19 Mar PCC Complaint. The Mail On Sunday, 13th March 2011 – NOT UPHELD

—– Original Message —–
From: Peter Reynolds
To: [email protected]
Sent: Saturday, March 19, 2011 6:25 PM
Subject: Complaint against The Mail On Sunday, issue dated 13th March 2011

Dear Sirs,

“I was wrong on cigarettes but believe me, I’m right on cannabis”, The Mail On Sunday, 13-03-11

I wish to make a complaint concerning the above article which is still available online at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1365661/Cigarette-display-ban-I-wrong-smoking-Im-right-cannabis.html

I make the complaint on my account but also in my capacity as the Leader of the Legalise Cannabis Alliance, a political party, of P.O.Box 674, Salfords, RH1 9BN. For the purposes of correspondence, please use my personal address as below.

1. This article breaches the Editors’ Code Of Practice clause 1.i) in that it publishes inaccurate, misleading and distorted information.

2. It also breaches clause 1.iii) in that it fails to distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

3. In the last paragraph the article uses the phrase “…that sinister poison, cannabis…”. Clearly, whether cannabis is “sinister” is a matter of opinion or comment. However, whether it is a “poison” is a matter of scientific fact. The article therefore fails to distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact. Furthermore, cannabis is not a poison so the article publishes inaccurate, misleading and distorted information.

Francis L. Young, Administrative Law Judge of the US Department of Justice, DEA, made the following Findings Of Fact concerning cannabis:

“a. Nearly all medicines have toxic, potentially lethal effects. But marijuana is not such a substance. There is no record in the extensive medical literature describing a proven, documented cannabis-induced fatality.

b. This is a remarkable statement. First, the record on marijuana encompasses 5,000 years of human experience. Second, marijuana is now used daily by enormous numbers of people throughout the world. Estimates suggest that from twenty million to fifty million Americans routinely, albeit illegally, smoke marijuana without the benefit of direct medical supervision. Yet, despite this long history of use and the extraordinarily high numbers of social smokers, there are simply no credible medical reports to suggest that consuming marijuana has caused a single death.

c. By contrast aspirin, a commonly used, over-the-counter medicine, causes hundreds of deaths each year.

d. Drugs used in medicine are routinely given what is called an LD-50. The LD-50 rating indicates at what dosage fifty percent of test animals receiving a drug will die as a result of drug induced toxicity. A number of researchers have attempted to determine marijuana’s LD-50 rating in test animals, without success. Simply stated, researchers have been unable to give animals enough marijuana to induce death.

e. At present it is estimated that marijuana’s LD-50 is around 1:20,000 or 1:40,000. In layman terms this means that in order to induce death a marijuana smoker would have to consume 20,000 to 40,000 times as much marijuana as is contained in one marijuana cigarette. NIDA-supplied marijuana cigarettes weigh approximately .9 grams. A smoker would theoretically have to consume nearly 1,500 pounds of marijuana within about fifteen minutes to induce a lethal response.

f. In practical terms, marijuana cannot induce a lethal response as a result of drug-related toxicity.

g. Another common medical way to determine drug safety is called the therapeutic ratio. This ratio defines the difference between a therapeutically effective dose and a dose which is capable of inducing adverse effects.

h. A commonly used over-the-counter product like aspirin has a therapeutic ratio of around 1:20. Two aspirins are the recommended dose for adult patients. Twenty times this dose, forty aspirins, may cause a lethal reaction in some patients, and will almost certainly cause gross injury to the digestive system, including extensive internal bleeding.

i. The therapeutic ratio for prescribed drugs is commonly around 1:10 or lower. Valium, a commonly used prescriptive drug, may cause very serious biological damage if patients use ten times the recommended (therapeutic) dose.

j. There are, of course, prescriptive drugs which have much lower therapeutic ratios. Many of the drugs used to treat patients with cancer, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis are highly toxic. The therapeutic ratio of some of the drugs used in antineoplastic therapies, for example, are regarded as extremely toxic poisons with therapeutic ratios that may fall below 1:1.5. These drugs also have very low LD-50 ratios and can result in toxic, even lethal reactions, while being properly employed.

k. By contrast, marijuana’s therapeutic ratio, like its LD-50, is impossible to quantify because it is so high.

l. In strict medical terms marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume. For example, eating ten raw potatoes can result in a toxic response. By comparison, it is physically impossible to eat enough marijuana to induce death.

m. Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care.”

4. Prof.Leslie Iversen, Professor of Pharmacology at Oxford University and current chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, in his book “The Science Of Marijuana”, says: (Tetrahydrocannabinol is the principal active ingredient of cannabis)

“Tetrahydrocannabinol is a very safe drug. Laboratory animals (rats, mice, dogs, monkeys) can tolerate doses of up to 1000 mg/kg (milligrams per kilogram). This would be equivalent to a 70 kg person swallowing 70 grams of the drug —about 5,000 times more than is required to produce a high. Despite the widespread illicit use of cannabis there are very few if any instances of people dying from an overdose. In Britain, official government statistics listed five deaths from cannabis in the period 1993-1995 but on closer examination these proved to have been deaths due to inhalation of vomit that could not be directly attributed to cannabis (House of Lords Report, 1998). By comparison with other commonly used recreational drugs these statistics are impressive.”

