Pubdate: Thu, 08 May 2003
Source: Evening News (UK)
Copyright: 2003 Archant Regional
Author: Alun Buffry
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


In her attempt to justify harsher laws against cannabis, June Rose makes 
several glaring errors ("The case for and against legalising cannabis", 
Evening News, April 28).

Ms Rose says "The cannabis plant .. was introduced to Britain in the 20th 

In Culpeper's Complete Herbal of 1826, he writes about cannabis (although 
he calls it by its Englaish name 'hemp'): "It is so common a plant, and so 
well known by almost every inhabitant of the kingdom, that a description of 
it would be altogether superfluous."

He goes on to list several of the medical uses.   In fact, Queen Victoria 
supposedly used the plant to ease the pain of menstruation, under the 
guidance of her physician.

June Rose also wrote that tests had revealed that "cannabis could cause a 
four-fold increase in schizophrenia and depression".

This is a misinterpretation of the results of those tests.   The figures in 
this study which make the claim that cannabis causes mental illness are the 
same as could be expected in a normal population. i.e. one to two per cent.

Home Office figures suggest that out of an estimated 4.5 million users 
(probably too low), 566 people were admitted to hospital with mental 
problems arising after consumption of cannabis and all but two recovered 
after the cannabis had worn off.  The other 2 recovered later.  That's 
about 1 in 9000 users.

That is hardly reason to punish either those people or the other users, 
provided that they harm nobody.

On the other hand, there have been over 1 million cannabis convictions over 
the last 30 years and that excludes cautions.  Imagine the effect that has 
on the mind of the accused who has no victim to speak against him (or her).

In the words of the eminent The Kaiser Permanente study, Marijuana Use and 
Mortality" April 1997 American Journal of Public Health:  "Relatively few 
adverse clinical effects from the chronic use of marijuana have been 
documented in humans.

"However, the criminalization of marijuana use may itself be a health 
hazard, since it may expose the users to violence and criminal activity."

It is time for a change of attitude over cannabis.

It may be, for some people, a health question but it ought not to be a 
matter for law.  It is time to make a space for cannabis users as we have 
done for drinkers, and start including them in society instead of 
alienating them.

Alun Buffry
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