At the beginning of May, we reported that British Prime Minister Tony Blair, faced with a tough re-election campaign, was making troublesome noises about reversing a statutory reclassification of cannabis implemented by his government in January, 2004.
The reclassification, which pretended to be a softening of penalties for cannabis possession, actually increased penalties for some drugs and for marijuana cultivation, while creating a tiny new loophole for adults caught in possession of cannabis. Other than that, it really didn’t do anything to help pot people, but the media mistakenly reported this reclassification as “decriminalization,” even though it was really not much of a benefit for medical users, and was definitely bad for growers and underage users.
Pot growers and youth in possession of cannabis were given harsher penalties in the reclassification scheme, which downgraded cannabis from Class B to Class C in England’s official “schedule” of “controlled substances.” Class C includes drugs such as steroids and prescription anti-depressants.
Blair’s election campaign anti-pot pitch came because he needed an issue that appealed to conservative parents in his desperate bid to maintain a solid majority for his faltering Labor Party and his own prime ministership.
His campaign speeches contained rueful second thoughts that his government might have “sent the wrong message” to young people by downgrading cannabis, and that cannabis “might not be quite as harmless as people think.” He indicated that reversal of reclassification was being considered, and implied that he was sorry he had approved demotion of cannabis to Class C.
Before elections held on May 5th, the prime minister was facing voter skepticism because he gave false information about the reasons for going to war in Iraq, and because of his close, submissive relationship with President George W. Bush.
The prime minister was flummoxed by a damning pre-war Downing Street memo that was leaked just before the May 5 election. The memorandum contained notes of a high level meeting in which Blair and other officials were told there was a “thin” case for going to war in Iraq, but that the Bush administration had already made a decision to invade Iraq- at the same time Bush was telling Americans he had not yet made such a decision.
The memo indicated that the Bushes had “fixed” the intelligence data so that it backed up Bush-Blair’s false pre-war claims that Iraq had nuclear and chemical weapons of mass destruction, and that Saddam Hussein was linked to 9/11 and al-Qaeda.
Post-war investigations have abundantly demonstrated that these assertions were totally inaccurate, and a flood of new memos have shown that British officials warned Blair that Bush was poised to carry out an illegal war after carrying out an illegal bombing campaign against Iraq designed to provoke Hussein in the years before the war started.
Congressman John Conyers and other federal legislators say the Downing Street memo is enough evidence to begin impeachment proceedings against President Bush.
Conyers held a public hearing into allegations that Bush lied to the world about the Iraq war. He also delivered to the White House petitions with 550,000 signatures. The petitions demanded that Bush answer specific questions about the memos.
This is the same congressman who found Republican-sponsored irregularities in the Ohio election system during the 2004 presidential campaign. He released a well-documented report indicating that election fraud had taken place. And because Ohio was in 2004 what Florida was in the 2000 election, Conyers concluded that the state’s electoral votes probably were not legitimately won by Bush and therefore that Bush may not have actually won the 2004 election.
The text of the pre-war memo, issued long before Bush admitted to Americans and Congress that he had already decided to invade Iraq, will be quoted in its entirety at the end of this article.
According to Congressmember Maurice Hinchey, who is a good friend of the marijuana community, the Downing Street Memo and other pre-war documents that surfaced recently could provide evidence for impeachment of the president.
Hinchey, co-author of a House amendment that would have banned the federal government from using federal funds to enforce federal marijuana laws, said, “The Downing Street Memo confirms a lot of information coming from insiders in the administration and the intelligence agencies, and says clearly that they fixed the facts around the policy. If the president intentionally twisted the facts about the Sept. 11 attacks and the Iraq war, and lied to Congress about it, and then elicited authorization from Congress to launch a war that’s caused the deaths of 1,700 U.S. men and women along with tens of thousands of others, that is definitely an impeachable offense.”
Hinchey’s pro-medpot amendment was defeated 264-161 on June 15 in the House of Representatives. The House has defeated the amendment twice before but there were 13 more votes for the measure this year compared with the totals last year. Only 15 Republicans out of 231 in the House supported the measure.
Drug warrior Republican Representative Mark Souder, who works hard on behalf of prohibition, said Hinchey and his supporters are “hiding behind a few sick people to try to in effect legalize marijuana in this country. The rhetoric about marijuana as a treatment for medical purposes was probably dreamed up at some college dorm.”
Democrat Hinchey countered that his failed amendment had nothing to do with recreational marijuana.
“It would give relief to people suffering from horrific diseases and allow their doctors to decide which drugs will work best,” he said.
Study, study again
Before the May 5 election, Blair promised anti-cannabis voters that he would order yet another cannabis study by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.
The study was supposed to look at new evidence, miraculously discovered only in the year since reclassification, proving that cannabis causes mental illness. Blair and his advisors said the government would consider placing cannabis back into Class B, and would also consider creating a special penalty category for “skunk” cannabis, which officials said was a “very potent new strain that resembles a hard drug.”
The skunk sequestration idea migrated across the English Channel from Holland, where Dutch Prime Minister Balkenende, a Catholic fundamentalist fanatic, had already proposed banning strong varieties of cannabis and hashish, even if they didn’t smell like a skunk.
British Home Secretary [Attorney General] Charles Clarke warns that “skunk” is grown in “nutrient-rich water and it’s really strong.”
“I am aware the Dutch government are taking a particular interest in very high strength strains and are considering whether cannabis that has a high THC percentage should be a higher classification,” he said.
Echoing Clarke’s concerns after the election, Blair said the Advisory Council’s report, due by December, 2005, might provide the ammo he needs to send cannabis back to Class B.
“If the Council advises us to change that decision, we will do so,” he said.
How much could have changed in a year? Does the prime minister really expect that another study, conducted only a year later, would directly contradict what previous studies had found? The answer is yes, and he’s still waiting for someone to find those weapons of mass destruction in Iraq too.
The new Advisory Council study seen by many as a needless farce, given that experts spent several years studying cannabis before cannabis policies were changed in 2004. Those studies found no proof cannabis impaired mental health. Cannabis was found relatively harmless when compared with alcohol, tobacco, and prescription drugs.
Former Home Secretary David Blunkett, who preceded Clarke and was lauded by the UK cannabis community for supporting softening of cannabis penalties and for approving the marijuana cultivation licenses for GW Pharmaceuticals, is pissed at Blair and Clarke for criticizing reclassification.
Blunkett, who is now in another government post, says the Advisory Council gave him solid advice before he reclassified cannabis, and that he did not make a mistake by placing cannabis in Class C.
“I took the advice of the Council, and their recommendation was very clear, but since reclassification there has been an issue about skunk cannabis,” Blunkett said recently. “The Council was asked to examine whether that made a difference to their original recommendation and as far I know the Home Secretary is still waiting for them to come back to him. We took their advice on scientific grounds, saying that a differentiation was made between different types of drugs such as crack and heroin which can kill, and less dangerous ones. What we were able to do was free up the police to be able to concentrate resources on those killer drugs. Whatever the solution, I know the Home Secretary will want to bear in mind that the police are dealing with this on a day to day basis.”
Blunkett went on to say that putting cannabis back into Class B would cost the public a lot of money for more policing.
Tom McGhie, chairman of West Yorkshire Police Federation, shot back at Blunkett, saying cannabis should be placed into Class B again because:
“I, like many other police officers, never met anyone who had moved on to using heroin or cocaine who had not started out experimenting with cannabis. When cannabis was classified down to Class C the wrong message went around. Dangers of drugs needs reinforcing.”
Meanwhile, British scientists, police and politicians demonstrated the amusing “accuracy” of new technology designed to assist the drug war.
During a demonstration of an expensive device that is supposed to detect individual molecules of illegal drugs, Edwina Hart, Social Justice Minister for the National Welsh Assembly, tested positive for illegal drugs.
She immediately claimed, and the British media backed her up without proof that she was telling the truth, that her precious hands had been contaminated with traces of evil drugs from door handles, money and public areas.
“You could pick it up from any where couldn’t you?” said Hart, protesting her innocence. “It can come out of cash, out of a cashpoint, a beer mat, or anything else. It is a very sophisticated system that can pick up anything if you have been in contact with someone’s jacket or anything.”
Conservative Assembly Member William Graham, a staunch drug warrior who organized the event that demonstrated the machine, also tested positive for illegal drugs.
“I can’t think where I could have got it from,” Graham said, red-faced because other politicians at the event did not test positive.
Nick Bourne, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, didn’t test positive, but he still offered enthusiastic support for the “Ion Track” drug detection machine.
“I pay tribute to the Ion Track system, despite the fact that both the Minister and William Graham tested positive on it,” he said. “I was relieved that I didn’t, but it is an excellent system nevertheless.”
The machine’s manufacturer claims it’s so sensitive that it can detect the equivalent in drugs the size of a grain of salt in an Olympic-sized swimming pool!
Police are using it to test people at night clubs, and to test houses and cars where drugs might once have been.
Police admit the machine is so sensitive and drugs so pervasive that the machine’s findings can’t be used in court as evidence.
Nevertheless, Divisional Crime Prevention Officer Simon James said the machine can still indicate to police which members of society should be detained and interrogated.
“Anything that deters people from taking drugs is a good thing,” chirped Graham. “If people know this thing exists then they will know that they might get caught.”
Yes, and when they get caught, Mr. Graham, they can use the same lame excuses that you and Edwina Hart used!
Cannabis Culture wondered whether Blair’s pre-election statements about putting cannabis back to Class B were empty words devoid of meaning, merely a political ploy to gain support of anti-cannabis voters.
But some people took him seriously, using his apparent about-face on cannabis as encouragement to more earnestly shout out their vociferous opposition to marijuana.
These days, the UK is blanketed by a deafening chorus of shrill, shallow voices crying out against cannabis from all corners of the kingdom. These voices, howling as they do like specters on a bloody haunted evening, reveal that the ghost of Harry Anslinger, America’s first drug czar who repeatedly said marijuana causes violence and insanity, has now traveled to England, where it inhabits the perforated noggins of pot-hating Brits like Melanie Phillips, a British “journalist and author” who writes for the Daily Mail newspaper and also on her own blogsite. (www.melaniephillips.com).
