11 Oct PCC complaint – Daily Mail October 11th 2011

The Daily Mail has surpassed itself with this article. I find it hard to believe something like this made it into print, even in the Mail.

Sent to the PCC:

Sir

I wish to complain about the article in the Daily Mail of 11th October 2011 entitled “Even the Dutch think skunk drives you mad” (online at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2047750/The-grass-greener-Holland.html). I make this complaint on my own behalf, but also as the editor of the cannabis law reform site http://www.ukcia.org

The item is presented as a factual news article from an authoritative source; a doctor. it is clearly inaccurate, misleading and contains distorted information counter to Section 1 of the Editor’s code.

Para 1 and 2

>>
The Dutch are re-classifying skunk – strong cannabis – as a hard drug alongside cocaine. About time too.

They are also banning tourists from going to the coffee shops that sell it. About time too for that as well.
>>

There is an attempt to do both of these things, but it by no means settled and certain. Indeed the plan to ban non-Dutch residents from coffeeshops throughout the country was recently dropped for the time being at least. A local scheme has been introduce in one area, but it is not the planned “weed pass”.

Para 5

>>
There is now twenty times as much tetra hydro cannabiol – the active chemical ingredient (THC) – as there used to be.
>>

The active chemical in cannabis is Tetrahydrocannabinol and strengths in so-called “skunk are estimated to be around 3 – 4 times stronger than imported cannabis of the 1970’s, although the data on which this claim is based is weak. There has always been strong cannabis available in Dutch coffeeshops where exotic strains of high quality were available, including back in the 1970’s. Even if we assume THC concentrations were as low as 3% originally, which would be a low estimate, a 20 fold increase would mean strengths of 60% or so, which is absurd.

Para 6

>>
The Left tend to be against genetic modification, seeing it as a product of American commercialism. In this special case, however, they tend to see it as a liberal virtue, bringing freedom of expression – regardless of its incoherence – to the masses.
>>

It is difficult to know how to respond to this statement, however it is clearly not in any way based in fact. It also seems to imply cannabis is genetically modified, which it isn’t.

Para 7

The writer then makes claims regarding the reclassification of cannabis in the UK, which are muddled and inaccurate. The original reclassification was suggested by the Advisory body, the ACMD and passed by majority vote in Parliament.

Para 8

>>
Cannabis is often claimed to be ‘the alcohol of young people’. The Labour Party need to court popularity with the young because many voters tend to grow out of Left-wing ideas.
>>

Cannabis is not “often claimed to be the alcohol of young people”, such a claim is absurd. His claims of voting intentions of young and older people are probably not factually based either.

>>
This liberalising policy was reversed when doctors – who tend mostly to be Right-wing – pointed out that skunk is very dangerous psychiatrically. Its frequent use leads to an increased incidence of hospitalisation for psychotic breakdown.
>>

The reclassification of cannabis was reversed by Gordon Brown against the advice of the ACMD, it was a political decision made against scientific advice. The claim that doctors tend to be mostly right wing is absurd.

There is very little if anything to recommend this article, indeed it is outrageous even by the standards of the Daily Mail.

I hope and expect a full, clear and prominent retraction of the points made in this article as a matter of urgency.

Sincerely

Derek Williams