Pubdate: Wed, 25 Jan 2006
Source: Herald, The (UK)
Copyright: 2006 The Herald
Author: Max Cruickshank


THE debate about cannabis is back in the public domain after Charles 
Clarke, the home secretary, decided that the government is not going 
to lose face by reversing David Blunkett's monumental boob by 
reclassifying cannabis from class B to C. The political solution is 
going to be a public health education campaign that will be a 
complete waste of money. Where is the evidence that such health 
campaigns do anything but let politicians off the hook by pretending 
that they are doing something useful about a health issue?

It is clear that politicians, and especially successive government 
ministers, cannot be trusted with the cannabis issue. They only 
listen to the so-called experts such as the police, the advisory 
committee on drug misuse and a few tame medics who are in the pay of 
the government. They do not take heed of drugs workers, youth 
workers, mental health organisations, parents, cannabis users or the 
young people who are to be the target of the health campaign. Also 
missing from the debate are the following key factors that are behind 
the problems that cannabis will in the long-term cause our society.

Young people will not take any heed of government campaigns on 
cannabis because they have already been badly misled by Blunkett and 
others into believing that this is a relatively harmless drug, hence 
its downgrading. This just confirms the belief of young people and 
many adults that cannabis is a natural substance with little danger 
attached to it. Blunkett promised a cannabis education campaign and 
it never happened; if it had, the only message the government could 
send out is that this is an illegal drug with a lower risk than class 
A or B drugs. But, then, we all knew that already.

My second concern is that the quality (THC content) of cannabis 
varies enormously but is generally very low compared with 10 years 
ago, with the exceptions of skunk and home-grown varieties. The 
result is that to get the hallucinogenic effects users desire, they 
need to use vast (binge-level) quantities on what is often a daily basis.

These high consumption levels of cannabis, with the associated high 
intake of tobacco, are massively increasing the health problems that 
users can expect over 10-15 years of regular cannabis use.

We are also now led to believe that the human brain is not fully 
wired-up until about 21 years of age; so heavy use of a drug such as 
cannabis from childhood or the teenage period into adulthood 
inevitably will impact on the mental health of the binge users, 
especially children and teenagers and those who were vulnerable to 
mental health problems anyway.

The committee on drug misuse that advises the government on such 
matters is loaded with academics, medics and others who are deciding 
on the categories of drugs from a mainly pharmacological perspective. 
They do not seem to allow for the social factors such as how large 
numbers of people might use the drugs they are considering.

The last issue in this whole debacle is that Scottish law is not 
English law so the police in Scotland who do not have the power to 
caution a person found with cannabis (an illegal substance) are 
duty-bound to report offenders to the procurator-fiscal for action. 
They cannot take the softly, softly English police approach of 
confiscating the drug, cautioning the offender and letting them go 
unless they have been caught before or are near schools, etc.

Max Cruickshank, health issues trainer, Hamilton
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