27 Jul CLEAR Launches IPSO Complaint Against The Times Newspaper.

Your complaint

Type of complaint: Material published in a newspaper or magazine
Type of complaint: Material published in a newspaper or magazine website
Date story was published: Monday 27 July, 2015
Publication: The Times
Publication has been contacted?: No
Publication headline: We’€™d be off our heads to tolerate cannabis

How the Code has been breached

Clauses breached
Clause 1 (Accuracy) Although this is an opinion piece it makes a number of factual assertions that are false and unsupported by any evidence.

1. Subhead: “Police laxity has led to more young pot-heads and rising levels of psychosis and addiction” This is factually incorrect. There are now fewer people of all ages using cannabis.

2. Para 3 “Far from a harsh approach, it is laxity that has boosted the number of young pot-heads. This is bad for multiple reasons. Cannabis itself is extremely dangerous. It impairs memory, cripples judgment and the ability to learn. In high doses it can cause addiction, paranoia and psychosis and provoke schizophrenia.”

Factually incorrect. The “number of young pot-heads” has declined not been “boosted”. There is no evidence that cannabis is “extremely dangerous”. There is no evidence that cannabis causes psychosis.

3. Para 7 “Then they claimed Portugal€’s drug liberalisation had caused drug use to tumble. This was untrue; the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction showed that drug use there had increased.”

Factually incorrect, the EMCDDA and all sources show that drug use has declined in Portugal since decriminalisation

The Times

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4. Para 10 “Although there is no scientific evidence for definitive benefit from medicinal cannabis, the US has now legalised this in 23 states”

Factually incorrect, there is a vast quantity of peer-reviewed, published scientific evidence demonstrating the efficacy and safety of medicinal cannabis.

These are very serious inaccuracies which Ms Phillips publishes on a regular basis in the full knowledge that they are untrue. Any newspaper which knowingly publishes lies and falsehoods to deceive its readers should be subject to the strongest possible sanctions including a financial penalty. Such dishonest publications must be dealt with firmly, sufficient to deter repetition.

About you

Name: Mr Peter Reynolds

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We’d be off our heads to tolerate cannabis

Melanie Phillips

The Times (£ Paywall)

Durham’s police and crime commissioner Ron Hogg, a former deputy chief constable and supporter of drug decriminalisation, has announced that local cannabis users can grow drugs for personal consumption without fear of prosecution. “There is some evidence that a harsh criminal justice approach has no impact on drug use,” he said.

Eh? What harsh criminal justice approach? In the past year, according to the government’s crime survey, the proportion of young people using cannabis rose from 13.5 per cent to 16.3 per cent. Yet police warnings over cannabis use have fallen by more than half since 2008, while penalty notices fell from a high of 16,000 in 2011 to 11,400 last year

Far from a harsh approach, it is laxity that has boosted the number of young pot-heads. This is bad for multiple reasons. Cannabis itself is extremely dangerous. It impairs memory, cripples judgment and the ability to learn. In high doses it can cause addiction, paranoia and psychosis and provoke schizophrenia.

It also acts as a gateway to other illicit drugs, not least because it suggests their use is acceptable. The use of Ecstasy, for example, among young adults has shot up over the past year. To complicate matters, this is occurring in the context of a general decline in drug use over the past decade. Among 16 to 59-year-olds, it dropped from 11.2 per cent in 2004-05 to 8.6 per cent in 2014-15.

This seems to be related to a more general cultural change in which rates of smoking and alcohol use are also down. Smoking, in particular, is a gateway to illegal drug use, so that has helped. In addition, doctors speaking out about the rise in cannabis psychosis, not to mention the growing numbers who now know someone harmed by cannabis use, may also be striking home.

That’s why the real harm that Mr Hogg has done is effectively to talk down the risks from cannabis and thus talk up its use. After all, the police inescapably prioritise tackling certain crimes over others; nothing new there. Drug usage, though, is sensitive to messages of cultural disapproval or indifference. Talking down the damage done by drugs arguably has an even greater effect in boosting their use than a low rate of police activity.

Over the past couple of decades, there has been an expensively funded drive to tolerate drug use. Campaigners lauded the Netherlands with its relaxed attitude to cannabis sold in coffee shops, until this proved such a disaster in boosting the use of all drugs that the policy was ditched. Then they claimed Portugal’s drug liberalisation had caused drug use to tumble. This was untrue; the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction showed that drug use there had increased.

Every argument used by these campaigners is false. Legalisation would not decrease drug crime. Unless all drugs are free, a black market will always exist.

Given the rates of death, disease and destruction caused by alcohol and smoking, who could possibly believe that decriminalising drugs, thus massively increasing the number of users, would diminish the harm they do?

Melanie Phillips

Melanie Phillips


Nevertheless, liberalisation myths have captured the citadels of our culture. Although there is no scientific evidence for definitive benefit from medicinal cannabis, the US has now legalised this in 23 states and the District of Columbia, while four states have further legalised the recreational use of cannabis.

In one of those states, Colorado, an official study has found that 13.6 per cent of Colorado adults are now regular users of marijuana — almost double the rate of the entire country.

And while President Obama has claimed cannabis is less dangerous than alcohol, America’s National Institutes of Health is dedicating $3 million to fast-tracking the development of drugs to treat marijuana addiction, so great a problem has this become.

In Britain, a dismaying number of police officers support liberalisation. Durham’s chief constable Mick Barton has called for decriminalisation of heroin and cocaine. The Commons home affairs select committee has for years been dominated by liberalisers. In the past few days, 125,000 people have signed a government e-petition calling for the legalisation of cannabis.

Ron Hogg invited pro-legalisation campaigners for a drug “symposium” in November. Among their number was one “Ziggy Mustafa Spliff”, who has been cautioned 36 times for possession of drugs and received a suspended prison sentence in 2009 after being convicted of dealing.

Mr Spliff is a poster-boy for the debacle that results from indifference to drug-taking. Yet Durham’s crime commissioner promotes him as a beacon of good sense for the future.

You do have to wonder just what substance our society has been taking.