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.: ' A slice through the politics and policies with regard to cannabis from the UK, a sideways swipe at crass stupidity and the hidden agendas with a political slant, cannabis politics with a whiff of hypocrisy, read on......
Alcohol makes the top five: A ranking of drug harmfulness
Posted by jrandolp
March 26th 2007
A recent study in Lancet, Development of a rational scale to assess the harm of drugs of potential misuse, reports on a nine point scale for assessing the harm of the different kinds of “drugs of potential misuse.” The 9 point scale was grouped into three sections: physical harm, dependency, and social harm.
After the scale had been piloted and refined they had two groups–psychiatrists and independent health experts–rate the 20 most common drugs of misuse in terms of harmfulness. The researchers used the Delphi technique to arrive at final, mean rating of harm. The correlation between the ratings of the groups was quite high.
The perceived harm rankings for each drug are provided below. The UK’s Misuse of Drugs Act classification category for each drug is given in parentheses. NC means that that drug does not have a classification; that is, it is a drug with limited or no restriction –like alcohol.
1. Heroin (A)
2. Cocaine (A)
3. Barbituates (B)
4. Street methadone (A)
5. Alcohol (NC)
6. Ketamine (C)
7. Benzodiazepines (C)
8. Amphetamines (B)
9. Tobacco (NC)
10. Buprenorphine (C)
11. Cannabis (C)
12. Solvents (NC)
13. 4-mta (A)
14. LSD (A)
15. Methylphenidate (B)
16. Anabolic steroids (C)
17. GHB (C)
18. Ecstasy (A)
19. Alkyl nitrates (NC)
20. Khat (NC)
Two things particularly struck me about these findings. First, I’ve always known that alcohol and tobacco were strong predictors of mortality, but had no idea, for example that alcohol that it ranks in the top five (just behind street methadone) and tobacco in the top ten (just behind amphetamines). Second, I think that it would be rational to have a drug policy where the most harmful drugs are the ones that are given the highest drug classifications; however, the list above shows that this is not the case. The researchers indeed found no statistically significant correlation between the drug classification category and perceived harmfulness.
There are some caveats about this research that should be taken into account though. The first is that these ratings are based on the informed opinions of health care professionals. The opinions were informed by professional experience, group discussion, and the professionals’ reading of the previous research. Although measuring opinions about the construct of “harm” is not as valid as measuring the construct itself, I am giving the raters the benefit of the doubt that their perceptions of harm are congruent with actual harm. If one cannot measure harm directly, then expert opinions of harm is probably a reasonable substitute. Second, although the researchers used many raters (29), the ratings of each rater were dependent–the raters discussed their individual ratings and could change their ratings based on the discussion. So it is important to realize that the n-size was 2 (i.e., 2 groups) and not 29 and it that was a Delphi study and not a survey study in the traditional sense. It would be interesting in the future to replicate this study using independent ratings and to choose a wider sample with more generalizability. Finally, the researchers gave the raters a set of review articles that the raters could use to partly base their opinions on. It is possible that these researcher-selected articles could have biased the raters’ perceptions of harm.
Nevertheless, the research does much to support the notion that there is significant mismatch between current government drug classifications and drug harmfulness. Also, I believe the way in which the researchers reported the relative harmfulness of drugs will do much to increase the public’s understanding of just how harmful common, relatively unrestricted drugs like alcohol and tobacco really are.
The reference for the article is:
Nutt, D., King, A. L., Saulsbury, W., & Blakemore, C. (2007). Development of a rational scale to assess the harm of drugs of potential misuse. Lancet, 369, 1047-1053.
'Vietnamese nationals jailed for nearly 14 years'
March 17th 2007
A group of gang Vietnamese nationals who turned three Ipswich houses into cannabis factories, producing illegal substances worth up to £1.5million, have been jailed for nearly 14 years. Anh Hai Bui, Phuong Thi Vu, Tham Thi Hoang and Tranh Tran were involved in a conspiracy to grow cannabis in London Road, Clarkson Street and North Road.
Anh Hai Bui, 34, denied the charge but was found guilty by an Ipswich Crown Court jury. The other three pleaded guilty. Hai Bui's heavily pregnant sister Ha Phu Bui was found guilty of making money from crime. Ha Phu Bui was sentenced to five years, while Hai Bui was jailed for four.
Tranh Tran was sentenced to 18 months, Phuong Thi Vu was sent to prison for 21 months and Tham Thi Hoang was jailed for 18 months.Sentencing them at Ipswich Crown Court, Judge Peter Thompson said: “All of you were involved in to a greater or lesser degree the operation of three houses in Ipswich which you turned into cannabis factories. The electricity supplies in each house were diverted so the electricity was effectively stolen. From the outside the houses looked normal but behind black sheeting there was criminal activity. False lighting was set up at one address to make it look like it had normal lighting from the outside but inside artificial lighting was used so that skunk cannabis could be grown at an unnatural speed for maximum profits.”
