Regulating or Liberating Cannabis?
Decriminalize to ‘reduce harm’?
The NZ Drug Foundation has published its Briefing Document on Drug reform for the incoming Parliament. The indications are that its approach is one that the Government might favour because while it argues for decriminalisation to remove the worst aspects of our demonic cannabis laws, it also recommends heavy regulation of “production, consumption and sale”.
Decriminalisation opening up to a “health approach” is good as far as it goes, but it has problems. The health approach is good, but the goal of ‘harm reduction’ assumes ‘harm’ and creates an inbuilt bias leading to a highly regulative regime. Decades of demonisation of cannabis ‘abuse’ leads to the ‘harm reduction’ approach to the regulation of production, consumption and sale of cannabis. If that were true, then maybe there is a point to the Portuguese model.
But why not go for what we need without the burden of old negative assumptions of “bad science” that still make cannabis use illegal?
What’s the “good science”?
There is no scientific proof that cannabis causes any serious harm, compared say with the harm caused by underfunding the health system. The frequent citation for such a causal link is the New Zealand Canterbury Health and Development Study (CHDS) led by David Fergusson.
The CHDS claims that cannabis ‘abuse’ is a cause of adolescent psychosis, specifically schizophrenia. Yet it has failed to show that a correlation (those prone to schizophrenia also tend to use cannabis) is also a cause (cannabis abuse leads to schizophrenia) because it has not controlled adequately for other possible ‘confounding’ genetic and social causes. http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/…/cannabis-psychosis…
A metastudy (which evaluates all the work in the field) “Cannabis and Psychosis: a Critical Overview of the Relationship” by Charles Ksir and Carl Hart (Feb 2016) in Current Psychiatry Reports, comes to the same conclusion. In a refreshingly frank debate around this the authors do not shrink from calling other scientists “dishonest”.
That marijuana causes the onset of psychosis is a claim commonly employed to demonstrate the dangers of the drug, but studies touting the theory often lack the evidence to support it.
In a recent letter to the prestigious journal the Lancet, co-authors Dr. Charles Ksir and Dr. Carl Hart explained how researchers overstate the link between psychosis and cannabis by failing to account for variables that may cause co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders.
Speaking to HIGH TIMES, Hart explained that the Lancet has a habit of perpetuating this theory without the evidence to back it.
“Charlie [Ksir, his co-author] and I are concerned that the Lancet and its subsidiary journals have become the journal of marijuana psychosis,” he said…
Indeed, in their review of the literature on cannabis and psychosis, Hart and Ksir found that the association between cannabis-users and people diagnosed with psychosis was caused by a variety of other factors that put certain populations at an increased risk for substance misuse and mental disorders. Put simply, the THC in cannabis did not cause the correlation between marijuana and psychosis, nor did psychosis cause cannabis use.
Carl Hart – where drug myths go to die
You will find Carl Hart an outspoken critic of how science and drug research in particular obscures the real problems – poverty, unemployment etc – endemic to capitalism, and instead blames people who use (illegal) drugs. Hart’s enlightened view on drug reform can be found on his blog which is subtitled “Where drug myths come to die” (http://drcarlhart.com/).
His biography, “A High Price” is a great story of how he came from a ‘drug culture’ in a black ghetto in Miami to become a prominent neuroscientist at Columbia University in New York, advocating the legalising of all drugs. http://drcarlhart.com/we-should-legalize-all-drugs/
Clearly, we are not going to get the liberalisation of cannabis production, consumption and sale we need until the “myths” about cannabis causing harm rather than saving lives are debunked.
As a Marxist I am in favour of banning nothing and liberalising everything. Of course that will be possible only in a socialist society.