ON Monday, Times commentator Clare Foges wrote an admirable rebuttal to the LibDems’ much-vaunted cannabis legalisation policy, and took the whole legalisation case by the horns.
Though the self-confessed dope smoker Jo Swinson is unlikely to become PM, Foges points out that she could become a power broker. She has a point – if the LibDems are addicted to anything, it is to their defining but barmy idea that normalising drug use will make it OK. We are also, as Foges sets out in her article, ‘drifting on the tides of fashion towards a dangerous destination’. Debunking the legalisers’ brave new world of dope was never more urgent.
It’s not just political pressure but commercial too. And they are prepared to spend money to get their way. Earlier this year I attended a conference The Spectator hosted for commercial cannabis hopefuls and political lobbyists which was misleadingly subtitled ‘Understanding the impact’. Forget that – there wasn’t a dissenting voice on the platform. It was all about when and why, little about why not. But for Peter Hitchens and David Raynes in the audience no hard questions about the social and health impact of Big Dope would have been posed. For a window into the world of the alternative ‘health’ entrepreneurs and city analysts who can’t wait to exploit this drug and whose attitude is ‘I’m all right, Jack’, this was chilling.
Foges also tackled the perception that to be against legalisation is to be in favour of the status quo. There are few of us however who are satisfied with its blind eye default.
She dealt with the standard arguments against legalisation explaining that ‘losing’ the war on crime doesn’t mean we stop prosecuting it. She reaffirmed too that potency is higher than ever before; that study after study has found a clear association between the high levels of THC which most present-day cannabis contains and serious mental health problems, particularly schizophrenia and psychosis.
But she went further, highlighting hospitalisations and how ‘those tormented by devils today tend to seek sanctuary in the local A&E, where admissions for psychosis have been rising’. An omission in this otherwise tour de force was any mention of the gulag of over-subscribed secure mental health units. Psychiatrists have called them cannabis dependency units, and they are populated largely by irreversibly damaged young male psychotics, betraying the fact that this is not an equal opportunities illness. Young men are the main victims of cannabis. Importantly she did turn to what Peter Hitchens has made his personal crusade which is to report and question ‘the third link in the chain: cannabis use; mental health problems; violent crime’.
Most journalists have carefully avoided the unpalatable (to drug liberalisers) fact of the extraordinary number of brutal crimes in which the assailant had a history of heavy use. Not so Clare Foges.
Many have been documented on a website called Attacker Smoked Cannabis to which Foges refers and whose curator says: ‘Once one learns the characteristics of violence committed by cannabis smokers — frenzied, savage, sustained, unprovoked – such violence becomes easy to spot. A young father violently killing his child? A victim stabbed ten, 20, 50, 100 times? . . . Such crimes used to be rare in the UK and Ireland, if they happened at all. In 2019, there were more than two dozen before Easter.’
She highlights, too, a book called Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence by the former New York Times journalist Alex Berenson which ‘shines a light on the data in states that have legalised cannabis’. The author, she reports, ‘calculated a 35 per cent rise in murders from 2013 to 2017 compared with a 20 per cent rise nationally’ in the four states that changed their laws from 2014 to 2015: Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington.
Foges’s article was one of the most comprehensive reviews of the impact of cannabis liberalisation by a journalist in recent years. Her conclusion, after weighing the evidence, that legalisation is no liberation but the reverse, was hugely welcome, as I wrote to the Times in response.
For those readers not behind the paywall, I wrote:
‘Clare Foges’s warning against the momentum building for cannabis legalisation is timely and welcome. The flawed thinking behind the Lib Dem proposal needs spelling out. Most fundamental is the deceit that cannabis “harms” have derived from its prohibition, not its use. The reverse is the case. There has been a phoney war on drugs in the decades since the Misuse of Drugs Act, with the de facto decriminalisation of cannabis use, a laissez-faire police policy and an absence of meaningful criminal sanctions. Contrary to received opinion, in places such as Colorado and now Canada, cannabis use has risen and so too have harms, not least among children. The black market continues to thrive. Any idea that the huge public health and safety costs of this brain-changing (too often irreversibly) drug would be diminished by the official sanctioning of cannabis, or that its commercial exploitation and the legalisation of weaker strains would make cannabis use safe or protect children, is simply fanciful.’