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Talk to Frank action update - Cannabis explained

Issued May 25th 2007

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Update 5th June 2007. The Home Office has informed UKCIA that they have sent the Talk to Frank "Cannabis explained" action update to the Department of Health to "review the content of the pack in response to your comments". We also learned that UKCIA is not alone in its criticism of this publication - see the KFx media blog.

Update 30th June 2007. The Talk to Frank document "Cannabis explained" was available in PDF form here but has now been taken offline.
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In the following critique, text from the Talk to Frank publication is framed in the boxes. Any typos and formatting errors are as presented in the document.

bullet point One important subject is not covered at all in this booklet - that of contamination. The past year has seen an outbreak of "grit weed" - herbal cannabis sprayed with glass beads, sand and glass fiber amongst other things. This is a direct result of the police action designed to disrupt the commercial cannabis supply and has resulted in an unknown health risk. It was the subject of a department of health warning in January 2007 which was carried on the Talk to Frank website. Hashish - the so-called "soapbar" has been known to be badly contaminated for some time. So why was this important issue not covered?

Contents:

Page 1introduction, outline of ACMD decision to keep cannabis as a class C illegal drug
Page 2 A summary of "Frank in Action"
Page 3Backslapping summary of the laughable "Brain Warehouse" campaign from early 2007
Page 4What is cannabis? - contains factually wrong comments
Page 5Who uses cannabis
Page 6The different types of cannabis - this page is utter fiction, almost total false information
Page 7Effects and risks
Page 8More health risk claims
Page 9 Cannabis and mental health
Page 10Spotting the signs and harm reduction - Contains dangerously wrong advice
Pages 11 - 12 The law - few comments about this
Pages 13 - 16How to help the Talk to Frank anti drugs advertising campaign.

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"One of the major short-term risks to physical health posed by cannabis consumption is the impact on blood pressure and heart rate which is similar to that caused by exercise." (page 8)
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Page 1

The publication starts off as it intends to go on with a picture of what the people at Frank think cannabis leaves look like;

talk to frank's idea of what cannabis leaves look like

This would be funny if it weren't such a serious topic. If you're confused, the picture is of leaves, yes, but not cannabis leaves, these come off trees.

WELCOME

Cannabis has been used as a medicinal and psychoactive compound since ancient times. Known to the Scythians, the Thracians and the ancient Hindus, it has been cultivated, eaten, smoked and burned for religious and recreational purposes for thousands of years.

Cannabis has also long been recognised as a harmful substance that can have a damaging effect on people’s mental and physical wellbeing. It has been prohibited for personal use in the UK since 1928, and it remains illegal to this day.

The first paragraph is true, the second is true in that cannabis has been illegal since 1928. The "long been recognised..." bit however is not true, but it sets the tone for the rest of the distorted information the booklet contains. In fact, most of the claims made about the ill effects of cannabis have been shown to be false.

On January 29 2004, cannabis was reclassified from a Class B to a Class C drug in line with the UK Government’s Updated Drug Strategy. Two years later after recommendations from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) the government confirmed that cannabis would remain a Class C drug.

The arguments for this decision are compelling and clear. Contrary to expectation, reclassification has not led to an increase in consumption – in fact since 1998, the use of cannabis in the previous year among 16-24 year-olds has fallen by 24%. The ACMD has also advised that the evidence for a link between cannabis and the development of mental health problems is stronger than the last time they reviewed the classification, but still small. However, the key message remains that while cannabis is considered less damaging than Class B drugs, it is still harmful and it is certainly still illegal.

"Contrary to expectation, reclassification has not led to an increase in consumption" means contrary to the claims made by successive Home secretaries over the years, claims which were made in support of their opposition to law reform. It should be noted that only supporters of prohibition had this expectation, few others did. Indeed, it undermines a basic assumption underpinning prohibition, but never mind.

The mental health debate hasn't gone as some had predicted either, despite the hype. More about that later.

This also fails to mention that other reports have placed cannabis as not only less harmful than other class B drugs, but also less harmful than alcohol or tobacco, two legal drugs.

This FRANK Action Update aims to help you understand the issues surrounding cannabis. Full of information,
facts and statistics, it explains why cannabis has retained its Class C status, the legal implications of this
decision, and the ongoing health risks associated with its use.

As part of its report to the Government, the ACMD recommended that there was a greater need for public
education and information on the subject, particularly aimed at children, adolescents and young adults. This
pack aims to help address that need, equipping you with the tools to communicate confidently to young
people and parents about cannabis.

