12 Jun An Open Letter To Charles Walker, MP For Broxbourne

Charles Walker, Tory MP for Broxbourne proposed his adjournment debate in the House of Commons on the evening of Thursday, 9th June 2011. He was answered by Anne Milton, minister of state for public health. A transcript of the debate is here.Dear Mr Walker,

I was in the public gallery of the House of Commons on Thursday evening when you rose to speak on your adjournment debate, “Cannabis and Psychosis (Young People)”.

The COMT gene/dopamine theory which suggested that one in four would have a genetic disposition to psychosis if they used cannabis was disproved in 2007 by a team led by Dr Stanley Zammit, one of the world’s foremost authorities on the subject. It was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry: http://bjp.rcpsych.org/cgi/content/abstract/191/5/402. Why have you overlooked this crucial evidence which completely refutes the entire basis of your absurd scaremongering about cannabis?

You are correct that if cannabis use has a causal effect on psychosis (which is not proven), then children and young people are the group most at risk. However you seem to have an absolutely colossal blind spot here. Prohibition does not work. It provides no control or protection for children or the vulnerable at all. The only ID that a dealer asks for is a £20 note. What is absolutely vital for the safety of our children is that the huge, multi-billion pound cannabis market in Britain should be brought under proper control and regulation. The facts are that wherever cannabis has been brought under some sort of regulated control, consumption and particularly use by children has fallen.

Facts were almost completely absent from your speech. In fact I think we would have to go back to witchcraft before we would find such a submission of misinformation and untruths to parliament. It really was the most astonishing display of ignorance (a word which I do not use as an insult to you but as a precise and accurate description). You rely on your “friend” Mary Brett but she is responsible for the distribution of more untruths about cannabis than anyone except perhaps Debra Bell and the Daily Mail. Cannabis Law Reform (CLEAR) is preparing a formal complaint to the Charity Commission about Ms Brett’s charity Cannabis Skunk Sense. It cannot be right that an organisation which promotes misinformation, untruths and distorted science should enjoy charitable status.

You prefaced your speech by saying that you are not a clinician or a scientist but that cannot excuse your gross distortion of the science. You spoke untruths and I cannot understand why a man in your position would not check the facts. The truth about cannabis is easily available online.

Your claim that cannabis is now six times stronger than it was in the 70s was not as ridiculous as Nadine Dorries’ suggestion of “50 times stronger” just last week. Anne Milton underbid you slightly at just four times. There is no proper evidence for any of these claims. The cannabis oil available in Victorian times was 43% THC. Hashish available in the 70s and 80s was around 20% THC.

You are correct that the balance of THC and CBD is important and that CBD has powerful anti-psychotic properties. Prohibition has driven the criminal market to higher THC concentrations and to immature cropping before the CBD has developed. There is an exact parallel with alcohol prohibition in the US where consumption of beer and wine fell as high strength hooch and spirits became more popular. The balance restored itself once prohibition ended.

With your “one in four” scare story you were attempting to cherry pick evidence to support your position – even evidence that has been disproved. I do not have to do that. Professor Glyn Lewis of the University of Bristol conducted a systematic review of ALL the published evidence on the subject so his figures are, by definition, balanced. He confirmed only last month that “there is no certainty of a causal link between cannabis use and psychosis”.

Professor Lewis shows that the risk of psychosis with cannabis use is between 0.013% and 0.003%, a correlation only: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19832786. Similar correlation between psychosis and tobacco use is 80%-90%. Direct proven causation of psychosis by alcohol is 1%-2% (Korsakoff’s syndrome).

Keele University also showed in a study of nearly 600,000 subjects that despite increased consumption of cannabis “the incidence and prevalence of psychosis and schizophrenia was stable or declining”: http://www.ukcia.org/research/keele_study/Assessing-the-impact-of-cannabis.pdf

These are scientific facts Mr Walker, unlike the absolute nonsense you spoke in the House. You brought the whole of British politics and parliament into disrepute by your distortion of the truth. It is because of people like you and Mary Brett that people of all ages in Britain trust not a word they are told by the government about drugs. They know from their own experience that all they ever hear are lies. The Talk to Frank service that you are so fond of is an object of ridicule and contempt amongst young people. The fact that you seem unaware of this shows how out of touch you are.

When towards the end of your speech you said that educators “…need to be aware of the research that shows a strong causal link between skunk cannabis, psychosis and schizophrenia”, you descended into extraordinary, blatant falsehood. There is no such research and I believe you knew that it was false when you said it.

Finally, your suggestion that alcohol or cocaine are safer for children than cannabis, has to be one of the most absurd and irresponsible statements made by a politician anywhere, ever. I do not see how you can possibly remain in your position having made such an utterly ridiculous and dangerous statement. You should resign your position as an MP immediately. You are a disgrace to parliament and to the country.

I am writing to the Deputy Speaker and to the minister, Anne Milton, about your conduct. Such blatant distortion of the truth should not be allowed in parliament.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Reynolds