Source: Reader's Digest (UK)
Copyright: 1998 Reader's Digest Association, Inc.
Pubdate: Dec 1998


In our September issue, writer David Moller attacked the campaign to
legalize cannabis and set about dispelling the myths often used to bolster
the argument for a relaxation of the law.

"Cannabis: the Truth" provoked a strong response, both from correspondents
who agreed with our article and from those who challenged its tough stance.
In particular, Reader's Digest was bombarded with more than 100 e-mails
after a North America pro- cannabis group posted our article on its website
and urged its followers to write to us.

Typically, Jerry Epstein of Houston, Texas, says, "In many years of
reviewing the literature on drugs, 'Cannabis: the Truth' was one of the
worst I have ever encountered. From start to finish it was biased and
inaccurate," while Alan Randell from Victoria, British Columbia, asserts
that "free adults have the right to ingest any substance, whether or not it
is harmful".

Decriminalizing cannabis could benefit the whole of society, argues British
reader Mark Breingan from Glasgow. "Government statistics show that as much
as 8.5 per cent of the population use cannabis regularly. If it were
legalized and taxed at the same rate as cigarettes, the Government might
net as much as UKP3,500 million - money that could be used to fight hard
drugs like heroin. At present, all the money goes into the pockets of

Many of you, however, are utterly convinced that the laws on cannabis
should never be relaxed. Writes Louise Heaton of Carlisle: "My brother died
from lung cancer caused by smoking. If ordinary cigarettes can destroy a
life, stronger drugs must potentially be more harmful. Life is too short to
squander, yet young people are under tremendous pressure to smoke. The law
must be more, not less, harsh, to discourage children from smoking drugs."

Says one reader from Glasgow, who asked not to be named,: "My family knows
only too well how dangerous cannabis is. Last year my 20-year-old son had
to be committed to the secure unit of the local psychiatric hospital,
suffering from schizophrenia. He admitted he had smoked cannabis since he
was 14. During this time he maintained that cannabis did no harm and wasn't
addictive. He now believes it contributed to his illness.

Joan Beadle of Bournemouth has an even more tragic tale to tell. "When my
son started using cannabis at the age of 22, I was totally ignorant of the
devastation it would cause. Like so many others, I believed that cannabis
was harmless, and my son, a university student, was just going through a

"For the last two years of his life, he suffered from a severe mental
illness, culminating in his suicide at the age of 25. His doctor told me:
'If he had never taken cannabis this would probably never have happened.'"

Lisa Kelly from Blackpool has also seen the effects of cannabis at close
quarters. "I once dated someone who used it all day, every day. I found
myself unable to get to know this man because the cannabis had completely
doped him up. When you talk to a person on drugs, you are talking to the
drug, not the person.

Some of you maintain that cannabis can hardly be called a dangerous drug
when compared with drink. "I work for an alcohol agency as a counsellor and
have seen the devastation caused to whole families by the abuse of
alcohol," Joan Lewis of Cardiff tells us. "I ask two questions: How many
people died from smoking cannabis last year? How many dies from
alcohol-related illness?"

Several of you believe that cannabis has pain-relieving qualities and
medicinal for diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Aids and Parkinson's
disease. "Since 1992 I have successfully used marijuana to treat severe
pain caused by a spinal injury," says Sue Byrd from Cave Junction, Oregon.
"Unfortunately, my husband was sent to jail for giving it to me."

Others are sceptical. Margaret Geddes from south London is a nurse who
suffers from multiple sclerosis. "I have been put under pressure by my
family to try the 'healing properties' of the drug," she writes. "I have
not succumbed, as I believe cannabis is addictive and dangerous." She is
not swayed by a relative who is a regular cannabis user. "She doesn't think
it is harmful in any way. I can't believe that when I hear her incoherent
language and see her glazed eyes and poor gait whenever she is 'stoned'."

Daniel McInnes of Southampton draws on his own unhappy experience of
cannabis when warning his seven-year-old daughter not to try drugs. "After
30 years, I still vividly remember the awful feeling of depression and
sickness. In retrospect, I wonder why I put myself through it. One thing,
though: it made me decide to give up the dreaded weed - tobacco - for good!"

Thank you for writing. 
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Checked-by: Mike Gogulski