A review of ‘The War We Never Fought: the British Establishment’s Surrender to Drugs’ by Peter Hitchens

Below is a reprint of my review of ‘The War We Never Fought’, which I wrote in 2015 for a previous employer, an online retailer of books and digital resources to schools. It was this vital book that sparked (as it were) my interest in cannabis as a social evil. If every MP, judge, police officer, cannabis smoker and legalisation lobbyist read it we would save ourselves a great deal of bother and confusion. 

The National Curriculum for England states that Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) is a non-statutory subject for which schools must nevertheless ‘make provision… drawing on good practice.’ The lessons must include education on sex and relationships; finance; drugs; diet and physical exercise.

Now, which of those topics would you say is the odd one out? Or, which has the capacity to ruin the other four? It’s there in the middle; a black hole that sucks in money, health and happiness: drugs.

The confusingly non-statutory yet obligatory world of PSHE is a sadly fitting realm for lessons on drugs: though officially illegal in Britain, drugs are readily available, largely immune to the weak (non) laws that govern them and smugly celebrated by an increasingly liberal establishment, as Peter Hitchens makes clear in The War We Never Fought: The British Establishment’s Surrender to Drugs.

Published in 2012, Hitchens’ powerful book is a lesson in semantics as much as social policy. Take the following terms and expressions: ‘soft drugs’, ‘hard drugs’, ‘war on drugs’, ‘Class A/B/C drugs’, ‘gateway drug’, ‘addiction’. You’ve likely heard or read or even uttered words to the effect of ‘We should focus less on soft drugs, such as cannabis,’ or ‘Cannabis should be downgraded to a Class C drug’, or ‘Cannabis is much less addictive than alcohol or tobacco.’ Such statements, according to Hitchens are either wrong, dangerous or nonsensical.

Cannabis is the main antagonist in The War We Never Fought. This illegal plant (yes, it is illegal, at least nominally) is, as it were, the root of the greatest policy whitewash of the post-war era. The deception began on 24 July, 1967, when a group of celebrities, artists and pop stars, with the financial backing of Paul McCartney, took out a full-page advertisement in The Times, then edited by the late father of current conservative fan favourite Jacob Rees Mogg. ‘The law against marijuana’, read the advertisement’s headline, ‘is immoral in principle and unworkable in practice.’ The signatories made a number of demands, chief among them that marijuana be decriminalised. They also made some less reasonable claims about their favourite drug. According to the signatories (which included several scientists),

  • cannabis is the ‘least harmful of the pleasure-giving drugs’;
  • cannabis is ‘far less harmful than alcohol’;
  • cannabis is ‘non-addictive’;
  • nobody under the influence of cannabis has ever been prosecuted for disorderly behaviour;
  • cannabis has medicinal properties that ought to be researched and promoted.

When you finish The War We Never Fought you will realise that none of the above claims is true. Not just untrue, in fact, but utter nonsense; the kind of babble you’d expect from someone who is high.

Peter Hitchens, a Mail on Sunday columnist and winner of the George Orwell Prize for journalism, is known by many on the left only as the younger brother of the late Anglo-American writer Christopher Hitchens. The pair had a fraught relationship born of ideological and fraternal differences, though the acrimony waned towards the end of Christopher’s life. Peter is a conservative and patriotic English Christian, while Christopher was a self-styled anti-theist who achieved global fame in 2007 (the same year he took American citizenship) with his book God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, which criticises the Christian church that Peter regards as ‘the foundation of civilisation’, as he (Peter) made clear in his 2009 riposte, The Rage Against God.

As one would expect from a book by an award-winning journalist who has spent over 30 years on Fleet Street, The War We Never Fought is well written, robust and meticulously researched. Scornful of critics who misquote, misrepresent and employ stale or lazy language, Hitchens (Peter) does not leave the Big Dope lobby (as he calls it) much, if anything, to seize on.

Hitchens sees a strong link between the ‘self-pitying anthems of rock music’ and the zombie-like march towards drug decriminalisation. Many songs illustrate this, but PSHE teachers might consider ‘The irony of it all’, by The Streets. ‘My name’s Tim and I’m a criminal’, begins lead singer Mike Skinner. ‘In the eyes of society I need to be in jail / for the choice of herbs I inhale.’ One might feel sorry for Tim were he in jail, but he is in fact singing from his flat, where he makes bongs using his ‘engineering degree’, watches TV ‘until six in the morning’, and suffers nothing worse than the delivery of a pizza that mistakenly contains chicken. If he has been arrested for cannabis possession, he doesn’t mention it.

But of course, he hasn’t been arrested for cannabis possession: nobody nowadays is arrested for cannabis possession. The Misuse of Drugs Act of 1971, which followed the Wootton report of 1969, was so spineless in its wording and has been so diluted by subsequent governments that today one can smoke a joint in a park in broad daylight and face nothing worse than confiscation, or perhaps a caution or – gasp – a two-figure fine. Even suppliers and dealers rarely face prison, ostensibly to allow police to focus on ‘harder’ drugs, such as heroin, cocaine and ecstasy.

