Is yesterday’s ‘reefer madness’ today’s ‘cannabis psychosis’?

Cannabis psychosis

Its high time in the Beehive. The new Labour led Coalition is promising to move towards Medical Cannabis in the first 100 days, and push NZ First’ proposal of a non-binding referendum on cannabis by the 2000 election. Liberal NZ is ready for legalization, 65% want legalization or decriminalization as is now common in many countries. Not only is cannabis harmless, it is positively a super food.

Reactionary die-hard NZ doesn’t want reform because looking through the bottom of its beer glass it is convinced that “reefer madness” is a ‘true’ fact and that the madness appears everywhere as ‘feral’ behavior – violence, gangs, depression, even schizophrenia in youth. Both sides claim the science is on their side.  Is this the case?

The liberals, bleeding hearts to prohibitionists, have tried cannabis and know it doesn’t make you mad let alone kill you. Far from causing harm it prevents harm. But that evidence is called ‘anecdotal’ rather than scientific, and science is what scientists do. So, the B-grade movie ‘Reefer Madness’, is now dressed up in a lab coat and called ‘Cannabis Psychosis’. The most frequent citation for such a causal link is that of the Canterbury Health and Development Study (CHDS) led by David Fergusson.

The CHDS claims to prove that cannabis ‘abuse’ is a cause of adolescent psychosis, specifically schizophrenia. Yet it has failed to show that a correlation (that those prone to schizophrenia also tend to use cannabis) is also a cause as it has not controlled adequately for ‘confounding’ genetic and social causes. The ‘science’ is superficial and suspect.

Some scientists are critical of claims that have been made: e.g. “Cannabis and Psychosis: a Critical Overview of the Relationship” by Charles Ksir and Carl Hart (Feb 2016) in Current Psychiatry Reports. You will find Carl Hart an outspoken critic of how science and drug research in particular has obscured the real problems – poverty, unemployment (capitalism) and instead blamed people who use (illegal) drugs

The most likely explanation is that ‘cannabis psychosis’ is a false construct based on a misapplication of statistical models which cannot replicate real life including cannabis prohibition. If cannabis use and indicators of psychosis are measuring anything real for a tiny minority of people they are neither necessary nor sufficient causes of the other but the effects of more fundamental biological and social causes. We expect as cannabis reform promotes better scientific studies, evidence will accumulate that proves beyond doubt that socially informed cannabis use is not only harmless, but beneficial.

We argue that much cannabis use, like religion, is as an ‘opiate of the masses’ that workers use to dull the pain of our alienated lives under capitalism. Socialist revolution is the only way to end capitalist alienation and the need for ‘opiates’.