28 Jul Amanda Platell of the Daily Mail Abuses Amy’s Memory – Not Upheld

Updated 24th November 2011

This is another Press Complaints Commission complaint about coverage of cannabis but one that highlights disgusting practices at the Daily Mail, every bit as vile and shameful as the News of the World.

The conniving, deceitful Platell wrote in a column full of lies and abuse last Tuesday:

“…countless scientific papers have shown cannabis can lead to schizophrenia. Even though research in the online scientific journal Neuro- psychopharmacy shows conclusively that cannabis is a gateway drug to heroin, cocaine and crack — all of which Amy Winehouse became addicted to.

The truth is that just a few scientific papers have shown correlation between cannabis use and schizophrenia and that is all. There is no evidence that cannabis “can lead to schizophrenia“. Ms Platell’s assertion is a lie.

Much more serious though is the falsification, crass prejudice and abuse in the second and blatant deception.

Ms Platell is too stupid even to get the title of the journal right. It’s not “pharmacy”, where you get your slap and shampoo Amanda, it’s “pharmacology”, the science of the composition, use and effects of drugs.

The research was actually about rats dosed with synthetic THC (just one of hundreds of active ingredients of cannabis) and whether they will self-administer larger quantities of heroin. There was nothing in the study that looked at cocaine or crack and there was nothing conclusive about the results presented at all.

This is one of the worst examples I have seen where a tabloid “journalist” with barely enough brain to understand what she is writing about, distorts and deceives in order to abuse a woman whose talent was stratospheres above her own.

Amanda Platell is a liar, a charlatan and a dumb hack, grovelling in the gutter to abuse both Amy Winehouse and her fans. Paul Dacre, editor of the dreadful Daily Mail, should sack her immediately.

—– Original Message —–
From: Peter Reynolds
To: [email protected]
Sent: Thursday, July 28, 2011 5:32 PM
Subject: Complaint against the Daily Mail, issue dated 26th July 2011

Dear Sirs,

“Genius, but Amy’s was not a life to admire”, The Daily Mail, 26-07-11

I wish to make a complaint concerning the above article which is still available online at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2018741/Amy-Winehouse-dead-Genius-life-admire.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.

1. This article breaches the Editors’ Code Of Practice clause 1.i) in that it publishes inaccurate, misleading and distorted information.

2. In the ninth paragraph from the end, the article states:

“Even though countless scientific papers have shown cannabis can lead to schizophrenia. Even though research in the online scientific journal Neuro- psychopharmacy shows conclusively that cannabis is a gateway drug to heroin, cocaine and crack…”

Although the article is presented as a comment piece, that does not absolve the publishers of its responsibilities under clauses 1.i) and 1.iii.).,

3. It is inaccurate, misleading and distorted to say that “countless scientific papers have shown cannabis can lead to schizophrenia”. The most that can be said is that a few papers have shown some correlation with schizophrenia.. There is no proof of causation or “can lead to” at all.

4. There is no “…online scientific journal Neuro- psychopharmacy…”. The author probably means the online scientific journal “Neuropsychopharmacology”. There is no research published in it or any other journal that “…shows conclusively that cannabis is a gateway drug to heroin, cocaine and crack…”. This is entirely false and a deception.

There was a study published in “Neuropsychopharmacology” in 2006 concerning research on rats that received doses of synthetic THC (one of hundreds of active ingredients in cannabis) which showed they would self administer larger doses of heroin. There was no research carried out on cocaine or crack and no conclusive evidence of any sort was published

The “Gateway theory” has been disproved by every reputable study that has looked at it. The ACMD specifically rejected it in its report on cannabis in 2008.

5. The article amounts to crass sensationalism, distortion and falsification of evidence and the editor and journalist concerned have failed in their duty to maintain the highest professional standards. It is a particularly heinous example of the very worst excesses of gutter journalism and I urge the commission to deal with it severely.

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.

Yours faithfully,

Peter Reynolds

—– Original Message —–

From: Ben Milloy

Sent: Monday, November 07, 2011 5:16 PM

Subject: Our reference: 113345

Commission’s decision in the case of

Reynolds v Daily Mail

The article under complaint was an opinion piece discussing the life of Amy Winehouse, in particular, her abuse of drink and drugs. The complainant argued that two claims concerning cannabis were in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code.