Judge Thompson said the maximum profits had been estimated at £1.5 million with an estimated outlay for equipment of just £33,000.
During the two week trial the jury heard how the three houses were transformed into drug factories which could have yielded up to £1.5 million.
The court heard that Ha Phu, 27, had lavishly furnished her home in Ipswich Road, Colchester and she had paid for a £9,000 BMW car in cash. Ha Phu who ran Hollywood Nail Bar in Tacket Street, Ipswich, paid a £79,000 deposit on her house using money made from selling drugs. She told the court she paid £190,000 off her £221,250 mortgage in two years.
The majority of class A drug addicts began by experimenting with cannabis...
March 11th 2007
Calls for the Government to do a U-turn on cannabis legislation have been backed by South Belfast doctor and local MP Alasdair McDonnell.
The DUP's Gregory Campbell and Willie McCrea have joined him in pressing Home Secretary John Reid to acknowledge the modern, super-strength version of the drug can be "deeply damaging".
The Ulster trio are among 44 MPs who have signed a motion by Tory MP Humfry Malins urging the Government to be aware of the dangers of cannabis and rethink its controversial 2004 decision to downgrade it to a 'class C' drug. "The majority of class A drug addicts began by experimenting with cannabis," Mr Malins claimed.
In January 2004, then-Home Secretary David Blunkett reclassified cannabis from class B to class C. Two years later his successor, Charles Clarke, resisted pressure to reverse the decision despite disturbing evidence. Mr Clarke accepted the drug could trigger serious mental illness but pledged, Full Gateway Theory...
He must also undergo a drug rehabilitation programme
March 10th 2007
A man who sold cannabis to his friends and hid a stash of cocaine inside a children’s chocolate Kinder Egg has escaped jail. Darren Richardson, 29, who has mental health problems, was charged with supplying cannabis, possessing the class A drug cocaine and possessing cannabis with intent to supply between September 6 and December 6 last year. Richardson, of Abbey Street, was sentenced to 30 weeks in jail, suspended for two years, when he appeared at Carlisle Crown Court on Friday.
When police raided his home, Richardson gave them a carrier bag which had in it 27 plastic bags containing cannabis bush. They also found £465 in his wallet, and cocaine in a Kinder Egg inside his car. Prosecutor Frank Nance said: “For about a year Richardson had a cocaine and amphetamine habit which cost him about £100-a-day. “He got himself into debt with his supplier so he started to sell cannabis to people he knew.” Full Programme...
It’s a plant for fuck sake! How can you ban nature?
March 9th 2007
Another day, another drug report; but as always with the same, sensible conclusions. This time, the authors of the report, the “The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce” - commonly known as the RSA, spent two years studying the situation. Rather than me explaining it to you, why don’t you read about it here, in my favourite broadsheet newspaper, The Guardian.
It’s an informed and considered opinion that the RSA is offering, one that has been around in one form or another, endorsed by other objective studies and completely ignored by politicians.
Politicians are terrified of reports like this because they are terrified of change. “Change” is a vote-loser, especially when that change, no matter how beneficial to society is misunderstood by a misinformed public.
Politicians have a vested interest in keeping people misinformed, especially about drugs. How can they be seen to be combating this terrible problem, if they haven’t pointed out it’s a problem in the first place?
The simple fact is that countless numbers of people in the UK take drugs every week, some every day, with no noticeable effect on their normal, productive lives, yet they are criminalised for something that harms no one.
What harms people are the situations created by the prohibition of drugs.
What harms people is the ignorance and misunderstanding that is fostered by governments and by the traditional media.
I’ve smoked cannabis for nearly 26 years and during that time I’ve either been a gainfully employed, tax-paying member of society or a student in full time education. I’m still sharp as tack with the mental skills of someone half my age. I don’t really take anything else these days and I hardly if ever drink alcohol. Should I be a criminal?
Of course not!
Think of all the dosh lost in uncollected VAT on all of the weed I’ve smoked over the years! There goes that extra MRI scanner for your local hospital! There goes an extra cop or two on the street!
It’s a plant for fuck sake! How can you ban nature?
Some of the biggest and most vocal supporters of a rethink on illegal drugs are the police. Yes, the police, the same people who have to enforce these pointless laws. The cops would much rather be chasing down genuine criminals than a bunch of dopeheads for possession!
I’ve spoken to cops who have told me they prefer to police a housing estate that has a higher percentage of weed smokers than drinkers. The smokers are much more chilled out, whereas we know what people who abuse alcohol are like. If you don’t, just visit any city centre this weekend after 11pm and you’ll receive a lesson you won’t soon forget!
Remember, the police don’t make the laws and it seems like they’re not even consulted when they’re best suited to offer guidance from real life experience. Listen to the cops, please Mr. Politician man! He doesn’t want to arrest anyone for possession!
What we need is an MP with balls, preferably one to become head of the Home Office. Charles Clark was leaning in that direction; so was David Blunkett, but not John Reid. He doesn’t want to rock the boat; he’s planning a future in politics.