Has this narrowing of the drugs lens made things more difficult for the purveyors of ‘harder’ drugs? No. Consumers, dealers and suppliers of heroin and cocaine are as safe as those who deal only in cannabis. In 2010, for example, of the 12,175 people arrested for possession of ‘Class A’ drugs, a mere 779 were sent to prison. This figure is even more pitiful than it appears, for it does not reveal whether the imprisonment was exclusively for possession, or (more likely) for one or more other crimes. And remember, these figures are for ‘Class A’; cannabis lies further down this pointless and misleading spectrum.

‘Just a few eighths and some Playstations are my vocation’, sings Skinner. True for him, perhaps, but anyone who claims cannabis is harmless is deluded. As Hitchens points out, while we associate potheads with the idle idyll that Skinner describes, many violent crimes – including murder and manslaughter – have been committed by people high on weed, which provides a succinct answer to Skinner’s question in the song’s fourth verse ‘How can something with no recorded fatalities be illegal?’ Furthermore, there is growing evidence of the link between cannabis consumption and paranoid schizophrenia, to say nothing of the obvious fact that the drug reduces one’s alertness and energy levels. Thanks to 40 years of surrender to the drugs lobby, secondary school pupils now arrive to school stoned with depressing regularity (something the present writer has witnessed). In what sense, Hitchens asks, can any of these people – the paranoid schizophrenic, the stoned motorist, the zombie schoolchild – be considered ‘harmless’? How can the drug responsible, cannabis, be considered ‘soft’? How, to rephrase Skinner’s question, can something with so many recorded fatalities be legal in all but name?

Unhelpfully, the pro-health lobby is often guilty of using the false categories of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’. Cannabis, some warn, is a ‘gateway drug’. That is, the youngster who starts with ‘a few eighths and some Playstations’ soon ends up robbing pensioners to feed a crack habit. This is both true and untrue. Though some people spend their lives (and money) seeking a higher high, to place cannabis at the bottom of the ladder, or as the first ‘stepping stone’, is to contradict the scientific evidence that, nascent as it is, proves the long-term mental health effects of cannabis to be every bit as damaging as the physical harm caused by heroin, cocaine or ecstasy. In any case, the goal is the same. Self-stupefaction (as Hitchens bluntly calls it) is self-stupefaction.

With the evidence of weed’s potential for damage now undeniable, the pro-legalisation lobby, without ever admitting that it got that first part wrong, now claims, as the 1967 signatories did, that cannabis is ‘far less harmful than alcohol’. Mike Skinner and the Streets do the same. ‘The irony of it all’ is actually a duet in which a loutish drunkard named Terry, a self-declared ‘law abider’, defends his ‘right / to get paralytic and fight’, while the ‘friendly peaceful’ student Tim and his friends ‘sit in a hazy bubble’ and ‘pose no threat’ to the nation. The song ends with Terry threatening to ‘batter’ Tim after the latter points out that

Government funding for further education pales in insignificance
When compared to how much they spend on repairing
Leery drunk people at the weekend
In casualty wards all over the land.

Put like that, cannabis does indeed appear ‘no worse than alcohol’. It’s a spectacularly unscientific assertion that Hitchens carefully debunks.

First, one should always note the precise wording of the claim. Depending on your interlocutor, the comparison of cannabis to alcohol ranges from ‘far less harmful’ to ‘less harmful’ to ‘no worse than’: again, the kind of inconsistency one would expect from people who have just spent 10 minutes staring at their hands.

To argue that the presence of one disastrous legal poison (alcohol) justifies legalising cannabis is nonsensical. Moreover, unlike the aforementioned Terry, Hitchens is no binge-drinker pushing for more lenient licensing laws and cheaper booze. Quite the opposite, in fact. The efforts of successive governments to make alcohol cheaper and more accessible mirror the less publicised dilution of the Misuse of Drugs Act.

The only claim of the pro-cannabis lobby that contains a morsel of truth is the belief that cannabis is not addictive. This is true, but only because, according to Hitchens, there is no such thing as addiction. What makes one want to consume heroin is one’s desire to consume heroin. There is no evidence that total withdrawal damages health. As Hitchens ruefully points out on his blog, Johann Hari makes the same point in his new book Chasing the Scream. Why, Hitchens wonders, has Hari’s work received such gushing praise, while The War We Never Fought was greeted with ‘howls of execration’? It is because Hari, in that consoling way of his, paints drug users as ‘victims’, while Hitchens sees only a conscious and free decision to indulge in self-stupefaction.

As for the popular argument that cannabis has medicinal properties, Hitchens points out that if numbness and euphoria were the only goal then brandy would be considered a medicine. While there is no scientific consensus on the medicinal properties of cannabis. there is, as Hitchens describes, much evidence that people are using the medicinal argument as a front behind which non-medical consumption and trade takes place.

