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The Hempire News - March 05

UK News
Charles Clarke had a topsy-turvy old March. He started it saying there was no going back on reclassification, oh no. Two weeks later he dashed off a very public letter to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, instructing them to investigate whether new reports linking cannabis to psychosis justifies a change back to B.

And so the issue is buried until after the election. The Tories and The Mail can no longer scream at the Government to reverse its decision because the Government have asked independent experts to see if that's the right move. It isn't of course, but at least now they'll shut up for a bit.

We desperately need a debate about our drug laws, but right before an election is not the right time. As it stands a party will only get elected if they're tough on drugs. Soft on drugs loses votes. And we really don't need six weeks of 'lock-them-up', 'drown-them-in-their-own-bongwater' nonsense.

We can't change vital minds between now and May so we've got to sit tight. The debate is coming and we will win. The wait is enormously frustrating I know. But frustration is a good thing because it's usually followed by action. It's the antidote to couch-lock.
- no going back
- well maybe

We can be certain the debate is coming simply because of the never-ending stream of information proving prohibition doesn't work. The price of drugs being just one such example.

Recent figures released by the Government reveal that ecstasy has dropped in price by two-thirds in the last five years. Cannabis is almost half as expensive now as it was then and heroin, coke and crack are all quite a bit cheaper.

More people use drugs than ever before yet the price of them keeps falling. Which can only mean prohibition fails to stop both the supply of, and the demand for, drugs. There might, might, be an argument for keeping it if it could do one of its jobs. But not when it fails at both, not when it fails at everything it's asked to do.
- full story here

Given the hysteria currently surrounding cannabis we need our experts to exercise some restraint. Or in other words we don't need Professor Neil McKeganey. Professor McKeganey is from the Centre for Drugs Misuse Research at the University of Glasgow so most people will assume he knows what he's on about. I'm not so sure; he claims cannabis could be as dangerous as heroin.

He reasons that if people think cannabis isn't that harmful they might conclude heroin isn't so bad either. He calls this the societal-gateway effect (I call it the 'drug users are idiots' argument) and wants the Government to put the focus back on cannabis to solve the problems of hard drug use.

How this would work is not explained. If cannabis is described as nearly as harmful as heroin and found not to be, then surely more people will make the move to heroin, not less. It's one step from Class B to Class A, two steps from Class C and a whole other world from decriminalised.

A world in which fewer people come into contact with the heroin friend-get-friend scheme prohibition creates. A world in which information about harm is more credible because it's not uttered by the same mouth which also says the only level of acceptable use is no use at all.

If people don't know the true dangers of drugs then it's the fault of prohibition. The policy of trying to make people fear drugs has backfired disastrously and official messages are now completely mistrusted by users. Some of whom, God forbid, might even conclude they lied about cannabis so they probably lied about heroin.
- full story here

Medical News
Psychosis was big news again last month, though you can hardly call banging on endlessly about the same thing 'news'.

I'm not trying to be flippant, cannabis does seem to cause problems to two particular groups; young people and people susceptible to severe paranoid thoughts. But we must get the problem in perspective or there's a danger we'll create severe paranoid thoughts out of the mildly paranoid ones all smokers experience from time to time.

Most cannabis users are not in danger of developing psychosis unless: they have a family history of severe mental disorder or smoke huge amounts of skunk and start doing so in their early teens. Or unless they're repeatedly told they should be developing psychosis and as a result start believing every minor fear is but the start of something much more serious.

What's more the authors of most of the reports saying cannabis and psychosis are linked also say their results should not be used to keep cannabis prohibited. Even Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of SANE - the organisation most prominent in pointing out the dangers of cannabis - said she did: "not believe in prohibition for everyone".
- full story here

Many people with psychosis might be seeking out cannabis because of a desire to supplement the body's own natural cannabinoids. These cannabinoids seem to be essential to a range of different bodily functions; in animals they help the brain grow and they protect it whilst it's growing. In addition they aid the development of memory and oral-motor skills and even initiate suckling in newborns.

Now a new Israeli study has found that receptors for cannabinoids (which the cannabinoids bind to in order to have their effect) exist in a baby from the point of early gestation and that the substance may play a "a number of vital roles" in human prenatal and postnatal development.

They're not saying pregnant mothers should use cannabis. However, they do recommend cannabis medicines for sick children. Studies have shown cannabinoids help children with severe neurological diseases and brain trauma. They might also help ease suffering for children with cystic fibrosis and children suffering from severe weight loss, anorexia, inflammation, chronic pain and what's called 'failure to thrive' (how ironic would that be).
- full story here

World News
The UN has again condemned reclassification for setting a bad example to the rest of the world. You see the problem is we're sending a message "which could be interpreted as indicating a lower danger is associated with use of a drug".

Or in other words don't break ranks, don't admit prohibition doesn't work, don't say cannabis is less harmful than other illegal substances, don't you dare be honest. Or you'll blow it for the rest of us.
- full story here

You can see why they're desperate, their goal of a drug free world by 2008 is looking a little hard to reach. Well they'll have to stop more than 200 million people taking drugs in less than three years - and prevent anyone new starting in the meantime. They're not even headed in the right direction, the number of new users is increasing by five million a year.

The UN's report makes the startling claim that drug control policies work in terms of supply, but they can't really deal with demand. But since the demand is being met this presumably means they can't deal with the supply all that well either.
- full story here

The UN's abject failure on drugs has encouraged a few brave countries to propose a different approach. Earlier this month France, Holland, Germany, Canada, Australia and, incredibly, Iran tried to persuade the UN to drop zero-tolerance. However, the appeal failed because it was vetoed by the good old US of A. Britain stayed silent.
- bottom of this story

Miscellaneous News
It was afternoon tea in an important match between Nerrena and Inverloch, two Australian cricket teams. The cupcakes looked a little green and speckly but tasted better than the 'crap' usually served so were wolfed down.

Everything was fine until a player took twenty minutes to put on his pads whilst two others broke down in hysterical laughter. Later one of the infected attempted to put a kit bike together only for the handlebars to end up where the seat should've been.
- full story here

Robert Mills was driving a granny round Liverpool when he mentioned the effect cannabis had on his back pain. The granny, suffering a few pains of her own, asked if she could try the stuff. Next week she was back for more - oh and some for her friend.

There ended up to be a lot of customers at that old folks' home, too many as it turns out and Robert was busted. But he was giving it away and he was easing pain so the judge suspended a six-month sentence and fined him £578 costs.
- full story here

Even kinder was the judge who gave a self-confessed dealer a second chance because "it is the end of the week and the sun is shining."

Now all we've got to do is get all our cases tried in Trinidad. On Fridays.
- full story here