On some issues, Phillips is a progressive who sometimes makes sense, but when it comes to marijuana, she might well be Anslinger’s wife. Ironically, Phillips was the recipient of the “Orwell Prize” for journalism in 1996; her outlandish slagging of marijuana and marijuana users certainly fit in with Orwell’s warnings about the propagandistic power of weasly wigglewords.
In February, 2004 Phillips wrote a Daily Mail column about marijuana. It was called “Lobotomising human conscience.”
Let’s enjoy reading several paragraphs from it, shall we?
“When at the age of 14 Luke Mitchell murdered his girlfriend Jodi Jones, he tied her up, slit her throat and then mutilated her body. After Mitchell, now 16, was convicted at Edinburgh High Court last week the judge, Lord Nimmo Smith, said it was one of the worst cases of murder he had seen for years, and he gave him the longest sentence ever passed on a youth in Scotland.
This horrific crime makes you wonder how any human being could do something so inhuman. The answer is not hard to find.
The court heard that Mitchell was influenced by Satanism, by the ‘shock rocker’ Marilyn Manson and by a deficiency of emotion. But the final trigger for this act of savagery was something else again. It was Mitchell’s consumption of cannabis.
As the judge said, cannabis can seriously damage the mental processes of those who habitually take it. And he made a key point when he told Mitchell that cannabis ‘may well have contributed to your being unable to make the distinction between fantasy and reality, which is essential for normal moral judgments.’
In other words, his cannabis habit meant that when he killed Jodi Jones, Mitchell was simply unable to recognize that what he was doing was truly wicked.
This devastating fact about this so-called ‘soft’ drug has been systematically concealed from the public, with increasingly disastrous consequences. Cannabis is popularly thought to be relatively harmless. In fact- quite apart from the fact that it often leads onto other drug use- it is one of the most toxic and dangerous narcotics around.
It has profound and long-lasting effects on the brain, it can cause people to become psychotic, and in certain circumstances it can promote violence and even murder.”
We must at least give pot-phobic Phillips credit for being efficient and concise. In just a few paragraphs she enunciates the worst allegations Anslinger made concerning marijuana: it erases conscience, it’s toxic, it causes brain damage, it makes you crazy, it drives you to murder.
When millions of successful, well-adjusted, healthy, happy pot smokers read what Phillips thinks of them, they must wonder what she’s been drinking.
Phillips is a queen of overkill. In December, 2003, she wrote about “yet more evidence that cannabis- far from being the soft, relatively harmless drug we are constantly told it is- can be a killer.”
“That is to say, it can make users kill other people,” her essay continued. “A teenager, Jamie Lee Osbourne, stabbed a milkman to death using a 12-inch blade after having ‘delusional fantasies’ as a heavy smoker of cannabis. His barrister told the court that Osbourne’s personality changed as he took cannabis and turned to alcohol. ‘Cannabis is a great disinhibitor. He began to have less inhibitions and almost delusional fantasies about getting money.’
Indeed. There is ample evidence about the link between cannabis and psychosis, and more and more evidence that cannabis is implicated in violent death. It is not so much that users turn to crime to feed their habit; it is more that the drug ‘disinhibits’ them by destroying those parts of the brain that deal in cognition and produce any kind of moral sense. All this is quite clear from the research evidence. Yet the government has reclassified cannabis to be on a par with slimming pills, and has all but decriminalised it. That’s surely another kind of madness.”
Are we at a s?ance? If Phillips isn’t married to Anslinger’s corpse and ideology, it’s possible the dead drug czar’s tortured soul has taken up residence in Phillips’ body and mind, causing her to spew in 2005 the same reefer madness comic book drivel that Anslinger puked up in 1937.
“The Government says cannabis doesn’t kill,” Phillips wrote when people questioned her grasp of factual evidence regarding cannabis. “Now, Britain’s most senior coroner has blown that argument out of the water. Hamish Turner, president of the Coroners’ Society, has said cannabis is increasingly the factor behind deaths recorded as accidents or suicides. He estimates that in the past year, cannabis was a significant contributory factor in about 10 out of 100 deaths with which he dealt.
“Other coroners agree, adding that cannabis is increasingly being found in the bodies of traffic accident victims, and warning that deaths will spiral if the drug is decriminalised. Cannabis, says Mr. Turner unequivocally, is as dangerous as any other drug. It causes depression, paranoia and other mental health problems. And it kills.
“All this will doubtless come as a bit of a shock to anyone who has fallen for the disingenuous statements on cannabis churned out by the government, not to mention the propaganda emanating from the pro-legalisation drug quangos and charities egging it on. It is no surprise, however, to anyone who has actually read the literature.
