Pubdate: Sun, 25 Aug 2002
Source: Observer, The (UK)
Copyright: 2002 The Observer
Authors:  Rev Sue Nightingale, Alexander Kasterine PhD, Robert Sharpe, Dr
Andrew Wilski, Dr Daniel O'Toole


As the mother of a young man whose mental health has been severely damaged 
by smoking too much cannabis, it was good to have some facts (Comment, last 
week) I watch a talented young man who has smoked pot for some years, 
struggle to remember names, the days of the week and to distinguish between 
his private world and that of those around him. He has had to suspend his 
university studies.  He believes that taking olanzapine, a new drug which 
has helped him considerably, will reduce his creativity.  Taking pot on the 
other hand, he thinks, will improve it.  Aldous Huxley and Timothy Leary 
have a lot to answer to.

Rev Sue Nightingale
Sheriff Hutton Yorks

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Professor Greenfield is right to seriously question health effects of 
cannabis use.  However, her argument against the drug's gradual 
decriminalisation is far from convincing.  Prohibition of drugs in general 
has made drug production and supply into one of the largest trades in the 
world, the profits of which are almost wholly enjoyed by criminal gangs. 
The socio-economic effect of prohibition are well documented. It is not for 
one citizen to make moral judgment about other people's lifestyles which do 
not cause them any harm (unless you include passive smoking in the 
equation). Rather, society can leave recreational activities to their wont 
and, for addicts, provide the appropriate counselling and medical 
treatment, just as with any other sickness.

Alexander Kasterine PhD

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Susan Greenfield is confused if she thinks the principal argument for 
cannabis law reform is that the plant is relatively harmless. 
Decriminalisation acknowledges the social reality of cannabis use and frees 
users from the stigma of life-shattering criminal records. What is really 
need is a regulated market with age controls.  Separating the hard and soft 
drug markets is critical.  Given that cannabis is arguably safer than legal 
alcohol - the plant has never been shown to cause an overdose death - it 
makes no sense to waste tax revenue on failed policies that finance 
organised crime and facilitate the use of hard drugs.

Robert Sharpe
Programme officer Drug Policy Alliance
Washington DC

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Anyone sensible should take seriously Professor Greenfield's warnings about 
cannabis.  After 30 years working as a psychiatrist I am convinced that 
cannabis is a most dangerous illegal drug and it is impossible to predict 
who will experience one or more of its psychopathological effects or when, 
namely depression, loss of motivation to get on with life, psychosis and 
aggressiveness.  The young, at least at the back of their minds, must be 
aware of the dangers as one of the names they have given to cannabis is 'shit'.

Dr Andrew Wilski
Consultant psychiatrist Pembury Hospital
Tunbridge Wells

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For Susan Greenfield to state that marijuana usage alters the connections 
between neurons is a little ingenious.  As a neuroscientist Dr Greenfield 
is, I'm sure, aware that just about anything can effect these connections. 
and is she suggesting since marijuana cause laziness, it should therefore 
be illegal?  Is being lazy a crime now? I'm sure we agree that research in 
this area is sadly lacking.

Dr Daniel O'Toole
Dept of Pharmacology, UCD Dublin
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