None of this would be possible if the police in Britain were enforced existing drug laws. Long ago, though, the police realised that enforcing such laws was, Hitchens writes,

a complicated and time-consuming nuisance with few rewards for them. It made them unpopular and it also led to them being accused of racial prejudice in some urban zones where the cannabis trade was dominated by ethnic minorities. This, though nobody mentioned it, was a direct result of the neutering of the penalties for possession, and the law’s absurd view that possession was somehow less of an offence than trafficking. If police arrests and prosecutions had resulted in severe penalties, then their actions would have a deterrent effect. But arrests and prosecutions which end with feeble penalties undermine the law.

Hitchens then goes on to describe the extraordinary initiative of Brian Paddick, the former Commander of Lambeth police in London and now a baron and Liberal Democrat politician. In 2001, he decided that the Lambeth police would no longer arrest anyone caught in possession of cannabis, and instead confiscate the drugs on the spot, allowing the erstwhile possessor to go free and the police to focus on ‘harder’ drugs. The results were disastrous, but, with no officer willing to admit as much to Scotland Yard, the indulgence continued.

The new National Curriculum for England is the work of Michael Gove, the former Secretary of State for Education. His erstwhile boss, David Cameron, was part of the latest committee to make drug consumption easier and the punishments for it less severe. In May 2002 the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee published a report on drugs that gave a strong ‘wink’ in the direction of legalisation, while giving no consideration to a strong deterrent law or to the objections of one of its members, the Conservative MP Angela Watkinson. The Committee rejected every one of Mrs Watkinson’s proposed additions to the report, including the sentence, ‘Cannabis is also known to be a risk factor for schizophrenia and to affect levels of attainment in students, performance at work, the ability to drive safely, judgement and insight.’

Hitchens sympathises with Mrs Watkinson because he too has seen his sensible and logical arguments dismissed or ignored by people who ought to know better. Far from ignore him, schools ought to be clamouring to have this articulate father explain why and how the status quo exposes everyone’s children to the dangerous world of illegal drugs.

In recent years Hitchens’ book has amassed added significance due to the growing evidence of a link between “terrorism” and cannabis: Paris (x2), Copenhagen, Woolwich, Tunisia, Sydney, Ottawa, Quebec, Tennessee, Boston, Brussels, Amsterdam, Marseille, Westminster, Berlin, Stockholm: the list is long and growing, and in each case the pattern is the same: young man, or men, smoke cannabis in early adolescence, undergo a dramatic personality shift, and emerge in early adulthood as deranged suicidal killers. Can we not, Hitchens asks, investigate whether cannabis and violence are linked before we think about surrendering further to Big Dope?

A review of ‘Henry’s Demons’ by Patrick and Henry Cockburn

By coincidence, I finished Henry’s Demons the day after ‘World Mental Health Day’. Let us imagine this day is actually important, and not a hashtag concocted by Twitter to generate good publicity. In that case, as so often, it was notable only, as far as I could see, for a total lack of discussion about mind-altering drugs. Yes, funding for mental health is important, and ‘Care in the Community’ has largely failed, sometimes with tragic results, but these do not tackle the root cause of most, if not all, mental illness.
 
With that in mind, Henry’s Demons, by the well known foreign correspondent Patrick Cockburn and his son Henry, ought to be as integral to World Mental Health Day as pancakes are to Shrove Tuesday. The book is a joint account of Henry’s seven-year descent into mental illness, written mostly by Patrick and interspersed with Henry’s firsthand accounts. There is also a series of excerpts from the diary of Henry’s mother, Jan, which are actually the most harrowing of all. Written in the heat of the moment, they are devastating, though far from overblown.
 
What is Henry’s mental illness? Patrick calls it schizophrenia, and also mentions ‘bipolar disorder’, though acknowledges that these are largely subjective and still not fully understood. What matters is that at some point while studying in Brighton Henry began to lose his mind: he would go for long walks barefoot, swim in the freezing sea and even climb into people’s gardens and strip naked, all, he says, at the behest of trees, roots, flowers and other voices from the natural world. Together, he and Patrick recount his admission to, and frequent escapes from, one mental hospital after another, until, after seven years, he began to regularly take the medication he had shunned for so long.
 
With no history of mental illness in his family, Patrick looks elsewhere for a culprit. Though he does not say it explicitly, he – and Henry – mention a particular illegal drug often enough to make even the dullest mind take notice. From the age of 14, Henry smoked copious amounts of cannabis, and continued smoking years after he was first sectioned. Patrick admits he thought it was harmless, but soon realises it is a major factor in the destruction of his son’s mind.
 