“One Swedish study, for example, showed that cannabis had contributed to many homicides and other violent deaths, including motor accidents and suicides. These researchers concluded that ‘impulsive, intentional violent deaths seem to be characteristic for the cannabis user’ ? patterns of behavior and injuries which set cannabis apart from alcohol, amphetamines, cocaine or heroin.
“In the US, another study of 268 murderers showed that almost a quarter of them had been under the influence of cannabis when they had committed their crimes. Some of those interviewed said of the drug ‘it made me aggressive, violent’, ‘it lowered my inhibitions’ and ‘I don’t think I had done anything if I hadn’t been under the influence.’
“The stereotype of people just ‘chilling out’ on cannabis only applies to some people. By contrast, it can make others with different characters violent or lethal. So from society’s point of view, cannabis is just as dangerous as ‘hard’ drugs, and maybe even more so.
“Much of the debate about cannabis rests on the mistaken impression that users don’t harm anyone else. This is simply not true, because apart from its links to aggression and paranoia, the damage it causes to the brain can also create devastating personality changes.
“Habitual users often become passive, inflexible and rigid in their thinking; since they never question their actions, they are incapable of change. They can’t take criticism and instead feel misunderstood. So talking sense to them becomes a futile endeavour. This is surely why so much of the drugs debate feels to those opposed to legalisation like a dialogue with the insane ? because indeed, they are talking to people some of whose brains can no longer deal with facts, deduction or logic.
“There is now significant evidence showing the damage inflicted by cannabis upon people’s minds. Only recently, an expert at the Dutch Trimbos addiction institute reported that cannabis doubles the risk of schizophrenia and other psychiatric conditions. As Hamish Turner so rightly observed: ‘Cannabis is a mind altering drug which has ravaging effects on the brain.'”
Phillips wonders if anyone in the Blair government who supported the softening of cannabis penalties has seen the “the mountainous evidence about the terrible harm cannabis does to individuals and society.”
Her viewpoint was bolstered by a January, 2004 report that a “marijuana-addicted” citizen of Wales had died “directly from cannabis poisoning.”
Lee Maisey, 36, allegedly smoked at least 25,000 reefers during his 11-year “addiction” to the drug. He died in August, 2003, after complaining of a headache.
Pembrokeshire Coroner Michael Howells said Maisey was “free from disease and had not drunk any alcohol for at least 48 hours before his death in August last year.” Post-mortem tests allegedly revealed a high level of cannabinoids in Maisey’s blood, so Howells recorded the cause of death as “cannabis toxicity.”
Dr Philip Guy, an “addictions expert” from the University of Hull, said, “Cannabis has changed. Nowadays it is a lot stronger than it used to be. It is not like the nice hippie drug it used to be. It is a distinct possibility that someone could die from extreme toxicity. It has been experimented with to produce stronger varieties. If you eat a large amount of it, it can be deadly. I would not be surprised if in this case the deceased had ingested a fatal amount of cannabis. A lot of things can harm and even kill in the right quantities. I recall a man who ate two packets of regular tobacco and that almost killed him. To die from smoking cannabis is unheard of.”
It isn’t just drama queens like Phillips, addiction experts, and coroners who are exaggerating the dangers of marijuana. The media is also in on the lie.
Consider the case of a 15-year-old boy John Winter who froze to death while walking home from a party in the winter.
Winter was dead drunk when he left a party on a cold night after having fought with his friends to the extent that he had no shirt on for his four mile walk home.
His semi-clothed body was found the following day in a snow-covered field about half a mile from the party venue. The youth knew that a 21-year-old nurse had frozen to death several days earlier trying to walk home in that same part of England.
The party that the dead youth had been attending was a boozy affair, so much so that the police had to be called to break it up. But they didn’t break it up. They just sat there and watched, along with the dead youth’s friends, as he walked home without a shirt on in blinding snow and froze to death.
There are many ways that journalists and the coroner could have reported Winter’s death. They could have attributed it to youthful recklessness or to the fact that the boy had twice the legal adult level of alcohol in his blood. But no, that wouldn’t have satisfied the anti-cannabis bloodhounds of England’s modern media.
Because infinitesimal traces of cannabis and ecstasy were found in the boy’s blood, the press emphasized his use of cannabis and ecstasy, even though there was no evidence that he had used anything other than alcohol on the night he died.
County Coroner Andrew Tweddle said, “The dangers of drug misuse cannot be overemphasized as it has a profound effect on individuals and can lead to individuals finding themselves in danger.”
On Phillips’ website, cannabis haters feel empowered to rant against the evil weed and its users.
