13 Jun Yet Again, The British Press Distorts And Misrepresents Evidence on Cannabis

On Monday this week, a question asked in the House of Commons by Diane Abbott MP revealed the latest hospital episode data on admissions for mental and behavioural issues due to use of cannabinoids.

Finished admission episodes with a primary diagnosis of mental or behavioural issues due to use of cannabinoids, 2005-06 to 2011-12
Total admission episodes
2005-06 946
2006-07 750
2007-08 735
2008-09 651
2009-10 713
2010-11 799
2011-12 1,003

Today, both the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail have twisted, distorted and misrepresented these figures by claiming a 54% increase in admissions since 2008 -09. Of course, if you look at the increase over entire period then it is only 6% and the number of admissions now is almost exactly the same as it was six years ago – but that doesn’t suit the reefer madness propaganda does it?

This is dishonest and deliberately so. In reality, with such a small absolute number, the rate of admissions is fairly stable. There is no justification at all for the hysterical headlines and scaremongering. Mary Brett, the habitual harbinger of cannabis doom, is given a platform further to distort and exaggerate.

Mary Brett, Chief Anti-Cannabis Propagandist Mary Brett, Chief Anti-Cannabis Propagandist

It is a familiar game of lies and propaganda from a media that relies on the alcohol industry’s £800 million annual advertising spend. Examine the same hospital episode data for alcohol and it is SIX TIMES more likely to result in hospital admission for mental and behavioural issues than cannabis.

It is false to claim that skunk accounts for 80% of the market and the figures for THC content are also wildly exaggerated.

Skunk is one of many hundreds of cannabis strains and certainly not the one with highest THC content. It probably accounts for less than 1% of the UK market.

16.2% THC is considerably above average THC content which in reality is about 11- 12%. The figure of 46% is simply mythical and is characteristic of the false propaganda which Ms Brett regularly publishes. Nowhere in natural herbal cannabis does such a concentration of THC occur.

However, to put it in context, the cannabis tincture Sativex, a licensed medicine, contains 51% THC and its clinical trials show that it has “limited relevant adverse effects and the drug does not appear to lead to withdrawal effects if patients suddenly stop using it”. So in rigorous trial conditions there is no evidence that even this very high concentration of THC leads to significant mental health problems.

These figures take no account of the enormous health benefits of cannabis use now recognised by science. For most adults, consumed in moderation, cannabis is beneficial. Endocannabinoid deficiency is now known to be the cause of many modern illnesses, particularly auto immune conditions such as MS, Crohn’s, cancer and diabetes.

Cannabis is a natural supplement to the endocannabinoid system and can help protect against these conditions. It is also now recognised as neuroprotective and can be helpful in preventing disorders such as Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

The truth about cannabis is clear. Its continuing prohibition has not just cost us billions in law enforcement resources and lost tax revenue but in enormous opportunities for improvement in health