The recent report by King’s College London into the effects of cannabis on mental health has been widely reported by the media in the last few days.
Many media sources have opted for sensationalist and fear-inducing headlines, such as “Users THREE TIMES more likely to develop psychosis if use stronger strains of Skunk cannabis”. While the report by King’s College does, in a sense, make these claims, the majority of media pieces left out some very important facts that were also included in the report’s main conclusions.
One Sky News correspondent stated that “cannabis use has decreased drastically in recent years”, despite the report to which he was referring to begins with the line “Over the past 20 years the use of cannabis has become almost as common as tobacco among adolescents and young adults”. The search for the truth is being distorted by such contradictory and often downright false reporting by media outlets, alongside incredible and conveniently timed “technical difficulties” – such as Tom Lloyd (former Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire Police and now pro-regulation campaigner) being cut from our screens in full anti-prohibition flow.
Besides these ‘reporting inconsistencies’, there is a vital point in the report’s conclusions that every mainstream media outlet seemed to either miss completely, or who’s bearing on the report’s findings they thought did not warrant mention. As it turns out, it is possibly the most important contributing factor which must be taken into account when considering these conclusions.
The report states from the very beginning (as quoted above), and repeats numerous times throughout, that these findings are applicable to those who start using cannabis in their adolescence and continue abuse or regular use through their teens and on into adulthood. This, as has long been suspected by many scientists, researchers and pro-cannabis campaigners alike, is most likely found due to continued brain development during this stage in a person’s life.
These findings, as with similar research conclusions conducted in the past, do not suggest any cannabis induced psychosis or mental health problems for those who begin using cannabis at an age where the brain is more fully developed, such as in late teens or early 20’s.
When taken into consideration, these points alone (there are many more in the report such as possible additional causations, and that any possible suspected harms from cannabis pale in comparison to the proven dangers of alcohol) support an argument to end prohibition and to instead regulate the current criminally owned cannabis market. A regulated market, with quality control, age restrictions, and conditions of sale, would protect the teens and adolescents who may be at risk of any harms that cannabis may pose.
“A regulated market, with quality control, age restrictions, and conditions of sale, would protect the teens and adolescents who may be at risk of any harms that cannabis may pose”
We have seen this same effect on underage drinking with the enforcement of regulations on alcohol, and with the infamously failed and ultimately counterproductive experiment in the 1930s in which U.S. showed us all how alcohol prohibition simply doesn’t work, you would be forgiven for thinking the world would have learned a lesson.
Whatever the truth, whatever the long term risks of cannabis use are, whether or not certain strains can have an effect on the mental state of certain users or even whether or not cannabis actually causes a user psychosis rather than being a casual link to cannabis use only, one thing is for sure: prohibition is not working.
The evidence, the experts, and a large percentage of society, are now calling for much needed and long overdue reform of cannabis laws around the world. Yet we continue to teach our children, and society as a whole, to abstain from certain activities when in fact we should be educating those who find intrigue in recreational narcotics and who – in all probability – will experiment with drugs regardless of their legal standing.
The current and unwavering stance of “you shall not do this” is not showing any signs of slowing society’s escalating drug use or abuse, whether that may be abuse of legal drugs like alcohol & so-called legal highs, or any one of the substances currently prohibited by law.
Perhaps then a more flexible approach is required? In place of abstention and prohibition could a new message of moderation, along with regulation ensuring a safer cannabis market all round, have the most beneficial effect – if perhaps not the desired one?
After all, society and human beings have shown us many times, forced prohibition will almost certainly have the opposite effect to that which is intended.