Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Millions quit cannabis following reclassification

After listening to Jacqui Smith MP talking about skunk cannabis in Parliament today millions of young people have decided to quit using cannabis and drink 3 litre bottles of white-lightning cider instead. Across the housing estates of Britain vulnerable young people, more used to the daily truant ritual of a skunk fueled psychotic axe-rampage, could be witnessed huddled around radio's hanging on Home Secretary Smith's every word. Interviewed afterwards many were of the opinion that now they faced a super-stern warning from the police for cannabis possession, instead of a mere moderately-stern warning like in the old days, the risk was simply too great. It was time to quit weed and hit the cider big time. This fear was combined with a new found insight into cannabis provided by Gordon Brown, specifically regarding the 'lethal' skunk version of the otherwise completely benign sixties flower power drug smoked by Smith and her cabinet colleagues way back when.

The general opinion around the bus shelters was that Smith and Brown, given their in-depth academic research, backgrounds in the drugs field and Phd's in epidemiology and psycho-pharmacology respectively, were far better qualified to advise today's youngsters about drug harms than those 'unqualified jokers on the thingy-wotsit committee', as one former feral youth described it. He added;

'now cannabis is class B and we all know how bad it is for you again, there's no point wasting money on education, treatment and prevention any more. That cash would be far better given to the police so they can alienate us with some futile heavy-handed enforcement like they did with my big brother. A criminal record should really help any remaining tokers get on in life'.



lethal skunkabis: relax, its a thing of the past

Other reports are also coming in of queues forming at airports of evil Vietnamese gangsters waiting to fly home. Interviews suggest that now no-one is smoking lethal skunkabis anymore the evil foreign criminals have decided to close their network of suburban cannabis factories. There are also strong indications that a major contribution to the foreign criminal exodus is fear of the move from a trifling 14 year sentence for cannabis supply under the namby-pamby old class C regime to the new scary 14 year sentence under Class B.

Triumphant ministers have drawn comparisons to the reclassification of meth-amphetamines (combined with the new war on lemsip) that successfully scared off any potential meth users or dealers, and the classification of ketamine which similarly put paid to use of that drug with a flick of the legislators pen.

Who knew drug policy was so simple?

33 comments:

Prof David Clark said...

Great stuff!! I loved it, made my late evening writing a Blog even more worthwhile. I smiled and I could hear Jim laughing, 50 miles away in Swansea.
You really do have to wonder.

Jim said...

Recycle all the cannabis growing lamps as sun beds - far safer.

bob said...

"It puts us back to where we were four years ago.

"However, we smoked even more cannabis then than now. The only thing that will bring down consumption is education."

The daily mail did a parody too (or is this guy just insane, along with Marj?

chrisbx515 said...

LMAO – A satirical treat to brighten up the start of the day! Shame on the politicians and media for taking the debate and drug policy back down the ‘Just say no’ – ‘evil drug takers’ route.

Trainer said...

brilliantly shows the judgemental and ignorant attitiude of the hypocrites (today's politicians were yesteryears' potheads!)who want to criminalise otherwise law abiding citizens. To re-classify cannabis could mean an even bigger burden on the prison population, which could actually be alleviated simply by releasing inmates convisted for cannabis "offences". Then Brown has said "get treatment or lose your benefits". Well surely that will lead to even more poverty, and as a result, even more crime?! How did we come to such levels of stupidity?

David Raynes said...

After listening to Steve Rolles in full flow today, millions of people lost the will to live and resorted to watching 'Grand Designs (Failed) by Transform' until the early hours of the morning. Huddled in front of their tellies, they found the post-modernist aesthetics of the Kushlik theory were addictive in their potency. Transform is the UKs leading cente of expertise in promoting and legalising damaging drug use. Danny's & Steves theme tune is "The partys over". Steve is being advised to get a real job that will use his undoubted talents.

Anonymous said...

Great idea David, but who would employ him apart from Rawlings, whom I'm reliably informed likes poodles.

Should someone tell rolles that cannabis and cider are bed mates?

David Raynes said...

