The philosophy behind UKCIA has always been to "tell the truth" about cannabis; "telling the truth" of course, means identifying the dangers as much as promoting the benefits. So whereas we do set out to highlight the nature of the cannabis culture, we don't seek to defend every aspect of it.
The first and most controversial issue for us was that of smoking and health. In 2001 UKCIA became the first organisation to run a harm reduction campaign aimed at the safer smoking of cannabis. Called "toke pure" the campaign aims to encourage the use of cannabis without tobacco (70-80 % of cannabis users in the UK smoke it mixed with tobacco). We would like to develop this further.
UKCIA also highlights the fact that cannabis is only a "controlled drug" in law; in reality it is no such thing. The efforts to prevent its use and supply have never been very effective and today the number of tokers runs into millions. It's easy to get in most places, yet as the market is unregulated purchasers have no protection under law and the most vulnerable are at the highest risk from the many dodgy dealers who have little incentive to sell an uncontaminated product in a responsible fashion.
UKCIA supports a regime based on harm reduction, which as well as credible education could involve workable laws including those to regulate the strength and purity of cannabis, perhaps even grading by THC/CBD ratio, license the dealers to enforce safer standards and impose age limits on sales (perhaps 18). None of this is possible under prohibition and the anarchy of the illegal market.
Around the time of reclassification in January 2004, the legitimate warnings of the potential mental health problems were presented as a reason to oppose law reform in much of the media. Because of this they were dismissed by tokers as yet more "reefer madness" - yet more prohibition lies. It was something UKCIA could not ignore though and we set out to find more information. However, information regarding mental health issues is not easy to get, and if we got it, it wasn't easy to understand.
We see our role as one of communicating the information to a section of the population long used to being the target of drug war propaganda and forming a trusted link between users, their friends and families, and sources of expert knowledge or help. We would like to ask for feedback and advice on the information we have on UKCIA. To that end we have set up a discussion mailing list to debate the issue. Please contact us for further information.
Derek is attending the second day of the conference.
the parent of a 22 year old young man who has schizophrenia and was a heavy user
of cannabis at age 15. And in spite of 6 years of strong discouragement from the
mental health services, he still uses it now.
I absolutely support any moves to increase public knowledge about possible risks of cannabis among some people, and in particular protect children.
However there seems to be a significant lack of working with the people who themselves use this drug; harm reduction should of course involve people who do use cannabis. Those who actively campaign for the right to use it are in a unique position to communicate the advice, as they have the ear of tokers.
have been talking with UKCIA and other organisations for the last five months
through the internet, a superb means of communication which is used a great deal
by tokers . I also spoke at the legalise cannabis festival in Brixton last year.
is a legalisation group that has already a policy of harm reduction, in discouraging
tobacco amongst others. I now work in partnership with UKCIA in developing evidence-based
information about mental health and cannabis, with harm reduction advice that
is both accurate and acceptable.
is a significant move forward in getting the message across - its not just the
information but where it comes from. Information about cannabis and mental health
is now coming from a trusted source. Advice and information from the government
is often not believed. A recent example of this is the Mentor leaflet "Hayzy
Dayz, the big cannabis talk", which seemed intent on alienating tokers rather
than working with them to get messages across about safe use of cannabis.
The next stage is for everyone involved to build on this partnership with the cannabis community - this is a key element in communicating the research findings.
UKCIA is planning two leaflets that will be available for download from our site. One will be aimed at tokers and the other at their friends or parents. The leaflets will include the safer smoking advice we give in our "Toke pure" campaign, and also advice about mental health issues. Explaining this issue in an open and non-threatening way is difficult, involving as it does some terms not used in general conversation.
We are fully aware these can be improved, not least we also need help with the advice we give about consuming cannabis as a food or drink and would like to ask for your help in drafting these leaflets.
help us both understand the issue and to develop the information we give to people,
UKCIA has started a mailing list dedicated to the issue of cannabis and mental
health and we would like to invite anyone interested to join the list.
UKCIA runs several e-mail mailing lists, including a general discussion list for activists, UKCIA-l. We have started a new list dedicated to the issue of cannabis and mental health is called UKCIA-MH
The purpose of the list is notification and discussion about research into the links between cannabis and mental health. Examples of postings that are considered on-topic are:
- Discussions about cannabis use and its relation to schizophrenia, depressive illnesses, dependence.
- People's experiences of the effects of cannabis on mental health - personal and professional perspectives whether positive or negative.
Information about cannabis and mental health as it appears in the media, scientific
literature or from campaign groups.
Discussion regarding legislation that would minimise potential for harm.
The list does not seek to offer medical advice.
The purpose of the UKCIA-MH list is not only to help us all to understand the issues surrounding cannabis and mental health, but also to allow us to present the issue in a way which can be understood by ordinary people without specialist knowledge - especially a knowledge of the jargon used by professionals.
We see it as a part of our campaign to give information and advice about cannabis that is as informed as possible. We are keen to listen to interested people and organisations and the best way we can think of doing that is by providing a forum for an exchange of views, opinions and expertise.
To subscribe to UKCIA-MH, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or for further information contact UKCIA by phone, e-mail or in writing