In the news today: government ministers smoked cannabis, but there’s nothing wrong with that, because they only tried it once or twice and they didn’t particularly enjoy it.
What puzzles me, though, is that they all seem to have said they did it “at university”. It’s fine for them to admit taking cannabis when they were 18 or 19 – but did none of them, really, never come across it earlier? Maybe they’re scared of being compared to David Cameron, who smoked cannabis when he was 15, and suffered the terrible punishment of not being allowed to leave school for a whole week. Certainly, at my school, about ten years later, cannabis use was widespread, and kids would frequently nip off to hide in the culvert for a quick smoke on their lunch break. Maybe the answer is that Labour teenagers, back in the 80s, were just too dull to realise the drugs were there.
Two things struck me about the coverage yesterday of Patricia Tabram‘s drugs conviction. Tabram, in case you didn’t see the news, is the Northumberland woman convicted of growing cannabis for medical reasons. She likes to claim that her conviction is part of a grand struggle for rights, like the right of everyone to vote, which is over-egging her pudding a little. She’s certainly been using her conviction as part of a broad political campaign,* but that’s about as far as the similarities go.
Anyway, interviewed on Radio 4 last night, she said something along the lines of: cannabis is good medicine because it’s natural. Prescription drugs are not because they’re full of chemicals.** Which, of course, is a load of nonsense. Some people like to use the word “chemicals” as if it’s some dark, lurking evil, and like to imply that anything grown on a plant is healthy and implicitly Good For You. Despite this, you rarely find them tucking into a nice meal of potato fruit and yew seeds.*** How many different chemicals are in your average pill? A handful. How many different chemicals are in a marijuana leaf? Thousands.
Tabram also said that prescription medicine made her feel suicidal, but cannabis had no side-effects at all. That’s her experience, though. Everyone has different side-effects to any sort of drug, “natural” or otherwise; I’ve known several people who have had bad psychological reactions to cannabis. It may be relatively innocuous, but just because you’re fine with it doesn’t mean the person next to you will be. The plural of “anecdote” is not “data”.
* Standing against Peter Hain at the last general election, appearing on the telly a lot, trying to get people to call her “the cannabis gran”, that sort of thing. I had second thoughts about mentioning her here, because I don’t like giving publicity to publicity-seekers, but frankly this blog is a drop in the ocean.
** Not her exact words, but that was the message she was trying to give.
*** I shouldn’t need to say this, but potato fruit are rather poisonous, and yew seeds are very poisonous indeed.