“I speak as one who was on the front line of crime prevention and investigation from 1954 to the year 1999, first in the Metropolitan Police, later as a television crime documentary maker and finally as a security risk advisor to a group of central London hospitals,” said a posting on the Phillips site. “During that period the use of cannabis was an exponentially increasing contributory factor in the commission of crime, in anti-social behavior, in family turbulence and in workplace under-performance and disruption. I met vast numbers of young people whose chances of leading a successful life were destroyed as a result of regular use of cannabis. I never met anyone who appeared to be the better for taking it, they all talked bollocks when under the influence of it and when they were not under the influence of it they talked even worse bollocks in defense of it. [Note: “bollocks” is a word that can be translated as “nonsensical bullshit”]. A large number of people attending the psychiatric clinics at the hospitals that I was connected with were there as a result of habitual use of cannabis. A very large proportion of people attending accident and emergency departments were there as a result of abusing drugs, almost all were cannabis users who had moved on to harder drugs. I met many people during my professional life that died as a result of abuse of drugs, including cannabis. I simply cannot understand why any sane, healthy person would want to imbibe or inhale chemicals to alter their mind and perceptions. As for people who are sick, depressed, or merely looking for diversion from a boring life, they will not improve their lot by contributing to the coffers of organized crime, abusing their brains and polluting the air with the fumes of stinking herbal substances that are illegal to possess and should remain illegal. Such sad people should seek medical or psychiatric assistance and legally prescribed medication will be provided if necessary, or advice and support if not.”
Another of Phillips’ supporters revealed the underlying tinge of racism that has always characterized reefer madness propaganda. On November 5, 2003, Phillips’ website contributor Peter Williamson wrote, “I have never used cannabis, or come into personal contact with it. I am however familiar with a society where its use has long been endemic- Jamaica. What I have seen of that country and stories of those who have seen relatives destroyed by it convinces me that every bad thing attributed to cannabis is true. Of course, many of the good things also attributed to it may also be true, but the societal balance sheet is overwhelmingly negative. Jamaica is the most violent and dysfunctional society in the Caribbean, and the role of cannabis in its culture is a major contributor to that.”
As her cannabis diatribes became more widely-known and controversial, Phillips upped the ante in a typically Anslingerish way, blaming cannabis for sluttish teen sexuality and the decline of British youth, morals, and society.
For Europeans who have encountered Brits at international soccer matches and on the beaches of Spain, it’s quite clear that alcohol and tobacco, not marijuana, are what make young British people act like swine. But Phillips has tunnel vision, and for her, it’s marijuana that causes their loutish behavior.
“For these young people,” she writes, “the moral obligation to accept the difference between right and wrong has disintegrated. From all sides, they are bombarded by the message that the only thing that matters is their own pleasure and gratification.
“Duty, responsibility, shame and stigma have all but evaporated. Difficulty, pain or failure are viewed as assaults on their right to be happy. What trumps everything else is the need to protect their feelings.
“Instead of providing boundaries to give young people the security that is vital for emotional health, the adult world has simply abandoned them.
“Family disintegration shatters their sense of themselves, schools leave them floundering in their own ignorance and immaturity, and the commercial world exploits and encourages their premature sexualisation.
“It is among these rising numbers of confused, unhappy or disturbed children that the ‘Goth rock’ cult of Satanism, self-harm and nihilism principally has its lethal appeal. And drugs are absolutely central, with their fatal promise of pleasure and escape which so cruelly and cynically preys on those whose lives are most emptied of meaning and purpose.
“In a society where morality has become a dirty word because of the chains it places on the human appetite, the appeal of cannabis and other drugs is precisely what makes them so deadly- that they destroy through chemical action those pathways in the brain that give us our moral sense in the first place.
“In short, they effectively lobotomize human conscience. So it is no accident that there is such a determined attempt to pretend that cannabis has no serious ill-effects. For its acceptability is part of the assault under way on our moral codes and the substitution of an ‘anything goes’ attitude.
“This drug liberalization lobby has government ministers- along with some senior police officers, no less- firmly in its clutches, propelling them down the deeply dishonest ‘harm reduction’ road.
“Many of these campaigners are themselves drug users- or the parents of drug users- and are therefore either unwilling or simply incapable of acknowledging the acute dangers of moral collapse.
“The attempt to internationalize this slide is intense and insidious. Across Europe, campaigners are steadily pushing to change the UN’s drug policy from combating drug use to permitting it under the guise of ‘harm reduction.’
How many more [cannabis-inspired teen murderer] Luke Mitchells will it take before our society wakes up from its lethal, drug-stupefied trance?”
Insane in the brain
For Phillips, there are more and more Luke Mitchells, and all of them have been created by demon marijuana.
Even if a teenager commits a gruesome crime under the influence of alcohol, Phillips finds a way to blame cannabis for the crime.
She writes about “the utterly dreadful case of the teenage girl who was abducted by her boyfriend and then doused with petrol and set alight by two other girls revealed a depth of inhumanity that is difficult to grasp. As the Times reports: ‘They pulled Debra from the car and dragged her into undergrowth, punching and kicking her. Bauer produced a litre bottle of petrol and doused Debra with the contents. Last later boasted that she had used a lighter to ignite the fluid and sang ‘burn baby, burn’ as Debra was engulfed in a fireball.’ So what explains this barbarism? Mental illness? No. A detail in this account, not reported in other papers, provides the vital clue:
“‘The court had been told that the three girls had planned revenge on Debra, whom they saw as a love rival, during a weekend of drinking and smoking cannabis.’
“Tell me again that cannabis produces only spaced-out hippies waving their hands in the air and going ‘chill out, man.'”
