The BBC has had a go, John Snow had a go with his podcast
, now here's an investigation from UK Sunday paper, The Observer
. The public must be educated about the dangers of cannabis, insists Home Secretary Charles Clarke. And the eager media are off; applying their talents to satisfy his wish.
The propagandists' preferred method has been to interview scarred families whose young have smoked cannabis and now have mental health problems. The first case in The Observer is that of a young sufferer from Asperger's syndrome.
Aspergers, from the Asperger Syndrome Info site
"Individuals with AS can exhibit a variety of characteristics and the disorder can range from mild to severe. Persons with AS show marked deficiencies in social skills, have difficulties with transitions or changes and prefer sameness. They often have obsessive routines and may be preoccupied with a particular subject of interest. They have a great deal of difficulty reading nonverbal cues (body language) and very often the individual with AS has difficulty determining proper body space. Often overly sensitive to sounds, tastes, smells, and sights, the person with AS may prefer soft clothing, certain foods, and be bothered by sounds or lights no one else seems to hear or see. It's important to remember that the person with AS perceives the world very differently."
Now, I seriously would advise someone who has those symptoms that taking anything in any way mind-altering might not be a good idea.
The Autism Society of America
"Individuals with Asperger's Disorder may need assistance in encouraging friendships..."
Well, it could be said that cannabis encourages friendships. It certainly does make a good common interest, with all its varieties, experiences to relate, and connoisseurship: and it leads to some extremely good times when it's common amongst a group of friends; usually into the same music, too. It also currently seems like a good spiritual counter to dissatisfaction with government behaviour and society's values: a badge of discontent. How not to be so 'good' as a Tony Blair and his values or a George Bush and his.
I think I once read somewhere that Alan Ginsberg said: "Pot is instead of people." I know what he means. When you're stoned alone you can easily get into what's around: the music, the trees, drawing, reading, whatever - so you don't think about being alone or lonely. Of course, when you're stoned in company you get into conversation and laughs and whatever, equally. Wherever.
So, it's a likely case, I'd say, that someone with social difficulty would find consolation in cannabis use, either alone or in company. Also, stoners would be less likely to give you a hard time than would society at large - less pressure; more 'laid back'.Effects of pot
The other side of the coin is the sense in applying a mind-alterer to an ill mind.
Speaking as someone with a healthy mind (I don't care what the 'others' say),
I think that cannabis is, in some way, something of a truth drug. It's like, if you behave badly or act the prat then that incident will come hard to mind when you're stoned, and possibly give you a difficult time - you have to sort it out with yourself. In that way, like, I believe, most mind-alterers, it can be a learning tool.
This excellent piece on the effects of using pot
incudes these words from a 28-year old female songwriter about being stoned:
"I'm more honest, open, more willing to let go, and admit to others my feelings that they might interpret negatively. Time, the phenomenon, the feeling of time passing, of growing old, disappears, and I feel less depressed. Worrying about time and me getting older, disappears. Time becomes more relative; I'm not as worried about time. I feel as if I control my universe. I feel as if every beautiful thing I want is right here in my room, and I don't have to go outside to get it. I see beauty in myself, how sensitive I am. I can become a fantastic creature, like a fairy. I can see into truths and look for and find the answer to them. Marijuana takes away fear and shyness. You can say what you think and not worry about how the other person will respond. I can see causes of my problems and can decide how to change things. There's nothing to fear. This is what you learn on pot."'New' Studies
The Observer cites 'a series of new studies'. But all I've been able to find over the past twelve months are those emanating from New Zealand. Those are not new studies, they're new statistical manipulations of existing data. They make statistical allowance for swathes of factors so that, ultimately, the result is a mathematical masterpiece rather than a report on first-hand evidence.
Nevertheless, and despite all that's been printed to the contrary, these are the conclusions from some of the New Zealand 'studies':
"Cannabis use appears to be neither a sufficient nor a necessary cause for psychosis."
(from Causal association between cannabis and psychosis: examination of the evidence by Arseneault L, Cannon M, Witton J, Murray RM. Source: BRITISH JOURNAL OF PSYCHIATRY 184: 110-117 FEB 2004)
"If 'cannabis psychoses' exist, they seem to be rare, because they require very high doses of tetrahydrocannabinol, the prolonged use of highly potent forms of cannabis, or a preexisting (but as yet unspecified) vulnerability, or both."Are YOU psychotic?
(from Cannabis use and psychosis: a review of clinical and epidemiological evidence by Hall W, Degenhardt L. Source: AUSTRALIAN AND NEW ZEALAND JOURNAL OF PSYCHIATRY 34 (1): 26-34 FEB 2000)
"Confirmatory factor analysis of the item set has shown previously that the items formed a unidimensional scale reflecting the extent of psychotic symptomatology*. Scale scores were estimated by summing the number of symptoms reported by each participant at each age. Reliability was assessed using coefficient alpha, a = 0.74 (18 years), a = 0.73 (21 years) and a = 0.75 (25 years)."
