Dope: The Case for and Against

Dope: The Case for and Against
Posted by FoM on October 24, 2001 at 08:06:54 PT
By Rosie Boycott and Susan Greenfield
Source: London Evening Standard 
This is a significant day for those who believe in personal freedom - and for those who believe in a stable and honest society in which the law of the land is respected, and not treated with casual disregard. I belong in both camps, which is why I have long campaigned for the complete legalisation of cannabis. David Blunkett's intention to downgrade this harmless substance from a Class B drug to a Class C drug, so that possesliession of a small amount (though still a crime, in theory punishable by a term of imprisonment) would no longer be an arrestable offence, is a welcome first step on the road to sanity. 
But even so, the Home Secretary is far from being a revolutionary. He is too cautious for my taste. As editor of The Independent on Sunday and then of the Daily Express, I made no secret of my views, and was pilloried as utterly irresponsible and unworldly by commentators who feigned posturing outrage when they should have known better. But my readers, bless them - whether or not they agreed with me - were far more realistic. They knew that our drug laws were a laughing stock and that something drastic had to be done. No doubt this is because most people these days have either smoked pot themselves or know somebody who has. They know that one whiff of the dreaded weed does not turn you into a helpless addict, far less into a raving uncontrollable lunatic. And they know that the law - as at present constituted - is an ass, a brutal and unpredictable ass. Are we really content to turn our children into a generation of criminals? Are we really happy that they should learn to scoff at the law and to disregard it? Do we really believe it is right that they should come into regular contact with professional criminals if they prefer a harmless joint to a couple of glasses of beer when they have done their homework or completed their college assignment? Sometime soon Mr Blunkett will surely have to go further and find some way of allowing people to buy cannabis from authorised dealers, much as the sale of alcohol and tobacco is regulated. For those criminals who today supply cannabis (and will continue to do so under the Blunkett reforms) are interested only in maximising sales and moving kids on to harder and more dangerous drugs from which they earn greater profits. That connection can only be broken when the sale as well as the possession of cannabis is fully legalised. The fact that so much anticannabis propaganda is such obvious nonsense undermines the other more serious messages society wishes to put across to young people. If they know from their own experience that they are told about cannabis, why should they believe their elders and betters when they are lectured about, say, the genuine dangers of tobacco smoking, or the crucial need to take the necessary precautions to avoid Aids? Then there is the idea of a victimless crime, which has always struck me as illogical and abhorrent. Critics of the Blunkett plan have to say who exactly is the victim, when a group of teenagers share a joint at an open air rock concert, or when their middle-class parents pass a joint after dinner - much as their grandparents used to pass the port. The truth is that pot harms nobody and pot smoking is the perfect example of a victimless crime. It is about the least dangerous and least addictive of the varied drugs (legal and illegal) which all societies have used to escape from harsh reality for a while. Sometimes we drink, smoke or 'abuse' drugs to calm ourselves, sometimes to stimulate ourselves, sometimes to celebrate victory, sometimes to mourn defeat or death. And sometimes, let us not be afraid to admit it, we use drugs - be they booze, cigarettes or 'illegal substances' - simply for fun, because it feels good. I am an alcoholic and I know from bitter experience that booze is - for a good number of people including me - a savage and highly addictive substance which destroys talent, ambition and ultimately lives. You can drink yourself to death, and many people do. Alcohol is also behind the majority of cases of domestic violence and it fuels the causal thuggery we see on so many High Streets when the pubs and clubs close. The yobs who run amok on a Saturday night in so many provincial towns and cities are not drunk on cannabis. I have an 18-year-old daughter. I would far rather she ran into a group of young men who had been smoking dope all evening rather than a group who were smashed out of their skulls on Special Brew. The latter might well assault her. The former would perhaps tease her, laugh at her helplessly or even invite her to share their joint. As for cigarettes - the lawful kind, from which the Exchequer makes a fortune in taxes and duty - they kill perhaps 120,000 people in this country each year. In contrast, nobody has ever died from taking too much cannabis. Note: This is the first step on the road to sanity.Related Article: 'Pot Smokers are Literally Blowing Their Minds' By Susan Greenfield The announcement by the Government that possession of cannabis is no longer to be an arrestable offence signals a revolution in state policy on drugs. Whatever Home Secretary David Blunkett claimed yesterday, so-called soft drugs have been effectively decriminalised. How can it be otherwise if, in practice, no action will be taken against cannabis users? And I fear that this move could have disturbing consequences for our society, particularly on young people who will now be given the message that they need not worry about substance misuse. Those who doubt that we will suffer such outcomes should look at the example of Holland, which has become the drugs capital of Europe since the decriminalisation of cannabis there in 1976. Between 1988 and 1997, there was a 50pc increase in heroin addiction, while the level of cocaine use by Dutch 14-16 year olds is the highest in Europe. 'Our liberal drugs policy has been a failure, but its advocates are so rooted in their conviction that they cannot bring themselves to admit it,' says Dr Franz Koopman, a leading drugs rehabilitation specialist in Holland. A fundamental fallacy lies at the heart of the calls to decriminalise cannabis. This is the belief that the drug is essentially harmless. As a neuroscientist, I have been convinced by in-depth research that this is untrue. In fact, there is a wealth of evidence to show that cannabis may be dangerous, causing permanent long-term damage to the brain and undermining the mental health of users. It is often claimed, for instance, that a joint is no more harmful than an alcoholic drink. But, as with many claims from liberal campaigners, this is misleading. In reality, cannabis is far more potent and therefore risky. About 7,000 milligrams of alcohol are needed to achieve the mind-altering feeling of relaxation, whereas for cannabis, the figure is just 0.3 milligrams, and the effect lasts much longer. A recent study made on airline pilots showed that cannabis was still influencing the brain up to 50 hours after a single joint was smoked. So, whether it be on the road or in the sky, the drug user can be an ever bigger menace than the drinker. Advocates of liberalism often point to the supposed medical benefits of cannabis use, especially in reducing pain. At best, the evidence is anecdotal, but, even if this were the case, it surely testifies to the enormous power of the drug. If it can have such a physical impact on the central nervous system and the brain, it cannot possibly be the mild, harmless substance portrayed by its supporters. There is a world of difference between being prescribed a medicine and taking a drug of abuse on the street. Just because opiates such as heroin or morphine are given to combat pain does not mean that they should be taken simply for pleasure. Because the brain is the most sensitive organ in the body, it is hardly a surprise that its delicate balance of chemicals and electrical impulses can be upset by the introduction of a powerful drug. Those who take cannabis are reconfiguring the network of subtle connections in the brain; in effect they quite literally are 'blowing their minds'. Research shows that such drug use leads to memory loss, impairment of attention, and sudden dark changes of mood into paranoia, anxiety and panic. It may even trigger schizophrenia. It seems increasingly likely that these effects can be longterm and irreversible. One recent scientific paper demonstrated that those who had abstained from cannabis, after a previous history of use, were still suffering from such psychological impairments. Those who advocate a liberal drugs policy always dispute such findings, complaining that the dosages of cannabis used in this kind of research are too large. But then, they never actually explain what constitutes a 'safe' dose. That may be because there is no such thing. In the admittedly artificial climate of a laboratory, even a dose comparable to just one joint can kill about 50 pc of neurons in the hippocampus - the area of the brain related to memory - within just six days. Equally worrying is the evidence which demonstrates that cannabis is addictive. Recent studies show that about ten pc of cannabis users want to cut down, but are having problems in doing so, while a paper in 1998 reported that up to 15 pc of users are now dependents. Dr Brian Wells, a rehabilitation expert, has warned: 'For the first time, I'm beginning to see something that resembles the withdrawal symptoms produced by hard drugs in heavy cannabis users.' My concern goes even further. It is that, through decriminalisation, we will encourage the development of a society where millions of young people are demotivated, thinking about only their next fix instead of looking at broader horizons, regarding drugs as the solution to all their problems. A world where, in the words of the Dutch Health Ministry, we have a generation who 'crawl out of bed in the morning, go grab a joint, smoke another joint and don't know what to do with their lives'. We should heed those words before going any further.  Susan Greenfield is Professor of Pharmacology at Oxford University, director of the Royal Institute of Pharmacology at Oxford University, and the director of the Royal Institute. Source: London Evening Standard (UK)Author: Rosie Boycott and Susan GreenfieldPublished: October 24, 2001Copyright: 2001 Associated Newspapers Ltd.Contact: letters Articles:Cannabis Laws Eased in Drug Policy Shakeup Takes Relaxed View of Cannabis Proposal is Widely Welcomed 
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Comment #2 posted by E_Johnson on October 24, 2001 at 11:33:48 PT
Sorry delayed reaction
Greenfield is so annoying but I guess it's not worth shooting at a down target.
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Comment #1 posted by E_Johnson on October 24, 2001 at 11:31:26 PT
How can such an idiot make a career in medicine?
She can't do research! She's touting things that have been debunked in peer reviewed science journals, and she's either not intellegent enough or does not have sufficient professional ethics or moral integrity to be bothered by the task of looking up the latest research on a subject before blathering on about it in the press.If marijuana made people demotivated, we wouldn't even have a legalization movement.Well, I have nothing but pity for her, because with her head shoved so far up her butt, she's living in a very dark, cramped and smelly place, and that can't be fun
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