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Thursday, 23 June 2011

Tim Wilkinson v Peter Hitchens on Cannabis and the Law - Part 1

These are my opening remarks in a debate on the legal status of recreational cannabis, agreed with Peter Hitchens, who will respond as time permits.

Neither of us is in favour of the status quo. I support full legalisation and regulation; he - I hope this is a fair characterisation - supports harsher penalties and stringent enforcement aimed at near-eradication of recreational cannabis use.

My remarks are intended as a starting point for debate - I've drawn on three of Hitchens's blog posts and addressed a variety of points (his remarks, taken from the specified blog post in each case, are in bold), without pretending to present a comprehensive manifesto for cannabis legalisation.

My starting point is that we should presume that behaviours should be legal, and then ask - are there good reasons to make this behaviour a criminal offence? My answer is no. Ordinary cannabis users derive great enjoyment and – yes – pleasure from their indulgence in the weed. Many report taking it in modest quantities and find that it aids relaxation, enhances their appreciation of food, music, art and sex, and even stimulates creativity. To deny these benefits by more effective prohibition would involve far more oppressive measures, for the sake of preventing abusive overindulgence and the risk of cancer which accompanies smoking (though not as far as I know ingestion or inhalation of vapour). Those risks could be adequately mitigated, or in the case of the cancer risk, properly and – one might hope - honestly  publicised, under legalisation and regulation.

Overblown claims about the dangers are rightly seen as ridiculous by those who know anything about it, which makes officialdom look foolish and means that even accurate information is likely to be disregarded. Legal regulated cannabis would be of known strength and free from such very harmful adulterants as wax, petrol, even plastic, which can be found in poor-quality illegal hashish. The current system already exposes users to criminal sanctions and means they must become involved at the margins of the criminal world to get hold of it, with the concomitant aversion to police and contempt for the law.

People need to be treated like adults, rather than infantilised by what some might refer to as the nanny state. Danger may be a reason for regulation, but with few exceptions like weapons, not for criminal sanctions on behaviour which need not be dangerous, and specifically not dangerous to others.

http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2011/03/i-was-wrong-on-cigarettes-but-believe-me-im-right-on-cannabis-.html
The ban on displaying cigarettes in shops will cause fewer people to smoke, as all the other measures have since the first health warning appeared on the first packet. And in time this strange, self-destructive habit, which is actually very new and only really invaded the civilised world during two disastrous wars, will be banished to the margins of life.

But this is not prohibition – it is regulation. A legalised cannabis would surely face the same – or stronger – restrictions. And that would, on the parallel used here, lead to its use being 'banished to the margins of life'. Prohibition – especially the thoroughgoing, stamp-it-out prohibition that is apparently required, is a very different matter, with criminal records, prison sentences (which impact on family of course) and a vastly expanded police operation.

Then we will have proof prohibition does sometimes work, if it is intelligently and persistently imposed. And the stupid, fashionable claim that there is no point in applying the laws against that sinister poison, cannabis, will be shown up for what it is – selfish, dangerous tripe. Where we can save people from destroying themselves, we must do so.

We will not have such proof, since this is not prohibition, and is also following rather than leading public attitudes (quite apart from other confounding factors which mean this is nothing like a controlled experiment).

http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2011/03/in-defence-of-prohibition-and-other-matters.html
In the case of cannabis and other illegal drugs, it is still quite possible, through enforcement, to discourage all but the most determined from taking up the use of drugs which are not part of our culture and which are widely (and justly) viewed with suspicion. For that, possession must remain an offence and be effectively prosecuted.
By the way,  I really do hope those posting here who continue to deny the possibility of a link between cannabis and mental illness will soon grow up and start acting responsibly. Don't they realise that some young person, acting on their complacent, ill-informed  advice, might end up needlessly in a locked ward?  And it will be their fault. Can they really not face the infinitesimally small risk of prosecution, and the still smaller one of actual punishment, as the price of their nasty pleasure?  In that case, are they really the bold revolutionaries they imagine themselves to be? Must they sacrifice others for it? And how long will they continue to expect that the rest of us will take their insistence that 'it never did me any harm' at face value? As I've pointed out before, they're not the ones to say. The self-regard of these people is limitless, and is perhaps a sign of the deeper damage done by this drug even to those who appear superficially to be unharmed by it.

I can’t agree with this: the reason given for extending much harsher penalties to a substantial proportion of the population is that cannabis is 'not part of the culture' and 'widely (and justly) viewed with suspicion'. The justice of the suspicion is treated as an afterthought, despite being the important point.
If cannabis use is so harmful that we must attempt to stamp it out by the use of harsh penalties and vastly expanded detection efforts, rather than bringing it under regulatory control by legalisation, one would expect to be able to find good evidence of such extreme harmfulness (assuming that we are willing to accept that extreme social engineering should be brought to bear in any case). So where is this evidence? There actually doesn't seem to be any worth the name.

