Friday, 11 April 2008

Coroner's cannabis agenda brought into question

Coroner Stanley Cooper on the suicide of Stuart Lester in Doncaster said his schizophrenia was “thought to be brought on by cannabis use as a child”. Mr Lester actually killed himself after taking “a number of ecstasy tablets”. There was no evidence that Mr Lester had taken cannabis prior to his death.
In January 2007 Dr Louay Al-Alousi of Leicester University admitted serious mistakes in the cases of two teenagers, saying their deaths were due to cannabis use when this was not the case. Restrictions were placed on his ability to practice as a Home Office pathologist after he admitted professional misconduct over the cannabis cases. One of the boys’ parents brought the case against Dr Al-Alousi after refusing to accept his findings. They enlisted their own pathologist and an independent coroner had a third expert examine their son. Both agreed that his death was due to an unsuspected heart condition which was in no way related to cannabis or its use.
In spite of this Dr Al-Alousi signed a death certificate quoting cannabis use as a direct cause of death.
It would appear that the race is on to register the first credible “death” record as a direct result of cannabis use and it also seems that the powers that be will use fair means or foul to achieve this.
We already expect that 2008 will see over 10,000 alcohol related deaths and over 90% of ALL drug related deaths in the UK will result from people using substances they paid tax on!
Surely it begs the question why alcohol and tobacco, both highly addictive, deadly drugs, are not at least in the same category as cannabis?
Earlier this month Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced that he is still minded to reclassify cannabis to Class B, despite the recommendations of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) that it should remain in Class C.
The ACMD review points out that;
- cannabis use has decreased since reclassification to Class C in 2004 and
- studies have found no evidence of a link with schizophrenia.
The ACMD were asked to review the classification by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith in July 2007, the ACMD being a Government appointed panel of “drug experts”, led by Professor Sir Michael Rawlings.
As part of their review, the ACMD heard from psychologist Dr Martin Frisher of Keele University. Dr Frisher used data from 183 GP practices across Britain between 1996 and 2005 to see whether either schizophrenia is on the rise and/or can be linked to increased cannabis use. The study found that there had been significant reductions in instances and prevalence of schizophrenia and from 2000 onwards also significant reductions in the prevalence of psychoses.
The authors say the results are “not consistent with the hypotheses that increasing cannabis use is associated with increasing schizophrenia or psychoses from the mid 90s onwards”.
Despite this Mr Brown seems to think that reclassification is needed to “send out a signal that cannabis use is unacceptable”.
Is it really the role of Government to legislate on the grounds of what they believe to be “acceptable”? Surely that way lies dictatorship!
Why do we pay for advisory committees if they are not listened to and why should we listen to Gordon Brown when he is so unwilling to listen to his own experts?
Reclassification to Class B will cost the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds in additional police and court time in order to prosecute those found in possession of small amounts of cannabis. A substance which has no credible recorded deaths and causes no adverse health effects in the vast majority of users. The same cannot be said for our legal, taxed drugs.
Reclassification will do nothing to deter youngsters from cannabis use, only credible education on drugs both at home and in school will achieve this. Why is the Government not spending this extra money on educating children rather than prosecuting adults?
Make your voice heard, write to Gordon Brown, write to Jacqui Smith or write to your MP to ensure that the Government does the right thing and accepts the findings of the ACMD not to reclassify cannabis.

No comments: