18 July 2007

To "B" or not to "B"?

THAT is the question... that the government are considering: the reclassification of Cannabis from Class C controlled substance back to Class B again, thus making possession a more serious offence once more.
So is this a U-turn? Well I guess so, but opinion will still remain divided as to whether or not it was worth pursuing the down-grading in the first place. In our modern world pretty much everything that's ever tried has to work, whether it does or not. Every policy must be seen to have improved blahdeblah by suchandsuch a percentage (how they always like to quote percentages - it sounds more scientific and thus carries 'authority', however unscientific the actual measurements are!). It's spin, or the Emperor's New Clothes.
Given that so many people (an estimated 10%, if you believe percentages!), especially young people, try this drug it is important to consider the implications to society or strictly enforcing occasional, casual use: yes, it's wrong, as it's against the law, but strict enforcement would criminalise a sizeable proportion of society, and people who are either in or about to leave education. If a criminal record spoils their chances of getting a job, we all - as society - suffer, and end up paying for them.
The arguments for and against implications for future addiction are more complex: most people who smoke or have smoked cannabis do not end up with serious drug habits - in fact most grow out of it - and for most people it does not spell the first slide down the slippery slope to heroin and crack cocaine usage. Conversely, most hard drugs users do start on cannabis. If you like, it's necessary, but not sufficient for hard drugs addiction.
Another factor to consider is the difference in strains of cannabis now. Some decades ago people smoked and became mellow and it is often an argument advanced by such erstwhile practitioners that most fights start from alcohol, but none from cannabis. Sadly, that's old news: modern strains of cannabis do seem to alter behaviour and I have experienced the changes in bahaviour of young men I've known who have taken up a "skunk" habit - it really can be Jekyll and Hyde.
Again though, the alcohol analogy can be made with enforcement: being drunk in a public place is an offence, and 'public places' even include pubs. If we were to round up and prosecute every drunken person in a pub, we'd do nothing else. Clearly, discretion is a privilege we as police still need to have when dealing with either set of offences.
My main concerns are that the THC in cannabis is fat-soluble and thus stays in the system longer than most other drugs, probably still having a prolonged effect; that whilst driving whilst over the limit for alcohol requires only a chemical test, not evidence of impairment, drug-driving requires impairment - the very act of driving whilst in a fug of cannabis smoke should be enough to warrant a charge; that foolish, under-educated London children (and adults) still try to tell me that cannabis is not illegal these days; that all along the commercial chain of supply of this "harmless" drug, people are oppressed, beaten, murdered and that the supply chain is not, generally, run by little old ladies - it's hardened criminals, gangsters and terrorists; that, when speaking to psychiatric nurses and doctors about cannabis, they, with one voice, condemn it as a dangerous drug for the mental health of all and particularly young people.
So on balance, I am for the re-hardening of the drug classification, with residual concern for increasing criminal records and also I would see more formal mitigation considered for those who smoke or otherwise ingest for medical symptomatic relief, with more research into this area of medicine to be conducted urgently for people enduring chemotherapy, with Parkinson's disease, with MS etc.
However, hats off to whoever in government or our senior police commanders who will have the backbones to stand up and say, this was a social experiment, it was worth doing. We have waited to see the results and we are not sufficiently convinced that the advantages outweighed the disadvantages; therefore we are going back to the old classification.
And raspberries to the press and politicians who will no doubt sneer at this and shout, "Failure, failure!".
Not every new scheme or procedure has to work and not everything has to be danced around by officialdom, quoting spurious figures from daft data and saying, "Nice cloak, Your Majesty" to a fat, hairy, naked guy!

13 Comments:

Blogger BelfastPeeler said...

As a comedian pointed out, more people died from Bees last year than cannabis.

This stuff about "stronger strains" is just FUD to disguise making a political decision, not an empirical one.

If we were classifying drugs based on their long term damage then surely alcohol should be reclassified to class A?