There is a burgeoning industry of producing studies that aim to find a link between cannabis and diagnoses of psychotic conditions, and of publishing those which do purport to find some evidence of such a link. But almost every such study includes a caveat stating that it has not been possible to establish a causal link from cannabis use to psychosis. The fact that those diagnosed with mental illness are much more likely to smoke tobacco, more likely to smoke cannabis and more likely to drink than the general population is not as far as I know in doubt among mental health professionals, and is generally regarded as a form of attempted self-medication. But of course there are no studies being done into the effects of alcohol or tobacco on psychosis, because this hasn't been rendered salient by the talking points of the pro-alcohol and other interest groups.

The fact that schizophrenia tends to emerge at around the age of twenty in the population at large, and that most people who start smoking cannabis do so in their late teens provides a ready source of bad statistics. Perhaps the most important kind of bad evidence adduced in support of this thesis is anecdote, often accepted by the general public because it is vivid and emotive and may come from a trustworthy individual who is not to be suspected of lying. But first, there a crashingly obvious selection bias here (as in the publication criteria for 'reefer madness' studies) - parents are not queueing up to testify that their offspring smoke a fair bit of cannabis without ill-effect, and if any were, their accounts would not be considered newsworthy. And second, there is a more personal source of bias - cannabis provides a handy exogenous explanation for a variety of ill-effects, from truancy to chronic paranoid schizophrenia.

http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2009/11/free-to-be-slaves-the-real-point-of-the-drugs-debate.html
The real division between me and the druggies - who can't see it because the concept that anything *they* do might be wrong is foreign to them - is this: I contend that it is morally wrong to stupefy yourself, and morally wrong to damage yourself or take a conscious risk of damaging yourself, with the aim of getting physical pleasure...in a period of moral weakness, relativism and uncertainty, such as we now live in, the law must intervene where personal self-restraint has failed, or the weak and gullible will suffer at the hands of the strong and greedy.

Stupefaction: that it is morally wrong does not of course entail that it should be subject to criminal sanction. The hoary example of adultery will do for one. Further, the claim that it is morally wrong in itself – rather than when done in some specifically irresponsible way such as when driving or in charge of children - is a hard one to justify. I confess to not really knowing where to start in rebutting thus argument – it just seems obvious to me that this isn’t the case, and that's not going to convince anyone who disagrees with me. I suppose I would say the burden of proof, as with regard to the need for prohibition, lies on those who make the claim.

But certainly Peter Geach – an eminent philosopher who has examined the issue in depth from a traditionalist, Christian perspective - concludes in The Virtues that such a case can't be made out – a view shared by his wife Elizabeth Anscombe:

p133:
If drinking alcohol is wrong, the reason is not that it makes you less alert than you might possibly be, but that makes you less alert than you then and there ought to be; and the degree to which you ought to be alert varies very much… a man safe tucked up in bed has no duty for even the lowest degree of alertness, for he could lawfully just go to sleep. There are mediate cases, into the casuistry of which I will not enter.
If we may for the moment abstract from the question whether the law-breaking that may be involved is morally objectionable, then we ought, I think, to judge about cannabis indica much as we judge about alcohol…

p134:
I have only considered the relaxation of the intellect from the height of attentiveness; a height, let me repeat, that we have no obligation to try to maintain.

(I should add here that Geach slightly obfuscates his first formulation of the principle that drinking in bed is acceptable by making it conditional on the aim of self-healing by consumption of hot toddy – but he makes it clear that there is no obligation to remain fully alert. In eth section that follows he makes a curt and I think inadequate argument against 'blowing one's mind' with hallucinogenics, but that need not really concern us.)

Conscious risk: I would dispute the degree of risk, though of course for those who smoke cannabis rather than ingesting it or using a vaporiser there is a risk similar to that of smoking tobacco. But I  would simply say that this seems a highly paternalistic doctrine,  and recalling that the discussion is of imposing harsh penalties on users, it seems to grant unacceptable power to the state to regulate private conduct, by means of a 'cure' that would impose severe penalties and intrusive policing so as to be worse than the 'disease'.

Obviously this prohibition doesn't apply to pain-killers or anaesthetics properly used, since these do not have this trivial aim.

This is to rest a good deal of weight on one's assessment of what is a trivial aim – by this standard, who is to say that bungee jumping, hang-gliding, driving through country roads, watching television, playing scrabble do not have a trivial aim and merit prohibition? Are we really going to legislate this kind of question?

It does apply to people who smoke tobacco (on the wilful self-damage argument), hence my support for legal restrictions on its sale and use.

But not stamping it out by a comprehensive prohibition campaign.

It applies to some, but in my view not to all, drinking of alcohol. The distinctions here (unlike with cannabis) are usually a matter of quantity, so I support laws limiting the sale of alcohol and taxes and pricing policies intended to discourage public drunkenness, and acts of violence committed when drunk.

But alcohol is just as much a matter of quantity as cannabis. And again, alcohol gets regulation and laws directly addressing its ill-effects, while cannabis is to be eradicated if at all possible.

The rank injustice of criminalising weed-smokers while pubcos are allowed to churn out alcopops is notable. And the laws which regulate alcohol use are not notably successful in moderating its ill effects – effects which are absent in the case of cannabis. You don't get the A&Es full of dope-smokers at the weekends: you don't have dope-smokers crowding the city centres fighting and swearing and smashing the place up. You don't have wife beating-cannabis-smoker syndrome. You don't have people traumatising their children by being visibly psychotically drunk when they smoke dope.