Without being flippant, there is something schizophrenic in a nation that purports to care greatly about mental health, yet also not only fails to police a dangerous mind-altering drug, but actually advocates its legalisation. As this book shows – and Henry’s tale is far from unique -, cannabis is a grave threat to mental well-being. How much tax revenue would compensate for the fear, anxiety and misery endured by Henry, his parents and (as Patrick painfully describes) his younger brother, Alex? Those who wish to legalise – and profit from – cannabis ought to read this clear, measured and powerful tale of one family’s struggle with insanity.
henry's demons

Dr Garrett McGovern, @AddictionsPMC: a study in legalisation logic

I argue with many dim-witted cannabis enthusiasts on Twitter, but in a discussion yesterday my adversary reached new depths of ignorance, made stranger by his apparent abundance of expertise.

The person is Dublin-based Dr Garrett McGovern, @AddictionsPMC. His profile reads:

Sensible drug policies. E-cig advocate. MB BCh, BAO (T.C.D.); MSc.(Clinical Addiction, King’s College London); CISAM (Addiction Medicine)  

That last hashtag is, as far as I can tell, his only redeeming feature. As one would expect from a man who has built a career on the pitiful fantasy of ‘addiction’, he supports the legalisation of cannabis.

I happened upon him through Niamh Eastwood, an even soppier drugs legalisation advocate, and director of Release, a legalisation pressure group. I follow her to keep abreast of legalisation trends and tactics, and to challenge them as and when I feel like it.

Ms Eastwood has long since stopped replying to my messages, having fled when I asked her to cite a single case of somebody in the UK being imprisoned for drugs possession. Dr McGovern, though, lasted a bit longer. The discussion went as follows.

Dr McGovern: ‘Decriminalisation and legalisation are very different entities. Criminalising ppl who use drugs causes stigma, is inhumane and doesn’t deter drug use anyway. I can’t understand how anybody would support it.’

Me: ‘If people break a known law they ‘criminalise’ themselves. We don’t ‘criminalise’ murderers, burglars and rapists. They choose to break the law, are arrested and prosecuted, and become criminals. Same with drug users, except they are, in fact, rarely arrested.’

Dr McGovern: ‘1. Not true. Drug users are regularly arrested. 2. That’s the while point. Drug use shouldn’t be a crime. Alcohol and tobacco use aren’t.’

Me: ‘Arrested maybe, but not regularly. According to Norman Lamb, 10,000 cannabis smokers a year are prosecuted, which represents less than 1% of smokers. None goes to prison, even though cannabis is a prime factor in countless acts of suicide and psychopathic violence.’

Dr McGovern: ‘If cannabis is as bad as you say should we not be regulating the drug?’

Me: ‘That would do nothing except make Philip Morris and Imperial Tobacco very rich. ‘Regulated’ cigarettes cause cancer. ‘Regulated’ cannabis causes mental illness, and mentally ill people are a danger to themselves and others, as my site shows.’

Dr McGovern: ‘I think you’ll find unregulated tobacco causes cancer. If tobacco and alcohol were banned tomorrow there would be blood on the streets. Unimaginable harm and chaos at every level. We don’t have regulated cannabis so your statement is untrue.’

Me: ‘Er, I think you’ll find ‘regulated’ packages of cigarettes bear messages such as ‘Smoking kills’ and ‘Smoking causes cancer’. They have ‘regulated’ cannabis is California and Colorado and it’s causing all sorts of misery.’

Dr McGovern: ‘Misery? If this is misery I’ll take misery.’

coloradocannabisprosecutions

It’s this astonishing image that I’d like to focus on (though Dr McGovern’s apparent belief that ‘regulated’ cigarettes don’t cause cancer also deserves more scrutiny). It comes from this article by ‘Transform’, another legalisation pressure group: ‘CANNABIS REGULATION IN COLORADO: EARLY EVIDENCE DEFIES THE CRITICS.’

As I told Dr McGovern, this chart is risible. All crime is caused by law. If you eliminate a law, it follows that fewer people are arrested for breaking that law. This steep drop in prosecutions for cannabis offences is, therefore, nothing to be proud of.

What is remarkable is that even two years after legalisation came into effect, nearly 2000 people were still prosecuted for cannabis possession. This is presumably for having more than the legally permitted total of one ounce, or for being under the age of 21, or both. The question is, do people like Dr McGovern and Ms Eastwood have a moral objection to these people being arrested and prosecuted (or ‘criminalised’, as they would put it)? Should the maximum legal limit of possession be increased, and the legal minimum age dropped? Will these totals be pushed, respectively, higher and higher, and lower and lower, until we have 12-year-olds carrying several pounds of marijuana?

Dr McGovern, you won’t be surprised to learn, has run away from our discussion, back to his fantasy world of ‘addiction’, a ‘war’ on drugs that ‘criminalises’ hapless users and ‘regulated’ cannabis enabling ‘harm reduction’.

The Foundation Party: a party that takes drugs and cannabis seriously

I was very pleased recently to discover the Foundation Party (@foundationparty), one of several new political parties to have sprung fungi-like from the dead log of British politics.

The Foundation Party is the only party, new or old, that takes drugs and cannabis seriously. Here’s what it says about the latter:

It is often said that drugs such as cannabis under certain conditions can provide a medicinal benefit and should therefore be allowed to be used for treatment purposes.

