunities, destroy freedom, and shatter lives: drugs. And the first thing I will do as Home Secretary is reverse this Government's foolish reclassification policy on cannabis. Let me tell you why. The Times recently told the story of a young cannabis user called Steve. His father Terry recalls how Steve turned to him one evening while watching television and said: "Why did you ring the BBC?" Terry said he hadn't. "Yes you did" Steve said. "You rang them and told them I was lazy and they've been broadcasting it all day". Steve had become paranoid and started to hear voices. Three years later, and after 3 months in a psychiatric ward, Steve lives at home with his parents. His paranoia is controlled by medication but he still hears voices, is unable to work and remains afraid to go out alone. But compared with some, Steve is lucky.

The paper featured another article. A moving account from the mother of an art student. After a harrowing account of his addiction, she wrote: "I knew how my bright, clever, acerbic, handsome son had been destroyed, his creative brain damaged, his strong physique crippled. What made this boy, my lively, lovely, articulate son with his many gifts of perception, art, facility with languages, writing skills, critical capacity, acting ability, physical beauty, elegance of mind and body, sell his life to drugs? George, her son, progressively declined into psychosis caused by cannabis. He died in a drug dealer's flat of heroin poisoning, the drug he took to escape the terrors of his psychotic episodes. This weekend is the fourth anniversary of his death.

You can't listen to those two stories and believe cannabis is harmless. After four studies proved the link between cannabis and psychosis, the papers were full of such stories. Including from those who had once been protagonists for cannabis legalisation. That was until their own children had suffered from the ill effects of marijuana. The past 20 years have seen super potent varieties of cannabis emerge, 10 times as powerful, and 10 times as dangerous. Making the problems worse.

Those who use cannabis by the age of 15 are over three times as likely to develop psychosis. In South London, the incidence of psychosis has doubled since 1964. Some commentators say it is not the job of government to stop people ruining their lives. Well I believe it is when youngsters start smoking marijuana at the age of 10 or less.

Today this Government's policy on drugs is sending mixed messages to our children. Reclassification of cannabis has persuaded many that cannabis is safe and legal. Wrong. It is neither. We have opposed this lunacy. And we will reverse it.

The Government has a responsibility to stop children and young people starting on the path of self-destruction. And it has a responsibility to stop those hell bent on self-destruction from ruining other people's lives.

Four years later, and for some four years too late, the Government has finally recognised that it made a huge mistake. If only it had listened earlier. For some it may just be too late.

1 comment:

Michael Reed said...

"Those who use cannabis by the age of 15 are over three times as likely to develop psychosis"

Or, those who are later diagnosed with psychosis are three times as likely to have used cannabis in the past. Correlation does not imply causation.

Drug use, poverty, crime, abuse, and mental illness -- they are all typically related.

I notice that most of the musicians you mention in your next post are drug users. If the majority of famous pop/rock musicians have taken cannabis, perhaps drug use is the cause of creative excellence?

Statistics of that sort are a bit misleading anyway because the actual figures are small, which inhibits accurate analysis. Let's say that there was a type of mental illness that a typical person had a 3,000,000:1 chance of developing. Let's also say that a type of drug increases the chance that a person could develop that illness by three. The DM loves a stat like that, but this means that you still only have a 1,000,000 chance of developing the illness.