22 Jan The Disgraceful Misuse Of The Term ‘Skunk’ By Those Who Call Themselves Scientists


Yet another misleading article by an ignorant and misinformed journalist in the Daily Telegraph has prompted me to publish this. Over the last year, the Telegraph has been moving closer and closer to the Daily Mail in its style and content. Thank God that it does still have some real journalists on its books and its still not quite as outrageously unbalanced and hysterical as the Mail. Tom Chivers wrote an excellent piece on Monday of this week.

The blatant misuse of the term ‘skunk’ has been an issue for some years but I was dismayed to see just recently that even Professors David Nutt (on his Facebook page) and Val Curran (on Sky News) have slipped into using it in the inaccurate, tabloid sense. It is a dark day for drug law reform and science in general when two beacons of truth start to misuse language. I have written to David asking him to clarify.

Skunk is one of hundreds of strains of cannabis and by no means the one with the highest THC content. The word has been selected and promoted by the tabloid press because of its obvious, sensationalist, negative connotations – a very strong, unpleasant smell and a small aggressive animal, like a polecat or a weasel.

What is truly disgraceful is how some scientists, most notably the arch anti-cannabis campaigner, Professor Sir Robin Murray, have started to use the term in exactly the tabloid sense. This is the very opposite of science and any scientist you hear using the term (except to refer to the specific strain) has disqualified him/herself from using the title scientist. If it is the THC:CBD ratio that is of concern they should talk about precise figures, not in tabloid generalisations.

It is wholly false to claim that skunk accounts for 80% of the UK market. In fact it’s one of the least common strains.

The issue at hand is that high THC/low CBD cannabis does have greater potential for harm than a more balanced variety. Increasingly, in the burgeoning world of cannabis growing, where hundreds of F1 hybrids are now available, people are choosing to grow cannabis with more CBD and other cannabinoids such as CBG, THCv and CBC. Most experienced consumers know that cannabis with CBD produces a far more pleasant effect.

However, even in high THC/low CBD varieties the potential for harm is very, very small. Across the world, mendacious governments and tabloid media have systematically misinformed and misled people about cannabis. Of course children should not be using it but the hard facts about its true impact on mental health are that it is insignificant in public health terms. The actual number of people admitted to hospital in connection with cannabis or entering drug treatment is tiny, particularly when you consider that most entering treatment are forced to do so by the courts or go to jail. The stories about dramatic mental health problems are mainly lies. Check the facts on the NHS and NDTMS websites before you swallow the lies and propaganda.

That said, high THC/low CBD cannabis is the product of prohibition. I prefer to call it moonshine weed because that is an exact parallel. Just as in US alcohol prohibition, people gave up drinking wine and beer and went for moonshine, a trend that was reversed when prohibition ended.

As with so much of drugs policy, particularly in neanderthal, backwards Britain, it actually creates harm, certainly far more harm than it prevents.

The people responsible for the prevalance of moonshine weed, children having easy access and illegal cannabis farms, human trafficking, etc, etc are our dishonest, incompetent and corrupt ministers who are run by the alcohol industry and the Daily Mail and take no notice at all of evidence except to cover it up or distort it.

  • rockstar

    Agree with everything peter. The world is accepting the evidence whilst our government ognores the evidence or pretend the issues dont exist whilst being highly hypocritcal at the same time.

  • Angel Vasquez

    Nonsense, when you say: “Most experienced consumers know that cannabis with CBD produces a far more pleasant effect.” Few recreational smokers I know want any CBD in their Cannabis, CBD increases onset time for THC, reduces peak THC effects, as well as making the reduced effects last longer. I do not want any of that. To me CBD is terrible. I have been a consumer for more then 50 years, I am experienced to say the least. I do not like herbal Cannabis, I prefer pure dry sift resin high in only THC and the right terpenes, all found in great Cannabis varieties. Skunk #1 is a great example of this. If people preferred THC/CBD then why did prohibition change that? Cannabis that has a back round of NLD Ganja varieties has very low CBD, varieties with WLD hashish varieties always have CBD in them, it is an artifact of the growers on the hashish farms they selected the plants with the most resin, regardless of their Cannabinoid contents, hashish farmers do not smoke herbal Cannabis and do not smoke individual plants, they have no way to remove high CBD individuals, unlike Ganja growers that keep the seeds of the plants they like best for next years crop. The ones with no CBD. Peter you need to do the science before you make yourself sound as foolish as the Daily Mail…

    • Maybe a little CBD would help with your aggression and petty insults? I can assure you that I have done the science and I would guess probably since before you were born.

  • smoke a J

    He is right the Government is out of touch and “skunk” to demonise is wrong. Not much skunk on the streets it’s better than skunk if it’s not been subject to glass plastics etc. Skunk #1 that’s how out of touch the Government legislation is. I ain’t seen that for ages. Now other strains yes we have I will not mention the names of the plants that are being grown. If I do then Government would intervene and training would be better. So less for the masses. It’s certainly sad then ignoring all the evidence and health implications of dirty contaminated weed. It maybe more appropriate for Government to give it the correct scientific name Cannabis L. Sativa
    All the suffering some are going through yet they give shit like Fentanyl BuTrans Oxycontin Morphine diazepam etc. One God Given Green Herb helps to relieve pain relax you and also give you an appetite. Yet Government thinks that it’s there call to poison us with medicines opiates and this could lessen dangerous contamination lessen police and fire Brigade time and save the NHS. Now I don’t know about anyone else but I would rather pay for medicine from the Government than from dealers. It would have to be clean. Also sorry about the rant but it seems I get paid for the suffering and not because of health. It should be illegal not granting GP’S the power to decide what is best for the patient not the Government. Peace.

  • discerner

    If May,as has been suggested moves to make so called stronger strains of cannabis a class A substance – how will this be defined? For example what strength will be defined as strong cannabis, will someone necessarily know what strength they are buying? A dealer will probably indicate it is not class A strength, What draconian sentencing will she introduce for so called strong cannabis. A far more dangerous drug alcohol is readily sold to the public in roughly mild,medium and strong varieties giving consumers choice. Surely this choice should be available for cannabis,and in my experience most people prefer mild or medium strength of both.

    To make stronger cannabis a class A substance whilst alcohol and tobacco are completely legal is absurd – but we live in backward Britain.

    • Nigel Romih

      And are they gonna pay to test this class A stuff at some made up limit they pull out of their arse? What if they set it at 15%? I bet half of that crap doesn’t even make the scratch. It’s just another money pit for the ignorant to waste tax payers cash.

  • bob

    I agree it is wrong for people to use registered names for specific strains generally, especially Skunk. It is misleading and I think most people don’t understand that there are different psychoactive compounds in cannabis or its derivatives like hashish.
    Its also worth remembering that THC degrades with light, heat and time into other cannabinoids.
    Often hashish is associated with a lower ratio of THC because the process of making it degrades THC even if it started out with a high ratio.
    From an enforcement perspective, lets say they did offer a ratio or a percentage THC threshold, wouldn’t this be logistically very difficult to enforce and require tests etc.
    Then how would the consumer be expected to know, when purchasing or growing it for that matter.
    I suspect that everything gets clumped together as one and categorised as such.
    I presume the argument that will then follow is why and proof will be needed to back up the circumstantial evidence they have, which is based on someone who doesn’t even know what they’ve been smoking says they have been smoking.
    unless you have means to test it each time you smoke it.