This may very well be the case, many of our medicines originate from plants after all, however this is quite separate from the campaign to legalise cannabis that would enable big corporations to advertise, sell and distribute a dangerous drug on an unlimited scale.

By all means let’s investigate and remain open-minded about its use by health professionals in hospitals when it can assist, but the campaign to legalise and normalise cannabis is grossly irresponsible and must be opposed at all costs.

https://foundationparty.uk/priorities/law-and-order/

I have been in touch with the party’s leader, Chris Mendes, to whom I posted a hard copy of the Attacker Smoked Cannabis catalogue a few weeks ago. He is keen to put the evidence here to good use and to work together on the issue.

Though I agree with their policies on many other issues and their general philosophy, I am not yet in a position to join the party as a member. I would, though, be happy to work with them on the matter of cannabis, and will of course discuss such work here if and when it begins.

I should also point out that another ‘new’ party, the SDP (which has been around for a while, but has recently come out of political hibernation), has also shown that it hasn’t fallen for the lies and misinformation of Big Cannabis. In its recent policies declaration, https://sdp.org.uk/policies/crime-justice/, it states, in the second point, ‘Cannabis shall remain illegal for recreational use but licensed derivatives shall be permitted for medical treatment.’

I don’t like the use of ‘recreational’ to describe smoking cannabis, in many ways the antithesis of recreation, but it’s a decent start. Perhaps they read the copy of the Attacker Smoked Cannabis catalogue I posted to them last December, though if they have they haven’t said so.

 

Murder of Lee Pomeroy

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-surrey-47159315

Remember this story. It will almost certainly come to light that the accused, Darren Pencille, 36, has a history of smoking cannabis. If this is not revealed overtly, it will be hidden behind euphemisms such as ‘chaotic lifestyle’, ‘psychosis’ or ‘paranoid schizophrenia’, none of which adequately explains why a man would stab a stranger nine times on a train. His cack-handed attempt to flee and change his appearance, aided by his girlfriend, and plea of not guilty further suggest a mind unhinged by cannabis.

It is one of many stories involving someone who immigrated to the UK because it was deemed safer than the immigrant’s country of origin, in this case Russia, where the victim’s wife is from. Stories now abound of Romanians and Bulgarians practically fleeing back to their homelands. Even Somali mothers are sending their children away.

Does knife crime have anything to do with drugs markets?

Here is a Twitter thread I published recently on the non-existent link between knife crime and drugs markets. 

According to an article in the Sun (https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/8362041/london-stabbing-prince-georges-battersea-school-teen-death/), ‘Knife crime and shootings are on the rise fuelled by gang rivalry and disputes over drug markets.’ It’s an appealing theory, but is it accurate? I don’t think so…

Let’s start with the 27 stabbings that have occurred in London so far this year: https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/8104412/london-stabbings-2019-latest-knife-crime-statistics-attacks-knife-death-euston/

The words ‘drug(s)’ and ‘gang(s)’ appear in these stories in two forms: in the sentence cited in the previous tweet; and in quotes dismissing the victim’s involvement therein.

There might well be gang rivalry, but are they fighting over ‘drug markets’? No evidence is given. Whatever the fact of the matter, you might say that in these cases it’s too early to tell. It might well be, so I looked at the homicides in London in 2018, all 132 of them.

Here again, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-46128268, there is little evidence to support the theory that if drugs were legal most, or at least some, of these killings would not have occurred. Well over half of these stories patently have nothing to do with gangs seeking to control a drugs market.

A few examples:

  • Alleged manslaughter of an infant boy;
  • Man killing his ex;
  • Husband killing his wife;
  • Wife killing her husband;
  • Drunk woman killing her friend with a pair of scissors;
  • Russian businessman strangled in his home;
  • Man killing a transgender woman.

And so on.

In one of the few cases in which drugs are actually mentioned, a cannabis dealer ‘was stabbed to death by three teenagers because he refused to hand back a phone dropped by one of them during a failed mugging days earlier, a court heard’: https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/drug-dealer-stabbed-death-teens-13929028

In another, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-46485714, a 20-year-old boy was stabbed to death by his 16-year-old cannabis dealer during a transaction that was not the first of its kind between the two. Both went to the rendezvous armed with knives, but the cause of the dispute is unknown.

Only one other story mentions drugs: https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/freddy-krueger-killer-butchered-brother-13861506

“Over the last sixth months before the incident, [he] started to change… His appearance declined, he was scruffy and he stopped bathing. He was listening to conspiracy theories on his laptop and smoking cannabis.”

That leaves 26 cases that might involve a drug gang member killing a rival, or might otherwise suggest drugs legalisation would prevent future such cases.

In one, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-46652037, the court was told the motive remained a mystery, but may have been mistaken identity.

In another, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-45868392*, also likely a case of mistaken identity, the killer wanted revenge for an attack on his friend in prison. This man, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-46360495, was stabbed to death in prison for similarly obscure reasons.

