When the endlessly tedious cannabis classification debate makes one of its biannual return visits to the political landscape the media can't seem to help themselves but scout around for 'cannabis bad for you' stories. This is not to say cannabis isn't bad for you, obviously it can be, as can all drugs, but it does tend to create the impression of a flood of new research proving just how awful cannabis is (when actually it's just a flood of media coverage), just at the moment when the Government are supposed to be reviewing just how awful cannabis is and making policy decisions accordingly. Given the Government's predilection for knee jerk responses to media panics, this isn't an especially useful phenomenon for fans of rational evidence-based policy.
With the UK in the throws of the latest cyclical bout of reefer madness, lazy journalists have been busily typing 'cannabis' into their pubmed search engines and seeing what turns up that can possibly be turned into a 'cannabis really bad for you' headline. These usually take the form of either cannabis drives you mad, or cannabis is 5 time more carcinogenic than tobacco, with more recent variations about the 'new' super-potent 'skunk cannabis' that is *insert number between 10 and 50* times more potent than the old stuff from the 60s. There's various discussions about this elsewhere on the blog (search for 'cannabis' in the little box at the top of the page)
The BBC have jumped on the bandwagon with a report on their health website today titled 'warning over cannabis lung harm' highlighting two new studies that, unsuprsingly perhaps, link smoking cannabis with lung harm. As it goes the report is better than many, not least because they were good enough to include a quote from me attempting to put some of the more shock-horror conclusions into context. The piece is also distinguished by featuring the worlds worst ever cannabis picture, surely staged with some Wood Lane grass cuttings and an old bird's nest?
More seriously, I was pleased to successfully slip in the issue of smoking harm reduction. Its something that almost never gets mentioned in the cannabis lung damage discussions; of course smoking cannabis is bad for your lungs, so don't smoke it. If you are going to consume cannabis you can dramatically reduce lung damage using a vaporiser or eliminate the risk entirely by eating it in a some form of cooked preparation.
I can count the number of times this obvious bit of harm reduction advice has featured in a 'cannabis smoking bad for lungs shock' story on one hand. Actually one finger, but its a start.
This blog offers some useful critique of the New Zealand study covered in the BBC report