Cannabis: where's the apology for the apology?

"When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?", said an Independent on Sunday leader 4 months ago, quoting John Maynard Keynes. Nice quote, but its accompanying article wherein the IoS dropped their support for cannabis decriminalisation, was pretty much nonsense. The "facts" hadn't really changed so much; sure, in recentish times there has been more research into the links between cannabis and mental illness of the sort mentioned here a couple of days ago but no landmark study exists proving that cannabis is mega dangerous to the majority of the population, nor that, if it turns out that it is, the best public health policy is to continue the ever-more failing locking people up tactics.

Whilst they haven't repeated the Keynes quote, the Poorhouse is happy to see an apparent about-face in reporting tone from them today. Today, they are happy to debunk "politicians' excuse that cannabis has become stronger", which is great. It's just a shame that they didn't look into it a bit hard 4 months ago when their leader used these very same lies to excuse their Daily Mail-esque change of policy.

To quote from today's debunking:

But there is no evidence that cannabis poses a greater threat to health today than it did 30 years ago, and reports that stronger forms of the drug, called skunk, have 25 times the potency are wildly exaggerated.

Compare with the same paper's famous-ish "Cannabis: An Apology" article a few months back.

Record numbers of teenagers are requiring drug treatment as a result of smoking skunk, the highly potent cannabis strain that is 25 times stronger than resin sold a decade ago.

Today, they accurately report the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs' report upon the last efforts by our Government to pointlessly and, some would say dangerously, re-up the classification of cannabis to class B.

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, which examined the issue 18 months ago, will be asked to do so again. It concluded in its report in December 2005 that the strength of cannabis resin (hash) had changed little over 30 years and was about 5 per cent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Skunk, it found was 10 to 15 per cent THC - two to three times as strong, not 25 times.
Professor Leslie Iversen, a pharmacologist at Oxford University, said the widespread belief that skunk was 20 to 30 times as powerful was "simply not true".

Again, great. But check the date of the report. Why, if this report existed in December 2005 did the Independent on Sunday do its astounding policy reversal in March 2007?

The skunk smoked by the majority of young Britons bears no relation to traditional cannabis resin - with a 25-fold increase in the amount of the main psychoactive ingredient, tetrahydrocannabidinol (THC), typically found in the early 1990s.

No sensible person these days is really arguing that there is some sort of link between cannabis and psychosis type disorders, but let's compare today's

Cannabis use may worsen the symptoms of schizophrenia and lead to a relapse in some patients. But on causation, it said: "The evidence suggests, at worst, that using cannabis increases the lifetime risk of developing schizophrenia by 1 per cent."
It added that more than three million people were estimated to have used cannabis in the previous year, but "very few will ever develop this distressing and disabling condition".

with March's ever so slightly more rabid's

More than 22,000 people were treated last year for cannabis addiction - and almost half of those affected were under 18. With doctors and drugs experts warning that skunk can be as damaging as cocaine and heroin, leading to mental health problems and psychosis for thousands of teenagers…

Good on the IoS for realising, if not specifically acknowledging, its mistake. Sad that they had to suffer this blip on cannabis policy in the first place, given they were one of the more progressive papers on this issue. Maybe we can look forward to another IoS-arranged decriminalisation (or better yet, the only sensible choice of legalisation with regulation) protest march sometime in the future...

Cannabis is not universally "safe" for all, but the current laws regarding its prohibition just add to its dangers.


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