It's worth mentioning too that cannabis is a competitor for alcohol as a way to spend the night - and to a large degree the later hours of the night out - which is much less damaging to the individual than heavy drinking and makes people more considerate and much less aggressive than a drunk while they're on it.

I also support the teaching as truth of the Christian religion, which specifically counsels moderation in drinking and by implication opposes the stupefaction provided by the illegal narcotics.
...
A law which failed to distinguish between the person who drank a couple of glasses of wine or beer with a meal, and the person who consumed several pints of strong lager followed by large quantities of vodka would be a silly law, because it treated wholly different actions as the same.
Whereas anyone who smokes dope or takes cocaine or heroin 'at all' is in the same category.

Again, this is incorrect.

Drugged, zonked, stupefied, self-deludingly euphoric and in some cases hallucinating. That's why they take these things, for heaven's sake.

See my introduction for an alternative – and of course I would say much more accurate – view.
...
Drunks know they are drunk. Dope-smokers often don't know that they are stoned, or how stoned they are, or that they are talking or writing gibberish.

Again, they do know they are stoned, and how stoned they are – and of course drinking alcohol has been known to make people talk nonsense, often aggressive nonsense – and this effect does not necessarily require a very heavy dose. But so what if people talk a bit of nonsense when they are having a smoke?
...
Of course the pro-legalisers have a lot of big money behind them, and one has to wonder where it comes from, given that the legalisation of the major narcotics would be an enormously lucrative business among the wealthy pleasure-seekers of Western Europe and the Anglosphere.

I don’t think this is accurate, either. while at one point (in the 70s I believe) tobacco firms did prepare packaging for legal joints in case legalisation should become a reality, I'm not aware that anyone has found them to be lobbying directly for such legalisation, nor funding the pro-legalisation movement. On the contrary, cannabis being in large part a competitor with alcohol, the campaign against it is known to be supported financially by those with an interest in the big drinks companies. See e.g. http://blog.mpp.org/tax-and-regulate/alcohol-lobby-teams-with-law-enforcement-to-fund-anti-marijuana-campaign/09152010/).

53 comments:

  1. No offence but one wonders whether it's worth discussing these matters with the likes of Hitchens P.

    With his sctick of permanently pursed lips Hitchens seems like some sort of increasingly redundant cigar store Indian kept outside Conservative with a small "c" head quarters.

    Before much longer he'll be like those sailor dummies in glass cabinets once seen in sea side pier arcades that when you slid in a penny they cackled loudly while downing half of stout.

    In other words something to be kept in a museum basement or kept at home only to frighten children.

    goodkurtz

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  2. Seems like a good conspiracy theory can be made here:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-somerset-13918856

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  3. Christopher Shale
    A senior member of David Cameron's Tory constituency association has been found dead in a Glastonbury Festival toilet.

    The fact that Shale was found dead on the bog with a small cut on his wrist, three empty blister packs of pain killer in his pocket and a knife in his back on the very same day he had article in the Mail on Sunday stating that the public found the Tory Party to be as off putting as any WMD that might be found in all of Iraq is no reason to suspect a conspiracy.

    When a crowd gathered outside the John the cops moved them on saying,
    "Move along now, nothing to see here except U2 and its pompous tax dodging property speculating lead singer on the main stage."

    goodkurtz.

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  4. James Cartwright27 June 2011 at 13:21

    Peter Hitchens is an honest and straightforward journalist prepared to argue for and defend his positions. I can't think of many others who would be willing to seriously debate their critics, especially non-famous ones. For that, and for his acute foreign correpondence work, he deserves respect.

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  5. James Cartwright said:
    "Peter Hitchens is an honest and straightforward journalist prepared to argue for and defend his positions."

    Well each to his own. To my taste he looks like too many of his conservative kind, a made up person who has assumed postures and accents to convey the type of person he wishes to be taken for. Trollope and Dickens's novels are full of his kind.

    "I can't think of many others who would be willing to seriously debate their critics"

    I would damned well hope that at least in principle a journalist/commentator was able to debate his case.
    Trouble with Hitchen's case is that it lacks any original thinking emanating from his cultivated petit bourgeois carapace.
    Hitchen's P's job appears to be to write pieces reiterating the acceptable way of thinking to be found inside the Conservative Middle Class Handbook.

    Personally I like my thinking sprightly, original and freshly baked each morning and not to have to listen to the common place background dirge of a Rotary Club bar.

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  6. Peter Hitchens:
    Dope-smokers often don't know that they are stoned, or how stoned they are

    Oh but they often do. And the equally as often get as stoned as they can in order to get as far away from people like Hitchens and his type of thinking as they can.

    Hitchens likes to think of himself as Mr Ruddy Sensible but has said that he wants Christianity taught as truth.

    Well it frigging well isn't and busybody church parade ushers like Hitchens is what this damned country could do with a lot less.
    Honestly, the man behaves like Ann Widecombe in drag.
    (Now where did I leave that joint?)

    goodkurtz

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  7. Peter Hitchens on cigarettes:
    "And in time this strange, self-destructive habit, which is actually very new and only really invaded the civilised world during two disastrous wars, will be banished to the margins of life."

    That is an interesting observation and one I might research some more. But on the face I would think that Mr Hitchens would be right.

    It doesn't take much imagination to see that "The Great War", as it was known before that first data point was joined by another, must have ended with more smokers than it began.

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  8. In reply to "goodkurtz"
    Nice ad hominem attacks on Mr Hitchens. If you disagree with the man, you should attack his arguments. By attacking him personally, you simply demonstrate the paucity of your own reasoning.

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  9. Just make sure you hold Hitchens Minor to his repeated assertions that he argues "rationally" and "from evidence" when he frequently resorts to weasel phrases like "common sense dictates" and "we all know" or "there are countless examples of..." examples that then pass completely unreferenced. I used to comment on his blog, in the spirit of entering into debate, but stopped after he produced an article so full of disingenuous false logic that it was clear there was no point presenting evidence against whatever his blind prejudice was that week.

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  10. Trouble with Hitchen's case is that it lacks any original thinking emanating from his cultivated petit bourgeois carapace.

    Lack of originality is never a problem with an argument if the argument is correct. There are all sorts of "original" ideas out there that are complete bunk. Besides, I doubt either the pro- or anti- canabis brigade have any particularly original ideas left.

    Personally I like my thinking sprightly, original and freshly baked each morning and not to have to listen to the common place background dirge of a Rotary Club bar.


    All this suggests is that you are easily distracted by novelty but your attraction to modish or novel ideas doesn't confer any truth on them. If the same ideas were repeated would they become less true? What you have said suggests you'd be inclined to think so.

    I used to comment on his blog, in the spirit of entering into debate, but stopped after he produced an article so full of disingenuous false logic that it was clear there was no point presenting evidence against whatever his blind prejudice was that week.


    Hilariously ironic non-sequitur.

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  11. His blog won't show up for me.

    I might be banned (which, considering the, er - robust sentiments of my old critiques of his stuff wouldn't be totally surprising).

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  12. Weird. I've never heard of people being banned from viewing a site before. Don't really know what to suggest. He hasn't responded yet - the link I supply in comments just says:


    30 June 2011 1:31 PM
    A New Challenge on Drugs

    I just want to give notice here that I shall shortly (early next week, I hope) be responding to a challenge from Tim Wilkinson who, on his blog ‘Surely Some Mistake’ has set out his reasons for opposing my call for the proper enforcement of penal laws against the possession of drugs, notably cannabis. I think anyone with a search engine can find their way there, and it would be useful if readers here were familiar with the arguments which Mr Wilkinson has put, before I get started.

    This debate, by the way, is by arrangement. We have a friend in common who suggested that we should discuss this matter. Mr Wilkinson is of course welcome to post replies here as well as on his own site. I shall post my arguments here, and nowhere else.

    I am now in the early stages of wring my planned next book ‘The War We Never Fought’, which examines the secret surrender of the British establishment to the cannabis lobby in the late 1960s, and the results of this surrender. So I am particularly looking forward to this exchange.

    Let us see if we can keep the Atheist Bores from turning it into a linguistic battle over the difference between ‘not believing in God’ and ‘believing there is no God’. I am pleased to see that so far they haven’t hijacked the discussion on World War two, but I’m not sure this can last much longer.

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  13. Might be a technical hitch. (A technical Hitch - ho ho.) I can view the sidebar but the text is just a wall of white.

    Good of PH to accept the challenge. I'm looking forward to it. The trouble with some mainstream advocates of legalisation is that they have no knowledge of the drugs - much as they claim otherwise.

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  14. Twas broken, but now seems to be working, I am currently being ticked off for my Americanisms - I'm sure he must have been guilty of one occasionally (actually, where's the line with 'proper' English?)

    Anyway, I digress - Tim makes excellent points, but to be honest Hitchens' favourite way of batting these points away is by shouting 'selfish' and 'self-interest', whilst calling you a dopehead - addressed to people who make no claim to smoke the stuff, and these instances can be easily found in his blog

    So I am quite surprised he is willing to go through this debate again, his idea of a marketing campaign I think - still it will be nice if he maintains civility

    Just be prepared with the dopehead line - in fact he just dismissed previous arguments as 'dishonest' and ignoring (his) facts and logic, many of the points you have made here have been made in the comments of his blog and in general legalisation debate, so these complaints should also be aimed at you

    That or he's just deflecting the argument onto strawmen, another favourite tactic - I look forward to this debate with intrigue

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  15. Me:Trouble with Hitchen's case is that it lacks any original thinking emanating from his cultivated petit bourgeois carapace.

    angrysoba: "Lack of originality is never a problem with an argument if the argument is correct."

    That might be the case in the exact sciences but not in the world of an evolving social phenomena of recreational drug usage and the usual old dull witted conservative ideas brought to bear on it that have been seen to fail time and time again.

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  16. P Hitchens:
    "Let us see if we can keep the Atheist Bores from turning it into a linguistic battle over the difference between ‘not believing in God’ and ‘believing there is no God’."

    The man's got some neck.
    I refuse to accept a lecture on cannabis usage from a sky god believer who believes sky god myths should be forced on children from an early age.

    goodkurtz

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  17. We have enough dopes in the country without creating more through making cannabis more accessible. Who is going to be capable of a full day's work after being stoned on a regular basis? Since cannabis is more often that not smoked with tobacco, we would simply be adding to the danger of smoking.
    latevictorian

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  18. Anonymous: "That might be the case in the exact sciences but not in the world of an evolving social phenomena of recreational drug usage and the usual old dull witted conservative ideas brought to bear on it that have been seen to fail time and time again."

    I disagree. Statements about social phenomena also need to be justified. When it comes to formulating policies on drug use then it is just as idiotic to pick a guiding principle on the basis that it is new as it is to pick a guiding principle on the basis that it is old. It could be considered equally dull-witted to assume that radical ideas are superior simply because they are more exciting or that there is a radical distinction between the exact sciences and social phenomena.

    In fact, science may indeed have a lot to say about the formulation of drug policy and one example that Hitchens brings up is the likely role that smoking cannabis had on Patrick Cockburn’s son becoming schizophrenic. If it can indeed be demonstrated that smoking cannabis carries serious health risks that scientists are only now finding out then smoking cannabis may end up the preserve of dull-witted ex-radical hippies with groovy tie-dyed T-shirts and dirty unchanged underpants.

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  19. First slice of Peter Hitchens's response can be found here:
    http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2011/07/think-it-possible-that-ye-may-be-mistaken.html

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  20. @angrysoba

    regarding fears of a causal link between cannabis and psychosis, and in particular so-called "skunk psychosis":

    the government's own stance, as outlined by Minister Anne Milton on 23rd June 2011 is that there is no certainty of a link between cannabis and long-term psychosis, nor of any link between more potent "skunk" cannabis and psychosis. This is in line with the findings of the ACMD, as outlined in 2008.

    Between 1995 - 2005 the typical THC levels of UK cannabis roughly doubled to 13.9% THC, and typical CBD content dramatically declined. Research by Keele University, commissioned by the ACMD, has shown that in the same decade this occurred (1996 - 2005 to be precise) the incidence of psychosis and schizophrenia in the UK either stabilised or declined.

    "Potency of D9-THC and Other Cannabinoids in Cannabis in England in 2005: Implications for Psychoactivity and Pharmacology" by Potter, Clark and Brown shows that from 1995 to 2005 typical cannabis potency in the UK roughly doubled to around 13.9%THC.

    Potter's team then voiced the widespread concern that a possible psychosis epidemic may be on the cards in the UK due to the rise of the new intensively bred "skunk" strains of cannabis, which were eclipsing traditional imported Moroccan hashish.

    A similar rationale was made by Robin Murray to back a change of editorial stance at The Independent in March 2007, as championed with famously inaccurate statistics on potency by Rosie "30 times" Boycott and John "25 times" Rentoul. Ironically, this development of the cannabis market appears to have been driven by the very prohibition-based drug control policy that The Independent changed its editorial stance to back.

    Fortunately the period of 1996 - 2005 was also covered in a study the ACMD commissioned: "Assessing the impact of cannabis use on trends in diagnosed schizophrenia in the United Kingdom from 1996 to 2005" by the Department of Medicines Management, Keele University.

    The Keele University study "did not find any evidence of increasing schizophrenia or psychoses in the general population from 1996 to 2005."

    The Keele team examined the "trends in the annual prevalence and incidence of schizophrenia and psychoses, as measured by diagnosed cases from 1996 to 2005. Retrospective analysis of the General Practice Research Database (GPRD) was conducted for 183 practices in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The study cohort comprised almost 600,000 patients each year, representing approximately 2.3% of the UK population aged 16 to 44. Between 1996 and 2005 the incidence and prevalence of schizophrenia and psychoses were either stable or declining. Explanations other than a genuine stability or decline were considered, but appeared less plausible. In conclusion, this study did not find any evidence of increasing schizophrenia or psychoses in the general population from 1996 to 2005."

    In the same decade that the typical THC levels of UK cannabis roughly doubled, and CBD content near vanished, the incidence of psychosis and schizophrenia in the UK either stabilised or declined.

    The "skunk psychosis" fears being voiced by Peter Hitchens, The Independent, Robin Murray, Charles Walker MP and Mary Brett of Cannabis Skunk Sense appear, however well-intentioned, to be without sound scientific foundation. Moreover, the drug control policies they champion are a source of the very evils they deplore. The prohibition approach appears to have stimulated a doubling of cannabis potency in the last decade or so.

    ...other indirect consequences: 60% of Mexican cartels income is thought to come from cannabis (Harvard statistics) and some 34,612 Mexicans died in the last four years of the war on drugs, mostly as a result of gang competition over supply routes to the US.

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  21. Angus, thanks. My point was that it is an artificial distinction to say that one method of argument is reserved for the exact sciences whereas another is for social phenomena. I think that science should inform drug policies. Indeed, if cannabis can be shown to be largely harmless then of course it would make a ban seem ridiculous.

