Kathy Gyngell: When Farron is crushed will he console himself with a joint?

Wednesday saw the Lib Dem manifesto published at the Oval Space in Hackney. Eager BBC reporters took off to Cambridge, where no doubt they thought they’d find  among students some supporters for this 1970s retro party’s hippy drugs policy.

The sensible kids were far more exercised about student loans - yes some maintenance grants would be welcome - but that was not on offer. Perhaps none volunteered support for drugs legalisation and that is why the usually legalisation-fascinated BBC Home Editor Mark Easton laid off - from what I saw on TV, the  Lib Dems' favourite policy didn’t feature in any of the student vox pops.  I may have missed it, but did the BBC also waste chasing up this perfect opportunity to get sitting Lib Dem MP,  Cambridge scientist Dr Julian Huppert, who specialises in the structure and function of DNA, to press his case for cannabis to be legally available to the young ones?

A pity because I would have loved to have seen him challenged on the numerous scientific papers he must be aware of that link tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) with a range of harms - like the one Mary Brett (the former biology teacher  who runs the Charity Cannabis Skunk Sense) notified me of after I questioned the sanity of the Lib Dems’ policies last  week.

Wouldn’t Dr Huppert have read the recent Australian paper, she queried,  which links cannabis with chromothripsis (chromosome fragmentation) during cell division and cancers, other than those caused by smoking dope, and which should be compulsory reading for anyone advocating the stuff?

Unfortunately, the comments thread had closed by the time Mary’s missive arrived.

But after watching the ludicrous Tim Farron justifying legalisation on the grounds the it would eliminate skunk from the market in the UK, I thought Mary’s postscript needed publishing - and tweeting,  directly to him as  he seems to have no idea of how ignorant he is. Is UK plc going to grow its own government brand of low THC weed - rather like low alcohol beer - to compete with the illicit market already dominated by skunk, I wondered, so his kids can smoke ’safe’ cannabis?  Who would police that? For as Mary points out:

"Cannabis today is almost entirely skunk (High in psychoactive THC, Low in antipsychotic CBD).  It is much stronger than the cannabis of the 1960s and 1970s. (Spice, by the way has nothing to do with cannabis, it’s a New Psychoactive Substance – a chemical). The only connection they have is occupying the same receptor sites in the brain.

"THC (fat-soluble) stays in the brain cells for weeks, depressing and slowing down ALL the chemical signalling and normal brain functioning. One joint per week or even month will ensure its permanent presence and constant activity.

"Learning, concentration and memory all suffer, IQ points are lost, grades fall and many children drop out of education altogether. Psychosis has been linked with cannabis since 1845. Mr Farron should know that skunk-induced schizophrenia costs this country around £2 billion/year. And that’s when it’s still illegal – how much more if it’s legalised? That would pay for an awful lot of doctors, nurses, teachers and policemen. There are problems with the respiratory, cardiac, reproductive and immune systems. And addiction (the hardest addiction to treat in adolescents) will occur in 1 in 6 children who start early. Treatment is very costly. Depression, violence, homicides (e.g. Lee Rigby) and suicides have also been reported.

 "A look at Colorado where it is legal, provides some salutary lessons. Crime is flourishing. Usage among youth is the highest in America, emergency admissions to hospitals have soared, including very young children and toddlers consuming ‘edibles’, vehicle accidents have increased, and far from drug dealers disappearing, the black market is flourishing.

"Lastly – a question about medical marijuana for scientist Dr Huppert: Would he be prepared to eat mouldy bread to get his penicillin, chew willow bark for aspirin or start smoking cigarettes to get his weight down (nicotine suppresses the appetite)?"

 The Cannabis Skunk Sense website (www.cannabisskunksense.co.uk) can be accessed for all the scientific information, articles and reports about cannabis needed to verify all these points. Maybe Dr Huppert  and Mr Farron would like to pay it a visit. Any concerned parent or friend should.

Kathy Gyngell

  • TheStoneMan

    As an ex dope smoker I can confirm that smoking a joint in the 70’s was like drinking a pint of weak beer while now smoking a joint is like drinking a pint of vodka!

  • Benthos

    Farron needs crushing.

