are in Activism/Government
website and leaflets from the HIT drugs agency based in Liverpool
sometime in December 2004 - some time after it was actually announced by the Frank
"action update" - the HIT website "Know Cannabis" is aimed
at helping you assess your cannabis use, its impact on your life and how to make
changes if you want to. Hit are a highly respected drugs advice agency based in
Liverpool who have a reputation for straight talking about drugs..
contains some good advice, including some advice on how to use cannabis more safely.
However, as always it mixes the health education message with the legal warnings
which somewhat debases the information it gives.
website is accompanied by leaflets which give a condensed version of the information
available online and is promoted by the government's Talk to Frank campaign.
website Know Cannabis
is divided into six sections: - we review the information below.
negative information about what using cannabis can do to you in terms of dependency,
smoking, mental health, debt, relationships and - of course - the law. Also features
a special warning to under 18's in terms of the law. There is some good advice
in here, particularly with regard to smoking.
information on how to smoke cannabis which is fundamentally wrong in places -
and indeed contradicts information given in the information section to some extent.
The information on eating cannabis is very negative and avoids giving any really
useful information. Lastly there's information to help you cut down or stop. There's
almost no harm reduction advice beyond advising you not to hold smoke in your
lungs for along time.
is supposed to help you decide if your cannabis use is becoming a problem. The
quiz is full of holes and questions that are difficult to answer and seems designed
to convince you that your cannabis use is causing you big problems.
you can buy stuff from HIT such as posters telling you to cut down and a guide
to how to cut down or stop, not much there likely to appeal...
Talk to Frank, NHS anti smoking site, RETHINK mental health charity and things
like that, but of course, not to any legalisation campaign - obviously ... why
- how good is the information on "Know Cannabis"?
introduction sets the tone: "This website can help you assess your cannabis
use, its impact on your life and how to make changes if you want to. Smoking cannabis
can cause you problems in different areas of your life. Some regular cannabis
smokers choose to cut down and stop, many find it easy, others find it hard. Are
you in control of your cannabis use? Read on and then decide for yourself."
outlines the symptoms of addiction - or dependency - which is fair enough and
adds: "Are you spending too much time, energy and money on weed? Does a lot
of your day revolve around dope? Do those close to you complain that you're stoned
all the time? Cannabis can lead to problems - could you stop if you wanted to?"
it doesn't mention the addictive nature of tobacco nor give any advice about smoking
without the killer weed. This is a failing the site repeats later. How many of
the symptoms it attributes to cannabis are in fact due to the tobacco people often
smoke it with?
good advice here - indeed it talks about tobacco and the dangers of becoming addicted
to it. However, it then comes out with this: "Giving up tobacco may be more
difficult as a result of your cannabis use". That is as close as it comes
to advising tokers not to smoke with tobacco. So cannabis use leads to tobacco
addiction and there's nothing you can do about it? This withholding of information
gets worse later.
does advise not to hold smoke in your lungs - doing that won't get you any more
stoned. Good advice as far as it goes.
Mental health advice
gives what seems blindingly obvious advice: "If cannabis is affecting your
mental health, stop using it.". However, it's by no means certain that schizophrenia
or bipolar disorder sufferers perceive they experience negative effects, or suffer
them in quite the way HIT describes, so how useful is the HIT advice actually?
Indeed there is evidence to suggest some sufferers are self medicating - that
the cannabis actually makes them feel better in some way, even though in other
ways it complicates the issue.
However, having warned of that cannabis can make people feel panicky and so on,
surely the obvious thing to say is "if you find the effects of cannabis unpleasant,
don't use it". After all, many people stop using it because they find it
makes them uneasy for one reason or another.
it mentions the increased risk for young people, it doesn't give the simple advice
"people under 18 are best advised not to get stoned" as UKCIA does either.
To do that, of course, would be a bit like supporting age limits, something not
possible under prohibition.
Debt and relationship problems
spend too much money on dope and don't spend too much time watching TV. Otherwise
cut down, use less etc
of course, cannabis is illegal and the law can really mess your life up, especially
if you're young. Of course, this is presented as a danger of cannabis, not a danger
caused by a stupid law. Interestingly it warns people under 18 about the higher
risk from the law, giving the impression that young people shouldn't use cannabis
for that reason, yet they didn't give the health advice to young people under
the mental health section. Are young people more likely to not use cannabis because
it's illegal than if they're given honest and genuine health advice?
the biggest risks from cannabis use come through its illegality - lack of controls
over the supply side (polluted "soap bar", uncertain strengths, dealing
with profit motivated criminals, illegal black markets and so on - plus of course
the harm a criminal record can have on peoples lives. So why no warnings about
the harm the law can do?
