Tuesday, May 6, 2008
U.K. Marijuana Panic Continues
British Prime Minister plans to stiffen pot penalties.
The national hysteria over "skunk" marijuana shows no signs of abating in Great Britain, as Prime Minister Gordon Brown is poised to overrule his advisors and reclassify cannabis as a more dangerous drug. Lost in the debate is any semblance of reasonable discussion about scientific research on marijuana.
British health authorities continue to find the basics of cannabis to be an inscrutable mystery. Some months ago, they declared that "skunk" cannabis was linked to the onset of schizophrenia. Since no one knows what, exactly, causes schizophrenia, and recent findings continue to point toward genetic causes, this was a doubly astonishing claim.
Now, continuing in the same vein of misinformation, The University College of London reports that different strains of marijuana cause different types of psychological maladies. Recently, Prime Minister Brown "publically described new strains of cannabis as 'lethal,' as if they could trigger a fatal overdose," according to an editorial in the Guardian. The Guardian went on to note that "Whitehall's own panel of experts has concluded that increased marijuana use has not been matched by a corresponding rise in mental illness."
The move to shift marijuana to Class B status from its current Class C designation has been fueled by these dubious reports. As long as British politicians continue to believe that something called "skunk" is a new and lethal derivative of marijuana, and that it causes psychosis, schizophrenia and suicide, no substantive debate on cannabis regulation can possibly take place. Colin Blakemore, a prominent professor of neuroscience at the Universities of Oxford and Warwick, tackled the issue in an article for the Guardian:
And what of the alarming stories of horrifying powerful "skunk"? Some newspapers have told us that the level of THC, the active ingredient, in street cannabis today is 20 or 30 times higher than 10 years ago. That would be rather surprising, given that THC content was 7 per cent on average in 1995. In reality, two studies, due to be published later this year, concluded that the average THC content has doubled.
Professor David Clark, a British psychologist who maintains a substance abuse information service called Wired In, writes on his blog: " I have to confess that I really cannot see what reclassifying the drug will do, other than criminalise and alienate more of our young people. It won't reduce harms that the drug can cause to some people. In saying this, I am not arguing that cannabis is safe - but nor are alcohol, tobacco and a wide range of prescription drugs which are all legal. "