Political posturing on cannabis must end
Mike Morgan-Giles, CEO, Cannabis Industry Council.
The recently published opinion column in the Daily Mail by David Sidwick (‘Cannabis is now as dangerous as heroin and crack. A liberal approach is not progress – it’s madness’) is a scientifically and medically misguided piece of political posturing.
Mr Sidwick’s position is broadly that cannabis causes psychosis, as well as some alleged other issues. However, it is the high THC ‘street’ cannabis which causes psychosis in a handful of people – it is extremely rare in the cases of those medically using it.
You would have to stop thousands of men and women from smoking cannabis to prevent one case of psychosis, according to research. So we have to put this into perspective – cannabis is not a dangerous drug.
Treating medical conditions
Mr Sidwick claims that studies have shown cannabis can be linked to cancer and birth defects. There was indeed a recent piece of ‘research’ which supported these claims. However, it was debunked shortly after in the same journal, with the statistics used shown to be incorrect.
There is no evidence at all the cannabis causes cancer, quite the opposite. In fact, most cannabinoids tested which have been found in the plant are ‘anti-cancer’.
Over one million people in the UK use cannabis each year, and there is clear evidence of how it has changed the lives of those with medical conditions for the better. This includes children, the long-term sick, and the elderly.
Mr Sidwick’s own website notes that he has a long background working in the pharmaceutical industry. Ironically, he says his business facilitated the education of consultants on ‘chronic pain, epilepsy, dementia and multiple sclerosis’ – all illnesses which cannabis can help treat. You have to wonder why he appears to be unaware of this.
Voters favour a liberal approach
Furthermore, Mr Sidwick is completely out of step with the public – and therefore his own constituents in Dorset – on this matter.
Recent polling by YouGov shows that twice as many voters want a more liberal approach to cannabis than a tougher one. 42% of voters favour a more liberal approach, while just 23% say it should be tougher. The remainder either say the laws are about right, or they don’t know.
There is no evidence that tougher sentencing reduces drug use, and indeed it largely serves to criminalise some of the most marginalised in society. The priority when devising rules around substance usage must be harm reduction, based on scientific and medical evidence.
Indeed, the direction of travel in other countries is to shift their approach to a focus on cannabis as a medicine. Earlier this month, US President Joe Biden announced a pardon of those convicted of cannabis possession, as well as seeking to reclassify it into a lower harm category.
Furthermore, the CBD, hemp and prescription cannabis industry offers significant opportunities to boost UK exports, create jobs, and bring in foreign investment. The cannabis industry can therefore play an important role in delivering economic growth.
We welcome the confirmation from the Prime Minister that there are no plans to increase the classification of cannabis. Rather than political posturing on cannabis to look ‘tough on drugs’, the focus should be on the significant medical, economic and environmental benefits of the plant.
An extract of the above was published in the Daily Mail on 13/10/22