5. Quite clearly, cannabis is not a poison.

I would be grateful if you would deal with this complaint at your earliest convenience. I shall be happy to provide any further information required or to give oral evidence in support.

Yours faithfully,

Peter Reynolds

—– Original Message —–
From: Elizabeth Cobbe
To: [email protected]
Sent: Thursday, April 21, 2011 10:24 AM
Subject: PCC Ref 111428

Commission’s decision in the case of
Arnold/Reynolds v Daily Mail

The complainants considered that the reference to cannabis as a “sinister poison” was inaccurate.

The Commission noted the complainants’ argument that cannabis was not a poison. However, it made clear that newspapers are entitled to publish the views of individuals, provided that they are distinguished from fact. In this instance, the article had clearly been presented as a comment piece – it had been written in the first person – and the Commission was satisfied that readers would be aware that the views expressed in the article about smoking and, subsequently, cannabis represented the personal opinions of the columnist. The columnist was entitled to express his opinion that cannabis was a “sinister poison” and the Commission did not consider that readers would understand the reference to amount to a statement of scientific fact. As such, it did not consider that readers would be significantly misled in such a way as to constitute a breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code.

One complainant had been of the view that the newspaper was harassing its cannabis using readership. Clause 4 (Harassment) was designed to address the conduct of journalists in the newsgathering process in order to prevent individuals being harassed or persistently pursued. The repeated publication of articles on a particular subject did not engage the terms of this clause. Given that the complainant had not expressed concern over the actual conduct of the journalist, but rather his views, the Commission could not establish a breach of Clause 4 of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

—– Original Message —–
From: Peter Reynolds
To: Elizabeth Cobbe
Cc: Charlotte Dewar
Sent: Friday, April 22, 2011 3:22 PM
Subject: Re: PCC Ref 111428

Dear Elizabeth,

Thank you for this. I am an ardent supporter of a free press and the right of anyone to express their opinion. That is why I can accept many of the commission’s rulings. This decision though is absurd.

It is not a matter of opinion whether or not cannabis or any substance is a poison. Opinion has nothing to do with it. It is a matter of scientific fact. I respect the commission’s intention to preserve the right of journalists to express their opinions but this decision goes way beyond that. This sanctions the publication of wholly false and inaccurate information. It is simply a lie and I cannot accept that the commission has properly discharged its duty in reaching this decision.

Please will you ask the commission to reconsider this case? Surely, the concomitant of a free press is that when lies and falsehoods are published they must be corrected. This decision is a charter for any nonsense to be published. I think the commission vastly overestimates the ability of readers to distinguish between a “comment piece” and news or factual reporting. With respect, this is the conceit of a professional journalist. The average reader does not make that judgement at all.

Peter Hitchens repeatedly publishes inaccurate and misleading information about cannabis. If it was an occasional incidence then the defence of his right to express an opinion might be credible. However, the fact that the Mail On Sunday and/or the Daily Mail repeatedly allows him to publish what can only be described as lies, brings the whole newspaper business and journalism into disrepute. This is an organised campaign of misinformation and deep-seated prejudice. It behoves the commission to have the courage and common sense to grasp this nettle and rein in what amounts to a disgraceful and irresponsible deception on the British public.

Please ask the commission to reconsider its decision.

Kind regards,

Peter Reynolds

—– Original Message —–
From: Elizabeth Cobbe
To: Peter Reynolds
Sent: Wednesday, April 27, 2011 1:44 PM
Subject: RE: PCC Ref 111428

Dear Mr Reynolds,

Thank you for your email. I am sorry you disagree with the decision and find it absurd.

I do understand your position on the matter, and the Commission was made fully aware of the information you provided in the body of your complaint regarding the toxicity cannabis. However, it was of the view that readers would understand that the term poison had been used, not as a statement of scientific fact, but rather as an expression of the columnist’s view of the substance. In cases where new evidence has come to light that would have a bearing on the Commission’s decision, or the Commission has demonstrably misunderstood the complaint, it will on occasion reconsider complaints. In this instance, it does not appear that the Commission has misunderstood the complaint, but rather that you disagree with the Commission’s view on the article. While you are certainly entitled to disagree with the Commission’s position, I am afraid this does not amount to a reason for it to reconsider the complaint.

Again, I am sorry you so strongly disagree with the decision.

Kind Regards

Elizabeth Cobbe

—– Original Message —–
From: Peter Reynolds
To: [email protected]
Sent: Sunday, May 15, 2011 11:44 PM
Subject: Press Complaints Commission complaint no. 111428

Dear Sir Michael,

I am writing to you because I am concerned about the way in which the Press Complaints Commission has handled my complaint no. 111428 concerning an article in the Mail On Sunday/Daily Mail by Peter Hitchens.

Are you able to refer to the correspondence between the Commission and me or must I send you a full record of the proceedings?

Please advise me accordingly and I will prepare my submission to you.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Reynolds