19 July, 2007 22:04  
Anonymous Wozza said...

I have to admit that it is an argument that I myself have used about weed smokers not starting fights etc. However I like a drink in a pub - and I don't go out and start fights so I am angry when the government decides to confront the problem of alcohol related crime by proposing an increase in taxation. Why should I be made to pay for the abuse by a minority of people ? Similarly with cannabis, why should I run the risk of being criminalised because I like an occassional smoke in the privacy of my own home ? Perhaps there is an argument for decriminalising or even legalising the milder forms of cannabis which would presumably lessen the demand from 'law abiding' smokers for skunk. It would also restrict their access to it as they would have no need to come into contact with the criminals who sell it as they do now.
Am I being oversimplistic? I would welcome your view on that. However I, like the majority of people, am sensible enough to be able to go to a pub and not get smashed on Stella and I think that I am quite sensible enough, as are the vast majority of recreational smokers, to make a similarly informed decision about this.

20 July, 2007 05:12  
Anonymous Wozza said...

Without wishing to sound like this is a cause celebre of mine (it isn't, I haven't had a spliff in a long long time but I do believe that it should probably be decriminalised) I happened to come across this article today, after I had posted the one above, and thought that you might be inetrested.

http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article2788634.ece

Debunked: politicians' excuse that cannabis has become stronger

W

21 July, 2007 02:21  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not gonna disagree that it's stronger these days but, and it's a big but imo, how come cannabis psycosis is not an issue in countries with more relaxed attitude eg Holland & Canada?

07 August, 2007 10:12  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

have you seen the website www.policesuper.com

Its a supt in UK and is very good as well.

Regards and best wishes

Dave (DS in Slough)

08 August, 2007 21:07  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unrelated but interesting...

It's a story about a revamped approach to fighting crime, where the police gathered in the street and allowed residents to come to them to voice their fears.
A good return to bobby on the beat? Or a naff idea which doesn't engage the whole community? Love to see your opinions on it, on this blog.

http://www.shieldsgazette.com/news?articleid=3127649

21 August, 2007 14:45  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

The so-called 'War on Drugs' is really a 'War on Civil Liberties'.

Why should I allow the state to tell me what I can and cannot do to my own body?

With regards to your ludicrous notion that people somehow remain 'stoned' for days after cannabis ingestion, may I just say;

Delta-9-THC enters the bloodstream rapidly after smoking (in minutes) or more slowly when ingested orally (20 minutes to 1.5 hours). It is rapidly metabolized into inert molecules known as metabolites. These chemicals also have the word Tetrahydrocannabinol in them and are called THC, which can be quite confusing.

Delta-9-THC is detectable in the blood for a few hours, but none of this active chemical is found in the urine or stored in the fatty tissues such as the liver and brain.

What is frequently described as THC's lingering in the body fluids and organs are metabolites of Delta-9-THC, the inert substances that the body disposes of in the urine and excrement, in much the same way as it disposes with Vitamin A. It is these that are detected in the body organs and urine, long after the effects of Delta-9-THC have worn off.

Perhaps you should learn a little about the subject matter before spouting off your half baked opinions?

20 September, 2007 03:05  
Blogger Kris said...

Dear Winston

The trouble with "non-addictive" marijuana is that it seems to affect many people's brains (not your's of course) to make them feel freer to act criminally. So, I'm afraid it's not just about what nabis smokers do to themselves.

I could care less if they sit around eating pies and watching TV all day (as long as I am not expected to subsidise their benefit).

What troubles me and others in civilised society is the way in which skunk acts as a trigger for violent and theft related offences.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Anyways, don't you say on your own blog that pot makes one paranoid? Come down and make up your mind.

20 September, 2007 09:43  
Anonymous Phil Bowles said...

Dear Blogger,

I am an ex Met officer, now in my 3rd year of a full-time law degree. I have a research project underway and I really need the views of serving officers on one specific question (regarding s139 CJA 1988). I have created a small and very basic website which poses the question and allows officers to vote yes/no to the answer.

The site is http://anorhack.com (no’www’ – that’s important)

I’d be hugely grateful if you could pop a link to it on yr blog. For statistical purposes, the more replies I get, the better!

