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A question to Frank

Shortly after Talk to Frank started, we thought we'd give it a test, so having read the information they give a student (who is under 18) sent Frank a question:

I was interested to read on your website that cannabis decreases sperm count in men and fertility in women. This is great news as me and my girlfriend can now get stoned and make love without bothering with condoms. How long does the contraceptive effect of cannabis last and how many joints will we have to smoke to get the best contraceptive effect?

Yours,

XXXX

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Despite the urgent need to rectify such a potentially disastrous belief,

Frank waited 3 days to reply and then did not adress the question. Here is his reply:

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thankyou for your email,
What else is cannabis known as?

Bhang, black, blast, blow, blunts, Bob Hope, bush, dope, draw, ganja, grass, hash, hashish, hemp, herb, marijuana, pot, puff, Northern Lights, resin, sensi, sensemilla, shit, skunk, smoke, soap, spliff, wacky backy, weed, zero. Some names are based on country of origin such as Afghan, Colombian, homegrown, Lebanese, Moroccan, Pakistani etc.

How is cannabis used?

Cannabis comes as a solid, dark lump known as 'resin', or crushed flower heads & small leaves (sometimes with stalks and seeds) called 'grass'. It can also come a sticky, dark oil. It can be rolled (usually with tobacco) in a spliff or joint, smoked on its own in a special pipe, or cooked and eaten in food.

What are the effects of cannabis?

Cannabis makes you feel relaxed and, because it's a mild hallucinogen, you can find colours and sounds brighter and sharper.

It can cause anxiety, affect short-term memory and make you less able to carry out complicated tasks.

What are the risks of using cannabis?

With long term heavy use, the user may feel lethargic, no drive, short term memory loss, and if used with tobacco, coughs and sore throats.

- smoking it with tobacco may lead to users becoming hooked on cigarettes
- it impairs the ability to learn and concentrate
- it can leave people tired and lacking energy
- users may lack motivation and feel apathetic
- it can make users paranoid and anxious, depending on their mood and situation

Can cannabis affect my physical health?

There are a number of risks to health associated with misuse of cannabis.

Cannabis affects blood pressure and increases heart rate. This can be particularly dangerous for people with diseases of the cardiovascular system, especially those with coronary artery disease, high blood pressure and those people atrisk of strokes.

Cannabis can worsen asthma. Frequent misuse of cannabis may also decrease sperm counts in men and suppress ovulation in women.

Cannabis is most frequently smoked. Smoking in any form is harmful, and tobacco smoking is the largest single cause of ill-health and premature death in the United Kingdom. Smoking cannabis, therefore, presents a real health risk, potentially similar to that of tobacco, with increased incidence of bronchitis, asthma, and lung cancer, as well as disorders of the heart and circulation. Smoking cannabis may be more harmful than smoking tobacco, since cannabis has a higher concentration of certain chemicals which can cause cancer.

Are there risks to mental health associated with cannabis?

Yes - using cannabis can lead to panic attacks, paranoia and confused feelings.

In some cases, acute cannabis intoxication can produce a psychotic state, which may continue for some time, and which may require treatment with prescribed drugs.

Cannabis can worsen schizophrenia, and other mental illnesses, among people who already suffer from them. The problem being that you may not be aware if you have an underlying mental health problem.

Anyone who has a mental illness should, therefore, avoid using cannabis.

What are the risks of using cannabis when pregnant?

Birth weights of babies born to women who use cannabis during pregnancy tend to be lower than expected. Using cannabis during pregnancy may also increase the risk of birth defects and abortion, and, like tobacco smoking, cannabis smoking seems to increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

All the available information suggests that cannabis use in pregnancy is certainly harmful.

Pregnant women should avoid using alcohol, tobacco or cannabis.

Are there any other risks associated with cannabis?

Yes - cannabis impairs performance of tasks which require concentration and co-ordination. It can be dangerous to drive or operate machinery when under the influence of cannabis. The danger increases if alcohol and cannabis are both consumed.

Is smoking cannabis more dangerous than tobacco?

The smoke from a 'joint' contains a higher content of 'nasties' than the smoke from a cigarette and cannabis is usually smoked with tobacco. It is possible to eat cannabis or smoke it on its own, or bake it in a cake.

Is it possible to become "hooked" on cannabis?

There is a minimal risk of physical dependence. Psychological dependency can occur very occasionally.