Phillips’ solution to the problems allegedly caused by the demon weed is to copy the United States and its unrelenting drug war:
“In America, the doctrine of ‘zero tolerance’ on crime and drugs and the encouragement of self-restraint in premature sexual activity have all helped create a general expectation of the need to establish clear boundaries for behavior. In Britain, we have gone in precisely the opposite direction. Instead of refusing to tolerate anti-social behavior, we feebly flap our hands at it.”
Other British individuals and organizations have mounted public campaigns similarly designed to generate anti-marijuana sentiment.
A mental health organization, SANE, has lovely things to say about cannabis:
“The most common effects are talkativeness, relaxation, cheerfulness and enhanced appreciation of sound and color. There is a reduction in the ability to do complicated tasks, short-term memory can be affected and there is some difficulty in concentration. Heavy use in some people may produce a similar psychosis to that found in amphetamine users. There is continuing controversy about whether cannabis, which does alter perception, can cause full-blown psychotic illness. The prevalence of cannabis abuse among people with schizophrenia is the same as that in the general population so it probably has no causative role. There is however evidence that cannabis can cause temporary psychosis in those who have already experienced schizophrenia, although the condition is short-lived depending on the level of cannabis in the blood. Cannabis is best avoided by any schizophrenia sufferer since it may aggravate the condition.”
A group of schizophrenics and schizophrenic advocates that calls itself “Rethink” is among the leading proponents of reefer madness, and its anti-cannabis screed contradicts some of what SANE says about cannabis.
Rethink’s website falsely claims “there is a general consensus that long-term cannabis use, and sometimes short-term cannabis use, worsens psychotic symptoms (paranoia, hallucinations and delusions) among people with schizophrenia. This is also true for people with bipolar affective disorder (manic depression) experiencing psychotic symptoms. There is strong evidence from a wide range of sources that long term and short-term use of cannabis can “trigger” a psychotic episode of psychosis in people who are at high risk of developing psychosis ? for instance, people who have close family members who have schizophrenia. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests cannabis may be a causal factor in the development of psychosis. This does not mean that cannabis is a necessary or sufficient cause of psychosis – it is clear that many people use cannabis and do not develop psychotic symptoms; conversely, many people who have psychotic symptoms have never used cannabis. However, cannabis may be a causal factor. For example, flamingos only become pink if they eat shrimps; other animals, though, do not become pink when they eat shrimps. Shrimps play a causal role in pinkness, but they alone cannot cause pinkness.”
The flamingos presumably are in the pink with their shrimp, but schizophrenics blaming cannabis for psychosis are certainly delusional, citing questionable studies that blame cannabis for problems it does not cause.
The anti-cannabis lobby includes Narconon Scotland, a Scientology-affiliated outfit which offers a year-long hospital residential program targeting “marijuana addiction, LSD addiction, heroin addiction, and much more.”
A Scottish Labor Member of Parliament, Bill Tynan, could probably get employment at Narconon.
He’s complaining that downgrading cannabis from Class B to Class C “will produce a generation of drug abusers.”
“Without doubt reclassification has sent mixed messages about the dangers of cannabis, and despite information to the contrary, many young people believe that cannabis is now legal, just like cigarettes and alcohol. But research has shown cannabis smoke to be more dangerous than tobacco smoke,” Tynan asserts. “There is also large and growing evidence that cannabis is a major contributory factor in the onset of mental-health problems ranging from depression to schizophrenia. I believe that the reclassification of cannabis was a dangerous mistake, and that history will confirm that view.”
Tynan claims to have been contacted by experts from universities, hospitals and the legal profession who were appalled at the decision to downgrade cannabis to Class C.
“I am not convinced the government will reverse their mistaken decision to reclassify cannabis, but they should look at all the evidence,” he said.
Police argue, with each other
The effects of cannabis and the wisdom of a “rethink” on its reclassification have caused rifts between police officials, some of whom argue against stricter cannabis laws.
In small UK towns where cannabis cultivators are running massive grow ops, police are hoping to turn neighbors into narks. Their programs are similar to American citizen nark initiatives, as well as neighborhood grow op nark programs being implemented in places like Abbotsford and Surrey, British Columbia.
Sergeant Dale Openshaw, a Woolwich, England growbuster constables, describes “cannabis factories” as places often rented by a caretaker, with irregular visitors coming to and from the grow house, which has professional heating and ventilating equipment, unusual smells, and blacked-out windows. Watch for houses in your neighborhood that might be grow houses, the police say, and call us to report them.
Grow raids are barmy good fun for rural police, who show up with dozens of officers and specialized military equipment.
“When we do these raids and there are lots of police around, people sometimes think there has been a murder,” Openshaw admits. “It can create a fear of crime, where residents think their area is going downhill.”
Openshaw and other police officers are worried about an explosion of grow ops, and about Brits buying oodles of legal marijuana seeds from Marc Emery, the world’s most famous marijuana seed retailer-philanthropist.
