Pubdate: Wed, 08 Aug 2001
Source: Times, The (UK)
Copyright: 2001 Times Newspapers Ltd
Author: Philip Robson, David Wilson


 From Dr Philip Robson

Sir, No reasonable person could argue that cannabis is a risk-free drug 
(Times 2, August 6; letters, August 4) but the scientific literature 
presents real dilemmas. Human studies are often methodologically flawed, 
whilst the vast array of reports from animal or in vitro experiments 
contain conflicting and equivocal results.

The problem with reviews such as those by Baroness Greenfield (Comment, 
July 14) and Dr Thomas Stuttaford (Times 2, July 31) is that they are 
partisan and selective. Professor Greenfield is an eminent scientist whose 
views are to be taken seriously, but when talking about "severe shrinkage 
and death of brain cells" on exposure to cannabis she omitted to refer to 
other papers which discuss potent neuroprotective properties of cannabis 

Dr Stuttaford lists in dramatic style a wide range of cannabis-related 
risks. Some of these are likely to be well-founded, especially those 
related to the act of smoking itself, but the scientific evidence is rarely 
clear-cut. A partisan reviewer of the opposite persuasion would have been 
able to make a very different, but perhaps equally compelling, selection 
from the literature.

I have been carrying out medical research using cannabis extracts and have 
seen at first hand the benefits these can bring, so I am of course no more 
impartial than Lady Greenfield or Dr Stuttaford. The Home Secretary and 
even former candidates in the Tory leadership election said that they would 
like to see an improvement in the quality of the debate surrounding this 
drug (report, June 25). An important contribution to this would be a 
systematic and critical review headed by an appropriately qualified 
scientist with no private agenda to pursue.

Yours sincerely, PHILIP ROBSON (Medical director, G. W. Pharmaceuticals; 
senior research fellow, University of Oxford, Department of Psychiatry), 
Warneford Hospital, Oxford OX3 7JX. August 6.

 From Mr David Wilson

Sir, There is no limit to the number of substances and objects with which 
humans can do themselves harm. Existing drugs and combinations of drugs, 
and others yet to be devised, will all be used or abused by those willing 
to do so; alcohol will be consumed to excess. In the process many people 
will become ill while unfortunately some will die.

Legislation to control the abuse of drugs is always bound to be out of 
date. It can be argued that the State has a duty to protect the vulnerable, 
such as children, and to protect society in general from the effects of 
dangerous behaviour, such as driving while under the influence of drink or 
drugs. Beyond that, however, are we right to use legislation in order to 
protect people from what some might regard as their own folly? Glue and 
alcohol have been regulated rather than banned, despite their harmful 
effects if abused. If drugs of choice were dealt with in the same way 
society would not fall apart, but the evils attendant on prohibition would 
disappear. Crime would not vanish, but the cause of much of it would.

Yours faithfully, DAVID WILSON, Bridell, Cardigan, August 4.
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