Smoking tobacco with cannabis may produce dependence on nicotine.

How will I feel if I stop taking cannabis?

There are no physical withdrawal symptoms (unless you have become addicted
to tobacco) and if you have only been using for a short time there should be no problem stopping. If you have been using for a long time, there could be psychological symptoms and counselling may be helpful. Your local drug agency may be able to offer advice and support.

Can I overdose on cannabis?

The chance of overdosing on cannabis is very unlikely, although large doses may lead to unpleasant side effects such as anxiety, panic attacks and paranoia. These are more likely to occur with stronger strains or if large amounts are eaten.

What is the legal status of cannabis?

Cannabis is usually a Class B drug. Possession of cannabis is punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine. Supplying cannabis (which includes passing a joint to a friend) is punishable by 14 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

Although the Government is proposing to reduce the penalties for the possession of cannabis, it will remain a criminal offence leading to a possible fine or imprisonment..

I have heard that cannabis has been 'reclassified' - what does this mean?

The classification of drugs is set out in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (which applies across the UK). Classification is based on the harm which individual drugs may cause, including risks to physical and mental health, withdrawal reactions (ie the effects on users when they stop using drugs, or reduce their consumption), and the harm which misuse may bring to families and society at large.

Class A covers the most harmful drugs such as heroin and cocaine, Class B includes amphetamines and barbiturates, and Class C contains drugs such as anabolic steroids, benzodiazepines and growth hormones. The Home Secretary's decision means that cannabis will be shifted from Class B to Class C, when the necessary change to the legislation has been made.

Does reclassification mean that cannabis is harmless?

No - all drugs are potentially harmful, and cannabis is no exception.

Reclassification just means that the harm associated with cannabis is considered to be relatively less severe than that associated with other drugs currently contained in Class B.

Does this mean that cannabis has been legalised?

No - possession of cannabis for personal use or the supply of cannabis to another or possession of cannabis with the intention of supplying it to another remain criminal offences.

The Home Secretary has announced his intention to increase, to 14 years, the maximum prison sentence for supplying Class C drugs, or possession with the intention of supplying them to another. The present maximum prison sentence for simply possessing cannabis will be reduced from 5 years to 2 years, when cannabis is reclassified to Class C. Fines and other non-custodial sentences can also be imposed in addition to prison sentences.

It is also illegal for the occupier or any person concerned in the management of premises to (a) allow a person to produce or attempt to produce cannabis there; or (b) to allow a person to supply or attempt to supply or offer to supply cannabis there, or (c) to allow the smoking of cannabis while there.

It it true that people can no longer be arrested for possessing cannabis?

The police have powers to arrest, where they have grounds for concluding an offence has been committed, which may be used depending on the circumstances of the case.

If you are apprehended by the police and found to be in possession of cannabis, the drug will be seized as evidence in all cases, and you may be charged with the offence.

What about people who intend to set up cannabis cafés?

Anyone trying to establish a cannabis café risks imprisonment or a heavy fine or both. Supply of cannabis will remain a criminal offence, and those who sell it to others risk severe penalties. It is also an offence for occupiers or managers of premises to allow smoking or supply, or attempting to supply, or offering to supply, cannabis on their premises. Reclassification of cannabis makes no difference to this position.

Will reclassification make any difference to those people who use cannabis to relieve pain?

No - the possession of cannabis remains a criminal offence. Use of cannabis for pain relief is no defence..

What is happening about developing legal cannabis-based medicines?

The Government is already exploring whether cannabis-based medicines can help as a form of pain relief. Scientific and clinical tests are well advanced, and the Home Secretary has made it clear that he is willing to change the law to allow cannabis-based medicines if these tests prove to be successful. It is possible that new cannabis-based medicines could be available early in 2004.

What if I am stopped by the police while driving, and found to have cannabis in my system?

Cannabis, like other illegal substances and some legally obtainable drugs, greatly impairs the ability to drive safely. This puts other road users at risk.

Prison sentences, heavy fines and disqualification from driving can be imposed if you are convicted of being unfit to drive or unfit to be in charge of a vehicle due to taking illegal drugs.

New roadside tests (known as Field Impairment Tests) are being carried out by the police to help determine whether motorists are unfit to drive through taking drugs. A suspect will be examined by a doctor and police may also require the suspect to provide a blood or urine sample which can be analysed to detect the presence of drugs.

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