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10 Jan 2022

Cannabis: The need for a balanced debate

A series of recent articles in The Times has looked at aspects of cannabis including decriminialisation, the risks posed by ultra-potent forms of cannabis, and why parents need to understand the risks associated with high-strength skunk and psychosis. Links are at the end of this article.

We’ve shared Understanding the impact of cannabis on young minds and Understanding cannabis – its history and uses – excerpts from Terry Hammond’s book, Gone To Pot – Cannabis: What Every Parent Needs To Know. Here he looks at why we need a balanced debate about cannabis and its uses.

A highly emotive debate

The former world heavyweight boxing champion, Mike Tyson, is set to become the official ambassador for Malawi’s new cannabis crop, it has been reported.

Cannabis Smoking

Tyson champions cannabis because he claims it has helped his mental health and helped turn his life around. Yes, there is good evidence that cannabis does have therapeutic properties, especially helping with pain relief. Equally, there is powerful evidence that cannabis can cause serious mental health issues.

Up to 10,000 people are being diagnosed with cannabis-induced psychosis every year in the UK. In parts of London, 30% of all new cases of psychosis have been linked to cannabis; in Amsterdam, it’s a staggering 50%. The debate on cannabis can be highly emotive and one with champions on both sides of the divide.

Making an informed choice

I once met a young guy on the train a couple of years ago. He must have been in his late 20s. He caught my attention because he was rolling a joint. I asked him if he had been smoking cannabis for long. He replied that he had – mostly at weekends. I asked him why he smoked it. He smiled and said: “Because I enjoy it.”

He went on to say that smoking a joint was far better than filling his stomach with pints of beer, and, besides, he could get chilled out a lot quicker smoking a joint than booze. I asked him if he thought it might be dangerous. “No more than drinking and certainly no more than smoking cigarettes,” he replied.

I asked him if he would recommend cannabis to my teenage grandson. He once again looked up, smiled and said: “Definitely not. I grow my own which is far less potent than the stuff on the streets. You need to know what you are buying. The stuff on the streets is definitely not for kids.”

That’s the kind of honesty we need to have so young people can make an informed choice. One has to question the motives of Tyson, who is an entrepreneur and owns a cannabis farm in the USA, and I suspect is getting a substantial retainer being an ambassador for Malawi.

You also have to question the motives of Malawi which has openly stated that cannabis offers “great opportunities”, but opportunities for whom? Not the thousands of young Malawian teenagers whose lives will be wreaked by cannabis.

Author, playwright, and campaigner Terry Hammond helped to make our chief executive, Marjorie Wallace, aware of the scandalous treatment of people with mental illness, leading to The Forgotten Illness articles in the Sunday Times and the formation of SANE.

If you would like to know more about the impact cannabis is having on young teenagers and what you can do to protect your children visit:

You may also be interested in My son and cannabis (BBC News)

Liberal parents warned of cannabis psychosis risk (Paywall) – The Times, 7 January 2021

The Times view on the risks of cannabis: Dangerous Skunk (Paywall) – The Times, 7 January 2021

Pot luck: will cannabis ‘decriminalisation’ plan work? (Paywall) – The Sunday Times, 8 January 2021

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