Dr Hans-Christian Raabe: The BMJ is in thrall to the drugs legalisation lobby

You can always rely on the British Medical Journal (BMJ) to be so, so predictable. Whenever there is any opportunity to further drug legalisation, this (once respected) institution just cannot get enough of it.

You could be forgiven for believing that they are totally addicted to the idea, so in thrall to the drug legalising lobby they seem.

Their latest salvo in the debate is a three page feature, essentially advocating legalisation - or at least decriminalisation - of cannabis (‘Cannabis regulation: high time for change’ ; BMJ; 24.05.2014)

This, their latest extensive one-sided coverage of the issue, begs the question – is it, or should it be - the role of a medical journal to advocate legalisation of illicit drugs?

Should a medical journal be pressing for cannabis, which is a harmful substance with many serious adverse mental health, health and social effects (drug-driving being just one), to be normalised? For please note that legalisation means normalisation.

The current editor of the BMJ, Dr Fiona Godlee, seems to think it should be. After all, she would have commissioned this piece.

Of course drug legalisation is not the only item on her medical journal's libertarian agenda. The BMJ also pushes for the legalisation of euthanasia and for the further liberalisation of abortion; yet it shows no similar interest in the opposing arguments.

When, for example, a few years ago, I submitted an article challenging the practice of sex-selective abortion it was rejected. On what grounds? The reason given: my piece did not mention the benefits (!) of sex selective abortion. The mind boggled!

But back to their latest effort to get the law changed on cannabis, who is the main adviser to the article? Well, who else but a certain Mr Steve Rolles. He is not a scientist or a medic, though he is someone who has previously been granted a BMJ editorial on the very same subject.

It just so happens that Mr Rolles works (and presumably therefore is being paid for) by Transform, a single-issue campaigning group for drugs legalisation.

Is the BMJ party to their campaign? It seems so.

When – some years ago – Mr Rolles’s colleague at Transform, Danny Kushlick, gave an interview about this pressure group to The Guardian, he stated, that ‘our objective [is] to legalise all drugs’. He also stated that ‘we get funding from a Swiss billionaire; I can’t give you his name’.

Today, one of those who funds Transform is the billionaire George Soros, through his Open Society Foundation. This is the same George Soros who has spent many millions of his own money furthering the drugs legalisation agenda worldwide.

How can the BMJ justify publishing an article advocating legalisation of cannabis where the main adviser appears to be a paid lobbyist for the legalisation of drugs?

It seems that they are determined to ignore the question. On the publication of their cannabis spread last week, I immediately submitted a ‘rapid response’ asking this very question. It appears, so far, that they are choosing neither to publish it, nor to answer it, though they have already published number of other responses.

Yet it seems highly doubtful that they could ever consider publishing an article advocating softening tobacco (or alcohol) regulation if the main source of information were a lobbyist for the tobacco (or alcohol) industry. They would fear castigation and putting the future of the publication in jeopardy.

So it is deeply ironic, in the very same issue, that we find the BMJ pontificating that ‘the media don’t always make clear the potential conflicts of interests...’ regarding, who else but, ‘not so independent tobacco experts’.

Well, this is exactly what the BMJ itself is guilty of this with respect to illicit drugs. It is less than transparent when it comes to their not so independent ‘cannabis experts’.

They should try taking their own medicine - urgently. But that is probably asking too much...

In my second post tomorrow I will explain why that is: why Dr Godlee and her pro-drug advocate allies always turn to the defeatist ‘legalisation’ answer to the drug problem - and why, given the experiences of other countries, this is such a very limited and unenlightened approach.

Hans-Christian Raabe