    • Politically__Incorrect

      Shouldn’t be difficult

      • Benthos

        Then he can go back to being a pop star.

    • Marat

      Is he really worth the effort?

      • Benthos

        Personally I would say yes.

  • Politically__Incorrect

    It is a rather typical response from the Limp Dums that when faced with a problem of this nature the correct response is to throw your hands in the air and surrender to it. “Be nice to the devil and he’ll be nice to you”. Herein lies the twisted and feeble mind-set of the hippy who believe the route to happiness lies in self-indulgence. One has to wonder why they have treated this matter as such an important issue. Perhaps it’s to try to win back support from all those students they betrayed?

  • Calvin Graham

    Like others on the left, winning the debate/battle isn’t really the point, it’s about being able to sit back at night and know that everyone’s wrong except you and your ideologically pure vegan friends. Just be glad that this time we’ve got a PM playing for a win and not the hearts and minds of the BBC…

    My cartoon take on the election

  • CRSM

    Chewing willow bark is a good source of Salicylic acid, though it tastes awful!

  • UKCitizen

    Dodos, the lot of them.

  • UKCitizen

    The attitude to drugs is similar to liberal attitudes on most things. So long as they feel good in themselves they don’t care what damage is done to those sacrificed at the alter of virtue signalling.

  • I fear you may not have read UK Consultant Neurologist, Professor Mike Barnes’study of the top 20000 international research papers on both the efficacy of cannabis and its risks. The stadard set for qualifying evidence is very high.

    Please take some time to read through this bar-setting report which is currently under review by the Home Office.

  • Coniston

    When I was young (quite a long time ago) I often voted Liberal – I was a kind of Gladstonian Liberal. But today…..the rumbling Londoners can feel underground, centering on Westminster Abbey, is caused by Gladstone rotating at high velocity in his grave.

    • Marat

      Maybe Farron has a secret plan to tap the rotating Mr. Gladstone as an alternative energy source?

  • nanumaga

    The Liberals time came and went some decades ago. I was a Joe Grimond Liberal in the 1970s and was very disillusioned by Jeremy Thorpe’s betrayal of the grassroots supporters by his arrogant and criminal behaviour. I grew up and decided that the Conservative Party was, after all, the most likely to govern my country in a sensible fashion with the best interests for all of its citizens close enough to its heart. The succession of clowns who have been leaders of the Liberal Party, with the possible exception of David Steele, in the last forty odd years have done little to persuade me that I might have been wrong. I’ve favoured the legalisation of cannabis and thought that this could be sold through licensed premises, high street chemists, taxed and the revenues from this used to educate young people in the risks of using this and other more harmful drugs. The huge change in the nature of the drug itself by the widespread replacement of a reasonably innocuous type of ‘grass’ by ‘skunk’ has changed my mind. I have a nephew who has been diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic some years ago and it’s very likely that his use of skunk, along with Ritalin, from the age of 15 may have a lot to do with this. I watched the US DEA’s ‘War on Drugs’ while I lived in Bolivia in the 1990s and despaired at the combination of corruption and incompetence which were the hallmarks of this campaign. There are no simple solutions to this pervasive and dire problem. Education is, as it usually is, the likely component and vehicle through which a solution may be possible. The UK’s education system today is inadequate for this task.

  • Marat

    I don’t see why Mr. Farron shouldn’t have a joint after he loses. After all, his whole team had one just before they wrote the manifesto;

    “And, dude, we could like… let our MPs share their jobs with other MPs…”
    “Radical! Can I have a bite of that burger…”

  • Pamela Mccoll

    Here is what is happening in America. The Brits would do well to stay way clear of legalizing marijuana. In Canada in 2012 the cost to our society for marijuana impaired-only driving collisons was $1.28 billion dollars and that was just for one year.
    Trudeau is moving on legalization, with his Cannabis Bill already having passed first reading in the House of Commons.
    It actually allows for 12 year olds to possess 5 grams legally, and 18 year olds 30 grams legally. Not only is this against The Rights of the Child Treaty but breaks three other international agreements. Canada has until July 1st. 2017 to tell the UN how they plan to back away. The international drug community needs to act now to support the UNODC and tell Canada to sober up immediately and abort their ludicrious plan. The only other thing that can save Canada now is the Canadian Senate and strong regional governments.