Others include:

None of the remaining cases has gone to trial, but there is no mention of drugs.

It is, therefore, misleading to write as @townsendmark does, ‘The destabilising influence of the county lines system has helped to drive fatal stabbings to the highest levels since records began.’

What we do know is that the nature of these crimes suggests minds steeped in psychoactive drugs, most likely cannabis. It is the ‘destabilising influence’ of cannabis on the mind, not a desire to control the trade in it, that has likely ‘fuelled’ much of this violence.

But we’d rather pretend that London is like the eponymous ‘City of God’, in which charismatic drug dealers murder each other, than consider that some of these drug-addled killers took offence at something trivial or imagined, or acted without any rational explanation at all.

I have challenged, without reply, many drug ‘reform’ dupes to cite a case of somebody being imprisoned for drugs possession. I challenge them now to cite a case of a drug dealer killing a rival to protect his ‘market’.

*This is the case of Daniel Frederick, who was stabbed to death in an unprovoked attack outside his home as he returned home to his pregnant girlfriend in January last year. According to this article, https://www.hackneygazette.co.uk/news/crime-court/fourth-defendant-gives-evidence-in-daniel-frederick-murder-trial-1-5661659, one of the five defendants, who was found guilty of manslaughter, said during the trial,

the five of them [the accused] had been at the house of the 16-year-old drug dealer who admitted murder, listening to music, smoking cannabis and playing video games when they came up with the plan.

The teen who was expelled from Stoke Newington School, said he was “frassed” or stoned when they left, and “didn’t realise anyone had knives”.

In October 2016 he was convicted himself for possession of a 10cm kitchen knife and a bag of cannabis after being caught red-handed by police.

The other dismally notable thing about this case is that the judge, Philip Katz, QC, said that Mr Frederick had been, “in the wrong place at the wrong time.” He was not. He was in the right place, returning home to his pregnant girlfriend, at the right time, the time he and his girlfriend had arranged. It is the five cannabis-smoking savages who were in the wrong place, free society, at the wrong time, ever.

Government response to parliamentary petition

For those who don’t know, this site was originally created to support my parliamentary petition calling for an inquiry into the link between cannabis and violence: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/231109

In Britain, if a parliamentary petition reaches 10,000 signatures the government is obliged to respond. If it reaches 100,000 signatures it must be considered for debate in Parliament. My petition has reached nearly 12,500 signatures thanks almost entirely to the efforts of Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens, who was initially reluctant to get involved, modestly claiming that his influence was not as great as I supposed (we were both, in different ways, right and wrong).

On 26 February, the government finally responded, beginning with the mildly guilty claim, ‘We have no intention of legalising cannabis.’ This looks increasingly dubious. First, there is the obvious fact that nine Conservative MPs voted in favour of Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb’s cannabis legalisation bill last December, which failed by 14 votes (more on him in a separate post). The reasons why some of these MPs voted in favour shows that the Conservatives reek of cannabis from top to bottom. Zac Goldsmith, Crispin Blunt and Daniel Kawczynski have some very questionable links to the industry, as do Theresa May’s husband, several Tory peers and backers, and former Chancellor and current Evening Standard editor George Osborne, all of which I’ll write about separately.

The government response continues, ‘Cannabis is controlled under Class B of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971’. This is true, in a sense. The trouble is, that act more or less codified the Wootton Report of 1969, which recommended cannabis possession not be punished as severely as production, importation, or possession with intent to supply, and which claimed cannabis is less harmful than alcohol. As Peter Hitchens describes in detail in The War We Never Fought, the extraordinary thing about the Misuse of Drugs Act was that it was written by Labour, then put on hold for the 1970 general election, and then passed in almost identical form by the Conservatives after they had won office. As if that wasn’t enough, in 1973 the Conservative Lord Chancellor, Lord Hailsham, gave a speech in which he told judges and magistrates not to send people to prison for possession of cannabis. Needless to say, the judges and magistrates obliged, and continue to oblige.

The response later says that in October, ‘the Home Secretary announced that there would be a major independent review of drug misuse, building on the work underway since the Government’s Drug Strategy was published in 2017. The review will not consider changes to the existing legislative framework.’ This is welcome, and I have posted a hard copy of the Attacker Smoked Cannabis catalogue to Professor Dame Carol Black, who is to  lead the review, and who replied by post to thank me for the evidence and promise that she would consider it. However, this review, whatever its findings, is somewhat undermined by the fact that a month after it was announced, the same Home Secretary surrendered to the ‘medical’ marijuana mob by allowing certain cannabis-based medicines to be prescribed or authorised by licensed medical professionals, in response to the tribulations of young Billy Caldwell, whose mother insists that only cannabis oil (of the type she happens to sell for £500 a bottle through her company Billy’s Bud Ltd.) can treat her son’s severe epilepsy. For those who haven’t been paying attention, this is part of the strategy of Big Cannabis to soften attitudes to the pleasure drug and allow certain companies, under a guise of ‘medical’ progress, to begin growing vast quantities of cannabis, which will come in handy if and when the pleasure drug is legalised.

