January 09, 2006
Oh dear, another of Mr Blair's little mistakes.
Our Illustrious Leader and his team of bully-boy ex-hippies have had the embarrassing experience - again - of having to confront the fact that they have seriously misled the public. This time the consequences may not be immediately apparent, but rest assured these will come home to bite, savagely.
The previous Home Secretary, against all advice but his "Special Advisers" and certain Chief Constables and a Commissioner of the countries, once, model police force, downgraded cannabis (marijuana, ganja, dagga or grass) from a Category B drug, possession of which could land you a nice spell "at Her Majesty's Pleasure", to a Category C. The argument was that this would reduce its appeal to the younger potential user and thus its consumption, and it would allow the police to focus on the harder drugs such as Cocaine, Heroin, Crack Cocaine and so on. A certain "Commander" of the worst affected area made it a policy statement even before it was legal - with the full backing of his Commissioner and all the Labour politicians - to "lay off cannabis" and focus on "encouraging" people not to use it.
Medics, especially those dealing with psychiatric ailments, were horrified! And rightly so, there is a huge amount of evidence which shows that far from being "harmless" the cannabinoids in the drug cause permanent changes in the brain. Even better there is a direct link between cannabis use and schizophrenia in young men and women. But it doesn't stop there either, anyone who has ever smoked cannabis is far more likely to suffer Clinical Depression than someone who has not. This is not "new" evidence as Mr Clark, the current Home Secretary is trying to present it, this evidence has been around since the 1950's!
Arguments that the cannabis smoked by young people today is "not as potent" and "more refined" are purest garbage. What is on the streets today is a genetically enhanced version of the most powerful strain available in Africa - and this stuff is really potent! But, even worse is the fact that there is now evidence that cannabis is a "gateway" drug. The evidence is slowly emerging (no one was really prepared to admit this before, but the evidence was there then!) that drug dependency almost invariably begins with cannabis use.
And the usage has not reduced as Mr Blunket claimed it would - it has soared!
When taken with the fact that almost every five pound note in circulation in London for more than a few days will give a positive result when tested for cocaine and you begin to see a truly alarming picture emerging. Drug usage is rising and rising fast, a fact born out by a newspaper reporter who used a commercially available test kit to take swabs in toilets, pubs and clubs across the capital - and 90% gave a positive result! Going soft on drug use has not solved the problem it has exacerbated it, something the Dutch are now admitting and having to try to reverse the liberalisation of laws on cannabis use!
Mr Clark's statement earlier this week that "they may have misled the public on cannabis in the light of the medical evidence now available to them" is disingenuous to say the very least, in fact its a blatant lie. The evidence was there all the time; they were presented with it when they first mooted changing the law, but, in their usual arrogant fashion brushed it aside. Now they are confronted with the reality they have a problem.
I am not so uncharitable as one of my colleagues who thinks that the original motive for attempting to legalise its use had more to do with "multiculturalism" and "granting freedom to the Rasta Brotherhood" of their "religious" use of "ganja" than common sense. I think it was just plain ignorance outweighed by complete arrogance.
Well, as Stan Laurel used to say to his friend; "here's another nice mess you've gotten us into!" The question Mr Blair and Mr Clark, is; "how do you propose to get us out of it?"
Answers in public please and in plain English, starting with "We have caused untold damage to the British Nation by our arrogant stupidity ...."
Posted by The Gray Monk at January 9, 2006 09:19 PM
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I'm afraid that it's time for both politicians and the public to get their heads out of the sand. The use of cannabis is so widespread that any attempts to further criminalise its use will be completely futile! I believe that we are now trying to adopt the same stance with such drug use as that which was used during prohibition (of alcohol). Society realised then that it would not go away, and instead chose to accept its use with appropriate safeguards (licensing).
Now, however, we have the government tinkering about with the problem (again). Know this - by re-classifying cannabis to a class 'B' drug again will not reduce its consumption , nor change culture or attitudes one jot! It's simply political posturing: ''Oh, look - we're doing something about it''!
The focus has been on the harmful effects on the young, and rightly so. What about the effects of alcohol? I would argue that they are as bad, if not worse; but to focus on that would expose the hippocracy of allowing one harmful drug to be socially acceptable, whilst proscribing another; and raking in loads of tax in the process! As I said, we are burying our heads in the sand, and we need to look at this from a different angle.
Posted by: Slim Jim at January 9, 2006 11:36 AM
Slimjim I find myself in sympathy with some of what you say regarding alcohol, but I would add tobacco to the list. However, I disagree on the point that marijuana (or whatever else you call it!) is on the same level of harmfulness as alcohol. Alcohol does not cause permanent damage or changes to the users brain from a single dose - unless that single dose is on the scale of being almost lethal to begin with.
The problem with the cannabis on sale today is that it is a genetically enhanced version which has no "safe" single dose limits. Especially for young people. Like you, I do believe that this is not a problem that will go away with further tinkering with the law - it needs some serious action which will need to include a complete and radical change of cultural mindsets which find drug abuse acceptable in cafe society.
Drug usage needs, once again to become a "pariah" sport - and the penalties for supplying in any quantity have to be made really meaningful and very painful!
Posted by: The Gray Monk at January 9, 2006 12:35 PM
'Alcohol does not cause permanent damage or changes to the user's brain from a single dose' - I'm sorry, I had to read that twice! Try telling that to the legions of battered women or the families of victims of drink-driving (cause? Alcohol!). With respect, dear Monk, I think you have fallen into the same trap as many people have regarding the effects of cannabis. It tends to have a calming effect (yeah, man!), but can be a problem if mixed with other drugs. Any drugs cocktail can be potentially dangerous. The fact is that there has not been enough research about the use of cannabis, and we only ever seem to hear about the negative consequences. Don't forget that the active constituent (tetrahydrocannabinol - THC) has been proven to relieve the effects of MS and other diseases. Perhaps if our MPs were given liberal doses of the stuff, the governance of this country would improve!
Posted by: Slim Jim at January 9, 2006 01:41 PM
It would be interesting to know the real effect of the 'Lambeth Experiment' you mention. Did it really encourage more cannabis use? Or did it simply bring out into the open those people who previously carried out their habit out of sight? I honestly believe that the motives behind this policy were pragmatic - it's something that won't go away no matter how much it is re-classified or criminalised. Perhaps the police did have more time to do things like catch real criminals. Or fill out more paperwork, or lecture people for having an opinion that goes against the PC grain (that's politically correct, not Police Constable!).
Posted by: Slim Jim at January 9, 2006 01:52 PM
Slimjim, I doubt very much that we will solve this between us and pointing to alcohol or any other "drug" which is "legal", and arguing that accepting cannabis or cocaine is in use and giving it the same status, will not solve the problem either. We need an informed, thoroughly researched solution based on a complete understanding of the full impact of the drug on the human barin and system.
The drug users now being found in the Lambeth experiment suggest that downgrading the drug has created the impression among many younger people that using it now carries no penalties at all - and the "medical user" case is far from proven. In fact the overriding impression gained from the data thus far collected is that the effects experienced by such users are "placebo" effects and have no real medical benefit.
I think the jury is going to stay out on this one for some time, but, as usual, the politicians and civil servants have gone for an easy solution to a very complex problem - and got it wrong in spades!
Posted by: The Gray Monk at January 9, 2006 04:53 PM