That was the statistical method applied to the results from the following questionnaire from a research report
on Tests of causal linkages between cannabis use and psychotic symptoms (by David M. Fergusson1, L. John Horwood1 & Elizabeth M. Ridder1, of Christchurch, New Zealand.(please note that this report is based solely on data from people in Christchurch):
A key point in the report is the assessment of the participants' mental health. Sample members were questioned at age 18, 21 and 25 using the following psychotic symptoms 10-point checklist. Scale scores were estimated by summing the number of symptoms reported by each participant at each age.(comments in italics are mine)hearing voices that other people do not hear(worrying; but could be a healthy fantasy, as in childhood - or even paranormal!?)the idea that someone else can control your thoughts(they certainly try - by bending or withholding truth)other people being aware of your private thoughts(we all fear, at some time, that we are revealing our thoughts)having thoughts that are not your own(sometimes I react just like my dad would)having ideas and beliefs that others do not share(a good thing to have some ideas that others do not share; else how are we going to remain a healthy race)the idea that something is seriously wrong with your body(illness possibilities - a large percent of population must experience this several times throughout their lives; in addition, the massive business in surgical body change suggests that there's a lot of dissatisfaction about bodies)never feeling close to another person(well, 'never' is a long time; but many must feel that this is so at times: is it not truly said: 'We are all alone')the idea that something is wrong with your mind(I can't answer this one because I don't know the feeling of 'wrong', only of 'different' - and that seems just like it ought to)feeling other people cannot be trusted(that could reasonably extend from the kid next door, to the PM, and on to the world leader; not to mention bad personal experience - with thieves, or in romance)feeling that you are watched or talked about by others(well, if you use cannabis then, as long as it's illegal, you're gonna feel watched at times; plus, of course, it's known to increase the feeling of paranoia)My point is this.
There is a whole lot of bullshit out there about cannabis use, fed by neurotic governments, massaged research and bigoted media. It hasn't stopped since, according to The Observer article, "Cannabis was banned in 1928 after a Chinese musician was accused of giving hashish to three women found near-naked in his flat in Cardiff." (he was probably a masseur!)
That was the sex and drugs angle.
The Daily Mirror were hammering it in 1939:
"For women, the menace of the cigarette is greater than for men. A girl of twenty-one was persuaded by a coloured man to elope with him."
"Unlike opium, hashish and other drugs which make their victims seek solitude, marijuana drives its victims into society, forcing them to violence, even murder."The mind state of a cannabis user
The following 1967 quote from California School of Criminology gives a very good picture of the mind state of cannabis users compared with prohibitors:
The original aim of the project was to act as a brake on drug use of the young adults they encountered; this goal was abandoned because of their informants' attitude toward their efforts. They saw them as absurd.
"... we found rather early that we were not having any success in developing a form of collective abstinence. It became clear that the youths were well anchored in their drug use and well fortified in their beliefs against all the "dangers" of drug use. From their own experiences and observations they could refute the declaration that the use of harmful drugs usually led to personal or health deterioration; they viewed with contempt the use of opiates and rejected with evidence the claim that the use of harmful drugs led naturally to opiate use. They pointed out that the break-up of home life, with which many of them were very familiar, was due to other factors than the use of drugs; they were able to show that the limitation of their career opportunities came from other conditions than the use of drugs, as such. They met the fear of arrest by developing greater skill and precautions against detection in the use of drugs. Added to these stances was a set of collective beliefs that justified their use of drugs, so that such use resulted in harmless pleasure, increased conviviality, did not lead to violence, could be regulated, did not lead to addiction, and was much less harmful than the use of alcohol, which is socially and openly sanctioned in our society. Parenthetically, we would invite any group of educators, scientists, welfare workers or police officials to try to meet effectively the well-buttressed arguments, based on personal experience and observation that our youthful drug users present in frank, open, and uncowed discussion. In sum, we learned that youthful drug users are just not interested in abstaining from drug use."Beware the 'reefer madness' of a neurotic society.
"Of all arenas of human behavior, illicit nonmedical drug use provides one of the best examples of the tyranny of models of man. In few spheres are facts perceived more selectively — by experts and the public alike — and with less correspondence to the real world."
So says Erich Goode in the online book The Marijuana Smokers
. This is a very good book, taking evidence from all sides, and helping to cut through the mystique and paranoia about the subject. If you don't know, but want to understand why people like cannabis (if 'liking' were permitted!), then this is an excellent read."Smoking pot is a political act, and every smoker is an outlaw."(Rubin, The New York Review)- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
* Did you notice the statistician's sentence above:
"Confirmatory factor analysis of the item set has shown previously that the items formed a unidimensional scale reflecting the extent of psychotic symptomatology."
What they mean, of course, is that before starting their present analysis they'd already proven that all the psychotic symptoms listed above are equal in weight, and together make up the full range of symptoms. (Dead handy, that!)