Thanks

Phil Bowles

28 September, 2007 13:28  
Anonymous Custodyskipper said...

Anon 1012,

It is. The Netherlands has twice the rate of drug-induced schizophrenia as the European average. No idea about Canada, I'm afraid.

06 October, 2007 19:09  
Blogger Bitseach said...

The Netherlands recently expressed concern at the levels of drug-induced (or drug-assisted) psychosis so I'm not sure that'll win any arguments, unfortunately. Again, I recently asked a mental health nurse about his views on cannabis (nice open question, not leading him towards one direction or another) and he, quite vehemently, railed against it. He said it's the thing they get most upset at when they find it on the wards, because of the strong deleterious effect it has on his patients, and to an extent not seen with heroin or even crack!

Now clearly this is not scientific, completely anecdotal and is based on one health-care professional's opinion, but I haven't yet met anyone in the Mental Health nursing or psychiatric field who *doesn't* strongly condemn cannabis. I have to say that this ran completely counter to my expectations. I've read reports where they say that cannabis HASN'T got stronger and others that say that it HAS. In short, it's a confusing old picture all right! Clearly it is ridiculous to suggest that cannabis will make *every* smoker paranoid or psychotic, and clearly it is not *always* a "gateway drug" but the converse can be true: pretty much all heavy drug users began on cannabis, and those who are vulnerable to mental health will often be affected badly by the drug (and yes, these same arguments can be proposed for alcohol).

Winstons's points are valid, in that we must think about what controls the state places on our bodies and on our private lives, but then the state also (generally) tries to stop us from killing each other, and seriously injuring each other - even consensually (eg the bare-knuckle boxing or extreme S&M examples) in our interests so there is precedent there.

However I did not accept the biochemistry - THC can be detected in the blood for months, not just for a few days as Winny suggests. Also, the Vitamin A argument is an odd one to use, as metabolites of Vit A obtained by consumption are stored in the body (as esters) and de-esterified when needed for use in the body, for a long old time. Perhaps he was thinking of Vit C, which, being water-soluble, is pissed away when in excess? Hasn't he heard of lethal polar bear livers?

Incidentally, I've heard that there is one strain of cannabis that is a particularly strong one. Originating from Africa, it was first noticed when some herds of dikdiks were acting strangely and it was noticed that they were eating a plant with a digitate leaf that looked very like cannabis. Due to the creatures that were eating it, it became affectionately referred to as "dikweed" (what else) in homage to the stoner dikdiks that were enjoying it. However when humans ate or smoked this leaf (also affectionately known as dikweeds - who said there's no humour amongst biologists?) it made them extremely paranoid, imagining that the establishment was out to get them, that police officers were mindless agents of state control, preferring silly insults about half-baked opinions to recognising an attempt to foster some debate, trying to disguise a personal life-choice in pseudo-science to lend authority to their addictions (a tactic that's as old as the hills, well at least the Enlightenment positivists!). For a good laugh, in fact, check out Winston the Dikweed's blog, then wrap your head in tin foil and look around shiftily until they come to get you. Unfortunately, they probably will come to get you, and it'll probably be an ASW and two doctors that do it! ;o)

30 October, 2007 22:04  
Anonymous AntiPLODian said...

In my State, DOWN UNDER, simple possession of cannabis is "decriminalised" not to be confused with (as our 'clients' so often do) legal!

What this means is; for simple possession (under 150g) a Cannabis Expiation Notice (CEN) is issued. A CEN can also be issued for possession of implements to consume cannabis and for growing a single plant in a non-hydroponic manner.

And guess what, we still have a drugs problem. We still have drug related crime and we still have drug induced psycosis. What we don't have is courts horribly clogged with simple cannabis possession matters. They are horribly clogged with other, much more serious, crime; driving an unregistered car for instance!

We also have a wonderful system whereby a person found in possession of any illcit drug other than cannabis, in personal use quantities, is sent for a hug by specially trained social huggers! Not pinched at all!! therefore, by default, making possession of cannabis more serious than any other drug??!!

25 December, 2007 08:10  
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My views are my own and would probably not endear me to my dear employers.