03 Dec ‘Gone To Pot’ Shows How Close We Are To Legalisation. Now We Just Need To Deal With The Scaremongering.
It seems we really are on a roll now. The cannabis campaign has gained momentum over the last five or six six years more than ever before. It’s snowballing, the rate of progress is accelerating.
What’s made this happen? It’s recognition of the benefits that cannabis offers. It certainly isn’t because of some crazy idea that if we exaggerate and overstate its harms, suddenly the government will recognises that legal regulation makes it safer. No, that flawed idea has nothing to do with the fact that we are now getting very close to the change we seek – even here in backwards, bigoted Britain.
There are more and more reports of real medical benefits and also of less dramatic but very real help with conditions such as insomnia, anxiety and stress. It’s this that is changing minds, not scaremongering and fake data from the charlatans in the ‘cannabis therapy’ business. Sadly this is the path that Volteface, the new drug policy group, has chosen to take with its ‘Street Lottery’ report. It’s not the first of course, Transform has also followed this misguided path but at least, unlike the newcomers, it has real credentials in campaigning for reform.
Of course, legal regulation will make the cannabis market safer for everyone but the real dangers are not of young people developing psychosis after bingeing on so-called ‘skunk’ – the actual numbers are tiny – but of the harms caused by prohibition. It is the criminal market that means cannabis is easily available to children and no age limits can be enforced. It is the criminal market that means nobody knows what they are buying: how strong is it, is it contaminated, has it been properly grown, does it contain any CBD? It is the criminal market that leads to violence, street dealing even involving young children, dangerous hidden grows that are serious fire risks, human trafficking and modern slavery and, of course, profits on the £6 billion per annum market being diverted into ever more dangerous criminal activities.
ITV and the production company Betty have done an enormous amount of good for our campaign and for the whole of Britain in bringing a balanced, rational, honest exposition of cannabis to our TV screens. This series showed quite clearly how beneficial cannabis can be but also how it can bite back if you’re a bit silly with consuming too much. Thankfully it didn’t follow the familiar path of talking up, overstating and exaggerating the very small risk of mental health effects. It’s easy to see why those who support prohibition have used this tactic to try and demonise the plant but how anyone who claims to support reform can see it as an intelligent or positive way to create the right environment for change is inconceivable.
Volteface is the money of Paul Birch, who became a multi millionaire after his brother founded the now defunct social media company Bebo. It was a classic flash in the pan of the dot com boom but left those lucky enough to be involved with bulging bank accounts. Birch first tried to enter the reform movement with his Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol (CISTA) political party. It really is a ‘volteface’ to move from that accurate if tired message to now pushing the dangers of so-called ‘skunk’ as if that’s going to encourage reform. However, I have it on reliable authority that recently Mr Birch suffered a major panic attack (or ‘psychotic episode’) after over-consuming some potent weed, so much so that an ‘intervention’ was called for. Many of us will know how disconcerting such an experience can be and usually we can laugh at ourselves in retrospect (just as we laughed at Christopher Biggins and Bobby George when they ate far too much cannabis-infused food on ‘Gone To Pot’). If he’s basing an entire campaign strategy on one personal experience it’s hardly sensible.
Birch’s money has enable Volteface to hire full time staff and now its own tame drug therapist, Paul North. He is the very epitome of the angry young man, getting into furious outbursts on Twitter with anyone who dared to challenge his view. The way people like North manipulate and misrepresent data is horrendous and when they’re challenged their answer is they were engaged in the collection of the data – well yes, duh, that’s the point! People who work in mental health or drug therapy are always pronouncing on our mental health wards being ‘packed full’ of people with problems caused by cannabis but the facts don’t support these claims. It’s inevitable that if you spend most of your life surrounded by people who are mentally ill, you get a rather distorted perspective on the world.
In many previous articles, I’ve laid out the facts of the number of people admitted to hospital and in GP community health treatment for cannabis. The truth is that those with an agenda don’t care about facts. They prefer the wild, speculative studies from Professor Sir Robin Murray and the Institute of Psychiatry with their bizarre statistical tricks that would make you think there are cannabis-crazed axe murderers on every street corner. Journalist Martina Lees recently published two articles in the Daily Telegraph where she exaggerated the number of people admitted to hospital for cannabis related problems by 50 times! Of course, we’re used to this sort of thing and it’s a sad fact that when it comes to science or medicine reporting, even in the so-called ‘quality’ press, Fleet Street is not just incompetent, journalists don’t just exaggerate, they’re systematically mendacious whenever it’s possible to be sensationalist about cannabis.
So let’s be grateful for the light that ‘Gone to Pot’ has shone on the reality of cannabis and let’s continue to reject the falsehood, deception and exaggeration that Volteface and others try to bring to our campaign. I have no doubt that when legalisation finally arrives some politicians will use their argument to post-rationalise their ‘volteface’ on policy but it’s not the truth and it never has been. The simple truth is that for 99% of people, not only is cannabis benign but it’s positively beneficial.