How about David “call me Dave” Cameron? Before he was leader of his party, he posed a question over whether drugs should be legalised. He didn’t offer or suggest an answer, he just suggested the question could or should be asked. Since then, he hasn’t even come close to this position and if anything he’s backed away from it. Since the revelations of his boyhood indiscretion with a spliff (shock/horror!), there is even less chance of him keeping his mind this open. It’s a pity, I had high (no pun) hopes for him. Leave it to the leader of the LibDems, Sir Menzies Campbell to be the one voice of reason, welcoming the RSA report and endorsing its findings. The LibDems would legalise weed in an instant and we’d have Dutch-style coffeeshops in every neighbourhood! I wish they would get their act together and get some more support.
Do I think the law is going to change?
Yes, eventually it will, but not soon enough. I’d like it to change yesterday, or even the day before. If everyone would just see sense and avoid all the knee-jerk reaction bullshit that the subject always brings out, we could change the laws for the benefit of not just one lone hippy in north London, but all of society!
"harmless sedative" or "strong hallucinogen"
March 4th 2007
With bigger government lies to swallow than ever before it's been a busy week down at the brain warehouse ( a quote from the re-voiced Talk to Frank "Brain warehouse"
If we are to believe the press, cannabis used to be a "harmless sedative", but has changed to become a "strong hallucinogen" (Guardian Feb 11th 2007). Yes, even the Guardian comes out with this rubbish.
In recent days there's been a spate of articles repeating the claim that cannabis is a far stronger and more dangerous drug today than it was back in the 60's - even in quality papers like the Guardian. For some strange reason these stories appeared at the same time as the Cameron smoked dope story. Odd, that, isn't it?
The important point to make in this debate is no-one really knows how the strength of cannabis has changed over the past 40 years, if indeed it has. No-one knows because no-one has been monitoring what's been sold, they can't because the trade is illegal. All they have to go on is samples taken by the police in raids, hardly a statistically valid sampling method, but even then very few measurements of strength were ever made.
But hey, why let something like facts spoil a good story, especially when it helps hide a real story.
The real truth is a large proportion of the cannabis for sale in the UK is now contaminated and is the subject of a health warning from the Chief Medical Officer, the result of the police action "Operation Keymer" which closed down a proportion of the grow-ops in summer 2006 - Keymer being itself the result of the actions of the Home Office of course.
Another daring police action was focused on activists providing cannabis to people in severe pain - the medi weed group called THC4MS. The government is unrepentant, saying only "any persons engaging in such activity are liable to prosecution whatever their motive for doing so".
Such is the state of cannabis policy in 2007, we should all be very angry, even those of us who want to be Prime Minister.
David Cameron smoked cannabis shock Horror!
Sunday 11th February was a strange day, just about all the media carried the shocking news that David Cameron, leader of the Tories and would be Prime Minister had smoked a bit of cannabis when he was 15. He got told off by the headmaster and "gated" - all very serious public school stuff apparently.
So what? Well, so quite a lot actually.
Hidden in this flurry of hysteria was also the claim that David Cameron carried on toking when he went to university at Oxford. As he put it himself, he had a "normal" university life. In any case, he has made no attempt to deny it.
This means that getting busted didn't deter Cameron from smoking cannabis - even something as nerve shattering as being told of by headmaster failed to stop him!
So David Cameron knows punishment and strictly enforced laws don't deter people from using cannabis. He knows, because it didn't deter him
He also knows that it's easy for kids to get hold of cannabis, again, he's done it himself. So he knows the law doesn't protect children.So he knows that the policy his party wants doesn't work, yet he still supports it. No wonder politicians are held in such low regard these days. Mr. Cameron: If you were unable to obey this stupid law (as an adult, not as a kid), why do you think anyone else will? Why do you support a regime you know from your own experience exposes kids to an unregulated and uncontrolled illegal trade?
'clearly a foot soldier not a general'
March 7th 2006
A Vietnamese chap caught in a house packed with 350 cannabis plants has been jailed for 16 months. The three-bedroom home in Cherry Tree Lane, Potters Bar, was raided in November and illegal immigrant Nam Nguyen was found upstairs. The 27-year-old was given food and a roof over his head in exchange for his job as gardener of the illegal crop. Prosecutor David Chrimes told St Albans Crown Court on Thursday that it was clearly a professional set up with hydroponics equipment.
The house in which illegal immigrant Nam Nguyen was living at the time of the raid
But he added: "The defendant has not made money out of this case, it will have been other people who have benefited financially who sadly are rarely brought to court."
Jamas Hodivala, defending, said: "Mr Nguyen is clearly a foot soldier not a general."
He said Nguyen had been in England for two years sending money home to support his parents and four siblings. And he had only been in the Potters Bar house for three weeks before police raided. Sentencing, recorder Keith Lindbolm said the factory was clearly on a commercial scale and courts would always view cases like this seriously.
He added that he took into account prison overcrowding when deciding Nguyen's fate and he was not recommending him for deportation upon release.
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