It is wonderful, isn’t it, how censorious the great and the good can be about smoking yet how sanguine they are about cannabis – a drug that is also smoked but the cancerous implications of which are but one of its many harmful attributes, not least to mental health and brain functioning?
Last week, Times reporter Ben Hoyle waxed lyrical about the ‘highs’ of Colorado’s cannabis legalisaton ‘success’ story in a double page spread his editor has generously granted him. A day or so ago The Times gave him even more column inches to continue to spin the case for Colorado’s cannabis legalisation. The headline summed it up. Yes it’s legal but the law is still a drag. It just would be, wouldn’t it?
Under the guise of objective reporting Hoyle assures us that that the skies have not fallen in there. There has been no accompanying crime wave, no eruption of marijuana-related health crises and, guess what, joy upon joy, consumption rates among teenagers have actually fallen slightly since legalisation. Really?
In fact, according to Ben’s heroic claims all in the garden is pretty rosy – cannabis factories provide a thriving business for the poorer areas of Denver and the big corporations are already circling above other US states ready to profit from similar initiatives, from the most lucrative new ‘addiction led’ business to arise in years.
All good news then? Well, that’s if you believe him and decide not to question the information he appears to have relied on for his up-beat prognosis.
Perhaps it was the local media’s spin on Colorado Health Department’s recent Healthy Kids Survey that convinced him. Examination of the survey’s actual findings tells a rather different story. They show that marijuana use among high school students had risen, not fallen, in Colorado since legalisation, while youth cigarette use has declined; that this rise is pronounced among junior and senior high schoolers.
I am sorry to bore you with stats, but it’s important to set them out. School juniors last-month (which indicates frequent) pot use rose from 22.1 to 26.3 per cent and school seniors from 24.3 to 27.8 percent – figures that were already startlingly high following Colorado’s legalising and normalising of medical marijuana back in 2009 (had Mr Hoyle been interested in checking). We are talking about a quarter of all teenagers regularly smoking dope – not just at the occasional holiday time beach party.
This level of consumption places Colorado first in the US for marijuana use for 12-17 year-olds and second for 18 –25s – both at levels well above the US national average.
I have no idea what Mr Hoyle’ family status is but would he really want to bring his kids up in such a drug-using environment, legal or not? Or would he rest in the hope that, by living in a smarter area, his children would be protected from Denver’s schools in the poorest neighbourhoods where – by his own admission – the stench of cannabis from local factories penetrates the schools’ ventilation systems leaving the children with headaches and their eyes watering and their teachers despairing?
Had he cast his eye over either of the recent The Rocky Mountains High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Impact Reports on the Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado, he surely could not have been quite so confident there have been no negative outcomes.
According to these detailed and well-sourced analyses, in the year since 2014, when retail marijuana businesses began operating, there’s been a 29 per cent increase in the number of marijuana-related emergency room visits and a 38 per cent increase in the number of marijuana-related hospitalisations.
Marijuana traffic-related deaths, which Ben Hoyle desists from mentioning, also increased by 92 per cent from 2010-14 while overall crime in Denver went up 12.3 per cent from 2012 to 2014.
Ben is not the first on his paper to be lulled into a false sense of security about a drug that much of our establishment appears to have been in love with for years, never mind the consequences for their less lucky peers. Trawl the editorials and you will find strongly worded condemnations of smoking – support even for the case for banning smoking in cars with children present – but you will struggle to find a similar indictment of adult or teen cannabis use. Nothing on the perils of parents smoking weed – something indeed that various of the Times’s own journalists have from time to time ‘fessed’ up to – and justified.
Treating cannabis casually has the official imprimatur of the Office of National Statistics too by way of a recently devised Crime Harm Index (an ideological ploy as bad as the drugs harm index that the Home Office attempted to deploy in the Blair years).
This is a guide for the police on how much weight they should attach to different crimes. You might call it a device for decriminalising crime. It puts cannabis possession guess where? At the bottom. Of course, ignoring it is how our police treat cannabis offences already, as reported by The Sun yesterday. Our police remain blissfully unaware of effectiveness of ‘broken windows’ policing – that by enforcing the law against ‘minor’ crimes more serious crimes are kept at bay.
One result of the police’s unilateral decriminalisation of cannabis possession is two children hospitalised every day in the UK for the ingestion of illegal drugs.
In Colorado, according to Hoyle’s second report: “You get dirty looks if you smoke a cigarette in the street but people barely even think twice if they smell weed.”
Well that pretty much sums up the attitude of our mainstream media over here with the very honourable exception of The Daily Mail and The Sun.