I SAY ‘NO’ TO POT – An opposition to legalisation of cannabis

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Firstly, I am in favour of medical use of cannabis, just as derivatives of cocaine and opium are used in treating several medical conditions. I leave this to experts.

A lot of misinformation is carried on the internet by active ‘Pro-Pot’ lobbyist; naturally, they wish to legitimise their smoking habit. However, in their enthusiasm, these people miss the wider implications of this drug.

The World Health Authority define drug, as a “mind-altering substance”, emphasis on the “mind-altering”. Cannabis is recognised as a psychoactive drug, with just one inhalation, the effect is felt in the brain. What happens next could be a chain-reaction of many things, mood, personality changes, passivity or agitation, even aggression, not because it is illegal but because of the chemical nature of the drug. With just one inhalation, ‘a toke’, the chemicals in cannabis reach the brain. Smokers of cannabis look for a “buzz”, a pleasurable effect in the brain.

To say that the Stay Clean group and ERG have created a group called ‘Connected Health’ and then propose legalization of cannabis for recreational use, is a contradiction in terms. Why? Because to consume cannabis is as unhealthy as alcohol and tobacco with similar health consequences, with neurological harm like depression, anxiety and even schizophrenia.

When the Stay Clean project was first mentioned to me, by its two co-founders, there was no mention whatsoever of the legalisation of cannabis nor the presence of the ERG. Johnny Bonfante, one of the co-founders, who has since parted company with Stay Clean, can testify to that.

Stay Clean claim; “We are not recommending that people use psychoactive drugs of any kind. We are actually advocating health.” What? If you are supporting recreational use of cannabis, you are supporting the use of a psychoactive substance. They add, “The reason people choose cannabis is because it is less problematic”. What?  These statements indicate they know little of what they are talking about because when people smoke cannabis, they are not thinking whether it is problematic or not, they smoke to get a “buzz”, a change in mood. Cannabis is not a soft drug. It is a dangerous drug precisely because of this misconception as to what it can do to the mind, no one can tell who can be the next victim of a mental condition. They have also said, ‘Furthermore, those who argue from knowledge of experience gained in past decades have inevitably lost touch with the realities of today’. I, for one, speak with the latest available medical data.

Recently, I’ve spoken with local doctors, police officers, lawyers, practising counsellors, fellowship persons and psychologists to find out more what they think on this matter. I have also met the Minsters for Drugs Ms Samantha Sacramento and Minster for Health Neil Costa.

Last month, I corresponded with two directors of two of the most prestigious Rehabilitation Centres in the UK.

The Castle Craig’s Director wrote: “I have followed the recreational cannabis debate. We do of course see a growing number of patients severely dependent on cannabis and there is abundant research which shows the physical damage it can cause, especially to the brain. We are not supporters of its use recreationally”.

The Director of Broadway Lodge wrote: “As an organization, we have seen too much damage to individuals and their families to consider legalisation of cannabis as a good thing. We believe that doing so would imply that the risks were minimal and use would likely be more widespread and across a wider age range as a result of such a move. We have indication that it is being processed and distilled into very concentrated forms that may render it more harmful”.

Notice the repeated statements, “abundant damage” and “much damage to individuals and families”. Do the pro-campaigners know better than these experts? None of the above agrees with this group’s idea of legalisation for recreational use. Here are a few present day reports on drugs:

A 2013 study from the ‘University of Maryland School of Medicine’ published in ‘Neuropsycophamacology’:

‘Regular marijuana use during adolescence may permanently impair cognition and increase the risk for psychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia. The follow-up study found that using marijuana as a teen reduces grey matter in the parts of the brain associated with motivational, emotional and affective processing’.

A 2104 National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that people who smoked marijuana heavily in their teens lost eight points in IQ. Importantly, the lost cognitive abilities were not fully restored in those who quit smoking marijuana. And, the risks are not just to mental health but physical too. A 2014 study published in the American HEART Association found that marijuana causes heart attacks and diseases in the arteries just like tobacco.

A 2013 review of scientific literature by Canada’s Public Health Agency reported that there is strong evidence that smoking cannabis is carcinogenic.

The cannabis advocates mention cannabis should be regulated like alcohol and tobacco, forgetting that consumption of these has rocketed affecting cost to health services, loss of working hours and damage to personal lives. Even with its ‘regulated system’ and wider availability, alcohol eventually filters down to kids.

Experts assert that it is a great mistake to use jurisdictions where cannabis has been legalised as examples since it is yet too early to know the consequence of that decision. It will take 50 years before the results of such decisions are fully known. Following are negative consequences following legalisation laws.

Dr. Christian Thurston of Colorado Adolescent Psychiatric Society reports that his clinic is inundated with young people for marijuana-addiction treatment. “Every day, we see the acute effects of the policy of legalisation and our kids are paying a great price.”

Personal possession of cannabis increased 29% in the first year of legalisation (and that was before stores started selling for recreational use. (Source Rocky Mountain HIDTA).

Visits to the Emergency Department increased by 62%, with transient panic attacks by extreme cannabis intoxication (SAMHSA, 2013, TABLE 9).

A study in Vermont reported important risk of anxiety of smokers.

Joe Caruana, former Minister

The acute short-term cognitive effect of cannabis intoxication shows the influence of cannabis can impair short-term memory, attention, reaction time and psychomotor performance (Holland, Pacula 2003).

The situation in Holland has gotten out of hand so licenses for ‘C’ Cafes have been reduced. They need to be far from schools and can only sell to residents. There’s been an increase in black market activity concentrating on Dutch youngsters.

If alcohol is legal, why not cannabis? Two wrongs don’t make a right. Legalising cannabis is a solution to nothing, except to send the wrong message to the young.

words | Joe L Caruana MBE