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  22. @angrysoba

    you're welcome

    I neglected to mention that CBD, a constituent that is found in traditional hashish, but not in intensively bred modern indoor strains such as "skunk", is an anti-psychotic

    if I may say, I'm afraid you've rather missed the point there with your final remark

    it is not just the harmless drugs that it is ridiculous to attempt to ban

    attempting to control harmful drugs through bans is yet more absurd still --- because the power of banning things is entirely imaginary...

    you cannot ban economic forces any more than you can ban ocean tides

    "The argument for prohibition is that it would lead to an ever-diminishing market in controlled drugs. In practice, the opposite has happened: in the 10 years to 2008, according to the UN, global use of opiates has risen by 34.5 per cent, of cocaine by 27 per cent and of cannabis by 8.5 per cent. If this is a successful policy, what would a failed one look like?" Martin Wolf, Financial Times, June 3rd 2011

    during the same decade that unprecedented intensive crop eradication was undertaken in Afghanistan and South America, the black market in controlled drugs has enjoyed growth that would be the envy of the legitimate economy

    not only is it morally indefensible for a government to deny its citizens their basic right to make an informed choice about what they consume... in practice, on its own terms, this prohibition-based approach simply doesn't work

    problematic drug use is not a crime - it needs to be addressed through social sanctions, regulation and as a medical problem...

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  23. further proof, if any was needed, that prohibition doesn't limit drug use, from yesterday's press (Haaretz, "Pass the joint, s'il vous plait" July 3rd)

    "there are 13.4 million people in this nation of 62 million who are either regular or occasional cannabis users - one million more than when the last statistics were gathered five years ago. This makes France's level of consumption among the highest in Europe alongside Spain, the UK and Germany."

    one million more smokers in the past five years!

    do we need any more proof that prohibition doesn't limit drug use?

    there will be no explosion in cannabis use after legalisation --- the explosion is happening now...

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  24. But isn't PH's point that the legislation isn't seriously enforced (at least in the UK and I suspect Europe generally) and that cannabis is effectively decriminalised. He's arguing for a radical change in the status quo and calling for actual prohibition enforced through severe sentencing.

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  25. Short of turning the UK into a police state with absolutely no respect for individual liberty it would be impossible to enforce such a ban. Government interference in citizens' exercising their right to make an informed decision about what they consume is immoral in principle and unworkable in practice.

    The US, for example, spends vast sums of money on enforcing cocaine and opium prohibition. Yet during the intensive crop eradication programs in South American and Afghanistan, the black market in cocaine and opium saw growth that would be the envy of the legitimate economy:

    "The argument for prohibition is that it would lead to an ever-diminishing market in controlled drugs. In practice, the opposite has happened: in the 10 years to 2008, according to the UN, global use of opiates has risen by 34.5 per cent, of cocaine by 27 per cent and of cannabis by 8.5 per cent. If this is a successful policy, what would a failed one look like?" Martin Wolf, Financial Times, June 3rd 2011

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  26. just to add that there are of course ongoing arrests of individual cannabis growers and users in the UK, as well as busts of larger scale growing and smuggling ops --- they are reported in the uk news daily - you need only check any of the various cannabis news websites such as on the site uk420... the idea that the laws are not enforced in the UK is absurd, that PH doesn't follow these events is no kind of proof that they don't occur...

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  27. Angus first tells us that "problematic drug use... needs to be addressed through social sanctions, regulation and as a medical problem".

    Then, nine hours later, he says that "Government interference in citizens' exercising their right to make an informed decision about what they consume is immoral in principle and unworkable in practice."

    In other words, the problems can only solved by regulation, but regulation is immoral and unworkable? Surely some mistake here.

    Angus hasn't written anything that indicates the law is unenforceable, he's merely confirmed Hitchens' perspective that it's not being enforced. And as to this nonsense about "police states" - this presupposes that everyone wishes to take drugs and will have to be actively prevented from doing so by totalitarian methods, a doubtful premise to say the least.

    Interesting, though, that he should mention the paper from Keele. A few years ago, as a regular user, I also sought research papers to make my own case for legalisation. But I gave up because it turns out that (if anything) the consensus lies in the opposite direction: it was much easier to find evidence for a link than evidence of no link. Perhaps Angus should revisit his university library and do some more reading?

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  28. Calling for greater prohibition Hitchens reminds me of those world war generals sending more troops into the machine gun fire having learned nothing from experience.
    The man's a total wooden top. He's a ruddy menace.

    goodkurtz

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  29. PETER HITCHENS THIRD SLICE:
    http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2011/07/depraved-new-world.html

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  30. Hi Tim Wilkinson, I assure it's not my intention to mindlessly link my own blog post, but I've written this and thought I'd simply alert you:

    http://homegrownoutlaw.blogspot.com/2011/07/peter-hitchens.html

    You've made great points on reform of course, I agree and can't really add to much. You pick up on the point well that I long maintain. Tobacco use is dropping due to regulation and emplacements, not through prohibition. To prohibit would mean a full blanket ban with immediate effect, this of course is not how we act.

    Wishing you all my best, Jason Reed.

