14 Jul Peter Hitchens Runs From the Cure

Peter Hitchens and I are squarely on opposite sides of the debate about cannabis. This year I’ve attended several events at which he and I have clashed in more or less good humour – although he did get upset with me at King’s College London in March when I mentioned his brother’s advocacy for medical marijuana.

I’ve also made several Press Complaints Commission complaints this year about Mr Hitchens and his column. To be fair not one of them has been upheld although nowadays that might be seen as a badge of honour. To have the PCC uphold a complaint might be seen as the greatest wound I could suffer to my integrity.

In the last week or two Mr H has been pontificating in particularly high dudgeon on his Mail on Sunday blog. I’ve left a number of comments, none of which have been published so when Jason Reed published a critique on his HomeGrown Outlaw blog, I referred to my unpublished offerings. Mr H himself then commented stating that my comments had been mysteriously trapped in his SPAM filter. He says that “I know where to get him” if it happens again – but unfortunately I don’t.

So I tried again and again and again but to no avail. Yesterday Mr H stepped right into my patch and wrote that “…the concept of medicinal cannabis…is wicked propaganda…”. I had to try again but it’s hardly a surprise that my comment has not been published. In fact I’ve even tried under different names and from different email addresses but strangely my contributions are never allowed!

Mr H is not getting it all his own way though. Many and eloquent are my comrades in arms who have taken him to task and called him to account for his gibberish. Mentions in dispatches are due to Ed Benton, Sanj Chowdhary, Stephen Langford and Mr Bimble. There are others doing an excellent job of exposing Mr H and his pompous buffoonery. Perhaps I should be flattered that he will not allow me to join in?

All is not lost though for it seems that in October the University of Salford is to run a debate on cannabis in which Mr H and I will oppose each other directly. I am told he has accepted the challenge. Let us hope that he sticks with it and does not get trapped in his own SPAM filter on the way.

And the very latest is this astounding, offensive and just plain rude diatribe against cannabis campaigners.

“…the general characterisation of pro-cannabis campaigners as selfish and wicked is a simple statement of fact. They are selfish, placing their own pleasure above the good of others. And they are wicked, in that they are happy to expose others to the dangers of lifelong mental illness, to make their own pleasure more accessible. “

Mr H’s latest offering is “The ‘Red Herring’ of Medicinal Cannabis.

This is my unpublished comment, trapped, writhing and struggling in his SPAM filter:

“Mr Hitchens, what a tangled web you weave although, I grant you, I do not think you mean to deceive. I think you are simply wrong, honestly wrong but blatantly wrong. When you describe medicinal cannabis as “wicked propaganda” you move from simply making a mistake into cruel persecution of those who need cannabis as medicine.

I attempted just recently to enlighten you a little on the subject of the endocannabinoid system. The bizarre moderation procedures of your website rejected my comment on several occasions. Although I understand you have now published it, the moment was past – but I knew it would return. This comment is in two parts in order that it fits within your 500 word limit.

The endocannabinoid system was only discovered in 1988 but is now known to be fundamental to all aspects of life. The central nervous system, the immune system, cardiovascular system, reproductive system, gastrointestinal and urinary tracts all contain cannabinoid receptors and are regulated by cannabinoids.

There are only two sources of cannabinoids available outside the body. One is mother’s milk, which is packed full of cannabinoids, essential as they are to the nourishment and development of new life. The second is the cannabis plant.

This is absolute proof of the importance of cannabis as medicine.

Mankind has used cannabis safely and effectively for 5000 years. Only in the last 100 years or so has the experiment of prohibition stood in the way. It is no surprise then at the joy with which its popular rediscovery in the 1960s was greeted. We know naturally that cannabis is good for us. It nurtures and nourishes us on physical, mental and spiritual levels.

There are more evident misunderstandings or gaps in your knowledge about cannabis. THC is only one of approximately 100 cannabinoids that occur naturally in the plant. Sativex, which you mention, contrary to the misinformation promulgated by its maker, contains all these cannabinoids and works very effectively for many conditions. Nabilone, which is synthesised THC, is, as you say, not a very successful medicine, precisely because it is an isolated cannabinoid. All the hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific studies which demonstrate the efficacy of medicinal cannabis rely on the complex interaction of many cannabinoids to produce effects which have been proven over thousands of years to be both effective and safe.

I have used cannabis recreationally for nearly forty years, nearly every day of my life and all it has ever done me is good. I recognise that as a psychoactive substance it has the potential for harm and certainly, for some people, it may be a very bad thing – just as in approximately 3000 cases every year, people are admitted to hospital for an allergic reaction to peanuts. However, the thing that drives my passion to campaign for its proper appreciation is the evidence that I have seen with my own eyes of its extraordinary medicinal value.

Cannabis literally transforms the lives of many people afflicted with the most dreadful and debilitating of diseases. It releases them from pain, suffering and disability to be able to lead full and productive lives. As I have already mentioned, there are now hundreds of peer reviewed, scientific studies which confirm this.

Your quibbles and quarrels with your commenters are of little interest. However, if you were properly to acquaint yourself with the evidence for medicinal cannabis, I think you would change your tune. You are a clever and intelligent man Mr Hitchens. Please apply those qualities to this subject and put aside your prejudice. When you do, I know you will be glad that you did.”