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Letters to The times Response Clare Foges

by The Times Letters, posted 27 11 2019

Letters to The times 26th November 2019-11-26

Sir, Further to the comment article “Legalisation of cannabis is a fool’s crusade” (Nov 25), Clare Foges is right that the highest incidence of people presenting with their first episode of psychosis in the 16 regions we studied across Europe was in south London; 30 per cent of those Londoners who developed psychosis would not have done so had they not smoked high-potency cannabis. The only place where high-potency cannabis accounted for a greater proportion of psychotic patients was in Amsterdam, where 50 per cent of psychosis cases were attributable to high-potency cannabis. The reason for the higher figure in Amsterdam is that in the UK skunk contains on average 14-16 per cent THC. However, in Amsterdam, one can buy Nederweit at 30 per cent THC or Nederhasj at 60 per cent.

This illustrates a general trend: legalising cannabis is generally followed by an increase in potency. Indeed, in Colorado, the first US state to legalise cannabis, one can now buy “shatter” or “wax dabs” containing 70 per cent or more THC. As the risk of psychosis increases with the potency of the cannabis used, any government considering legalising cannabis for recreational purposes should factor in the extra costs which will be needed to pay more psychiatrists to look after the casualties.
Sir Robin Murray, FRS
Professor of psychiatric research at the Institute of Psychiatry, KCL

Sir, Clare Foges acted as a balance to the many articles that normalise the smoking of cannabis. Our son, an intellectually able and athletically gifted young man, took his life 18 months ago. The substance that he felt was helping him to “chill” gradually eroded his concentration and memory, and instigated the paranoia that eventually caused him to take his life. He was a brave, beautiful person, but however strong you are, when your mind starts “seeing devils” they can take over and destroy your life. Sadly, among our family’s large acquaintance, our son’s experience is not unique.
Gillian Kelly

Times letters Wednesday 27th November 2019

Sir, Scaremongering over the possible impact of cannabis legalisation leading to the wider use of strong THC misrepresents what a rational legal cannabis market would look like (“Legalisation of cannabis is a fool’s crusade”, Clare Foges, Nov 25, and letters, Nov 26). Drug science funded by the Norwegian research council recently published the most systematic analysis of the harms and benefits of different policies for cannabis regulation. Experts compared four forms of control: free market (as in Colorado); state-controlled market (as in Uruguay); decriminalisation (as in Holland); and the present illegal situation. State control came out as providing the best overall outcome and this is what the Lib Dems have adopted as their position.

The reasons are clear: state control would provide for the cannabis market what the licensing laws should provide for alcohol and what food standards regulations provide for foods. State-sold cannabis would be of food quality, with enough cannabidiol to balance out the negative effects of high THC products. Product strength would be controlled and products taxed per cannabis dose to deter the use of high-strength products. Advertising would not be allowed and marketing to under-18s banned. None of these controls applies to the black market, which is why we have problems with street cannabis in the UK today.
David Nutt
Edmond J Safra professor of neuropsychopharmacology, Imperial College London

Sir, Clare Foges’s warning against the momentum building for cannabis legalisation is timely and welcome. The flawed thinking behind the Lib Dem proposal needs spelling out. Most fundamental is the deceit that cannabis “harms” have derived from its prohibition, not its use. The reverse is the case. There has been a phoney war on drugs in the decades since the Misuse of Drugs Act, with the de facto decriminalisation of cannabis use, a laissez faire police policy and an absence of meaningful criminal sanctions. Contrary to received opinion, in places such as Colorado and now Canada, cannabis use has risen and so too have harms, not least among children. The black market continues to thrive.

Any idea that the huge public health and safety costs of this brain- changing (too often irreversibly) drug would be diminished by the official sanctioning of cannabis, or that its commercial exploitation and the legalisation of weaker strains would make cannabis use safe or protect children, is simply fanciful.
Kathy Gyngell
Editor, The Conservative Woman

Sir, The association of psychosis with cannabis is not new. As a GP in south London in the 1990s I was called on two occasions to young patients who had become severely psychotic after their first experience with cannabis. This was before the days of skunk and the more potent products seen today. Sadly their illness was not short-lived.
Dr Hilary James
London W5


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