The response continues, ‘It [the independent review] will provide a strong evidence-base which will help to identify drug users, what they are taking and how often, so that law enforcement agencies can target and prevent the drug-related causes of violent crime effectively.’ I could help the law enforcement agencies find drug users, and tell them in advance what they’re taking. Join me on a walking tour of Bristol on a nice day in the summer and you’ll see and smell cannabis everywhere.

Seriously, though, this is drivel. The police know very well that on any given day there are thousands of people smoke cannabis openly in public. Sometimes these people do it en masse, and broadcast their intentions in advance, and still the police do nothing.

The response continues, ‘The analysis in the Government’s Serious Violence strategy makes clear that the rise in serious violence is likely due to a range of factors, including improvements in police recording, but that changes in the drugs market are a key driver of recent increases in knife crime, gun crime and homicide.’

As I will show in a separate post (and I know I have promised quite a few such posts), I do not believe that ‘changes in the drugs market are a key driver of recent increases in knife crime, gun crime and homicide.’ What ‘drives’ these things most, I think, is the heavy consumption of cannabis. Most of the 132 homicides that occurred last year in London, for example, patently had nothing to do with controlling a drug market, and a great deal to do with drug use.

The response continues for two more paragraphs without any mention of the one thing that sustains the drug trade, people buying drugs. A strategy that goes after supply without addressing demand is useless and incoherent.

National media coverage of ‘Attacker Smoked Cannabis’

I am pleased to announce that in recent months this site has received some national media coverage, though not, as you will see, terribly pleased about why.

First, Peter Hitchens mentioned the site in his Mail on Sunday column of 3 February: ‘Britain stinks of cannabis – and our rulers’ corruption’

This came after I’d sent him a hard copy of the catalogue, which I was happy to do as his work, notably his book The War We Never Fought: the British Establishment’s Surrender to Drugs, is the foundation of my own. He was also keen to publicise my parliamentary petition on the matter, which currently has nearly 12,500 signatures (and which I’ll write about in a separate post).

Partly because of this welcome publicity, I was, in the week of 18 February, contacted by two journalists working on the appalling case of Alesha MacPhail. For those who don’t know, one night last summer on the Isle of Bute, Scotland, a 16-year-old boy named Aaron Campbell abducted, raped and murdered six-year-old Alesha. He was, of course, a heavy cannabis smoker, and was not only under the influence of the drug when he committed his crime, but also bought the drug from Alesha’s father, with whom he is believed to have fallen out over an unpaid debt. He was found guilty on 21 February, and the following day the judge, citing the extreme nature of the case, took the unusual step of lifting the restriction on reporting his name.

The following Sunday, the 24th, the Sunday Times Scotland ran this story on its front page: ‘Cannabis use linked to brutal teen violence’ (requires registration).

The same day, the Daily Express ran this story: https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/1091611/alesha-macphail-murder-cannabis-mps-westminster

The reaction to this awful crime might be a sign that the cannabis zeitgeist is shifting. We’ll see.

 

Review of ‘Tell Your Children: the Truth About Marijuana, Violence, and Mental Illness’ by Alex Berenson

Below is a reprint of my review of ‘Tell Your Children’, the popular book by former ‘New York Times’ journalist Alex Berenson, published in North America last December.

As you’ll see, I think much of the book is excellent. It is also, above all, a timely counter thrust to the legalisation juggernaut, though has probably come too late to make much difference in the USA, much less in Canada. 

As a curious side note, I should add that Mr Berenson seems reluctant to engage with me in this matter, and has been so since long before I published this not entirely favourable review of his book. We disagree about decriminalisation and addiction, but are quite clearly allies. Despite this, he has not once retweeted or mentioned this site, despite (quite rightly) retweeting and praising the work of Peter Hitchens, who has many times cited and linked to this site. 

Nevertheless, here’s the review.

This well written and highly informative book begins with a fascinating study of cannabis in India and Mexico in 1900. Even then, in two countries thousands of miles apart, with nothing in common, doctors and researchers saw the link between cannabis and madness, and documented it thoroughly.

Berenson then examines how in the 1980s the American marijuana lobby, led by Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance and backed by George Soros, overcame the failure of Keith Stroup and NORML to spread cannabis legalisation, using ‘medical’ marijuana as, in Stroup’s words, a “red herring”.

Then come the many studies that prove the link between cannabis and mental illness. These are anathema to the pro cannabis lobby, but it is in examining violence in American states that have legalised cannabis that Berenson really puts his head above the parapet. I happen to think that Berenson could have saved himself some time by pointing out that as legalisation nearly always follows years of lax enforcement, comparisons of before and after are misleading. As it happens, though, violence has not, as the legalisers promised, decreased in those states that have legalised the drug, as Berenson clearly shows.