Cannabis seeds are not yet illegal in England, and some shops sell them there, but most British growers prefer to order from Emery because he has lower prices and Canadian-US genetics that aren’t available in Europe.
As usual, police are saying all cannabis growers are gangsters.
“We’re not talking about a few hippies growing a bit of pot,” says Detective Inspector Dave McKelvey, who specializes in raiding “cannabis farms” in the London area. “These are organized criminals prepared to invest money in cultivation on a commercial scale for big profits.”
Rural police want cannabis placed back into Class B, but it might not happen.
A leading member of the Advisory Council, Reverend Martin Blakeborough, said he would be “very surprised” if the Council recommended Class B for cannabis.
Blakeborough said there’d need to be “an awful lot” of new evidence to convince him to tighten cannabis restrictions. He said senior police officers are in favor of cannabis being in Class C because police no longer are required to arrest people who have small quantities of pot for personal use.
Arrests for cannabis possession dropped by half during the first year of cannabis in Class C, freeing up police manpower to deal with more serious crimes.
Lord Adebowale, another Council member, said any decision to review marijuana’s Class C status should be based on “clear, hard facts and not conjecture”.
The commissioner of England’s largest metropolitan police force (the London Metro Police) doesn’t think reclassification of cannabis should be reversed. And Commissioner Sir Ian Blair says if cannabis is placed back into Class B, police should be given the option of giving fixed penalty fines rather than having to arrest people for possession of small amounts of the herb.
“In London policing, in my view, we should stay where we are,” Sir Ian said of the Class C designation. “It’s a waste of time, in terms of policing, to deal with small amounts of cannabis because the courts and prosecutors have consistently failed to do anything about it. There is no point a police officer spending hours dealing with something the courts and the prosecutors don’t do anything about.”
Sir Ian thinks it’s bollocks to create a new penalty for “superskunk” cannabis, which would force constables to conduct THC field tests to determine if they should arrest somebody for having strong weed.
Reshard Auladin, deputy chairman of London’s Metropolitan Police Authority drew cheers from the pot community when he stated, “Most violent crimes in the capital are linked to alcohol. I have never seen an incident where an assault has been linked to cannabis. A fortune is spent bringing people to court and then they can be fined as little as ?25.”
He noted that since the reclassification of cannabis in January 2004, there has been a 31% increase in the number of cautions for possession of cannabis, and a 53 per cent decrease in the number of arrests.
During a five month data collection cycle, the reclassification scheme saved 14,620 hours of police time and also saved ?423,980 (approximately $750,000 US dollars) in police pay and other costs associated with busting people for pot.
GW hurt by studies?
Some cannabis activists are against GW Pharmaceuticals, the British company that grows hundreds of thousands of pot plants so it can extract natural cannabinoids from them and recombine some of the cannabinoids into standardized dose prescription medicine.
The company has conducted what it says are successful clinical trials with multiple sclerosis patients and other patients, and have satisfied Canadian regulators that its medicine is safe for prescription use by MS sufferers there.
But in GW’s home country of England, the wave of anti-cannabis publicity created by the flurry of “cannabis causes psychosis” headlines may be partially responsible for the British government’s refusal to approve the drug for pharmaceutical use at this time. Government bureaucrats want to evaluate the results of more GW studies due to conclude in 2006.
The delay was bad news for GW, which believes it has created one of the safest and most uniquely effective medicines for MS patients.
Mark O’Donovan, chief executive of the British MS Society, said GW presented the regulators with “convincing evidence” that natural cannabinoid drugs improve patients’ quality of life.
“This refusal will be greeted with absolute dismay by many of the 85,000 people in the UK who have MS and suffer from distressing symptoms including spasticity and pain,” he complained. “How long must they wait?”
British anesthetist Dr. William Notcutt vehemently criticized the government’s Health Care Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) as “bureaucracy gone mad,” pointing out that Canada recently approved Sativex as a pharmaceutical medicine.
“Canada is a First World country, not some banana republic,” he said. “We were expecting a license for the drug in this country too, but they have stuffed it. I am very upset and angry.”
Notcutt is an early pioneer who conducted some of the first clinical cannabis studies in England, including studies for GW.
He said Canadian authorities based their approval on a portfolio of clinical studies, whereas the MHRA only considered a single study.
Sativex could treat a range of conditions, not just pain from MS, he said.
“There are a lot of patients wanting to try it, and I believe 25% of people attending my clinic would benefit,” Notcutt added. “There are a lot of patients who don’t get on with morphine or anti-inflammatory drugs who have nothing to treat their pain.”
Notcutt said the delay in approving Sativex would force more patients to illegally buy, grow and use cannabis.
Meanwhile, Tony Blair says he “now regrets” agreeing to put cannabis in Class C.
In Washington, DC recently, holding hands with Bush and looking deeply into the Texan’s soft brown eyes, Blair also said he believed the Iraq war was intelligent, moral and necessary.
Film director Robert Altman says there’s yet hope for Blair, recalling that the prime minister hung around when joints were being smoked at a dinner party that Blair attended with Altman, supermodel Jerry Hall, and other stars at musician Dave Stewart’s house a couple of years ago.
