09 Oct The Mail, Telegraph, Standard And Sky News Are Pushing Your Children Towards Heroin

Chris Blackhurst. Former Editor Of The Independent.

Professor Wayne Hall

Professor Wayne Hall

Chris Blackhurst. Former Editor Of The Independent.

As if they weren’t disgraced enough already, British journalists this week face the most damning accusations of irresponsibility, dishonest reporting and endangering young people by gravely inaccurate comparisons of cannabis and heroin.

Both the government and pious opinion writers wring their hands and insist “we mustn’t send the wrong message” to young people about drugs.

Be certain of one thing. The only message about drugs that young people receive repeatedly and consistently is that government and the media don’t tell them the truth.

This week, a minor, inconsequential, repetitive and not very useful study was published by Professor Wayne Hall. It consisted of Professor Hall reviewing literature about cannabis published over the last 20 years. It’s called a ‘narrative review‘. It’s really just one person expressing his opinion and summarising what he’s read. By definition, there’s nothing new in it at all.

Professor Hall is an expert, no doubt about that but he’s also very closely associated with Australia’s National Cannabis Prevention Centre, a notorious source of prohibitionist and anti-cannabis propaganda. So Professor Hall is an expert but he is not an impartial, independent scientist.

The media has lauded and exaggerated his study as “major“, “new“, “20 year study“, “most in-depth report ever“, etc, etc, when it is nothing of the sort. It really is absurd – but it gets worse. Sky News ran the headline on its screen from 6.00am to 10.30am “cannabis as addictive as heroin“. The Daily Telegraph and the Evening Standard have made exactly the same claim. The Mail is smarter after years of dodging complaints on cannabis reporting and its words were less explicit. It misled more carefully.

Professor Hall’s study said nothing of the sort. In fact, his own press release said “Approximately 9 percent of people who have ever used cannabis become dependent, compared to 23 percent for heroin”

These errors are so serious, so fundamental that you have to consider whether they are deliberate. Are our major media owners, senior journalists and editors so incompetent? I don’t think so. I think they know exactly what they are doing. Chris Blackhurst’s part in this I find deeply shocking. He was a man I regarded with great respect. No more.

What is he going to say to the parents of the thousands of young people who based on his false and irresponsible words now consider heroin to be no more dangerous than cannabis?

Does he and the other people concerned believe that their incompetence or dishonesty has no consequence?

How many 15 year olds, dabbling with weed might, given the opportunity, sprinkle a little ‘brown‘ into their next joint, or learn how to ‘chase the dragon‘?

This is now a serious test for the new Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO). If it genuinely is independent and is serious about having investigative powers and ‘more teeth‘, then it needs to take this in hand. This is widespread, dangerous, reckless misreporting, either by incompetence or design. It must be stopped and corrections or clarifications OF EQUAL PROMINENCE must be published in the interests of public safety.