I am sure Steve could get a worthwhile job. I like him, he is a really bright guy. He could stand for Parliament as a Liberal perhaps? They are in confusion over drugs policy, second thoughts though, is that a worthwhile job? On a serious note, I would like to see someone like Steve, who knows the subject of drugs policy inside out, really engage with prevention of use by young people. Think up some other forms of more positive sanctions/encouragements that can deter young people from using drugs. We know that even deterring/delaying experimentation with drugs (legal or illegal) can produce positive rewards for individuals and society, the legalisation mantra is dead now in the UK. Time to move on.

Steve R said...

David, I've always been clear that I'm very supportive of effective prevention (never met anyone who wasn't - why would anyone be?) and also agree that deterring/delaying experimentation with drugs can produce positive social outcomes.

So how to do it?

Firstly, I think we need to acknowledge that the criminal justice led approach we have now is not the way forward and that the evidence demonstrates clearly it hasn't worked, and is actively counterproductive as well as hugely expensive. I think that drug taking decisions are mediated by a complex array of social, cultural and economic factors and that levels of enforcement and punitive sanctions are, at best, a marginal influence.

Problematic drug use appears to be predominantly a reflection of, or barometer for, a wider social malaise; boredom, unemployment, poor parenting, social and emotional deprivation, fractured and broken communities, lack of self esteem, poverty, lack of hope, and so on. Obviously addressing all of these issues is the challenge of government and society as a whole and is beyond someone like me, even with my talents (cheers), or a small, highly focused organisation like Transform.

Prevention, education and treatment are all important components of drug policy, and Transform is keen to point this out - but we are very specifically focussed on getting rid of the problems associated with mass criminalisation of users and unregulated illegal markets run by violent profit motivated gangsters. Prohibition is not only a political and institutional obstacle to effective public health responses and social reform/improvement, it also eats up limited drug policy resources that would be better spent on almost anything - including, of course, proven prevention policies. Maybe i'll get into that side of things once this legalisation/regulation thing is sorted. In the meantime ill leave it to the prevention and public health experts - but they are up against it as the current system could not be better designed to create chaos, harm and misery.

oh, and Transform are not 'promoting damaging drug use', and nothing could be clearer. You should know us well enough by now to know that.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I see you don't risk the sarcastic tone when dealing with David Raynes (is he the scientology bloke?) as there is no room for humour with zealots. Do we really need to be so defensive? Frankly, this issue is not trivial as it is an affront to a huge number of people who enjoy cannabis who are normal, respectable people apart from the fact that they are discriminated against whilst drinkers are courted by the law. We know that there is a role for sensible advice for cannabis use, and this cannot happen under prohibition, its prohibition that is causing all the harm which is so much less than alcohol. This arbitrary scheduling of drugs is an affront to the people who drafted the 1971 Act which was supposed to evolve to protect us against harmful drugs, it has failed because there is a total lack of credible justification for the present system of scheduling and everyone should be angry about this persecution of people who are entitled to equal protection under the law.

Steve R said...

anon

I agree with most of you say - but I dont think *all* the harms of cannabis, or any illegal drug can be blamed on prohibition. It just makes matters worse re use, and creates new problems re illegal markets.

If David (who has some role on one Scientology run anti-drug group, and various other similar drug organisations, but certainly isn't a Scientologist) takes the time to engage and be courteous then he deserves a similar response. if people are rude Ill try and ignore them. But he represents a body of opinion that does need to be convinvced - weve been talking about this stuff for years and he does seem to have softened his position on a few things so i dont think its a complete waste of time.

*waves*

The blog was satire - the discussion doesn't have to be aswell.

David Raynes said...

Steve
You are still locked into an old model of debate. Legalisation is now not on any agenda in the UK. The party really IS over, you must know that. Your list of "causes" of problematic drugs use is all part and parcel of any society. It is too easy to forget that heroin addiction was/is, often associated with a general aimlessness about life reagrdless of wealth. In my youth I got friendly with the late John Paul Getty, riches we can only dream about, but when I met him in the 70s, a dreadfully depressed and exploited addict. Very rich people get addicted just like poor people get addicted so trying to say that government can change that situation, change those "causes" of yours, is a cop out. Some law enforcement, as a backdrop, is always going to be there, it exists for the legal drugs of alcohol & tobacco so no surprise that there should be some for the illegal drugs. Your focus on legalisation is a dead end. The legalisation thing IS sorted. It is not going to happen.