    • Cannabis-related traffic accidents have not cost Canada $1.28 billion dollars. On the contrary, because cannabis is an economic substitute for alcohol and other drugs, when cannabis use goes up, impaired driving goes down.

      The Cannabis Act decriminalizes 5 grams and under for minors under 18, meaning they will not face criminal charges. The police will still have the authority to confiscate cannabis from minors, just as they confiscate alcohol from minors. It sets the federal minimum for legal possession of up to 30 grams at 18, but allows the provinces to set their minimums higher. The minimum age will not demarcate who uses cannabis and who doesn’t, but rather who may obtain cannabis from the regulated market and who continues to buy it from the guy three lockers down.

      Article 33 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child “States Parties shall take all appropriate measures, including legislative, administrative, social and educational measures, to protect children from the illicit use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic
      substances as defined in the relevant international treaties, and to prevent the use of children in the illicit production and trafficking of such substances.”

      The Act takes appropriate measures. Given that Canadian teens consume the most cannabis in the industrialized world, that they find cannabis easier to obtain than alcohol, that they are about twice as likely to try cannabis than tobacco and that the black market provides entry level jobs for minors that require no education, training or experience, what we have been doing since 1923 contravenes the Convention.

  • LewisDuckworth

    It’s bad enough, the effects of earlier gentler Cannabis has clearly lodged – lasting decades – in the Farron “brain”. Hopefully, after 8 June he’ll be able to devote all his time to tackling its damaging after-effects.

  • marybrett1

    I have looked at the study by Professor Mike Barnes. It is not about medical cannabis. She did refer to this in a previous post https://www.conservativewoman.co.uk/kathy-gyngell-the-push-for-medipot-remains-a-push-for-pot/ but not in this one which was not about medical cannabis.
    However the question of using whole cannabis as a medicine is actually easily answered – it is a non-starter. Licensed medicines have to be single pure chemicals so that their effects are predictable and controllable and the correct dosage can be calculated. Clinical trials, which may take years, are mandatory. Cannabis, unlike pure heroin and cocaine, contains around 700 different substances. Cannabis and tobacco smokes are very similar in content but cannabis smoke has more of the same carcinogens. The effects of most of the other ingredients are unknown. No medicine prescribed today is smoked.
    THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) the psychoactive ingredient and CBD (cannabidiol) which is anti-psychotic, are the two main substances with medical potential in cannabis. Pure synthetic THC (Licensed medicines Nabilone in the UK and Marinol in the USA) have been around for nearly 30 years. They are used to stimulate the appetite in AIDS patients, and counter the nausea from chemotherapy in cancer treatment. On the whole, doctors don’t favour them as they have too many side-effects and there are more effective drugs available.
    Sativex, a mixture of THC and CBD has also been licensed for use in pain management, in Canada in 2005 and in the UK, 2010. Its effectiveness has been questioned. Pure CBD (Epidiolex) is currently being trialled for various types of epilepsy by GW Pharmaceuticals.
    There are no legitimate grounds for promoting whole marijuana as a medicine. No scientific study has established that marijuana per se is effective as a medicine. There should be no further argument or discussion.
    The folly of advocating the use of cannabis, for example, to reduce the pressure in the eye caused by glaucoma, the patient would need to take it every 3-4 hours. Permanently stoned, they would be unemployable, incapable of driving or indeed doing anything productive.
    With respect to my last sentence in Kathy’s blog.
    I used to ask my pupils,‘Would you be happy to eat a slice of mouldy bread to get your penicillin, smoke cigarettes to reduce your weight (nicotine suppresses the appetite) or chew willow bark for your aspirin?
    They immediately understood, grasped the point, and were very puzzled that so many people seem to be unaware that they are being conned.