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  31. Hitchens is not only a cretin he is a bit of a shit as well.
    He tries to use emotional blackmail telling smokers that they need bear in mind those who become mentally ill through cannabis use.

    Why the hell should we? Its got nothing to do with us, and we need think about it no more than we should consider giving up driving because some people are maniacs out there.

    Perhaps the cannabis made mentally ill should take stock of themselves and realise that their deplorable behaviour is putting at risk the fun the rest of us are having.

    goodkurtz.

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  32. HomeGrownOutlaw
    I just went to your blog and fell about laughing.
    What a pratt that man Hitchens really is.
    Where the hell did he get that get up he was wearing?

    Looked like from Mr Fish, Kings Road circa '66.

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  33. The photo is of Peter Hitchens' head superimposed on the body of one of the Bullingdon Club members. He's making fun of the absurdities of that club!

    Look forward to a reply to Peter H. here - hope we get one soon.

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  34. "The photo is of Peter Hitchens' head superimposed on the body of one of the Bullingdon Club members. He's making fun of the absurdities of that club!"

    Bullshit.
    Hitchens got himself dressed up like that because he was jealous of the Bullingdon and wants to become their bitch.

    But what Hitchens doesn't understand about the Bullingdon is this.
    Part of the duties of a Bullingdon Bitch is that they must have an eighth, Rizlas, vanity mirror, razor and a wrap of marching powder about their persons at all times to service his masters in between reloading the Purdeys whether on the moor or merely shooting oiks in the street down below.

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  35. Peter Hitchens9 July 2011 at 16:33

    For the avoidance of doubt, the picture used on the 'Home Grown Outlaw' site is of me (no superimposition needed) in Bullingdon Club tailcoat and tie(borrowed for the occasion) in a publicity shoot for my Channel Four programme about David Cameron ('Toff at the Top').
    It was my idea and I take full responsibility. The haughty expression (and posture)are in fact exaggerated for effect, which if you have my face probably isn't necessary.

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  36. Peter Hitchens said this:

    "If I manage to prevent a hundred young men (and their parents) from suffering what Henry Cockburn suffered (and will suffer till his life’s end), then it will weigh in the balance quite heavily against many of the bad things In have done. If I turn out to be wrong, and Henry’s trouble had nothing to do with Cannabis (unlikely, but there), then I will have done no harm to anyone by preventing a hundred young men from using a stupid drug.
    Now, try that the other way round."

    I most certainly will "try that the other way round" and right bloody sharpish too.
    Contained in the above is the very conservative mindset that I have long despised and despaired of.

    P Hitchens admits that any damage that might be done to certain individuals is anecdotal but nonetheless he feels it only right and proper to cause alarm and despondency amongst those of his readers who take his word, have no other information about drugs but as concerned parents now will worry more. (as if they didn't have enough already!)

    Even if it is proved that a small number of people maybe damaged let alone if it could ever be proved that cannabis was not a cause of mental harm, you yourself will have done harm.

    Suggest you run that thinking of yours past the Augustine just war index and you just might more simply see what I'm getting at.

    But then that's what your type of conservatives are always doing isn't it?
    Your American equivalent is George Will.
    Both of you look like you were born scared stupid by life and as you grew rather than become fearless you cultivated your fear to appear like it was instead a form of discerning seriousness and concern.)

    But to the likes of me and mine you are not serious people. Rather you are scared rabbits in suits and ties that shave every morning. And your thoughts and writings on cannabis are an utter menace by spreading fear where it is not necessary to do so.

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  37. It was truly unintended for the Bullingdon picture of Mr Hitchens to act as a cheap shot. My apologies all round for that distraction.

    With regards to the mental health issues that are currently being discussed here, it always amazes me the lack of brevity with regards to substance use and metal health. Of course, we should be aware of all dangers and educate accordingly. However, it is never on the agenda to discuss alcohol psychosis, 1 in 1000 are affected by this - Korsakoff's Syndrome:

    http://www.patient.co.uk/doctor/Wernicke-Korsakoff-Syndrome.htm

    So, why is this not at the forefront of discussion in society? Or, could it be, the cannabis discussion is slightly disingenuous?

    There are contributing factors to any degree of abuse, and any contributing factor of mental health. By placing the onus fully on a substance, we're not treating the symptoms of what is actually going on in society. This approach is dangerously myopic.

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  38. What would Jesus do ? From what little we know of him, it's difficult to imagine he'd have waged a vindictive campaign over many years to lock up users of a medicinal herb with predominantly pleasant side effects.

    Perhaps Peter Hitchens could get an insight into the compassion and understanding of Jesus by rewiring his brain. A spell of isolation, fasting and contemplation should do the job. I would recommend a week to 10 days without food, but with normal hydration.

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  39. Is Mr Wilkinson going to reply to Peter Hitchens?

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  40. Oh yes. He's been otherwise occupied for most of the past few days, but expects to have a rather long and detailed part 1 ready in the next day or so, with the concluding (shorter and easier-reading) part 2 to follow a day later, with any luck.

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  41. But will your two format replies, florid and brevity, be ready for dispatch after the drugs have worn off, or will they only become available after the drugs have kicked in?