If only that were true. What follows is highly selective information, distorted facts and even downright wrong statements, but then, this government was never known for telling the truth.

The core audience for this Update is those who currently work (or are seeking to work) with young
people aged 11-24

In other words, this publication is aimed at workers who will be giving young people advice and information about cannabis - the very people who's trust is needed by these young people who want factual, honest and reliable information. This publication contains very little of that.

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Page 2

Is a summary of Frank in Action.

Questions about cannabis make up a considerable proportion of the calls taken by the FRANK helpline. FRANK receives around 30,000 calls a month with 30% of those relating to cannabis. The majority of calls tend to be from parents who are worried about their son or daughter getting into cannabis and looking for advice on what they can do about it. Health implications, and particularly mental health issues, are also a concern for parents. After parents, the next key group of callers are people who use cannabis asking questions about issues such as paranoia and looking for advice on giving up.

So, lets get this in proportion. Cannabis is by far the most widely used illegal drug out there. It's been the subject of a barrage of media attention in recent times and the Frank phone line has been well publicised. Yet cannabis accounts for only 30% - one third - of all their calls, most of which come from parents no doubt responding to these stories. Sadly they don't say what accounts for the vast majority of their calls, but it would be interesting to know.

The rest of the page is some backslapping of a nationwide Frank campaign which happened in "32 areas
around England with around 250 young volunteers". That is hardly big league stuff, involving an average of only 7.8 young people each.

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Page 3

Is another bit of backslapping regarding the recent "Brain warehouse" campaign which was, in fact, laughable and so well derided by a video on youtube.

In 2006, FRANK launched a national television and radio advertising campaign, as well as increasing on-line advertising, to highlight the risks involved in taking drugs, with a particular focus on cannabis.A series of ‘Brain Warehouse’ adverts rolled out, delivering the message that “With stronger strains of cannabis than ever before, the more you mess with cannabis, the more it messes with your mind.”

The fact that the claim of "stronger strains than ever before" is simply not true isn't mentioned of course. This isn't simply over-egging the pudding as so much of Frank's claims are, this is factually wrong, or at least impossible to establish. It's certainly not true that stronger version of cannabis are available now, cannabis oil has been around for a long time of course.

FRANK campaign research has revealed that young people don’t generally regard cannabis in terms of harm. Basing their views on personal experience, observation and hearsay, young people believe that cannabis use does not automatically pose any risk to one’s mental or physical health; it’s certainly not seen to be as harmful as alcohol.

A view confirmed by the recent Science Select Committee report in fact. Cannabis was ranked well below alcohol in terms of harm.

Drugs - relative harms

Image from BBC

Problems often associated with cannabis were more ‘lifestyle’ issues, such as not going out, having no money, apathy, etc.

Mental health problems were seen to be in part a consequence of an individual’s vulnerability,which was exacerbated by cannabis use. However, it was admitted that these problems were viewed as more random and unpredictable than physical health problems.

In fact, that is a correct perception and is a strong reason for introducing a regulated regime for commercial cannabis sales and not one for continuing prohibition so that children can be properly protected. Frank, of course, doesn't go there.

FRANK’s ‘Brain Warehouse’ adverts build on this sense of uncertainty and risk. The core campaign messages are:
• It is increasingly difficult to measure the effects of cannabis, especially as it is stronger that it’s ever been
• It’s becoming more of a lottery to use cannabis: Will you ‘chill out’ or ‘spin out’
• Messing with cannabis can mess with your mind.
Adverts at bus stops and bus panels were also used to extend the ‘Brain Warehouse’ theme in high focus areas,while scratch cards were made available to FRANK Street Marketing Teams (SMTs) to help
engage young people at street-level.

Again the lie of stronger than ever before is repeated, and this time the specific claim is made, not simply of "stronger strains". This is misinformation, a lie.

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Page 4

An introduction to what cannabis actually is.

Cannabis is a coarse, bushy annual plant with deeply lobed leaves and clusters of small green flowers. Believed to have originated in the mountainous regions just north of the Himalayas, cannabis now grows wild and under cultivation in many parts of the world. It is one of the most commonly used recreational drugs on the planet.

So far so good. Frank then goes on to mention the hemp trade, all well and good. No mention of the medical use was made though.

In terms of its narcotic composition, cannabis contains various compounds called cannabinoids, some of which are ‘pharmacologically active’. The most significant of these is a chemical called delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. It is the THC in cannabis that, through interaction with receptors in the brain, leads to relaxation, euphoria, attention diffusion, altered perception of time and space, altered sense of smell, sight and taste and stimulation of appetite. In short, it’s what gets you high.

Cannabis, whatever it is, is certainly NOT a "narcotic", it's usually classed as a "psychoactive" drug, although even that is debatable. This is an example of the sloppy use of English Talk to Frank has become famous for. However, we let it pass.

THC is a significant active chemical and it is partly right to say it's the one that gets users stoned (few cannabis users get "high" in the UK) but the "stoned" effect is the combined result of several active chemicals, not just THC. Different strains have markedly different effects caused by the differing ratios of active chemicals, in particular the role of CBD has long been overlooked.

CANNABIS CULTIVATION

Cannabis strains that are specifically cultivated for medicinal, spiritual and recreational uses tend to have a high THC content,whereas certified industrial hemp variants are low in THC. Different growers use different methods to achieve their desired harvest.

So far so good

Over the past 20 years, advances in breeding and cultivation techniques have led to a steady increase in the diversity, quality and potency of cannabis strains around the world. These advances, such as the sinsemilla
technique, include ways of breeding plants using water based cultivation techniques or cloning and growing plants under bright lights and behind closed doors. They mean that cannabis has now developed into a more
potent drug than at any other time in its history.

bullet point Talk to Frank misinformation at it's most ugly. Most of the paragraph above is untrue:

bullet point Cannabis has always (for millions of years) been a highly diverse plant with many different strains around the world and there has always been very strong cannabis. Indeed cannabis has long been grown as "Sensimilla".

bullet point Cloning simply reproduces the same plant as the parent, it does not lead to increases in potency. Likewise hydroponic cultivation will simply provide the ideal growing environment, it won't, in itself, lead to more potent forms.

bullet point "They mean that cannabis has now developed into a more potent drug than at any other time in its history." Is untrue.

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Page 5

A little about the Rastafari religion

RASTAFARI
For Rastafarians, smoking marijuana is a spiritual act that is believed to cleanse the body and the mind and bring them closer to their God, Jah. Many Rastafarians regard cannabis as an African herb, and the smoking
of it part of their manifest destiny to return to and reclaim the African continent. According to Rastafarian belief, the will of Jah is clearly stated in the bible:
“...Thou shalt eat the herb of the field”
(Genesis 3:18)

Well, ok. So does that make it legitimate then Frank? I would say so...

TRENDS AND PREVALENCE
Today, cannabis is the most commonly used recreational drug in the world. In the UK, data from the 2005/2006 British Crime Survey suggests that 8.7% of 16 to 59 year olds had used cannabis in the preceding year.

Cannabis use is particularly prevalent among young people, some of whom wrongly believe a) that cannabis is now legal, and b) that it cannot cause any harm because it comes from a plant and is therefore ‘natural’.
Among 11 to 15 year olds in England in 20052:
• Cannabis was the most frequently reported illicit drug used in the preceding year, used
by 12%. Among 16 to 24 year olds in England in 2005/061:
• Cannabis was the most frequently reported illicit drug used in the preceding year, used
by 21.4%
• Cannabis was also the most frequently reported illicit drug used in the preceding month, used by 13.0%.

However, there has been a decline in cannabis use since 1998. This has been sustained following the reclassification of cannabis from Class B to Class C, and there is no evidence to suggest any short-term
increase in use among young people since or as a result of reclassification.

"Today, cannabis is the most commonly used recreational drug in the world." Is of course wrong, that claim is held by alcohol sadly. Ah but then, alcohol isn't a real drug, is it?

But as Frank points out again, making cannabis less illegal (if that concept makes sense) did not lead to an increase in use. How odd. If people think it's legal, that's because the concept of making something "less illegal" is not an easy one to grasp for people who aren't politicians or advertising agency people.

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Page 6

THE LOWDOWN - Talk to Frank digs his hole.

This page explains the difference in the types of cannabis on sale and in the UK and things get a bit hard to follow as Talk to Frank redefines the definitions of cannabis types in a new and imaginative way.

CANNABIS RESIN – HASHISH
• A brownish substance rubbed or scraped from the surface of dried cannabis leaves then pressed into solid blocks.
• Varies in colour from greenish-brown to black, likewise in consistency, ranging from soft and crumbly to waxy and hard.
• Sometimes eaten (in cookies or cakes), but usually mixed with tobacco and smoked in a joint or spliff.
• Varies in strength and quality; mainly reaching the UK from Morocco, Pakistan, Afghanistan
and the Lebanon.
• THC content: 2-10%*.

Hashish is brown, yes. That bit of the information is correct.

Hashish is (or should be) the glands of the cannabis plant rubbed, shaken or otherwise removed from the flowering heads or the leaves surrounding them. By it's nature, hash is (or should be) the active bits of the cannabis plant minus the vegetable matter. It is therefore always going to be stronger than the plant it came from simply because it's more concentrated. If hash really has a potency of around 2%, it must be pretty badly contaminated, in fact weak stuff like that can't really be called hash at all. Hashish - the real stuff - can be very, very strong.

Talk to Frank is probably quoting the strength of so-called "soap bar" or "solid", a highly contaminated product common in the UK and well known for being of very low quality.

It may be that traditional high quality hashish was higher in CBD than some modern strains selected to grow well indoors, but Frank wouldn't want to get into that either.

HERBAL CANNABIS – MARIJUANA
• The leaves and flowering buds of the cannabis plant, dried, chopped and often mixed with seeds or stem.
• Varies in appearance,moving through shades of green and brown; leaves and twigs can be brittle or powdery and dry.
• Smoked, usually mixed with tobacco, in a joint, spliff, pipe or bong.
• Imported from Africa, South America, Holland, Thailand and the Caribbean.
• Some herbal cannabis is homegrown in the UK.
• THC content: 1-5%*.

Cannabis containing a lot of stems is simply low grade cannabis, it's not a special type.

Now it gets interesting:

SINSEMILLA
• A seedless and naturally occurring variant
• Grown in the absence of male plants – less common than marijuana but much stronger
• THC content: 2-3 times higher than in hashish or marijuana*.

Talk to Frank is useing the Spanish word "SINSEMILLA", which means "without seeds". Whilst this is the correct use of the Spanish language, it is not the name commonly used in the UK for cannabis grown in this way.

Cannabis grown as unfertalised female plants is commonly known as SENSIMILLA or "sensi"

Sensimilla is not a "variant" however, it's the same plant grown as a female only crop (cannabis comes in boy types and girl types, kill off the boys and you get sensi, female flowers without seeds).

This is what most home and commercial growers produce and always have produced, which makes the next bit really strange:

SKUNK
• A highly potent and artificially modified variant of herbal cannabis, renowned for its strong smell and effects on the mind
• Produced using a variety of breeding and cultivation techniques
• Once cultivated, prepared for use by drying the unfertilised female flowering buds
• Smoked, usually mixed with tobacco, in a joint or spliff
• Emerged from Western Europe, particularly Holland, in the late twentieth century, replacing Sinsemilla as the potent herb of choice among the cannabis community.
• THC content: 8-20%*.

It's really difficult to comment on this rubbish without using sarcasm.

For the sake of debate, the street term "skunk" will be accepted to mean "sensi cannabis grown under lights", although it should be understood that it is NOT a specific strain of the plant. Indeed many different strains are grown in this way both hydroponically and in soil. "Skunk", as referred to in street slang is therefore a widely variable product

Originally "Skunk" was a name of a certain crossbreed of cannabis selected to grow well under lights, it is in fact very rare that street "skunk" will actually be "skunk".

The various strains sold as "skunk" are NOT "artificially modified" however, that is utter rubbish. Likewise it is NOT "renowned" for it's effects on the mind (whatever that means) - outside of some gutter press tabloid newspapers anyway.

It's grown like any other plant, either from seed or from cutting.

Ideally, all cannabis produced should be made from the flowering heads. If it's not, it's simply low quality cannabis.

Because it's grown without male plants nearby, it IS sensimilla, but It hasn't replaced sensi, it is sensi.

So, according to Talk to Frank, these are the three types of herbal cannabis. The truth is somewhat different.

In fact cannabis comes - and always has come - in three principle strains: Indica, Sativa and Ruderalis. All three strains can be crossed to produce plants which grow well in a range of different conditions or with noticeably different effects on the user. It is by cross breeding that strains have been selected which grow well in grow room conditions under artificial light. Cross breeding is a technique used by farmers for thousands of years and most of the food we eat, animal and vegetable, is the product of such cross breeding. It is not a new science.

However, there may be some real issues to address:

bullet-point It is true to add that many of the strains being grown today are fairly recent cross breeds. The original strains, grown organically for thousands of years in the traditional cannabis growing countries (and which are so often claimed to have been a far safer product by the media), have been the focus of crop eradication programs in recent times. The UK government has been deeply involved in this eradication attempt.

bullet-point The economic conditions created by cannabis prohibition may have meant some plant types being selected not for quality of product, but for ease of growing in confined spaces and in short time spans.

bullet-point In addition intensive commercial grows may use large amounts of chemical pesticides, perhaps leaving residues in the product offered for sale.

bullet-point Any change in the potency or available strains of cannabis over the past 10 - 20 years has happened in response to economic pressures created by the policy of prohibition.

bullet-point This, of course, is a situation brought about by the policy Talk to Frank promotes and defends.

It's also worth pointing out as a side comment that the cannabis used to make the medicine "Sativex" is, according to Talk to Frank's definition, "skunk" because of the way it is grown.

CANNABIS OIL
• This is rarely seen or used on the ‘street’
• A dark, sticky liquid refined from cannabis resin
• Prepared by passing a solvent through the resin
• Smoked with ordinary tobacco: either smeared on the cigarette paper or mixed in with the tobacco
• THC content: average, 30% – but can be much higher*.

Pity Frank doesn't mention oil used to be quite common, back in the 60's/70's, when cannabis was supposed to have been so weak. Oil can be very, very strong indeed.

At this point we have an error, the source of which is easy to identify:

* TCH contents sourced from Young People and Cannabis, Healthwise 2004

A classic case of "cut and paste" without checking: It's THC, not TCH of course. The documant quoted as a reference doesn't seem to be available online, but the above ref is a cut and paste from a previous Talk to Frank publication (Find out the facts) which contains even more misleading and wrong statements about cannabis including that proof reading error.

In summary, this page is utter garbage and simply misleadingly wrong information. Clearly it hasn't been checked or even proof read. It is quite unacceptable for a supposedly factual document put out by government.

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Page 7

EFFECTS AND RISKS
Whether it is consumed as resin, herb or oil, cannabis gives rise to a broad spectrum of psychological and physical effects. These effects can depend on a number of factors, such as the species and hybridisation of
the source plant, the strength and purity of the variant, how much is consumed, the environment in which it is used, and the mental and physical condition of the user.

In short, as with any drug, cannabis can be unpredictable.

What Talk to Frank means here is that different strains of the plant can give very different effects. This is because different strains contain different amounts of the various active ingredients.

Talk to frank warns that cannabis can be unpredicatble for two fundemental reasons:

bullet-point Impurities - contamination - may make a significant impact on the effect the user feels. Contamination of course is a symptom of an unregulated illegal trade, made worse by police efforts to disrupt the trade. Such contamination is, of course by it's nature, totally unpredictable. High levels of contamination (expressed as low purity levels) are used as an indicator of "success" of the prohibitionist policy by the government. If cannabis were legal, it would not suffer from contamination.

bullet-point Cannabis can be unpredictable because the law of prohibition (which frank is there to support) makes it impossible to know what strain of cannabis is offered for sale, or how strong the sample is. If cannabis were legal, it would not be unpredictable in this way.

bullet-point These two warnnigs are therefore caused not by the plant as such, but by the regime it exists under.

It does depend on where it's used, and again prohibition makes it difficult to use cannabis in safe places, forcing it's use "underground".

The mental and physical condition of the user, as with any activity, is indeed important.

It should be noted that prohibition makes all of these aspects far worse than they would otherwise be, but of course, Talk to Frank exists to deflect such criticism.

Similar amounts of the same substance will have different effects on different people. After a few tokes (puffs) on a spliff, some people will feel nothing at all,while others will get an immediate hit. Other factors determining the effects of cannabis include:
• Whether cannabis is smoked or eaten
• Whether a filter system is used (and how effective this system is)
• Whether other drugs, including alcohol and prescribed medicines, are used alongside cannabis
• Whether the person taking the drug has high or low cannabis tolerance.

That's mostly fair enough, except of course, eating cannabis would be as predictable as smoking if it weren't for the uncertainties created by prohibition.

SHORT TERM
Short-term effects include:
• Mild sedation and relaxation
• Euphoria
• Intense concentration and mental clarity
• Reduced attention span
• Altered perception of time and space
• Altered sight, hearing and sense of smell
• Stimulation of appetite (known as the munchies).