    • Thank you for your response, Mary. I appreciate the time you have taken. I would like to correct a few of your inaccuracies.
      You define licensed medicines “have to be single pure chemicals”, however, Sativex, which is made by UK based GW Pharmaceuticals was submitted for approval by the MHRA as a “combination of 2 cannabinoids THC and CBD in a 1-1 formulation with other inactive impurities” – These “impurities” are, in fact, all the other cannabinoids and terpenes and in fact all the 420 or so chemicals found in thew cannabis plant, because they are actually a “full plant extract”:
      GW grow 2 strains (actually it is 4, but for the purposes of this point, it doesn’t matter).
      One strain is very high in THC and very low in CBD – actually Skunk#1 (The original Skunk strain) and the other is very high in CBD and very low inb CBD – Eg: Charlottes Web. Full plant extracts are taken and mixed to achieve this balance.
      Epidiolex is NOT pure CBD at all, but it is also a full plant extract taken from the latter strain Eg: Charlottes Web.
      So GW Pharmaceuticals have already acknowledged that those policies about single molecule medicines are inappropriate for cannabis as even their products work better with ALL the chemicals in them due to the “Entourage Effect”. It is for this reason that the other 11 countries who have made policies for medical cannabis access/import have created an exception for cannabis.
      It is not just THC and CBD which have therapeutic potential, they are just the two with the most research done to date, other cannabinoids are also showing promise now: CBDV, THCV, CBC, CBG, CBN, etc…)
      Today, right now, there are an estimated 1m sick people who find that raw cannabis helps their symptoms more effectively and with less unwanted side-effects then any of their prescription alternatives. So far, in around 20 years, GW have produced 2 medicines, one of which is still not approved which addresses about 4% of people who can benefit. Those sick people need access right now, not in another 20 years.
      With companies like Bedrocan in NL and Tilray in the US there are many different forms and strengths of “Pharmaceutical Grade” cannabis available for import right now all of which have passed the highest pharmaceutical standards (GWP certified) which if we were to merely move cannabis out of Schedule 1 of the MODA 1971 (Sativex is in schedule 4) which would allow doctors to discuss and prescribe if they feel it will help and pharmacies would be able to import it to fulfil the prescription.
      What reason do we have for not doing this, when so many people would benefit?

    • Would you pour hot water over ground up beans to get your caffeine? Would you eat an orange to get your vitamin C?

  • marybrett1

    Pharmacologists have assured me that the “impurities” are totally acceptable small traces of other substances from the plant and as you say, they are ‘inactive’.

    • Not “as I say”, as GW Pharmaceuticals say. They and the rest of the scientific community now understand that those chemicals are absolutely not inactive and make a significant and measurable difference to the medical effectiveness. The additional difficulty, is that is can already be shown that different balances of THC and CBD, along with different balances of the other cannabinoids, leads to better outcomes for different patients with different conditions – This means that our current approach to our approval system for medications is counter productive to cannabis, which has now been recognised by much of the rest of Europe and many other countries. 200m people around the world are benefiting from their legal access with the fastest growing demographic being the elderly because it helps so much with so many age related health issues and with less side effects. I am as passionate as you are in my desire to keep dangerous drugs out of the hands of young people, and there is a real and significant issue with the prevalence of very low CBD street cannabis (High THC is more of a dosage issue, Low CBD is the key) which is a direct result of the market being run by criminals. Medical access through prescription of a qualified medical professional and fulfilled by a pharmacy, I believe, we should progress immediately, as it would be lacking in compassion not to and does not require a law change, as such. Then, perhaps, we can do some real up close studying of the impacts of that, before reconsidering our approach to drug policy as a whole. Adult recreational use of drugs, I believe, is a different subject to a person suffering from a chronic illness having access to something that makes their lives better and their pain go away?

  • Pamela Mccoll

    Here are the costs of drugged driving marijuana only 1.09 -1.28 billion dollars in 2012 in Canada in black and white.

    • It is not black and white. To guestimate the costs of cannabis-related traffic accidents the researchers made a number of dubious assumptions.

      “As an example, the rate of cannabis-related DUI incidents was measured
      by random selection from roadside stops in British Columbia, and applied
      at the same per-capita rate to all other provinces included in the

      “Among the caveats the study is not shy about admitting, the chief
      concern is the study’s own lack of confidence in its findings. It
      emphasises its confidence intervals “were quite broad and should be
      interpreted with caution”, adding, “This is a product of the quality and
      variation in the data available”, and closes by highlighting the
      conflict of interest in having been funded in part by an insurance firm.”


