Saturday, September 12, 2009

Jan Copeland spins the evidence

If the worldwide consequences were not so disastrous, it would be almost funny to watch prohibitionists spinning their self-contradictory message. This week Professor Jan Copeland, Director of the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre (NCPIC) made a startling statement reported in The City News -- nothing to do with me although I write for that journal -- in a story covering NCPIC's recent Cannabis Conference:
The Hemp Embassy also believes that the NCPIC, as an information service, should be providing information to the public about studies that suggest cannabis is not a gateway drug, cannabis does not have a causal link with schizophrenia and that cannabis does not cause lung cancer.

Professor Copeland said: “Each of these studies is of interest, although up to five years old, but none are without significant methodological flaws.”
Methodological flaws? ALL of them? Up to five years old? It's funny how all those studies are common traffic among AOD professionals and I have seen no credible claims that these studies are flawed, whereas many of the studies claiming cannabis is more and more dangerous are quickly exposed as junk science, especially NCPIC's offerings. Further, the studies suggesting cannabis is not so harmful tend to be large population studies, reflecting actual reality, while the studies portraying cannabis as the 'new satan' tend to be very small reductive exercises which are designed to show harm, and usually get all the headlines.

I think this is a case of the kettle calling the 'pot' black.

A great example of junk science is NCPIC's own study which attempted to label cannabis as a cause of (sorry, 'linked with') violence. It did a quick statistical crunch of people presenting at St Vincent's Casualty and found that a lot of the people involved in violence had used cannabis. Never mind that they may have also taken ice, or alcohol, or been beaten up because they owed their dealer $400 (a symptom of prohibition, not the substance). Never mind that St Vincents Casualty is constantly besieged by marginalised, dysfunctional junkies trying to wangle opiate medicine, which would skew your sample somewhat and is another consequence of prohibition. Never mind the St Vincent's Casualty doctor who wrote to the SMH observing that he had never seen an emergency caused by cannabis. Never mind the swathe of studies showing that cannabis does not cause violence.

And these studies are not tinpot little junk studies such as NCPIC's, either. Major, credible evidence reviews consistently find that cannabis is not a cause of violence -- carried out by such bodies as the Canadian Special Senate review (2002), the British Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, SUNY Buffalo's Department of Family Medicine (2005), the US National Drug Intelligence Center, and Oxford University. Are these organisations all producing flawed science, Professor Copeland? Or are you little more than a propagandist on a payroll?

I got all the above references from a new book, Marijuana is safer, So why are we driving people to drink? Funnily enough, another of the 45 footnoted references in the same chapter is a 2007 study by none other than Jan Copeland herself. It showed that 70% of Americans who seek treatment for cannabis are coerced into it by the courts (rather than presenting because they thought they had a problem), which pricks another of the current prohibitionist myths -- that an increase in cannabis-related presentations to doctors shows that today's 'skunk' is super-potent and causing problems which send the 'victims' to the doctor.

Ironically, NCPIC itself seems to be propagating this myth, despite Professor Copeland's own study. A story yesterday in the Townsville Bulletin about eight-year-old indigenous kids smoking pot quoted a NCPIC report:
The centre reported last year 19,000 general practice consultations across Australia in 2008 involved the management of cannabis-related problems.
We have 'drug courts' here in Australia which also give people busted for cannabis the choice of conviction or 'treatment'. This one is a furphy, Professor Copeland, as you well know by your own research. Or are you going to claim your own research is 'methodologically flawed'?

While it is obvious that eight-year-old kids should not be smoking pot, I would suggest that the problem is not the pot -- it's the kid's social environment. If you prevented them smoking pot without addressing the larger social problems, the balloon effect would probably just push them onto sniffing petrol or glue, far more harmful. Would heavier pot prohibition really solve the plight of disadvantaged Aboriginals? Or is it a simplistic red-herring?

But such logic is too deep for the moral panic merchants. The story goes on to parrot all the current myths:
...teachers needed to be more skilled in educating students about the serious mental health issues, including addiction and dependency, depression and schizophrenia, associated with regular use of cannabis.
Oh well, so much for accurate public information.


Anonymous said...

It was a very nice idea! Just wanna say thank you for the information you have shared. Just continue writing this kind of post. I will be your loyal reader. Thanks again.alfred angelo.

Anonymous said...

I just added your web page to my favorites. I like reading your posts. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Straight to the point and well written! Why can’t everyone else be like this?