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Serious Misinformation Published By 'Scotland On Sunday'

25 Nov 2012

Kenny Farquharson, Editor, Scotland On Sunday

Dear Mr Farquharson,

I am the elected leader of CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform, a registered UK political party and the largest membership-based drug reform group in Britain.

It was a grave error of judgement to publish the letter in today's edition from David McEwan Hill which you have headlined "Cannabis responsible for millions of deaths":

Of course, I understand that the letter is an expression of opinion but presumably you would not publish a letter which claimed that paedophilia enhanced a child's education or that husbands should beat their wives twice a week for a longer, happier marriage? Clearly in such instances, advancing ludicrous, unsustainable ideas, you would judge that it would be irresponsible to publish. This is exactly the level of absurdity and falsehood that Mr Hill's letter about cannabis achieves.

It is disgraceful that you should give space to an opinion which is based on lies and deceit and contradicts all scientific evidence and expert opinion.

This is such a serious example of "inaccurate, misleading and distorted" information that we are considering a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission. Even though you may defend it as opinion, a responsible publisher should have, at least, included a caution or warning to readers.

However, I offer for publication below a letter which may serve to restore some balance.

Yours faithfully,

Peter Reynolds


I refer to the letter from David McEwan Hill, headlined "Cannabis responsible for millions of deaths".

This letter is absolute and utter nonsense. These are the ramblings of a denier of science and fly in the face of all expert and scientific evidence. I am shocked that you should choose to give space to what is dangerous and irresponsible misinformation.

There is no "epidemic of paranoid schizophrenia". This is false. Schizophrenia rates have in fact been falling for the last 50 years.

There is no evidence of any teenage suicide being "directly traced to cannabis use". On the contrary, cannabis has been used as an antidepressant for thousands of years. Furthermore the introduction in 2006 of the anti-obesity drug rimonabant, a CB1 receptor blocker, led to a dramatic increase of suicides amongst users and it was withdrawn in 2008. Rimonabant works as "anti-cannabis" and demonstrates therefore the very positive, life enhancing effects of cannabis.

Cannabis does not "desensitise users". It does exactly the opposite, enhancing the senses. This is why people use it for pleasure.

There is no evidence of cannabis users performing "acts of appalling violence without concern", nor of aggression when ceasing use.

Cannabis is not addictive in the way that people understand the word as is the case with drugs such as heroin or alcohol. There are no serious withdrawal symptoms nor threat to life from ceasing use which is what drives drug addicts to commit violent crime. However, approximately 9% of cannabis users do exhibit signs of a very mild dependency. Prevalence and withdrawal symptoms are approximately equivalent to caffeine dependence. (Hall et al 2001, Coffey et al 2002, Copeland et al 2004, DSM-IV)

There is no evidence of cannabis causing "huge mood swings in users".

There are no "extra strong hallucinogenic strains now being used." Although average THC content has increased two or three fold over the last 30 years, there have always been stronger varieties available and there has been no increase in mental health problems correlating with the change in average THC levels. In fact, users tend to use less of a stronger product just as no one drinks pints of whisky.

There is no evidence that cannabis "demotivates at even low levels of use".

There is evidence that cannabis smoke contains more tar and carcinogens than tobacco but the largest case control study of its type (Tashkin 2006) showed that cannabis provides a protective effect against the carcinogenic effects of tobacco and those who smoke neat cannabis develop fewer cancers than those who smoke nothing at all. These results were confirmed by a 20 year longitudinal study reported in the AMA Journal in January 2012 which showed that even long term heavy use provided no reduction in or harm to lung function.

There is no evidence of cannabis use being linked as a causal factor to "bowel and testicular cancer in young men.".

Everyone is entitled to their opinion and freedom of expression is a fundamental right. However, it is deeply irresponsible of the Scotsman to provide space for this dangerous and wholly false nonsense.

Peter Reynolds
CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform