Sunday, June 12, 2011

Neo Reefer Madness: Sativex, CanSS and John Rentoul of The Independent

John Rentoul: I admit I was wrong

Cannabis Skunk Sense

Connecticut Decriminalises Cannabis

Sativex Launches in Denmark

First there was Marinol, now there's Sativex a "whole plant medicine" with a 1:1 formula of THC and CBD that continues to be approved for medical use in country after country. This week it was Denmark's turn to realise that yes, cannabis and cannabinoids are safe medicine - very safe medicine. Woohoo! And over in the US Connecticut became the fourteenth state to end criminalisation of cannabis users. Even better!

Meanwhile, in spite of the fact that a THC based medicine is becoming an approved medicine in Europe, Canada and elsewhere, Britain is in the grip of "Reefer Madness."

Murder, Insanity, Death!

Back in the bad old days of Anslinger and the racist "Reefer Madness" scares of '30s America it used to be "negroes" and Mexicans would go on a deranged killing and raping spree after smoking the deadly "marijuana." Anslinger, who had just lost the battle for alcohol prohibition had turned his attention to cannabis... lock up your daughter, the immigrants are coming and they are smoking the Devil's Weed!

Now in 21st century Britain we have  "skunk psychosis" - one puff and you're a suicidal vegetable instantly relegated to status underclass... Cannabis ruins promising young lives. There is  "skunk suicide". A sneaky toke and Martin's educational career was over. Kevin threw up the rope. Overnight Tarquin became a sullen young chav, started muttering obscenities and was later sectioned for his own good... all because of smoking "skunk"! Think of the children!

Yes, the Daily Mail Brigade are upping the anti... again...

..this time Reefer Madness has taken the form of Mary Brett of Cannabis Skunk Sense (aka CanSS - at least they are frank in acknowledging their sources of inspiration mein fuhrer), John Rentoul a poisonous little Blairite from The Independent, and Charles the Tory MP for Hertfordshire.

The cry has gone out "Save us CanSS! Save us from the scourge of skunk!" 

Milton Friedman, the eminent economist, once told Bill Bennett, Bush Snr's drug tsar,  "You are not mistaken in believing that drugs are a scourge that is devastating our society. Your mistake is failing to realise the very measures you favour are a major source of the evils you deplore."

It's a lesson the Daily Mail Brigade refuse to learn.

"Cannabis is harmful and may cause psychosis, so I will continue to support prohibition." is the new mantra they want the House of Commons to be chanting... a variation on the basic theme of "I don't like drugs so they should be banned"

The problem for John Rentoul and the idiots at Cannabis Skunk Sense is that this position is incoherent.

Even the skunk smokers can see that, and that is why 6 million of them in the UK are ignoring CanSS's bullshit and lighting up...

British pot smokers need only cast their fuddled minds back over the last ten to fifteen years to realise that prohibition has given them stronger cannabis... so the cruel stupidity of Rentoul's position (if they cared to read it) is readily apparent to them... few people in the UK today would be able to buy mild imported grass or hashish even if they wanted to, such has been the suddenness of the prohibiton powered rise of "skunk"...

Typical cannabis potency in the UK has pretty well doubled just in the last decade or so as imported hashish and grass have been replaced by new indoor grown strains of intensively bred cannabis. Cannabis is 30 times stronger since the '60s was the claim made by Rosie Boycott in 2007, while John Rentoul gave a more modest 25 times in the very same edition. Their co-conspirator Charles the Tory has just claimed "six times" in the House of Commons. Perhaps they should consult on statistics. Better still they could wake up to the fact that they are demonising skunk while singing the praises of the very policies that have led to its prevalence.

But neither Boycott, Rentoul nor Brett have the sense to twig that prohibition is pro potency --- nor do they realise that to make things worse, it also has no clear limiting effect on cannabis use. Indeed, countries with strong laws and strong enforcement seem to often have more pot smokers.

The UK and Denmark have significantly higher levels of cannabis use than nations where possession is no longer criminalised, such as Portugal, Belgium and the Netherlands.

And cannabis use grew by 8.5% worldwide from 1998 - 2008 (the UN's own figure).

Really ...if  prohibition is an intelligent compassionate response to the dangers of cannabis, then God saves us from a stupid cruel one!

Rentoul's article on his blog at The Independent concludes with this gem:  "It is a bad thing that the drugs business is in the hands of criminals. My view is that it would be a worse thing if it were legalised, and regulated or administered by the government."

...a position that can be very fairly paraphrased as "drugs are harmful, so it is best that they be produced and marketed by the mafia."

Labelling for % of THC and CBD? Consumers allowed to make an informed decision as to what they put into their own bodies? Forget it!

CanSS and the Daily Mail Brigade are here to save us from ourselves, and they are going to do it through the magical power of banning things - a fantasy in which, as Charles the Tory proclaimed on June 6th before the House of Commons, they have a resolutely unshakeable faith...

Extend the "ban it" logic to alcohol, a drug which (much as most of us love it) unlike cannabis actually has been proven to cause psychosis, namely Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, and the implication here seems to be that we should reinstate alcohol prohibition and bring back Capone.

More deluded still is Rentoul's staggering claim that the “war on drugs” is a war "that no one is actually fighting"...

There are in excess of 300,000 people behind bars in the USA alone for breaking drug laws.

I quote Jeffrey Miron, a Professor of Economics at Harvard University:

"The U.S. government spends more than $33 billion and arrests 1.5 million
people annually to enforce drug prohibition—a federal policy that has
been in effect for almost eighty years. More than 318,000 people are
currently behind bars for breaking U.S. drug laws—more than the total
number of people incarcerated for all crimes in the United Kingdom,
France, Germany, Italy, and Spain combined."

In Jan 2011, President Felipe Calderon revealed that 34,612 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico over the past four years. The vast majority of those killed are suspected gang members, killed in turf wars between rival gangs. Around two thirds of the Mexican cartels' income comes from cannabis (see Jeffrey Miron's work).

That these deaths are an indirect consequence of prohibitionist policy is not contested by a single commentator, economist or politician.

So this is the type of drug market Rentoul, CanSS and The Daily Mail Brigade support: no lawyers - dispute resolution and market competition are best conducted with the barrel a gun.

Mass incarceration and tens of thousands dead... it's a price worth paying.

After all we have to weigh all those deaths and prisoners against weightier things... among them, Rentoul's  "belief" that cannabis, I quote, "seems" to cause psychosis.

Of course, this may seem a trifle unfair --- shouldn't we respect Rentoul's and Charles the Tory's faith in the ideal of eradicating the cannabis scourge and settling for nothing less? Shouldn't we think of the children?

Prohibition is pro drugs and pro potency. It is an utterly cruel and counter-productive drugs control policy. Why? Because economic forces cannot be banned, any more than the ocean tides can... the last 80 years have proved this - again, and again, and again...

One wonders if there is a Patron Saint of Prohibition....

King Canute, perhaps?


  1. Good ol' Harry Anslinger, eh! “There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.” (= circa 1930.)

    Re:efer madness, you may be interested in this:


  2. Hi Jason - yes, read it already, good stuff ---

    you will no doubt be pleased to see this - re. race and the war on drugs

    NAACP says "end the war on drugs" July 26th

    and this

    Debunking the Myth of a Link Between Marijuana and Mental Illness, July 25th

    I plan to blog on the new March 2011 sentencing guidelines for cannabis cultivation soon, so check back sometime

    all best