April 28, 2008

Sense Through the Smoke: Student's Views on Cannabis

Earlier this month the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs issued its
update on the classification of cannabis. The government had sought a
review of its 2004 re classification of the drug from a class B to class C. The
review was commissioned out of a concern that the strength of cannabis
people are taking is far stronger than it was four years ago. Concern is also shown by the home secretary Jacquie Smith and PM Gordon Brown, who appeare determined to tighten the laws on cannabis, but The advisory council suggested that the drug remain at its current classification. The Association of Chief Police Officers, however, have compelled the government to reverse its 2004 decision. They suggest that the drug be taken back up to class b. Downgrading cannabis sent out the wrong message that cannabis was legal and harmless. This has all been a bit of a confusion for the government, as saving police time and resources was the primary reason put forward by the Home Office for the down grading of cannabis in the first place.

As for the statistics, well, come to all sorts of conclusions. For example last year the London’s Institute of Psychiatry, estimated that at least 1/10th of the 250,000 schizophrenics in the UK could have avoided the illness if they had not used cannabis. Only this month, Keele University’s research suggested this wasn’t wholly true; there was no causal link between cannabis use and mental health problems. So with the government, police and experts all giving out mixed messages, is it possible to find our way through the smoke? I spoke to 2 students about their encounters with cannabis and other drugs and what they made of the inconsistencies. I began by asking them, if they thought the government was right to down grade cannabis four years ago…

Listen to Rithee’s report here:

- 3 comments by 0 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Di

    I am in favour of legalization coupled with education.
    I do not expect consistency from politicians on this issue – though I would naturally be appreciative of it. Unfortunately, the current status of any given drug is likely linked to its effects on health. The effects of drugs can ultimately only be assessed scientifically and, while science is consistent, it is often difficult to interpret. It’s very easy to mislead or be misled by statistics and, ideally, there should be someone trustworthy looking at the evidence and explaining its significance to us so that we can be more informed when debating the issue. I find it worrying that the students here were so willing to speculate about the effects.
    Very interesting report with lots of different points of view to be fascinated by… Let’s hope someone makes a lasting, informed and working decision one of these days.

    29 Apr 2008, 17:30

  2. James

    An interesting outlook on the issue of legal consistency. There is a small issue with a point made by the presenter; In the most recent review by a medical authority (the specifics of which I have unfortunately forgotten), it was actually decided that MDMA (Ecstasy) is among the least harmful commonly used recreational drugs; a view supported by the recent BBC documentary on the issue of the UK classification system.

    It is an unavoidable fact that the way we classify substances is entirely based on a legal model written in the 1970s. We now have a great deal more knowledge on the subject of the physiological, psychological and neurological effects of drugs. The indirect effect of their use has also, obviously, changed significantly since then; and given that social damage makes up a large part of drug legislation, it’s almost a crime in itself that we have not reconsidered our legal position.

    Back on the subject of Ecstasy, here we have probably the most socially misunderstood drug in the history of mankind. The astronomical quantity of negative “just say no” propaganda that is circulated by government initiatives, in conjunction with the “scare stories” we see in newspapers and on television, has lead average Joe to believe that it is an infeasibly dangerous chemical with a scale of risk in the same region as drugs like Methamphetamine (Crystal Meth), which, in terms of health alone, is probably one of the most dangerous commonly used drugs around. In reality, the deaths associated with Ecstasy only find their way into the media with such force and promiscuity because its user demographic extends far beyond the reach of any other Class A substance. Tom and Dick both use it, and Harry likes the idea. Society couldn’t care less if a Heroin user overdosed or a “Meth-head” was rushed to hospital – we blame the people for their stupidity. Wheras, in the case of Ecstasy, in the rare cases of fatality, we blame the drug for the misfortune of the person.
    By no means am I suggesting that MDMA is a perfectly safe drug that everyone should be using. It most certainly is not. If you don’t want to use drugs, you have made an extremely wise decision and should hold to it. I’m simply suggesting that the stigma that we as a society place on drugs is inconsistent with what we know about them.

    Please note that I am biased. I am “pro-choice”, in that I believe that it is hypocritical to place such tight restrictions on drugs that a large sector of society will inevitably seek: we are simply criminalising perfectly reasonable and upstanding citizens. I also believe that we could avoid an astonishing proportion of drug-related problems through legalisation, leading to purity regulation (and, even, prescription) and accruate, unbiased education. Doing so would also be a direct contributor to the downfall of organised crime in the UK; currently, drug legislation literally feeds serious criminals. People will always use drugs. As a people we must accept that, some day, and work towards helping those with dependance problems, not dismissing them as “filth”.

    Finally, I just wanted to point out that the opinions of the guest speakers are similar to those held by millions of drug users everywhere. It’s about time someone listened!

    30 Apr 2008, 00:13

  3. Sarah

    This is a really good interview. Drugs are bad but people should be able to make their own choices. which they actually do anyway, so the government is kinda useless. And expensive. Hmm. x

    03 May 2008, 21:22

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