Blair’s wife left the party early, but the prime minister stayed late and didn’t leave the house even when after-dinner spliffs were sparked, says the 79-year-old Altman.
“We were sitting there smoking grass,” Altman recalls. “Blair was sitting across from me, so I thought he was pretty cool.”
Maybe what Tony really needs is to smoke some Blairajuana?
Look for an article about cannabis and mental health in issue 57 of Cannabis Culture. Create dialogue with anti-cannabis propagandist Melanie Phillips, who says pot people are “trolls.” E-mail her at [email protected]. Also, post on her website boards at www.melaniephillips.com. Be nice to her- she just needs to smoke a joint and loosen up!
Secret and Strictly Personal – UK Eyes Only
From: Matthew Rycroft
Date: 23 July 2002
S 195 /02
cc: Defence Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Attorney-General, Sir Richard Wilson, John Scarlett, Francis Richards, CDS, C, Jonathan Powell, Sally Morgan, Alastair Campbell
IRAQ: PRIME MINISTER’S MEETING, 23 JULY
Copy addressees and you met the Prime Minister on 23 July to discuss Iraq.
This record is extremely sensitive. No further copies should be made. It should be shown only to those with a genuine need to know its contents.
John Scarlett summarized the intelligence and latest JIC assessment. Saddam’s regime was tough and based on extreme fear. The only way to overthrow it was likely to be by massive military action. Saddam was worried and expected an attack, probably by air and land, but he was not convinced that it would be immediate or overwhelming. His regime expected their neighbours to line up with the US. Saddam knew that regular army morale was poor. Real support for Saddam among the public was probably narrowly based.
C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The [US NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL] NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime’s record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.
CDS said that military planners would brief CENTCOM on 1-2 August, Rumsfeld on 3 August and Bush on 4 August.
The two broad US options were:
? (a) Generated Start. A slow build-up of 250,000 US troops, a short (72 hour) air campaign, then a move up to Baghdad from the south. Lead time of 90 days (30 days preparation plus 60 days deployment to Kuwait).
? (b) Running Start. Use forces already in theatre (3 x 6,000), continuous air campaign, initiated by an Iraqi casus belli. Total lead time of 60 days with the air campaign beginning even earlier. A hazardous option.
The US saw the UK (and Kuwait) as essential, with basing in Diego Garcia and Cyprus critical for either option. Turkey and other Gulf states were also important, but less vital. The three main options for UK involvement were:
? (i) Basing in Diego Garcia and Cyprus, plus three SF squadrons.
? (ii) As above, with maritime and air assets in addition.
? (iii) As above, plus a land contribution of up to 40,000, perhaps with a discrete role in Northern Iraq entering from Turkey, tying down two Iraqi divisions.
The Defence Secretary said that the US had already begun “spikes of activity” to put pressure on the regime. No decisions had been taken, but he thought the most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections.
The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss this with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.
The Attorney-General said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case. Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be difficult. The situation might of course change.
The Prime Minister said that it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors. Regime change and WMD were linked in the sense that it was the regime that was producing the WMD. There were different strategies for dealing with Libya and Iran. If the political context were right, people would support regime change. The two key issues were whether the military plan worked and whether we had the political strategy to give the military plan the space to work.
On the first, CDS said that we did not know yet if the US battleplan was workable. The military were continuing to ask lots of questions.
For instance, what were the consequences, if Saddam used WMD on day one, or if Baghdad did not collapse and urban warfighting began? You said that Saddam could also use his WMD on Kuwait. Or on Israel, added the Defence Secretary.
The Foreign Secretary thought the US would not go ahead with a military plan unless convinced that it was a winning strategy. On this, US and UK interests converged. But on the political strategy, there could be US/UK differences. Despite US resistance, we should explore discreetly the ultimatum. Saddam would continue to play hard-ball with the UN.
John Scarlett assessed that Saddam would allow the inspectors back in only when he thought the threat of military action was real.
The Defence Secretary said that if the Prime Minister wanted UK military involvement, he would need to decide this early. He cautioned that many in the US did not think it worth going down the ultimatum route. It would be important for the Prime Minister to set out the political context to Bush.
? (a) We should work on the assumption that the UK would take part in any military action. But we needed a fuller picture of US planning before we could take any firm decisions. CDS should tell the US military that we were considering a range of options.
? (b) The Prime Minister would revert on the question of whether funds could be spent in preparation for this operation.
? (c) CDS would send the Prime Minister full details of the proposed military campaign and possible UK contributions by the end of the week.
? (d) The Foreign Secretary would send the Prime Minister the background on the UN inspectors, and discreetly work up the ultimatum to Saddam.
He would also send the Prime Minister advice on the positions of countries in the region especially Turkey, and of the key EU member states.
? (e) John Scarlett would send the Prime Minister a full intelligence update.
? (f) We must not ignore the legal issues: the Attorney-General would consider legal advice with FCO/MOD legal advisers.
(I have written separately to commission this follow-up work.)
(Rycroft was a Downing Street foreign policy aide)