Friday, October 03, 2008

International experts talk sense on cannabis

A panel of international experts has concluded that the prohibition of cannabis causes more harm than the drug itself. The UK's Beckley Foundation commissioned the panel in the lead-up to next year's UN review of global drug policy.

The panel's conclusions have received wide news coverage (even in the SMH!), a rare but welcome balance to the hysterical and inaccurate stories we are usually bombarded with.

Typically, the anti-drug zealots will ignore this new report and continue spinning their increasingly transparent propaganda.

I challenge Jan Copeland, director of the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre, to discredit the findings of the Beckley Cannabis Commission, as her supposedly "evidence-based" message is diametrically opposed. As she is privileged to possess the resources to do this, and either she is wrong or the Commission is wrong, avoiding the issue will destroy any credibility NCPIC may have.

If she cannot or will not discredit the Commission, it must be concluded that NCPIC is immorally wasting millions of taxpayer's dollars in its partisan mission of disinformation.

I challenge Jan Copeland to explain the contradiction between her portrayal of cannabis as a seriously dangerous drug rivalling Ice and the Beckley Commission's conclusion that:

The probability and scale of harm among heavy cannabis users is modest compared with that caused by many other psychoactive substances, both legal and illegal, in common use, namely, alcohol, tobacco, amphetamines, cocaine and heroin.

PS: 7/10/08 The actual Beckley Commission report is now online. The conclusions and recommendations are on Page 169. Please note the 49 pages of references. An appendix outlines desirable directions for research into cannabis, offering a wider agenda than the present politically directed search for harms. Of note among these are two areas that have been crying out for attention: Proper epidemiological research into the effect of cannabis on car accident rates; and research into the precursors, genetic or otherwise, indicating why cannabis is enjoyed by some but causes anxiety in others. Knowing the warning signs of psychosis could be a useful tool in preventing harm.


Anonymous said...

You forgot to add this from the report.

This book is about issues in cannabis policy, and is not primarily concerned
with advice to individuals about their own or others’ cannabis use. However, we
offer here brief advice about cannabis use in the light of the literatures we have just
Anyone who is contemplating using cannabis and who wishes to avoid its
most probable acute and chronic adverse health effects should abstain from using the
drug. This advice is especially pertinent for persons with any disease or condition
(e.g. cardiovascular or respiratory disease, serious mental illness or other types of
substance abuse) which increases their vulnerability to its adverse effects.
The following advice could be given to cannabis users who do not intend to
stop, but who wish to reduce their risks of experiencing adverse health effects.
• They should not drive when intoxicated (that is within several hours of
smoking a ‘joint’), and should especially avoid driving after combining
alcohol and cannabis use, because their impairments may be additive.
• They could eliminate the respiratory risks of cannabis use by changing from
smoking to the oral route. If they persist in smoking cannabis, they should
not use the deep inhalation and breath-holding technique which greatly
increases the delivery and retention of particulate matter and tar. It is possible
to minimise the harms of smoking by using a vapouriser.
• Cannabis smokers who do not otherwise use tobacco should avoid mixingtobacco with cannabis when smoking a ‘joint’, if they wish to avoid
developing nicotine dependence and the substantial and well-established
adverse health effects of tobacco smoking.
• Cannabis users could minimise the risks of dependence by reducing their
frequency of use to weekly or less often, and by avoiding daily use which
carries the highest risk of dependence.
• Evidence is emerging that cannabis with high THC and low CBD levels may
carry extra risk of psychological harms. High THC and low CBD levels are
most commonly found in the genetically-modified and hydroponicallygrown
forms of cannabis (‘skunk’).
• Pregnant women should not smoke cannabis to avoid reduced birth weight.
• There is a convergence of evidence suggesting that initiating cannabis
consumption before the age of 17 significantly increases the likelihood of
experiencing adverse effects, both personal and social. Children should
therefore be advised of these risks.

The Editor said...

No I didn't 'forget' it.

But while the advice is probably over-cautious, on the whole it is sensible and is the sort of message that should be disseminated.

Unfortunately anything nearly that sensible is quashed, as in the case of the pamphlet recently withdrawn from NSW schools because it advised people who were going to ignore the "just say no" message anyway to use moderation.

As it is, the 'tough on drugs' zealots run around saying one joint will turn you into a raving lunatic and the kiddies see their friends, on the contrary, having a great time so the message is rejected outright.

Anonymous said...

Yes it is sensible,

and I think what you will find is those academics and professionals that you argue are causing hysteria and panic are in fact sending the same message as that from the report.

To deny that some people present to doctors and other health care practitioners as drug dependent and needing help to stop using is irresponsible. This population of people is small in comparison to drugs and alcohol and again those academics and professionals that you criticise also know this and indeed report the same statistics.

If you contracted a disease that only a very small percentage of the population could get, do you think we should not bother know all we can about it and not bother finding a treatment and management, because the risk is small.

The Editor said...

Anonymous said:

"those academics and professionals that you argue are causing hysteria and panic are in fact sending the same message as that from the report."

I wish it were so. However the NCPIC material linked to on this blog is clearly aimed at demonising cannabis and by inference supporting prohibition. Their studies focus on tiny minorities of marginalised groups and "link" their problems to cannabis use. In doing so they ignore masses of evidence to the contrary. I strongly object to my tax dollars being wasted on this propaganda. For one thing, look at NCPIC's research directions, openly searching only for "harms", compared to the research directions suggested by the Beckley Foundation. Chalk and cheese, my friend.

Jan Copeland's initial foray here: [note the several fact-based comments from "Rumpus", none refuted by Copeland]

And her rant in the SMH Here:

Compare it to the following report drawing on 57 studies (all these links are in posts on this blog but blogger won't let me put html links in these comments for some reason):