PCC Complaint. The Daily Mail, 11th October 2011
“Even the Dutch think skunk drives you mad”, The Daily Mail, 11-10-11
I wish to make a complaint concerning the above article which is still available online at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2047750/The-grass-greener-Holland.html
I make the complaint on my own account but also in my capacity as the Leader of Cannabis Law Reform (CLEAR), a UK political party, of P.O.Box 674, Salfords, Redhill, RH1 9BN. For the purposes of correspondence, please use my personal address as below.
I make this complaint in good faith that you will honestly and fairly judge whether or not there have been breaches of the Editors’ Code. Self-evidently it is the duty of the commission to enforce the Editors’ Code. However, it is clear from many decisions that the commission’s focus is actually on finding excuses for breaches of the code. I am also very concerned that the commission is distorting scientific evidence to support its decisions in exactly the same way as some newspapers distort such evidence to enhance their copy. If it can be shown that commission is failing to enforce the Editors’ Code and/or distorting evidence to support the rejection of a complaint then the commission is not acting in good faith and a cause for action arises to recover damages.
1. The article breaches clause 1.i) of the code in that it publishes inaccurate, misleading and distorted information.
2. It also breaches clause 1.iii) in that it fails to distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
3. The article is presented as an opinion piece. However, as detailed below, the points complained about are matters neither of opinion nor comment, they are determined by scientific evidence. The Independent Reviewer has already ruled (21-07-11 letter to Peter Reynolds) that a comment “should not be published if it is based on an inaccuracy or misleading statement”. It is particularly dangerous and irresponsible that a journalist who identifies himself as a doctor and claims expert knowledge should advance such inaccurate, misleading and distorted information. I believe that the content of this article amounts to gross professional misconduct and a formal complaint against Dr Lefever is being submitted to the General Medical Council.
4. This complaint needs to be seen in the context of the Daily Mail’s systematic campaign over many years of misinformation, dishonesty, falsification and distortion of evidence concerning cannabis. To date the commission has failed to rein in these activities at all or to make any attempt to do so.
5. In the fourth paragraph the article states: “The plants have been genetically modified through selective in-breeding.” This is inaccurate, misleading and distorted information. It is neither a matter of comment nor opinion, it is determined by scientific evidence. Cannabis is not “genetically modified”, it is a product of selective breeding. “Genetically modified”, is defined as “An organism whose geneticcharacteristics have been altered by the insertion of a modified gene or a gene from another organism using the techniques of genetic engineering” (http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/genetically+modified+organism). Selective breeding is an entirely different process which is natural and does not involve the modification of genes or the insertion of genes from another organism. Selective breeding is the method used to produce everything we grow on farms and has been so for many centuries.
6. In the fifth paragraph the article states “There is now twenty times as much tetra hydro cannabiol – the active chemical ingredient (THC) – as there used to be”. This is inaccurate, misleading and distorted information. It is neither a matter of comment nor opinion, it is determined by scientific evidence. Straightforward common sense reveals what nonsense this statement is. If it were true than the base line THC content for the calculation would have to be below 5% or the result would be that cannabis now is 100% THC. In practice then, as the most recent evidence (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-13796845) is that average THC content of street cannabis is 7% it would mean that the base line THC content would have been approx 0.3% which is at the non-psychoactive level of industrial hemp.
“There is, of course, exceptionally strong cannabis to be found in some parts of the UK market today: but there always has been. The United Nations Drug Control Program has detailed vintage data for the UK online. In 1975 the LGC analysed 50 seized samples of herbal cannabis: 10 were from Thailand, with an average potency of 7.8%, and the highest was 17%. In 1975 they analysed 11 samples of seized cannabis resin, 6 from morocco, average strength 9%, with a range from 4% to 16%.” (Dr Ben Goldacre, 2007. http://www.badscience.net/2007/03/reefer-badness/)
James Brokenshire, minister of state in the Home Office, replied to a written parliamentary question on 4th April 2011: “The latest data from the Forensic Science Service Ltd (FSS) show that the average tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content of mature flowering tops from plants, otherwise known as sinsemilla, seized and submitted to the FSS from the 1 January 2008 to the present day was 14.0%. By comparison, during the same period, the average THC content of traditional imported cannabis and cannabis resin was 12.5% and 5.5% respectively.”
Dr Lefever’s claim of a twenty times increase in THC content is false and a deliberate attempt to misinform. Aside from it being a travesty of journalism, it is a breach of professional medical ethics.
7. In the sixth paragraph the article mentions “genetic modification” which is inaccurate, misleading and distorted information as detailed above.
8. Clearly Dr Lefever should and almost certainly does have a proper understanding of the true facts concerning the false statements he has made as set out above. He is therefore engaged in a deliberate attempt to deceive and misinform. He and the editor concerned have breached their duty set out in the preamble to the Editors’ Code to maintain the highest professional standards. They are in fact engaged in the most reprehensible dishonesty. In my view, given the malevolent irresponsibility and deception demonstrated in this article, Dr Lefever is unfit to practice medicine. His motivation for such untruths and dishonesty is the promotion of his Promis “Addiction Rehab Clincs”.
I would be grateful if you would deal with this complaint at your earliest convenience. I shall be happy to provide any further information required or to give oral evidence in support.