07 Jun Why Is CLEAR Supporting Lord Monson In His Campaign Against So-Called ‘Skunk’?
CLEAR’s first and overriding objective is to end the prohibition of cannabis. The tragedies that have struck the Monson family demonstrate all too clearly that prohibition of cannabis is futile. Not only does it not protect people from harm, it actually maximises the harms and dangers of the cannabis market.
Nicholas Monson’s eldest son, Alexander, was arrested in Kenya in 2012. allegedly for smoking cannabis. Toxicology reports found no evidence of cannabis in his system. According to both a government and an independent pathologist he died from a fatal blow to the back of his head while in police custody. Clearly, it was the law against cannabis that led directly to Alexander’s death.
Just three months ago, Rupert, Nicholas Monson’s younger son, took his own life after a descent into depression and psychosis in which the excessive consumption of so-called ‘skunk’ was clearly a significant factor. Rupert himself said that he was addicted and there is good evidence to show that cannabis without CBD is more addictive. It is well established from research as far back as the early 1990s that approx 9% of regular users develop dependence which produces real physical withdrawal symptoms: insomnia, lack of appetite and irritability, sometimes a headache. For most people these are easily overcome within a week or so but not for everyone. Most importantly though, cannabis in the early 1990s contained, on average, half to a third as much THC as it does now and always a healthy buffer of CBD. The addictiveness of so-called ‘skunk’ with zero or very little CBD, is several times greater than the cannabis available 20 to 30 years ago.
It’s important to add that Rupert was also very badly failed by the dire state of mental health services. Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, a specialist provider of mental health and drug treatment services said that he needed to be admitted but a bed was not available. It was just a few days later that he committed suicide.
Nicholas Monson has called for so-called ‘skunk’ to be made a class A drug but also for lower potency cannabis, with a maximum THC:CBD ratio of 3:1 to be made legally available through a regulated system. Theresa May wrote to him after reading coverage of the story in the press. She expressed her sympathy and said how she shared his concerns. Importantly, she suggested that Lord Monson prepare a paper and a presentation to the Home Office on his proposals. This is a tremendous opportunity towards introducing measures that will better protect vulnerable people like Rupert and also for wider reform of the cannabis laws that will reduce all the harms presently caused by prohibition. Cannabis would be purchased from government licensed outlets just like alcohol and the aim would be to collapse the criminal market just like the market in dangerous, ‘moonshine’ whisky.
CLEAR does not agree that raising so-called ‘skunk’ to class A would be an effective measure. It would be virtually impossible to enforce, requiring a massive increase in laboratory testing of cannabis and the supply of high potency varieties would simply be pushed underground. The price will go up and all the harms of a criminal market will be increased. All the evidence is that drug classification or penalties have absolutely no effect whatsoever on consumption. However, Lord Monson suggests that all personal cannabis possession should be decriminalised and police would focus only on dealers in so-called ‘skunk’. There is a very strong argument that with high quality cannabis available legally, people would turn away from the black market.
Of course, we support the idea of legally available cannabis with a maximum THC:CBD ratio of 3:1. This could be the basis of a system that could work very successfully. The product would be available only through a limited number of licensed outlets to adults only. It would be supplied in appropriate packaging with detailed labelling of contents. Possession of any cannabis not in this packaging would be reasonable grounds for it to be seized and tested.
This will, of course, provoke outrage amongst many cannabis consumers, particularly those who grow their own but it would be fantastic progress. It would usher in a far more rational, sensible regime where we could establish real data about harms and risks. If appropriate, this could lead to the regulation of higher potency varieties. Of course, we recognise that for medical use, a completely different approach to cannabinoid content is required and much higher potency may be necessary in some instances.
CLEAR is in the business of reform and this is the most likely path to reform that has ever emerged in the UK. We are not in the business of promoting a cannabis market which enthusiasts and connoisseurs would regard as some sort of utopia. The only purpose of any drugs policy must be to reduce harm and this proposal, if implemented, would massively reduce all the social harms caused by prohibition and reduce the risk of health harms.
Finally, it has to be said that, in typical fashion, a substantial part of the cannabis community has reacted in almost hysterical anger to Lord Monson’s proposals. The only effect of such behaviour is to hold back reform. We have been horrified and disgusted at the abuse directed at the Monson family. It has shown cannabis consumers in the very worst light and demonstrated that some are so stupid that they damage the very cause they seek to advocate. Nicholas Monson is a grieving father who, despite his agony, has seen the rational way forward and lent his energy and commitment towards reform that will benefit everyone. We stand alongside him and we urge all cannabis consumers to consider these ideas carefully – and please, lend us your support!
Lord Nicholas Monson adds:
“The motivation for my campaign is to protect the young and vulnerable in particular from ingesting any substance whose contents can have a deleterious short or long term effect on their minds. To watch one’s son spiral into psychosis from a heavy usage of skunk is distressing to behold. Rupert’s psychiatric team put his psychosis down to skunk. This is unequivocal. Yes there are other psychoactive drugs around but skunk is what did for Rupert. It so happens that the remedy for skunk is a legalised and regulated market in cannabis where clear information is available. This should be applauded by the recreational cannabis community. Separately I have long supported the medical community’s initiatives to prescribe variants of cannabis with high CBD for people suffering from a wide variety of conditions.”