Yep, that's called "getting stoned"

Using cannabis has also been found to:
• Increase the pulse
• Lower blood pressure
• Cause dizziness and disorientation
• Cause loss of coordination and locomotive skills
• Give people the giggles
• Reduce inhibitions
• Slow reaction times
• Cause paranoia, agitation and anxiety
• Induce nausea and vomiting
• Increase awareness of colours and patterns
• Stimulate sexual arousal and heighten sexual pleasure
• Affect the immune system
• Cause bloodshot eyes and dry mouth.

Somehow the claim that cannabis can "affect the immune system" seems a little out of place there. Actually, it's highly debatable if it actually happens. Beyond that, these are hardly in the same league as the effects of alcohol.

POLY DRUG USE
The use of more than one drug at a time can be dangerous and unpredictable. Cannabis is no exception, and mixing hash, resin or skunk with other substances can greatly exacerbate their associated risks and effects. Combining cannabis with alcohol, for instance, can increase the risks of accidents, while mixing cannabis with hallucinogens might lead to a really bad trip.

The phrase "mixing hash, resin or skunk" reads as if they struggled a bit with that section and looks like another cut and paste error. Hash of course is resin and in any case all three are the same substance.

Alcohol is a dangerous drug to mix with just about any drug, legal or not.

Cannabis is classed as an hallucinogen and is not known for causing problems when taken alongside LSD or mushrooms, especially at the comedown end of a trip.

Although it's probably good advice not to mix drugs, an interesting and glaring omission here is advice not to mix cannabis with tobacco.

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Page 8

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) has reported that one of the major short-term risks to physical health posed by cannabis consumption is the impact on blood pressure and heart rate which is similar to that caused by exercise. This can be dangerous for people with coronary artery disease, irregular heart rhythms or high blood pressure, especially if they are not aware of it. The effects of cannabis on coordination and concentration can also result in accidents, particularly if people attempt to drive or operate machinery while under the influence of the drug.

Again, an example of talk to frank prose which cries out for a sarcastic comment which we will resist.

"One of the major short-term risks to physical health posed by cannabis consumption is the impact on blood pressure and heart rate which is similar to that caused by exercise."

That has to be a classic, the ultimate, anti drug health warning. So are they going to ban football now? What a stupid thing to say as a general warning.

It's good advice not to drive or operate machinery when stoned though.

LONG TERM
There is little conclusive evidence about the exact longer-term effects of cannabis consumption.

Translation: After some 2000+ years of experience of people using cannabis they still haven't found any real long term harm, but lets not let that stop us:

What is certain, however, is that cannabis is harmful and can have severe negative impacts on people’s mental and physical wellbeing.

This is "certain" despite there being no real evidence to support that claim.

Smoking cannabis, for instance, can worsen asthma and cause damage to the respiratory tract that is at least
equal to, if not greater than, the damage caused by smoking cigarettes.

Well, there are many ways to smoke cannabis and there's plenty of scope for a safer smoking campaign, especially in relation to the use of tobacco. It is true that smoking can make asthma worse, but it is also true that cannabis can significantly reduce the symptoms.

There is also increased incidence of chronic bronchitis and a potential risk of lung and throat cancer in
long-term smokers of cannabis.

Smoking isn't good for you. But this"potential" for an increased risk of cancer? Apart from one small study from New Zealand it appears that THC actually inhibits cancerous growth. Scare mongering isn't fact.

Exposure to cannabis during pregnancy, meanwhile, can have adverse effects on a foetus similar to those caused by tobacco.

Using any drug during pregnancy is to be avoided, that's not advice specific to cannabis.

There is also evidence that frequent use of cannabis over a long period of time can lead to fertility problems in both men and women. In particular, the THC in cannabis can affect sperm function,making it less likely for sperm to reach the female egg, and therefore making it more difficult for couples to conceive.

Cannabis cannot be used as a contraceptive and cannabis using people can and often do have babies.

Really, is that the worst they can come up with? These are the health risks which justify criminalising millions of people remember.

Let's be honest. Heavy use of any drug, epsecially over an extended period is going to have unwanted side effects. Drink lots of booze and much worse things will happen to you then the above.

Ah but there's more:

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Page 9

Cannabis and mental health

bullet point Note: Whatever the truth behind the relationship between cannabis and mental illness, given the correlation that exists and the age of people affected - and for several other reasons - it clearly makes sense to have measures which are designed to keep children away from the cannabis trade and culture. UKCIA does not dispute that and indeed regards it as a major reason for campaigning for a legalised, regulated commercial supply.

UKCIA cannabis and mental health information

What follows are comments related to the information provided in "Cannabis Explained" within the context they are made, ie the relationship between cannabis and the onset of severe mental illness. The Talk to Frank document does not explore the options for controlling the commercial supply of cannabis, nor restrictions which may be desirable in that trade. The worst omission in the document is it makes no special case for treating children as being at a higher risk than adults, probably because, under prohibition, it isn't possible to do so.

CANNABIS AND MENTAL HEALTH
In recent years, growing medical evidence has pointed to correlations between cannabis use and the onset or exacerbation of mental health problems – correlations that have been further complicated by the rise in high-potency strains. Some people believe that cannabis may trigger latent psychological problems such as depression, psychosis and schizophrenia.

"Some people believe". This is supposed to be a factual document remember.

There is a correlation between cannabis and mental illness, but that doesn't mean a causal link. The correlation could be due to many reasons, such as people suffering mental illness simply using drugs far more than people who aren't ill - the clearest example of that of course is tobacco smoking, which is rife amongst ill people, as is heavy drinking. It maybe pertinent to consider the link between cannabis and tobacco in this context.

It may also be that antipsychotic medication interacts with cannabis in a damaging way, there are many possible explanations for the apparent link.

In 2005 the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) undertook a review of the reclassification of cannabis, including an in-depth look at recent research claiming causal links between cannabis and mental
health problems. The report, concludes that:
• The mental health effects of cannabis are real and significant. They include:
– Adverse effects on the performance of tasks that require sustained attention and physical control and coordination, such as driving

These are not "mental health effects", they are simply intoxication effects.

– Acute intoxication reactions, such as panic attacks, paranoia and confusion, very occasionally resulting in hospitalisation

Very, very rarely is hospitalisation needed. Although "getting the worries" is a fairly common experience it is rarely a serious problem. Again, compared to alcohol these effects are pretty mild.

– Dependence, related to the duration and amount of the drug used, as well as the characteristics of the user, although substantially less common than with heroin and crack cocaine

Cannabis - as with many other activities - can induce dependence which can be hard to break, but this should not be confused with the type of addiction associated with heroin, crack or tobacco.

– Precipitation of relapse in individuals with schizophrenia.

This is important and is a real risk to people with severe mental illness from using cannabis. It is, however, a specific risk to ill people and not to the population at large. There may be special reasons for risk, as mentioned above.

Interestingly Talk to Frank goes on to say:

• However,while the evidence suggests a causal association exists, the consumption of cannabis is neither a necessary, nor a sufficient, cause for the development of schizophrenia. In the last year, over three million people appear to have used cannabis, but very few will ever develop schizophrenia. And many people who
develop schizophrenia have never consumed cannabis. Based on the available data, the use of cannabis makes only a small contribution to an individual’s risk for developing schizophrenia.

This is very important information regarding cannabis and mental health, yet it's hidden at the foot of the page following all of the above.

Overall, the ACMD report states that cannabis is without doubt a harmful substance, but that it is significantly less harmful than other drugs, such as amphetamines, barbiturates or codeine, that are currently controlled as Class B under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.


It's also significantly less harmful than alcohol, which isn't included in the Misuse of Drugs act at all. Why isn't this mentioned?

Interestingly Talk to Frank doesn't make a case for treating children as being at an increased risk from using cannabis compared to adults. This has been the thrust of the campaign by such groups as RETHINK the mental health charity. Of course, under a prohibition regime, there's nothing that can be done to keep kids away from cannabis, so Frank chooses to say nothing on the issue.

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Page 10

SPOTTING THE SIGNS
These could be signs that someone might be using cannabis but remember that some of these could just be normal aspects of teenage behaviour. These include:

Translation: If you're not open about drug use with your kids, you need to resort to spying techniques, here's what to look for:


• Stains and smells: fingers, hands and clothing can become soiled and stained,while the smell of cigarette-smoke and cannabis can linger for some time.
• Dilated pupils
• Giggling
• Lack of money
• Mood-swings or sudden bouts of acute hunger
• Secretiveness: drug users tend to be very closed off, reluctant to share information
even with friends.
• Sleepiness and drowsiness
• Sudden changes in behaviour
• Loss of interest in school, hobbies,work, sport, friends
• Loss of concentration and motivation
• Poor coordination.