      To properly calculate the costs of cannabis consumption in Canada with respect to traffic accidents one would need to factor in accidents that do not happen as a consequence of consumers electing not to drive after having consumed cannabis. One would also need to factor in the extent to which cannabis causes alcohol and other impairing drug consumption to go down. Then there is the fact that, in sharp contrast to alcohol, cannabis consumers tend to overestimate their level of impairment and, if they drive at all, adopt of more defensive driving style to compensate for perceived impairment.

      “A recent review by Rogeberg and Elvik (2016) carried out the most sophisticated analysis to date of the available literature, including studies covered by these previous reviews and newer studies, with critical consideration of methodological issues. This analysis concluded that the most defensible OR for cannabis-related motor vehicle collision is 1.22 (1.11-1.36) or roughly 20-30%. Their analysis indicates that the MVA OR determined specifically from studies that have controlled for alcohol is 1.18 (1.07-1.3). One of the studies included in the review was a large case-controlled observational study conducted by the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2015, which did not find an increased rate of overall motor vehicle accidents in drivers who had used cannabis when controlling for alcohol use and demographic factors (adjusted odds ratio = 1.00).”- CANNABIS USE AND DRIVING: Evidence Review Canadian Drug Policy Coalition (CDPC), Simon Fraser University, March 27, 2017.

      To put that 1.07-1.3 OR into context:

      “Regarding alcohol, the significance of the BAC x Age interaction (Table 5) makes the ORs vary not only by BAC level but also by age. As expected, crash risk increases with BAC and decreases with age. The ORs for a 16- to 20-year-old driver at BAC = .01%, .05%, and .08% were 1.45, 6.45, and 19.72, respectively. Thus, the crash risk for a 16- to 20-year-old driver at BAC = .08% is about 14 times higher than at BAC = .01%. For drivers ages 21-34 and 35 and older, the crash risk at BAC = .08% is about nine times and six times higher than at BAC = .01%, respectively. This finding reproduces once more evidence of the deleterious impact of alcohol on drivers, particularly among the youngest ones.”

      “Of interest is the comparison between the ORs for drug-positive and alcohol-positive drivers. The ORs associated with drivers at BAC = .05% or BAC = .08% are significantly higher than for drug-positive drivers, either those positive for marijuana (nonsignificant OR) or for drugs other than marijuana. For drivers ages 16-20, the crash risk at BAC = .05% and BAC = .08% is about 4 and 11 times higher, respectively, than that for being positive for drugs other than marijuana. For drivers age 35 and older, these differences are reduced to about 3 and 7 times higher, albeit they remain statistically significant. Compared with the risk at BAC = .01%, however, drivers positive for drugs other than marijuana had significantly higher crash risk.”

      Romano, E., Torres-Saavedra, P., Voas, R. B., & Lacey, J. H. (2014). Drugs and Alcohol: Their Relative Crash Risk. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 75(1), 56-64.

  • Pamela Mccoll

    Canada is in breach of three UN treaties if they legalize and they are also in breach of The Rights of the Child. The fact that the police and politicians in Canada have chosen to not uphold the law is the problem not the laws. The other issue is that youth do not get criminal records in this country they are protected under juvenile courts – unless the crime is horrific and they are tried as adults. The age of 12 to legally possess 5 grams of marijuana is insane and breaches the intent of the Rights of the Child as does allowing the use of marijuana in the home, marijuana plants to be grown in the home but mostly because legalization is about adults – no one believes that legalization will reduce the use by youth – it is not happening in Uruguay or Colorado – and not under decrim in Portugal.

