22 Jan The Disgraceful Misuse Of The Term ‘Skunk’ By Those Who Call Themselves Scientists


Yet another misleading article by an ignorant and misinformed journalist in the Daily Telegraph has prompted me to publish this. Over the last year, the Telegraph has been moving closer and closer to the Daily Mail in its style and content. Thank God that it does still have some real journalists on its books and its still not quite as outrageously unbalanced and hysterical as the Mail. Tom Chivers wrote an excellent piece on Monday of this week.

The blatant misuse of the term ‘skunk’ has been an issue for some years but I was dismayed to see just recently that even Professors David Nutt (on his Facebook page) and Val Curran (on Sky News) have slipped into using it in the inaccurate, tabloid sense. It is a dark day for drug law reform and science in general when two beacons of truth start to misuse language. I have written to David asking him to clarify.

Skunk is one of hundreds of strains of cannabis and by no means the one with the highest THC content. The word has been selected and promoted by the tabloid press because of its obvious, sensationalist, negative connotations – a very strong, unpleasant smell and a small aggressive animal, like a polecat or a weasel.

What is truly disgraceful is how some scientists, most notably the arch anti-cannabis campaigner, Professor Sir Robin Murray, have started to use the term in exactly the tabloid sense. This is the very opposite of science and any scientist you hear using the term (except to refer to the specific strain) has disqualified him/herself from using the title scientist. If it is the THC:CBD ratio that is of concern they should talk about precise figures, not in tabloid generalisations.

It is wholly false to claim that skunk accounts for 80% of the UK market. In fact it’s one of the least common strains.

The issue at hand is that high THC/low CBD cannabis does have greater potential for harm than a more balanced variety. Increasingly, in the burgeoning world of cannabis growing, where hundreds of F1 hybrids are now available, people are choosing to grow cannabis with more CBD and other cannabinoids such as CBG, THCv and CBC. Most experienced consumers know that cannabis with CBD produces a far more pleasant effect.

However, even in high THC/low CBD varieties the potential for harm is very, very small. Across the world, mendacious governments and tabloid media have systematically misinformed and misled people about cannabis. Of course children should not be using it but the hard facts about its true impact on mental health are that it is insignificant in public health terms. The actual number of people admitted to hospital in connection with cannabis or entering drug treatment is tiny, particularly when you consider that most entering treatment are forced to do so by the courts or go to jail. The stories about dramatic mental health problems are mainly lies. Check the facts on the NHS and NDTMS websites before you swallow the lies and propaganda.

That said, high THC/low CBD cannabis is the product of prohibition. I prefer to call it moonshine weed because that is an exact parallel. Just as in US alcohol prohibition, people gave up drinking wine and beer and went for moonshine, a trend that was reversed when prohibition ended.

As with so much of drugs policy, particularly in neanderthal, backwards Britain, it actually creates harm, certainly far more harm than it prevents.

The people responsible for the prevalance of moonshine weed, children having easy access and illegal cannabis farms, human trafficking, etc, etc are our dishonest, incompetent and corrupt ministers who are run by the alcohol industry and the Daily Mail and take no notice at all of evidence except to cover it up or distort it.