I know a lot of drug policy campaigners on your side of the debate, I know, and you know, those who have or have had, "problem habits" themselves, yes and with cannabis.

You know, (or should, if I do), about the cries within the legalisation movement not to "out" the drug using habits of other members. Plainly many people who argue for legalisation/liberalisation are duplicitous. They argue about freedoms, what they want are personal freedoms to feed their habit, regardless of any responsibity to others. Society only works at some level because most people accept they have a responsibility to others.

What I would like you to start addressing is just WHY is the UK so much worse than many other nations in terms of our drug using habits? What can be done to improve that culture? Why has that drug using culture got worse, at a hugely accelerating rate since the legalisation lobby got going in the UK in the mid 90s.

Could it be that the legalisation lobby is having an adverse effect on the culture? Is that what you want? Be honest with yourself. Examine your motives.

Of course my original post was tongue in cheek but I believe you do have an adverse effect. Keeping the leglisation ball in the air has given the idea respectability for the young and impressionable. That is one reason I have fought you so hard, the other is I really do believe that drug use is a public health issue, not a moral, or just a law enforcment issue. There IS a moral issue though, around promoting drug use knowing that many people cannot survive that use without their lives and that of their nearest and dearest being damaged.

Steve R said...

Thanks David - here's my response:

Legalisation is now not on any agenda in the UK.

That is demonstrably not true as Transforms rising profile and high level engagement illustrates. I agree regards mainstream politics it is not on the Government or opposition agenda but you well know that there are many high level supporters, and the lib dems in particular - who just out polled the government - are intellectually if not fully publicly supportive of the reform agenda. There is far more support in the European parliament, and readers of the blog will have followed the evolving discourse even in the UN. More importantly perhaps, amongst intellectual, and academic opinion critical thinking about the failings of a punitive prohibitionist approach have been growing steadily. There is little or no credible academic work to demonstrate the efficacy of prohibition or a deterrent effect of enforcement. Amongst opinion formers the anti-reform position is restricted to a dwindling group, (Phillips, Heffer, Hitchens - who else?) on the reactionary right characterised by a peculiar anti-science, moralistic position (that tends to include climate change denial, MMR-autism conspriracies, and 'teach the controversy' creationism). The debate is expanding in the criminal justice field, on the international stage, amongst medical practitioners, and not least in the wider drugs field.

The party really IS over, you must know that.

Its not a party. I don't think you should make light of our position just because you don't share it.

Your list of "causes" of problematic drugs use is all part and parcel of any society.

as indeed is problematic drug use.

It is too easy to forget that heroin addiction was/is, often associated with a general aimlessness about life reagrdless of wealth. In my youth I got friendly with the late John Paul Getty, riches we can only dream about, but when I met him in the 70s, a dreadfully depressed and exploited addict. Very rich people get addicted just like poor people get addicted so trying to say that government can change that situation, change those "causes" of yours, is a cop out.

It is undeniable that problem use correlates strongly with social deprivation. Of course people from all walks of life end up in trouble with drugs for different reasons, but there is a clear correlation. There are also lots more socially derived people than there are John Paul Getty's.


Some law enforcement, as a backdrop, is always going to be there, it exists for the legal drugs of alcohol & tobacco so no surprise that there should be some for the illegal drugs.


Thats not in doubt - nor have we suggested no role for enforcement. Rather that enforcement should not be the primary response to drug problems (currently it eats up at least two thirds of the drug budget - realistically it is even more). The emphasis needs to be, at the very least, reversed with regards enforcement / public health spending.

Your focus on legalisation is a dead end. The legalisation thing IS sorted. It is not going to happen.

It is happening now. personal use is being decriminlised across the world. Moves to state regulated production and supply is obviously limited by international law but this consensus is crumbling in the face of the overwhelming failure of the conventions to deliver anything positive. We have been clear that systemic reform is a long term project, but their is clear shift away from the rigid prohibitionist structures of the single convention - drafted in another era (some written in the 1940s) entirely irrelevant to the problems we face today.

I know a lot of drug policy campaigners on your side of the debate, I know, and you know, those who have or have had, "problem habits" themselves, yes and with cannabis. You know, (or should, if I do), about the cries within the legalisation movement not to "out" the drug using habits of other members. Plainly many people who argue for legalisation/liberalisation are duplicitous. They argue about freedoms, what they want are personal freedoms to feed their habit,

I find this point ridiculous and offensive. Of course some drug users, probably most drug users, support decriminalisation of drug use. This is hardly suprising - just as women supported votes for women, gay people supported gay rights, ethnic minorities opposed racism, and oppressed workers supported the right to unionise. The idea however that the rights of drug users are therefore invalid is appalling, and the idea that anyone who advocates such rights - or speaks out against prohibition is therefore a drug addict is preposterous. It panders to the historic demonisation of drug users and addication and can only lead to the persecution of vulnerable marginalised populations.

Society only works at some level because most people accept they have a responsibility to others.


which part of a public health and wellbeing approach based on evidence of effectiveness rather than ideological prohibitions contradicts this?

What I would like you to start addressing is just WHY is the UK so much worse than many other nations in terms of our drug using habits? What can be done to improve that culture? Why has that drug using culture got worse,


important questions but this....


at a hugely accelerating rate since the legalisation lobby got going in the UK in the mid 90s.

Could it be that the legalisation lobby is having an adverse effect on the culture? Is that what you want? Be honest with yourself. Examine your motives.


is almost tragically wrongheaded. The idea that the legalisation/regulation argument, as advocated by Transform - a TINY organisation with a miniscule budget - is responsible for the mess we face now, rather than the policy of prohibition and the governments of the last 40 years expending untold billions on enforcement is bizarre and delusional. I'm astonished anyone, even you, would make such a transparently ridiculous assertion. Transform have even less of an impact on young peoples drug taking decisions than the Home Secretary, and she has none. Laughable.

I believe you do have an adverse effect.


maybe this is the difference between us. I don't need to believe. I can see the evidence of the damage your position does around me every day.


Keeping the leglisation ball in the air has given the idea respectability for the young and impressionable. That is one reason I have fought you so hard, the other is I really do believe that drug use is a public health issue, not a moral, or just a law enforcment issue. There IS a moral issue though, around promoting drug use knowing that many people cannot survive that use without their lives and that of their nearest and dearest being damaged.

I respect your concern and I know your heart's in the right place but the mere fact that you even consider blaming us for the failings of contemporary prohibition renders whatever slim arguments you may have in your favour meaningless.

Joseph said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
)SoFoS( said...

Congratulations Steve, your arguments are much more convincing than any that David has put forward. The debate on this page reminds me of criticism of the recently released film Expelled. I despair when opinion and belief seem to be valued more than scientific evidence. David's thinly veiled personal attacks do not lend to his credibility.

I was happy to hear the relative sanity of the panelists on tonights Question Time. At least some recognise the strong influence that misinformation in the media has had on the decision to reclassify.

I do find it alarming though that personal stories accompanied the news of the reclassification yesterday. The layman's opinion should not be so highly valued when it is so obviously biased.

Jo

Paula said...

Steve, you're a great bloke, thanks very much for the satire. Its a rare pleasure to get a good laugh from cannabis prohibition.

Congrats also for your sane and very nicely restrained response to David, though I'm not sure he merits it.

Unfortunately the NZ media has had only simplistic or selectively misleading things to say (so far) about the UK reversal of Blunkett's cannabis downgrade.

jdc325 said...

Just echoing the comments made by SoFoS really Steve - your responses to David Raynes make this a comment thread well worth reading.

I also noticed the surprisingly sensible comments on Newsnight (I think from Menzies Campbell, Boris Johnsons's sister and Piers Morgan).

Anonymous said...

Loved your article Steve - cheered me up big time :)

Keep up the good work!