and techniques section:
do say in the info section "If you smoke cannabis with tobacco, you expose
your lungs to two harmful
drugs and this increases the risks." But in
the smoking advice they say "There is as yet no conclusive evidence that
methods of inhaling cannabis that have been promoted as less risky, such as the
use of water pipes and vapouriser, actually do reduce risks overall. The use of
vapouriser has attracted some media focus recently but beware of unexpected effects
such as increased inhalation (including of toxins). Naturally the safest course
of action is to cut down and stop."
this is very negative and seems designed to put people off listening to the advice,
but worse it's simply wrong: Pipes, vapourisers etc do not involve tobacco, they
are thus obviously safer/less dangerous than smoking tobacco filled joints. They
avoid the physical addiction and craving produced by tobacco and vastly reduce
the amount of smoke breathed in..
seem to be implying that there is no point is cutting out tobacco when using cannabis;
why? This information actually seems to be arguing against safer smoking techniques.
It is close to being irresponsible.
that HIT accept tobacco is an additional risk, why no advice to smoke cannabis
pure - especially through devices which cool the smoke and remove some of the
as regards smoking the advice is simple - breath in as little smoke as possible
and don't mix cannabis with a known cancer causing addictive drug.
advice on eating is almost entirely negative and no ways to reduce the risks are
is followed by advice on how to cut down or quit. Mostly good advice but of course
but again it doesn't advise quitting tobacco with all it's addictive cravings.
a lot of comments on the questions in this quiz. The idea is to help you to see
if your cannabis use is causing you a problem and to encourage you to think about
cutting down. However, some of the questions are badly worded and seem designed
to paint a black picture:
How often are you stoned:
stoned? Very or a little bit? HIT do not define what they mean by "stoned".
A couple of puffs on a pipe might do for most situations, am I stoned? Or do they
mean so hammered you can't move?
Q4: When you smoke cannabis, how
often do you light up a second joint to get extra stoned?
if you don't smoke joints? Pipe smoking doesn't work like this. If you use a pipe,
you take as much as you want then leave it go out, maybe have a bit more later.
The profile of use for pipe smokers is different to joint
smokers and usually
far less habitual. Also pipe smokers don't smoke to satisfy a tobacco urge. Again,
the concept of safer smoking techniques is totally ignored. So how do non-tobacco
users answer this question?
Q5: Do you ever smoke cannabis in combination
with other substances such as alcohol, cocaine or ecstasy? Please ignore tobacco
when answering this question.
ignore Tobacco??? Why are HIT avoiding this issue? They seem intent on propping
up the image of cannabis use being entwined with tobacco as a norm.
Q7: What are the most important reasons why you use cannabis? Click below three
reasons that apply to you.
option "To perform or concentrate better" counts against your score
- but it's true, many enjoyable things such as doing recreational IT work such
as webdev, playing music or other artistic pastimes are defiantly enhanced with
a little toke for some people, it does help concentration in some ways. Including
this option adds a point to your score - why?
Q10: How often have
you thought to yourself in the past year, 'I should cut down or stop'?
if you answer this in any way other than "never" it implies you didn't
follow it up by cutting down and thus have a problem, of course, it could be a
sign that you're keeping an eye on your cannabis use, but answering "yes"
in any way indicates you have a problem
Q11: In the past year, how
often has your use of cannabis affected your performance in your work or studies?
do HIT mean by "affected"? For good or bad? What if you've spent hours
in recreational stoned computer abuse and taught yourself IT skills for example?
Not all work skills come through staff development ...
Q12: Do you
sometimes put things off because you are stoned?
teeth yes of course and so you should - don't drive whilst stoned for a start!
That's a loaded question and of course, counts against you if you answer "yes".
13: Have you ever felt extremely frustrated because you couldn't smoke
cannabis when you wanted to?
Yes - in night clubs or at gigs, but this isn't what HIT mean, is it?
you've completed the quiz you get a score. If you get 5 or less - the lowest you
can get of course, the advice isn't "OK, you have it under control",
but "This means there is not any immediate reason for concern since you are
an infrequent user. But taking drugs always carries risks - and of course cannabis
is not only harmful but it is still an illegal drug in the UK. To find out more
about cannabis and the law, click here for information."
dear, bad losers or what!
should be noted that a score of 5 can be obtained even if you answer "every
day" to how often you use, so the "infrequent use" comment there
is a little odd.
also states for a low score "No added risk, although taking drugs always
carries risks" Which doesn't really make sense.
the HIT Know Cannabis quiz here
the Know Cannabis
conclusion the website and leaflets contain some good information and HIT do give
advice on how to use cannabis in a less risky way, which is something of a landmark.
However, as always the advice they give is compromised by the need to support
government policy and is partial as a result. The tone of the website is, of course,
anti use without any acknowledgment of the positive aspects of cannabis