cannabis

SOLD as the miracle cure-all in a range of products from food supplements to massage oils, the CBD (cannabidiol) business is booming. Hopelessly over-hyped and over-sold, these products have no legal right to claim health benefits yet this is implied all the time.

A recent and undoubtedly biased report from the industry confidently promises this business will be worth close to £1billion in 2025. Unsurprisingly, conscience-free or ignorant ‘entrepreneurs’ are busy climbing aboard its bandwagon. Others who should know better have also pinned their colours to this unscrupulous business mast.

For example, a conference recently hosted by the Spectator gave the pro-drugs advocate Crispin Blunt MP another opportunity to push his favourite topic, cannabis legalisation. Since then he has launched the Conservative Drug Policy Reform Group, somewhat misleadingly named, as it turns out to be a private company, of which he is a director, and which has no connection with the Conservative Party or Parliament. It has been funded to the tune of £400,000 by commercial Canadian-based businesses already selling cannabis for so-called medical and recreational consumption there and in some US states. Their ambition is to to extend their markets to the UK. Other lobbyists funded by and pushing the industry, including the drugs charity Volteface, are free both with the heroic and unsubstantiated claims they make about the millions that would be won in tax for the government as well as about the UK’s readiness for cannabis legalisation. Unsurprisingly, a poll conducted by Volteface and the London Evening Standard found that a majority of Britons support legalisation. 

That, however, was after the potential respondents were told that legalisation ‘could take an estimated £2.5billion a year out of the hands of criminals and the black market and bring this money into the regular economy’, ignoring legalised states’ expanding black markets and puny pot-tax revenue. The website DB Recovery Resources, checking out how much disinformation was given in the cannabis poll, also found that the pollsters claimed that legalising cannabis would create thousands of full-time jobs, ‘could allow authorities to strictly regulate and label the strength of cannabis sold and limit the potency’ – despite cannabis potency rising in legalised states and the absence of evidence of effective regulation. They even asserted that the psychoactive drug ‘could improve the mental and physical wellbeing of people who use cannabis’ despite its proven harms.

Neither Volteface, the speakers at the Spectator conference nor most of the cannabis snake oil salesmen concern themselves much with the safety of the wide range of products coming on to the market, or with the science. It is not just the uncertainty that persists regarding the safety and side-effects of cannabis-derived ‘medicine’. The widely available high street and internet CBD products may be far from safe, not least the known propensity of CBD to cause liver damage. 

The Times was quite right last week to alert the public that millions are being misled over the cannabis oil mania. 

The most recent scientific research shows there is no cause to be sanguine. Low doses of widely consumed cannabinoids (cannabidiol and cannabidivarin) have been found to cause DNA damage and chromosomal aberrations in human-derived cells. A paper published this year by the Archives of Toxicology suggests those in responsible positions should be more circumspect.

Last August Dr Stuart Reece argued in the British Medical Journal that the known teratogenicity (capacity to cause birth defects) of cannabis (and almost certainly cannabidiol) needs very careful consideration before widespread use of cannabis-based products, either as medications or so-called food supplements, is allowed – a matter which Crispin Blunt and enthusiasts in the Liberal Democrat Party seem happy to ignore.

But in face of such a determined commercial onslaught, the financial backing given to cannabis legalising lobbyists (within and without government) and their heroic claims about the tax to be garnered  (dependent, of course, on no illegal market and highly undesirable and costly wide-scale cannabis consumption), there are worrying signs that the libertarian end of the Tory High Command are weakening their stance.

The science suggests that if they do, it would be their gravest mistake yet. Boris Johnson, if he heads in this direction, could find himself losing a lot of the votes he thought he had. Alice Thomson of the Times is surely right to say that only fools will rush into cannabis legalisation.

And that is all before we start to examine the connection between cannabis, psychosis and violence.

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