WADI

Owen said...

As they say in Bulgaria, if you cannot solve a problem with money, solve it with more money.

The failure of Transform's trustees to sanction a proper campaign of fundraising in order to get a multi-million pound lobbying and advertising budget up and running contributes to these policy disasters.

Full page ads in the Times, FT, Telegraph etc don't come cheap. But they shift opinion. All the ideas are there, but they are not being communicated to the people who make the decisions as Transform dont have the money to do it. They could but choose not fundraise.

Reminding these politicians of the millions of drug takers votes (OK, a lot of them dont vote but..) and the billions of tax dollars lost due to criminalisation would do no harm. That takes money.

Change your Trustees to a group of non-drug-worker types who live in the real world, and do some fundraising, run some ads, ruffle some feathers where it counts.

John said...

Owen,

Transform's Board does focus on both the organisation's strategic direction and raising funds. These efforts have been successful and Transform's income has increased significantly over the last few years.

Of course Transform could do with more money but our (current and potential) funders expect value for money. Blowing their generous gifts on a couple of dramatic adverts would result in us losing their support. What generates funds is good quality research, effective engagement in policy debate and the evidence of our influence provided by newspaper coverage in the news and comment sections.

Do you really think a paid adverte in the Times will have more influence than an article by its Economics editor?
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/anatole_kaletsky/article2351152.ece

But yes we could do with more money. Feel free to donate here http://www.tdpf.org.uk/AboutUs_TdpfFunding.htm

Owen said...

You do not and will not employ full time professional fundraisers. This is, IMHO, a serious error of judgement. Targetting High Net Worth Individuals for their charitable (and hence tax deductible) donations is an obvious course of action. They like a line or two as well and resent being criminalised for it.
A full page ad in the Times and similar paper has far impact than the scribblings of an minor editor. Especially if it is co-signed by notable luminaries as the 1968 ad prior to the Stones trial was.

For these reasons, Transform needs trustees who are not the usual drug worker types, constantly flying below the radar, but rather individuals with marketing, brand and PR savvy.

Clearly if things were going swimmingly with the current "strategy" then policy disaters like the re-classification wouldn't have happened. Would it?

These battles are won with PR, not with reason. Everyone knows Transform wins every reasoned argument but clearly that is not enough...

Owen

Sean A said...

Steve, I've lurked around TDPF a long time, simply reading the blog entries and publications from Transform but you've made my eve tonight and I have to say "well done". The commentary was enlightening and exciting and the article of course was jokes.

chrisbx515 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
chrisbx515 said...

I Think Owen make a valid point, the progress Transform is and has made is brilliant and Steve and Danny always deliver whether they are on the radio, TV or writing articles. To make a difference from the grass roots up is vital but also using the media and the super rich business people and celebs that share similar views is a resource being missed and if the reforms are to come then motivating the masses to force the politicians to listen to their will probably will need to happen in the way Owen suggests so why not use it?

Cultural changes in the 60’s were aided this way and when the rave scene was first publicised in the media it was positive until the powers that be realised what was going on! Both the modernists and the ravers influenced culture and society in pretty radical ways and that was real grass roots stuff, when the media find out what’s happening and told the masses is when things happened to make those influences 'commercial'.

Derek Williams said...

Steve

I also need to congratulate you on your restrained answering of David Raynes comments, I would like to think I would have done the same if I were in your position, but I probably wouldn't have.

David, of course, is one of the front men for the "National drug prevention alliance", a pressure group dedicated to supporting prohibition and opposing drug law reform in this country. It horrifies me greatly to see the present (hopefully temporary) incumbent of 10 Downing Street following their ill informed advice. With luck Brown will be gone soon, but he's caused a lot of damage already.

What I find particularly ironic was the outcome of the drug policy consultation scam the government tried to pull last year - you had excellent blog entries about it around December time. Biased and loaded as the "consultation" was, and widely ignored as it was, it still produced a clear public response opposing reclassification which of course was simply ignored.

It's difficult to take all of this reclassification guff seriously, for certain no cannabis user does, but it is important. Well done for summing up the feelings of many so aptly with this blog.

