24 Apr Complaint On Radio 4 Cannabis Report. BBC Responds Well

Justin Webb, BBCRadio 4 'Today'

Justin Webb, BBCRadio 4 ‘Today’

This morning at 7.20am the BBC disgraced itself on its flagship radio news programme with a descent into sensationalist, scaremongering reporting on cannabis. Justin Webb introduced reporter Sima Kotecha. You can listen to the report here.

I quickly filed an online complaint and then sent this email to the programme, its presenters and the reporter.

—– Original Message —–
From: Peter Reynolds
To: [email protected] ; [email protected] ; [email protected] ; [email protected]
Sent: Thursday, April 24, 2014 1:33 PM
Subject: BBC R4 Today, cannabis report 07.20, 24-04-14

Dear All,

This was a sensationalist, scaremongering report on cannabis that destroys any claim to be balanced or unbiased. It included a crass and blatant falsification of the recent Harvard study on brain changes in cannabis users.

The report used emotive terminology such as “decade of addiction”, “get his fix” and interviewed only one expert, the notorious anti-cannabis campaigner Prof. Robin Murray who is isolated in the scientific community by his hysteria about cannabis.

The actual scientific evidence about cannabis is it is slightly less addictive than coffee. The prevalence of dependency (about 9% of all users) and intensity of withdrawal symptoms are less than coffee (Hall et al 2001, Coffey et al 2002, Copeland et al 2004). I also refer to the Henningfield and Benowitz ratings of addictiveness, both of which show cannabis as less addictive than nicotine, heroin, cocaine, alcohol and caffeine: http://www.tfy.drugsense.org/tfy/addictvn.htm

Most seriously, the report completely misrepresented and falsified the recent Harvard study saying “even experimenting can cause brain damage”. This is false. The study did not say this.

The study said cannabis users have larger nucleus accumbens but there was no evidence this was caused by cannabis or that it amounted to “damage”. The study’s author, Dr. Jodi Gilman, has already condemned similar inaccurate reporting: http://www.policymic.com/articles/87875/here-s-the-real-story-behind-that-marijuana-changes-your-brain-study

This is a serious inaccuracy. It is grossly irresponsible, biased and unbalanced reporting and I request that you make a correction on your programme tomorrow.

Alternatively, I request that you give me the opportunity to rebut and balance your report. I am the president and elected leader of CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform, the UK’s largest membership-based drug policy reform group.

Kind regards,

Peter Reynolds

Sima Kotecha, BBC Reporter

Sima Kotecha, BBC Reporter

Now fair’s fair, within five minutes Sima Kotecha telephoned me. This is how a professional journalist takes responsibility. I take my hat off to her. Assurances were made about an opportunity to respond and we’ll see whether they come to fruition. I think they will.