Either he is flat out lying or he hasn't read this report.
“I and hundreds of thousands of others in this nation believe the facts mentioned in the official response to the recent cannabis legalisation petition to be contrary to the truth and we demand that the sources of this information be cited for review.” – From a new petition demanding that the government reveal its sources of information.
When the government wrote its response to the petition to decriminalise cannabis in the UK, its content and style suggested that they didn’t put much effort into it or expect anyone to read it properly. But then something happened that I genuinely believe that they weren’t expecting; we actually did read their response properly.
Now a new petition has been started to demand that the government reveal its sources of information for the response that it issued.
In my last article I wrote at length about how the only source of evidence that they used in the response was not only 7 years old, but it was actually contradicting what they were claiming. The Cannabis Classification research paper published by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) that is referred to actually talks at length about how many of the harms mentioned in the response are mostly based on misconception. There are a few sections that seem to vaguely make a claim that there can be some harm caused by cannabis, but they are followed with an admittance that extensive further research is needed to actually conclude a definitive link. Well, in the 7 years since that paper was published, we have done further research, and we are now able to see just how much of the perceived harms from cannabis use really are based on moral disapproval rather than scientifically backed data.
To drive home my point about the disparity between what the Government is saying about cannabis, and what their own research is saying, here is a quote from their response:
“Legalisation of cannabis would not eliminate the crime committed by the illicit trade, nor would it address the harms associated with drug dependence and the misery that this can cause to families.”
And here is what the Classification of Cannabis paper had to say about crime and cannabis:
“Despite public anxieties, there is little real evidence that cannabis is a significant cause of acquisitive crime or of anti-social behaviour.”
And on drug dependence:
“Data on the extent of cannabis dependence in the UK, from a study carried out in 1999, It should be noted that the threshold for dependence used in this study was low; and that individuals who were frequent users (i.e. daily users for a fortnight or more), or who had developed tolerance for the drug so required more to get the same effect, were assessed as dependent.”
This essentially means that what was considered “dependent” on cannabis was manipulated to show results that didn’t actually reflect the truth at all. The study mentioned is also 16 years old now, and yet the government refers to it as the “latest research” in their response.
So their first statement about the association of cannabis with crime is outright denied by the report. As for the second statement, the report advises the government that their current data on drug dependency is inaccurate and that further studies are actually needed to establish exactly what kind of dependency rates exist for cannabis users. I’m not claiming that dependency on cannabis is non-existent, of course people can legitimately become dependent on it like any other drug, but it is well known that this kind of dependency is very rare and difficult to establish, but in their response the government lists dependency as one of the chief problems surrounding the legalisation of cannabis.
Finally, I’d like to show how this warping of their own data is not just coming from those politicians who write the drugs policies, but is prevalent at the very heart of the Conservative Party.
Our prime minister raises two issues in this statement, the danger of new forms of cannabis that are sold these days (quite a common issue raised by his generation of cannabis users trying to stop another generation from doing the same) and that cannabis causes huge mental health problems. Here is what the report concludes on both of those issues. Starting with the increased dangers of more potent strains of cannabis:
“It is worthy of note that despite the increase in cannabis potency there has been no concomitant recorded increase in enquiries to the National Poisons Information Service, nor an increase in hospital admissions due to cannabis intoxication.”
Either he is flat out lying or he hasn’t read this report. In his defence, it wasn’t under his administration that this report was conducted, but it is the report his administration chose to use to defend their views, so I’ll continue with his claim that cannabis causes “huge mental health problems”:
“On balance, the Council considers that the evidence points to a probable, but weak, causal link between psychotic illness and cannabis use. Whether such a causal link will become stronger with the wider use of higher potency cannabis products remains uncertain.”
(It should be pointed out here that since this report there has been significant further research and many of these links between serious psychotic illnesses and cannabis use have been largely debunked.)
But that particular quote just refers to serious psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia. When concerning other conditions, specifically anxiety and depression, the council had this conclusion:
“The Council remains unconvinced that there is a causal relationship between the use of cannabis and the development of any affective disorder”
On a side note this quote from David Cameron also makes me want to ask another question, how does David Cameron know what kind of cannabis is on sale today, I’m not asking this to be funny, it’s a genuine question, and it comes back to this idea of these views having no evidence behind them. He obviously isn’t using this report, and short of going out and buying to for himself, how on earth would he know what kind of cannabis is on sale, let alone what its effects are, Is he just making it up then?
Their research and their claims, do not match up. There is total confusion and intentionally misleading disinformation being spread at the highest levels of government, so this begs the question, where are they getting their information from then?
Firstly, I’m not sure they actually have any evidence in their possession to support what they are saying directly, otherwise they would just use it, rather than try to hide behind at best tenuous research. Secondly, if they don’t make definitive claims we are powerless to discredit the claims. In a sense, by removing the credibility of what they are saying, it gives them a level of immunity from real scientific data.
This is important, because it shows how desperate they are getting to maintain the party line on the drugs policy, and now people are beginning to call them out on their lack of sources of information. 200,000 signatures on a petition is worthy of more than just a few paragraphs of poorly written and uncorroborated moral disapproval. I would urge anyone who hasn’t already to sign both the petition to legalise cannabis, as well as this new petition to force accountability on the government by demanding that they reveal their sources. It may not have many signatures yet, but support for the petition could really force the government to realise just how serious we are.
I’d like to leave you with one final quote from what is fast becoming my favourite government sponsored cannabis report. The term “gateway drug” is almost always attached to the argument for keeping cannabis as a criminal substance. This term is highly controversial, but many politicians use it in the context of children starting with cannabis and then moving onto more serious drugs to keep parents worried enough to support their claims. Here is what the Cannabis Classification and Public health paper of 2008 had to say on the matter:
“The Council does not consider the risks of progression to Class A drugs as a consequence of using cannabis to be substantial; and considers that such risks are likely to be less than those associated with the use of alcohol and tobacco.”
- Government response
- Petition to force the Government to reveal its citations
- ACMD Classification of Cannabis and Public Health
- Harvard Research into Cannabis and Schizophrenia