For additional signs of cannabis use, you may find that paraphernalia is more evident than the substance itself. Things to look out for include:

• Discarded lighters and matches
• Homemade pipes or bongs
• Scatterings of tobacco
• Cigarette papers, torn cigarette packets.

Why not just be open and have a good relationship with your kids about such things? But just in case you're not really worried:

Signs of long-term dependency and harm might include:
• Severe coughing, bronchitis
• Respiratory problems
• Worsening asthmatic conditions

More than likely associated with tobacco use, but I suppose that's ok?

• Deteriorating mental health, including depression, anxiety and psychosis, or sudden relapses into schizophrenia for those already suffering from this problem.
• Memory loss.

Which could be due to a whole range of causes, but yes, they would be reasons to be concerned for your kids whether or not they were using cannabis.

HARM MINIMISATION
There are a number of things you can do to minimise the risks associated with cannabis use the obvious one being smoke less or stop, but:

There goes the "don't use", "abstinence" message of a prohibition campaign, there's much more you can do in fact, lets see what Talk to Frank suggests:

1. Roll it and use a filter. Research suggests that a joint is the least harmful way to smoke cannabis*, leading to less carbon monoxide being inhaled. However, with or without tobacco, smoking cannabis can still be a risky business.

bullet point It is unbelievable that a supposedly factual document promoting harm reduction would contain such an error. It is utterly wrong, stupid information which seems designed to re-eforce the cannabis-tobacco connection. It can only have been written as a cut and paste job by someone who hasn't got the remotest idea what they are talking about and the resulting draft not having been checked.

bullet point This advice probably has it's roots in some research done years ago in the USA, which claimed to find that cannabis smoked in joints gave more of a hit for the amount of smoke inhaled. However, this was from the USA, where they don't mix tobacco with cannabis. Smoking tobacco in joints is perhaps the biggest health risk cannabis users face.

*People often think that eating cannabis is the safest option, but this can in fact be dangerous and unpredictable.

Only because of the uncertainties caused by prohibition in terms of strength and purity of the sample used. If it weren't for prohibition eating or drinking cannabis food would indeed be safer than smoking it.

2. When sharing a pipe, run the flame of a lighter over the mouthpiece before and after each toke. This will help to eradicate cold viruses and may reduce the chances of catching something more serious, such as cold-sores, flu, or even Hepatitis B.
3. Don’t mix cannabis with other drugs. Mixing drugs of any kind can be dangerous and unpredictable. Poly drug use is a major cause of drug-related harm.
4. Cannabis and alcohol together often cause people to spin out and feel sick, so smoking when drunk isn’t a good idea.
5. Some people believe that holding down a lung-full of smoke can greatly enhance a ‘hit’. Recent research has contradicted this theory, suggesting that the only thing that will be gained by doing this is an increase in carbon monoxide absorption.
6. Don’t drive or operate heavy machinery while under the influence of cannabis. This can lead to serious accidents and drug driving is just as illegal as drink driving.

Notice point 4 - alcohol isn't a drug again, is it? Otherwise reasonable advice except they do not mention the tobacco connection and the desirability of toking pure.

bullet point UKCIA would add - as a first and most important bit of information never mix cannabis with tobacco. Whatever the risks of cannabis might be, tobacco is known killer and carcinogen and is strongly addictive. So what if it's legal?

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Page 11 and 12 relate to the law as it applies to cannabis, stupid as it all may be. We won't comment beyond that.

Pages 13 - 16 are all about getting the anti cannabis message across:

In its recent report to Government, the ACMD stressed that there was a greater need for public education and information, particularly aimed at children, adolescents and young adults. The local level is vital as part of this
communication challenge, and outlined below are a number of pointers and ideas for action to help you meet this challenge head-on.

Telling the full truth is not encouraged.

KEY COMMUNICATIONS
CHALLENGE
Following reclassification from Class B to Class C in 2004, some people have taken the message to be “cannabis is harmless and legal”.

That is what the tabloid papers say, it isn't true. Cannabis is less harmful compared to legal drugs alcohol and tobacco in many respects and this is well understood by people. Also, this government is well known for controlling information as well as telling lies in order to justify it's policies. This is particularly true with respect to drugs.

The rest of the publication outline what it wants to see happen in order to spread the misinformation contained in the publication in order to promote the present policy.

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