The chancellor, Alistair Darling, today became the most senior member of the cabinet to admit he had smoked cannabis “occasionally in my youth”.
The shock admission, from the minister best known as a “safe pair of hands”, came after the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, revealed that she had dabbled with the drug during her university days.
The disclosure – made while Ms Smith discussed the prime minister’s announcement yesterday of a review into whether marijuana should be reclassified back to class B after it was downgraded to class C three years ago – prompted an avalanche of similar admissions from her cabinet colleagues.
Look I know that with a Ministerial post comes a measure of collective responsibility, nevertheless who would expected this turn in the Labour’s “I’m Spartacus” moment.
More to point:
To the astonishment of colleagues, the transport secretary, Ruth Kelly, a devout Catholic, also admitted today that she had smoked the drug as an undergraduate.
Ruth Kelly’s office confirmed that she had smoked cannabis “in her youth”. A spokeswoman said: “She recognises that it was foolish and a silly thing to do, and she stopped.”
No, I can’t quite picture Ruth skinning up on the cover of an album of Gregorian chants either, but then frankly who cares.
Yes, there’s a stench of hypocrisy around this – talk to most ordinary people who’ve toked in the past and even if they have given it up, most will happily admit to enjoying it and that the worst side-effect they ever encountered was waking up the following morning to an empty fridge.
Much more important, in terms of misinformation and propaganda is that the paragraphs that follow these less-than-stunning revelations:
The home secretary is due to formally announce the review next week as part of a wide-ranging drugs inquiry that in part reflects concern about skunk, a stronger form of cannabis being blamed for an increase in mental health disorders.
Now, I will dig out something I can post in full, but having taken a look at several research papers on the subject of cannabis and mental health, the most striking think about these statements in the press is the wholesale absence of two very important words that appear routinely in the research literature:-
Every single research paper I’ve read that examines cannabis use in the context of claims that increases the risk of serious mental health problems such as schizophrenia and psychotic disorders notes that the increased risks that have been identified are found only in those with a pre-existing liability towards those disorders, a predisposition that researchers strongly suspect has genetic origins.
Got that? The current state of play in the research is that there is an increased risk of mental health problems arising out of cannabis use in individuals who possess a genetic predisposition toward experiencing such problems.
The precise genetic and biochemical factors that come into play and the prevalence of such pre-existing liabilities in the general population are both, as yet, unknown, although researchers have identified at least two promising lines of enquiry on the causative factors, both of which require more research before anything definitive can be said.
So far as I can see from the published literature, our current understanding of the precise relationship between cannabis use and mental health problems amounts to a couple of promising hypotheses which suggest that an as yet unquantified segment of the general population might be at greater risk of developing certain psychological disorders for which they have a genetic predisposition if they toke on a regular basis, especially while an adolescent.
If that’s the medical argument for reclassifying cannabis upwards, then one might just as easily justify classifying peanuts as a class A substance on grounds of the increasing prevalence of of peanut allergies in recent years on much the same basis but on the back of considerable more solid research evidence.
Politicians toking during their university days – who cares anymore.
Propaganda and misinformation on the real scale and understanding of the risks involved in cannabis use – that’s the real scandal here.
Time for a video… (NSFW)