Keep up the good work.

John said...

Chris,

Nobody at Transform would argue that the more money we raise the better or indeed about the need to influence the media and decision makers. Considerable effort has been made over the last couple of years to develop our organisation, our income has risen significantly and our fundraising targets for the current year are ambitious.

Much of our work is not visible. Identifying potential high profile supporters and investing time establishing links and briefing them is a major priority for the organisation. The network we have built up as a result of this work is of long-term value.

The Board last year bravely agreed two years of deficit budgets to enable Transform to invest in increasing its organisational capacity. Among other things this has enabled us to invest in a new database that allows us to disseminate information far quicker and far wider. It also allows us to target key audiences in our output quite literally at the press of a button.

One of the main priority areas for our expanded organisational resources has been in terms of fundraising. Although we have met the targets we set for last year much of this investment is longer term. Identifying potential donors, creating opportunities to engage with them and building sustainable relationships require time, effort and skill. Our current efforts should in the long term pay handsome dividends.

Where I disagreed with Owen was not in the need to expand our funding and capacity but his assertion that the most effective way of getting our message over was through paid advertising. Transform's view is that expensive adverts do not represent value for money and that our resources (both current and future) are better employed doing less dramatic but much more effective work.

John

Rick said...

None of this makes any sense to me...But then I am on a heavy prescription of Lemsip and Hemp Gummi Bears. ;)

Anonymous said...

Make it legal.

Government should go with a laissez faire attitude.

Smoke what you want, drink what you want, sniff or eat what you want, BUT, if you mess up, you ain't getting no pussy there there support from us. Your in the Army, on the front line. Tough titties.

That would put me off becoming a social nuisance or thief, to help fuel my burning cannabis needs.

If you ask me, there is no reason to say if you can smoke a bunch of fags, drink 10 litres of wine, then why can't I sit in a park in the Sun and smoke a reefer to myself, or with friends.

Are we really offending people by laughing too much, being a bit forgetful, or eating to many things later in the day. I am not saying everyone should smoke it, but I would put money on this world being a much nicer, if not maybe a little slower world, if everyone just sat back for an hour and rolled themselves a fat biff, and reflected on their day. Everyone is missing the point. Except you other smokers of course....you got it !

Any way,

Thanks for reading that rant.

Anonymous said...

This article is fucking bullshit,


There is no such fucking thing as "lethal skunkabis" what the flying fuck is that!

And who the fuck is this "former feral youth" they 'interviewed'

No one who actually puffs would EVER talk like that and know the this lethal skunk bullshit is just another way to control us through fear.

Steve R said...

Oh dear anon, I do hope you're joking

Mark said...

Come on, everyone needs to get a grip. Educating youths, arresting or giving a them caution is not going to change there minds in the slightest to waether they somoke cannabis or not.
I know when I tried my first joint or any drugs (I am a clean heroin addict so know a bit about drugs. I dont say X addict as no such thing)I did not think, is this a class A, B or C, what will happen if I get caught. I did not care less. The penalties or classification have never detered me from trying or taking any drugs or commiting any crime. Tougher penalties dont work as a deterent, just look at the USA with their capital punishment & murder rate.
99% of Politicians, drug tzars etc etc dont have any qualification to advise on drugs. Most are toffy nosed old gits with the conservative attitude of, give them longer prison terms, make it illegal that l stop em. They have not got a clue & have never lived in the real world.
I will also say that I did NOT move to heroin because I smoked cannabis, It is absolute crap. The only reason Cannabis might lead to "harder" Drugs is because users have to go to a drug dealer to buy the stuff, Most of whom sell other Drugs & will say sorry got no weed but have got some valium or speed. Get the picture.
Decriminalise Cannabis & give heroin addicts the drug on prescription to use in a properly staffed harm reduction centre just like amsterdam. I guarantee the Crime rate would fall drastically overnight.

mark said...

By the way I have never, And I dont know anybody who has commited a crime just to pay for Cannabis

Anonymous said...

Alcahol has done much more damage to Society & peoples health than Cannabis