Comment: Forget the hysteria. Here are the facts about 'cannabis psychosis'

Peter Reynolds: Scaremongering about cannabis ignores the facts
Peter Reynolds: Scaremongering about cannabis ignores the facts

By Peter Reynolds

Charles Walker MP, Parliament’s cheerleader for the ‘skunk scaremongers’ shot himself and his hysterical campaign in the foot this week.

He had submitted a parliamentary written question asking: "How many people under 18 years of age have been treated in NHS-funded mental health units for cannabis-induced psychosis in each of the last five years?”

The answer from Jane Ellison MP, minister of state at the Department of Health, must have gravely disappointed Mr Walker. She revealed there have been average of just over 28 ‘finished admission episodes’ for each of the past five years. That doesn’t necessarily mean 28 people as it could include the same person being admitted more than once.


Of course, each of these 28 cases is a tragedy for the people involved and nothing must distract from that but it clearly shows that in public health terms, 'cannabis psychosis' (which some senior psychiatrists don’t even believe is a genuine diagnosis) is virtually unheard of.

So much for the endless newspaper columns, the endlessly repeated ‘studies’ that never reach any conclusion and the endless moralising and deceit from those who make money from this scare story – either from providing ‘therapy’ or by fleecing money from those prepared to fund so-called science that sets out to reach a pre-determined conclusion.

Of course, not only are these cases very, very few in number but they have arisen under the present policy of prohibition when the market is in the hands of criminals. How much could we reduce this number if government took a responsible approach and regulated the market? With proper quality control, age limits, better education and harm reduction surely we could make the cannabis market safer than it is in the hands of the criminal underworld?

So this is very, very bad news for Charles Walker, for his sponsor, Mary Brett of ‘Cannabis Skunk Sense’, for Peter Hitchens, David Raynes, Sarah Graham, Theresa May and hundreds of rehab clinics, therapists and charlatans who talk up the cannabis psychosis scare story. The Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph, which systematically misrepresent and distort evidence on the subject are exposed for what they are. Even those on the reform side like Transform, who have chosen the dubious path of talking up cannabis as ‘dangerous’ in order to sell their consultancy services, are disgraced. Their credibility is destroyed. Their argument is false and it always has been.

The husband and wife team of Professor Sir Robin Murray and Dr Marta Di Fiori, have built up a family business in skunk scaremongering. Every year they release another ‘study’ which says almost exactly the same as the last one, never shows any causative effect but is relentlessly exaggerated and regurgitated for those who want to demonise cannabis and cannabis users. Their last point is always ‘more research is needed’. I wonder is there anyone stupid enough out there to continue funding this vendetta against the three million people in the UK that enjoy cannabis or use it as medicine?

Similarly in Australia, Professor Wayne Hall and his colleagues at the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre, have built their careers and made a lot of money pursuing this futile goal of proof that cannabis causes mental illness. The figures prove them all wrong. They are all self-serving propagandists and deceivers, nothing more.

These figures are more than evidence, they are facts and they prove that ‘cannabis psychosis’ is such an infinitesimally small risk, that we really need to stop wasting so much time, energy and money on it. We need to get on, legalise, regulate and start bringing the market under proper control, stop wasting money on futile law enforcement and research and start generating tax revenue and providing therapeutic and financial benefits for the whole community.

Peter Reynolds is the leader of the CLEAR: Cannabis Law Reform, campaign.

The opinions in Politics.co.uk's Comment and Analysis section are those of the author and are no reflection of the views of the website or its owners.

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