Advice from Colorado

by Alastair Moore

Last Friday, King’s College London released a report on the effects of smoking high potency ‘skunk-like’ cannabis. The researchers found that The study that ‘frequent use of high potency cannabis was linked to significantly higher mean-diffusivity (MD), a marker of damage in white matter structure’.

The study brought out a wide range of responses here in the UK – from tabloid sensationalism to thoughtful opinion pieces.

Amid the confusing din of reactions we look for tried and tested responses to such moments of media frenzy. Our search drew us towards Colorado and the success of the cannabis legalisation movement there.

We reached out to Steve Fox who co-authored Marijuana is Safer, So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? (2nd Edition) with Paul Armentano and Mason Tvert. He gave us some wise words and state-side insights.

Stop playing the old “cannabis is bad – cannabis is not so bad” game!

Fox advised an honest approach to the harms and risks involved.

[the] position needs to be: Even if what you are saying is true — and there is good reason to believe that the potential harms are being exaggerated — cannabis is still far less harmful than alcohol.

Citing some of the hypocrisy that arises from the prohibition of cannabis and the regulation of alcohol Fox said:

We know that alcohol has significant negative impacts on the brain, yet we allow adults to use it freely. Why should we support laws that punish adults who want to use the less harmful of the two substances?

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett in The Guardian spoke of the risk cannabis poses to the brain while it is not legalised. Fox expanded on this point of view saying:

If we believe that certain strains of cannabis are more harmful than others, the solution is to legalize cannabis so that it is tested and labeled.

His concluding piece of advice for us, as we further examined the King’s College study and the media’s reaction to it, was a rational and sensible point – one that should be reiterated throughout all the discourses surrounding legalisation, decriminalisation and regulation.

Education should also include objective information about the relative harms of alcohol and cannabis.

VolteFace will be catching up with our Coloradan advisor in the coming week. Stay tuned for more first hand experience from across the Atlantic.

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