are in Activism / Pragmatism
unknowns - what we should know about cannabis but don't
are known unknowns - that is to say things we know that we don't know"
(paraphrased quote from Donald Rumsfeld, the failed US Defense Secretary)
things we know that we don't know about cannabis
prohibition we don't know some very fundamental parameters - for example, how
strong supplies are. It's as if booze were sold in unlabeled bottles which may
contain beer or vodka.
don't know how pure cannabis is. Is hashish badly contaminated as some claim?
How clean is so-called "skunk"? The answer is we don't know. Is some
cannabis grown in unregulated grow-ops contaminated with unacceptable levels of
pesticides? What is the effect or extent of this contamination? Again, we simply
don't really know the profile of the user group - although we know there are millions
of cannabis users, we don't know who they are. Because of this we can't study
the effects of cannabis use on the individual or collectively on society.
don't know what's being sold - Cannabis is a complex substance, unlike almost
every other "drug" used for fun or escapism it isn't a single substance.
Cannabis is a blend of active chemicals, most notably THC and CBD, but also many
others. Different types of cannabis contain different ratios of these chemicals
and therefore different types may have significantly or subtly different effects.
This is of particular importance in the debate surrounding cannabis and mental
health where CBD is thought to moderate the psychotic effects of THC.
2008 a nationwide research program was started to measure the strength of cannabis
being sold, based not on statistically valid sampling but on street seizures by
police. Even this crude measure had not been done before.
prevents us knowing this fundamentally important information. Because of the drug
laws, there can be no statistically valid monitoring of what is actually being
sold and hence there can be no reliable predictions of risks.
a n indication of "success" of the present regime is uncertain supplies
and a lowering of quality - in other words an increase in the number of "known
unknowns" is the aim of the policy That
this is actually government policy is sheer madness.
do we know about who uses cannabis?
the best survey of drug users is being done by the Independent
Drug Monitoring Unit - IDMU - it's a drug research organisation conducting
large scale drug user surveys throughout the UK and on the Internet. However,
this is no substitute for proper statistical sampling, but it's the best anyone
can do at present.
things we know that we do know
is a fact of life, it's here and isn't about to go away. In some areas of the
country its use is regarded as the norm and it has long since moved from a drug
of subcultures into the mainstream. We need to learn to live with it - prohibition
isn't a new drug, people have used it for all sorts of reasons for thousands of
the introduction of the Misuse of Drugs Act in 1973 the use of cannabis has risen
from almost nothing to the point where it is now almost the norm, indeed in many
areas and amongst many subcultures, it is the norm. There are, even if you believe
government figures, millions of users in the UK.
know that there's a massive and highly profitable industry supplying cannabis
to these millions of people. This culture of cannabis use is now ingrained in
British life, it is no longer confined to a small group of young hippies but reaches
into every corner of society from council estates to members of the royal family.
is no great social taboo against its use. It is far too accepted for something
that is supposed to be a criminal activity.
know that the law, as a means of controlling and preventing cannabis use, has
harm and protecting the vulnerable should be the basis of any government regime
and that includes drugs policy, yet prohibition puts the most vulnerable at the
greatest risk by making the supply as unreliable as possible. It also ensures
that no overseeing of those involved in the trade is possible. Because of prohibition
disputes are often settled with violence and there is no recourse to the law
are risks connected with cannabis use - nothing on earth is totally safe. We need
to be aware of what the risks are and how to avoid them, simply telling people
to "say no" is no substitute for a proper awareness.
the risks can only be done by quantifying the supply side and by enforcing safeguards
to protect the vulnerable.
are many ways to reduce the risks involved in the use of cannabis, both in terms
of the way it is used and the effect it has. But before we can start, we need
to know what we are dealing with.
is based on increasing the number of things that we know we don't know, that is
deliberate harm maximisation.
truth there should be no such thing as a "known unknown", the concept
is stupid. A policy that creates them - indeed actually sets out to create them
- is clearly a bad policy. Any such policy that does this and calls the end result
"control" is also a deception. That policy is what we have - Prohibition.
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