The Commission initially addressed the complainant’s concern about a claim that the ‘scientific journal Neuropsychopharmacy (sic) showed conclusively that cannabis was a gateway drug to heroin, cocaine and crack’. He highlighted that the study in question was carried out on rats and related only to synthetic doses of THC (rather than the many active ingredients contained in natural cannabis). He argued that to suggest such a study – which specifically stated that it ‘did not exclude the contribution of other factors such as genetics, environment and social issues’ – could be described as ‘conclusively’ proving the gateway theory in humans was preposterous. The theory had been disproved by every reputable study that had looked at it, including the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs in 2008.

The Commission noted that the complainant had been able to refer to a number of studies which he argued supported his position that the gateway theory had been widely discredited. It appeared that the plausibility of the hypothesis was a matter of ongoing scientific debate. The Commission made clear that it was not its role to determine the validity of the theory, but, instead, to decide whether readers would have been significantly misled under the terms of the Editors’ Code. In this instance, the claim had been clearly attributed to research in ‘the online scientific journal Neuropsychopharmacy’. Accordingly, it was satisfied that readers would have understood the claim related to a particular study. While the complainant evidently believed the research to be flawed, he appeared to accept that it had concluded in favour of the gateway theory (‘the current findings support the gateway hypothesis demonstrating that adolescence cannabis exposure has an enduring impact on hedonic processing resulting in enhanced opiate intake’). Accordingly, the question for the Commission was whether readers would be misled by the newspaper’s presentation of this as ‘conclusively’ proving the gateway theory in respect of ‘heroin, cocaine and crack’.

Given that there was continuing debate on this issue, the Commission understood why the complainant had raised concerns about the word ‘conclusive’. In the Commission’s view, the newspaper might have made greater efforts to ensure that readers were aware that this was an area of dispute. However, the Commission emphasised that the extent to which the theory could be described as ‘conclusive’ was ultimately a question of interpretation. Considering that the study did purport to provide scientific evidence which supported the theory, when viewed in the context of an article which was not designed to be an in-depth discussion of the gateway theory, the Commission could not conclude that readers would have been significantly misled on this point.

The Commission also noted the complainant’s concern that the study had been presented as relating to cocaine and crack. Given that it concerned opiates only, it was regrettable that the study had been presented in this way. Nevertheless, in the context of a claim about the likelihood that early cannabis use would lead to abuse of Class A substances in general, the Commission could not establish a significant inaccuracy requiring correction under the terms of the Code.

Notwithstanding the above, the Commission noted that the newspaper had offered to amend its online article (and internal records) to make clear that the gateway drug theory had been disputed. It welcomed these proposals from the newspaper, and trusted that similar action would also be taken in respect of the claim about the type of drugs concerned in the study.

The Commission then turned to the complainant’s concern in relation to the claim that ‘countless scientific papers had shown cannabis could lead to schizophrenia’. He said that, while some papers had shown some correlation between the two, there was no proof of causation.

The newspaper stated that, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ website, ‘over the past few years, research had strongly suggested that there is a clear link between early cannabis sue and later mental health problems in those with a genetic vulnerability’. Furthermore, the report stated that ‘three major studies followed large number of people over several years, and showed that those people who used cannabis had a higher than average risk of developing schizophrenia. If you started smoking it before the age of 14, you were four times more likely to develop a psychotic disorder by the time you were 26’.

Both parties appeared to accept that there was scientific research which suggested a link between early cannabis use and mental health problems. The complainant’s concern, however, was that the newspaper’s presentation led readers to the erroneous belief that a causal link had been proven. The Commission understood the complainant’s concern on this issue. Nevertheless, it noted that the article referred to proof that cannabis ‘can lead to schizophrenia’. This suggested a potential for such effects, rather than an absolute assertion that schizophrenia would result. It considered that the newspaper had provided sufficient corroboration for this claim, and could not therefore establish a significant inaccuracy requiring correction under the terms of the Code.