    • The UN has now changed its wording, from UNGASS 2016 entitling member states to enact their own more health and harm reduction focused approaches. There is other data which shows a very different picture, such as no significant rise in consumption by young people. More people are being honest about their consumption, so it looked like it went up, but now it can be seen to be coming down – its not cool anymore. In addition, more of those who need help with their problematic use are seeking help and getting it because there is more resources as they have moved from the justice system. Even with driving, now that it is being tested for and now that it has become legal, many more people who are involved in accidents are testing positive for cannabis, but many of those are testing positive for other drugs including alcohol and opiates and overall there are no more drug users, but there are less accidents and less fatal accidents. Opiate issues are down by nearly 25% and alcohol consumption is down around 7% and abuse of alcohol down 15% – It has not made more people use drugs, it has given many people a much safer choice than the alternatives. In any case, the entire market in the hands of criminals, who make the strongest most harmful types and are happy to sell to children would be removed. With a regulated market, it won’t be perfect, but it will be orders of magnitude better then now. I would not recommend implementation in the same style as the US. If you are looking for good models, try Canada or Germany?

      • Pamela Mccoll

        Canada has the highest rate of use by youth in the industrialized world so no way are we model of anything good. Look at Sweden – implementing the UN conventions and prohibition and lowest rates of use of marijuana – they spend big on education and they get results. They are the example to follow.
        I was at UNGASS and the world recommitted to the existing conventions – and support prevention and keeping domestic legalization illegal under international treaty agreements. The black market in Canada will just be legitimated like they were in Colorado – masquerading in a legal system – and doing a booming business – those that suffer are the users the majority of whom are youth.

        • I’m sorry, but why would we want to follow the example of a country who managed to get cannabis use down but has increased drug related deaths up 770%? Please do have a look at all drug use and not just one, when you are measuring the effectiveness of a policy. The UNGASS change and its significance is given in Hansard by Baroness Molly Meacher here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2016-11-21/debates/D2110C6E-0497-4026-94F5-0468816ECE7F/DrugsPolicy Even though you may argue that business is bad, I dont think any right thinking person would argue that they are as bad as criminals? The UK has a long tradition of great policy. So the rest of the world has made some mistakes – we can learn from them and get it right?

          • Pamela Mccoll

            Marijuana is not safe for human consumption so there is no getting it right and the rights of an adult are less of a priority than the rights of children – that includes the right to be born without the problems of substance abuse pre or during pregnancy by both men and women, to s smoke-free home, a drug free school. The only policy that makes any sense is one that reduces demand and legalization is about a small minority of adults who want a “high”world and the rest of use to pay the costs of that privilege. When you look at the balance of rights and responsibilities in a civilized society and the potential harm to children then legalization makes zero sense and that is why the world has rejected such a policy and will continue to do so – the only countries messing around with this are the ones who have populations who have been fooled, lied to and are under-educated – the science is there and no one can make the case that marijuana is safe – no one.

    • “The other issue is that youth do not get criminal records in this country they are protected under juvenile courts.”

      As the seemingly only member of Smart Approaches to Marijuana Canada, I would have thought that you would oppose criminalizing minors for possessing cannabis.

      “Our aim is to champion smart policies that decrease marijuana use and do not harm marijuana users and low-level dealers with arrest records that stigmatize them for life and in ways that make it even harder for them to break free from cycles of substance dependence.”

      Again, the Cannabis Act would not make possession of 5 grams or less legal for those 12-18. It “decriminalizes” that offense. No one claims cannabis legalization will reduce youth use, rather, that Canadian government has said one of its primary objectives it to make cannabis more difficult to obtain for minors.

  • I do understand that I am communicating on a forum for conservative viewpoints, the clue is in the title! I just wanted to reassure you that I mean no disrespect to anyone, nor do I wish to offend anyone, in anyway. I do not mind if you have had enough of me, for now. From my point of view, I help run a medical cannabis patient support group who provide safer consumption advice, legal advice and advocacy so I am surrounded by the very opposite of what I know others have experienced at the other end of the cannabis benefit/risk scale, I see the good that cannabis does for many thousands of people that I know personally. I spend as much of my time, helping those who are rather evangelistic about cannabis to see that there are risks that need to be addressed as I do on those who are rather over focused on the risks, to see that there are benefits to be enjoyed. I think both sides of this coin do have one thing in common – we want to reduce the harm, reduce problematic use and reduce access for young people. We just have differing views on how to achieve that. Lets keep the dialogue open? Sincerely. Jon