    Getting the writing juices and the drug buzz in sync is always a devil of a problem I always find.

    goodkurtz

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  42. @Jason Reed

    The link between caffeine consumption and psychiatric disorders is also rarely mentioned:

    http://www.stress-anxiety-depression.org/forum/caffeine-induced-psychosis-topic-70.html

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  43. Tim you say:
    Of course the pro-legalisers have a lot of big money behind them, and one has to wonder where it comes from, given that the legalisation of the major narcotics would be an enormously lucrative business among the wealthy pleasure-seekers of Western Europe and the Anglosphere.

    I don’t think this is accurate, either. while at one point (in the 70s I believe) tobacco firms did prepare packaging for legal joints in case legalisation should become a reality, I'm not aware that anyone has found them to be lobbying directly for such legalisation, nor funding the pro-legalisation movement. On the contrary, cannabis being in large part a competitor with alcohol, the campaign against it is known to be supported financially by those with an interest in the big drinks companies. See e.g.
    *********************
    There are so many facts that are wrong in your articles on cannabis that it is difficult to know where to start. You just do not seem to do your homework. The campaign to legalise cannabis and all drugs is the best funded world wide campaign in world history. George Soros is one of the main funders but there are many others as a moment or two's research would have told you. Soros does not deny it either. You are of course entitled to your own opinion, you are not entitled to your own facts.

    If you want to indulge in serious debate and be taken seriously you neeed to do proper research. I am amazed at Hitchen's patience with you.

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  44. How many of my articles on cannabis have you read, then?

    Here's an idea - how about providing something other than vague imputations of error, and instead of unsupported assertions about the best funded world wide campaign in world history, give me some evidence that interests seeking lucrative business among the wealthy pleasure-seekers of Western Europe and the Anglosphere are funding the legalisation campaign?

    Citation needed, and I don't mean the likes of

    http://www.ecad.net/activ/M14Raynes.html

    If you want a conspiracy theory, try the global drugs meta-group.

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  45. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  46. Still no reply and Hitchens has moved on. I do hope that doesn't mean unwarranted declarations of victory are in the offing.

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  47. I've just released a comment by 'Former user' which had been caught in the spam trap.

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  48. And why, I wonder, shouldn't we be worried by the funding being provided by Mr Soros? I'd be less bothered by profit-hungry corporations funding legalisation campaigns than Master of the Universe types promoting their 'philosophy'.
    AM

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  49. P Hitchens doesn't like Cannabis because he would personally hate the effect if he were to smoke it himself.
    Like his brother Christopher the brothers Hitchens are contrived artefacts passing themselves off as humans.

    C Hitchens uses fags and booze to keep his ramshackle grandiloquence show on the road while Peter peddles his own brand of snake oil by first pumping himself up with "Pomp".

    "Pomp" is a hardcore drug much beloved by certain members of the Tory middle class and certain "Pomp" addicts were first seen on The Day Today show railing against youngsters use of the entirely fictional drug, "Cake".

    goodkurtz

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  50. @Former user

    Your remarks about my posts seem not a little disingenuous and appear to rely on a pedantic misrepresentation of what I wrote.

    The US spends around $40 billion per year on enforcing prohibition, and around 500,000 Americans are behind bars for breaking drug laws, of a total prison population of around 2.3 million. Yet drugs are available as ever.

    If you and PH want tougher enforcement in the UK, then you might want to know that Britain's prisons are full. They hit 90,000 last week.

    Like Murray and the "relative risk increase" brigade you fail to address the big picture.

    Cannabis use exploded in the West in the '70s. At the same time schizophrenia levels were in decline.

    There is no psychosis epidemic, and there is no evidence that criminalising cannabis and cannabis users has any impact on use, no matter how strongly enforced.

    You appear to be wrong on all counts, Former user.

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  51. Thanks Tim. I've just had a slight run in with Peter on my blog, and I have to say he seems more than a little paranoid. He seems to think the 'dope lobby' are out to get him. Still, it seems those in favour of legalisation have by far the more rational arguments on their side.

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  52. http://www.lysanderspooner.org/VicesAreNotCrimes.htm

    "Vices Are Not Crimes

    A Vindication Of Moral Liberty

    I.

    Vices are those acts by which a man harms himself or his property.

    Crimes are those acts by which one man harms the person or property of another.

    Vices are simply the errors which a man makes in his search after his own happiness. Unlike crimes, they imply no malice toward others, and no interference with their persons or property.

    In vices, the very essence of crime --- that is, the design to injure the person or property of another --- is wanting.

    It is a maxim of the law that there can be no crime without a criminal intent; that is, without the intent to invade the person or property of another. But no one ever practises a vice with any such criminal intent. He practises his vice for his own happiness solely, and not from any malice toward others.

    Unless this clear distinction between vices and crimes be made and recognized by the laws, there can be on earth no such thing as individual right, liberty, or property; no such things as the right of one man to the control of his own person and property, and the corresponding and coequal rights of another man to the control of his own person and property.

    For a government to declare a vice to be a crime, and to punish it as such, is an attempt to falsify the very nature of things. It is as absurd as it would be to declare truth to be falsehood, or falsehood truth."

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