Finally, Berenson presents dozens of stories of cannabis smokers committing psychopathic violence, many of which are gruesome and deeply distressing – and largely unknown or forgotten. To those with an open mind not under the influence of the drug in question the conclusion is evident: ‘Marijuana causes paranoia and psychosis…Paranoia and psychosis cause violence.’

This is, again, a very well written and meticulously researched book, but it is not perfect.

I have two major problems with it. The first is Berenson’s evident belief in ‘addiction’, the mysterious ailment that compels people to consume a drug, yet is often overcome by willpower alone. This fictitious condition is at the heart of many drug policies, and influences many people’s perception of cannabis, including Berenson’s.

Berenson’s belief in the self-pitying fantasy of addiction may explain his second, more worrying opinion: ‘Decriminalisation is a reasonable compromise. People shouldn’t be arrested or sent to jail for possessing marijuana.’ While people who smoke in public are ‘dumb’, and ought to be fined and have their drug confiscated, those who smoke in private homes, Berenson believes, ought to be left alone. This is dangerously incoherent. Deterrence through law enforcement works, as shown in Japan and Korea today, and in Britain prior to 1973.

Still, given the influence of America, this brief yet devastating work may yet halt, or slow, Big Cannabis here in the UK. Sadly, though, it has probably come too late to make any difference in the USA.

Changes to Attacker Smoked Cannabis

I am pleased to announce that I have made a number of changes to the site, including a plan to add to and update it much more regularly.

That I have not made many changes or additions to the site since I launched it last November is not to say that I have halted my campaign against the legalisation and de facto decriminalisation of cannabis in Britain. Far from it: I have been extremely busy compiling many more cases and writing a great deal more analysis, and putting it all in the form of a book that I have now submitted to a number of literary agencies. I have also been very active on Twitter (@ross_grainger), arguing with innumerable (often anonymous or pseudonymous) twerps who think cannabis is harmless drug and a miracle medicine and ought to be legalised.

I have changed the site in the following ways:

  • I have removed all the blog posts of individual stories, and instead added them into one of four categories (murder, attempted murder, rape, and suicide), which you’ll find in the main menu. This is partly for the hilarious reason that many cannabis enthusiasts who visit the site actually think I wrote the articles, even though I put the name of the newspaper in which it was written at the top of the page, and a linked to the original article at the bottom. I will continue to add new stories as and when I find them, and also add more comment and analysis.
  • I have removed a lot of the analysis that I wish to publish in my new book, for the obvious reason that publishers would not be inclined to publish something that is available online for free.
  • I have altered how I display headlines of stories. Previously I rewrote those newspaper headlines that did not include the words ‘cannabis’, and put those headlines that did mention cannabis in single quotation marks. This was confusing and unnecessary. Now all headlines are the original.
  • I have added a ‘donate’ button: wink, nudge, modest cough, etc. If you’re reading on a mobile or tablet I believe it is towards the bottom of the page. This site costs money, and I have also spent quite a bit posting hard copies of my catalogue to various politicians, journalists and activists.

There is a lot to discuss, including a number of promising developments. Stand by for blog posts!

Words of warning

“Those whose minds are steeped in cannabis are capable of quite extraordinary criminality. Your brain has been steeped in cannabis for most of your adult life.”
Judge Anthony Niblett, jailing 33-year-old Peter West for life after West punched his girlfriend and burnt down her house: Cannabis smoking leads to criminality, judge tells arsonist

“This was an appalling attack of extreme and persistent violence. And I have no doubt it would not have happened if you had not consumed cannabis.”
Judge Findlay Baker, QC, 9 October 2006, jailing Laurie Draper for life for stabbing a friend to death with a pair of garden shears: Cannabis session led to soldier killing teacher

“I am for anything that gets the message across to people, particularly young people, that cannabis is very, very dangerous. Joanna started smoking the drug when she was very young and it progressed when she went to university… It was like she was in a vicious circle where the drug would be the only thing to relax her but also worsened her health. Joanna’s death is such a waste. She had her whole life in front of her. She was a beautiful girl and very talented. I don’t think many youngsters understand the extent to which it can affect people.”
Father of Joanna Barton-Harvey, who killed herself in 2003 at the age of 33 after smoking cannabis since she was a student: Drugs warning by tragic Joanna’s dad

‘Cannabis has ruined my life.’
Words of a note left by Charles King, 23, who killed himself in 2003: Cannabis linked to student’s suicide

“We firmly believe cannabis was the catalyst in a chain of events that ended with Lee’s death. Children who smoke cannabis are playing Russian Roulette with their lives, particularly if they are at risk from suffering mental ill health. The government should be making everyone aware that cannabis is harmful.”
Parents of Lee Wellock, who killed himself in 2005 after smoking cannabis since his teens: Parents’ blast after cannabis led to son’s death

“We believe that cannabis was a directly-contributing factor towards his death and no one will ever convince me otherwise. He was a perfectly healthy and happy young man until he started to use cannabis. Eventually, it caused his depression and he was smoking it to heal himself. There are a lot of young people out there killing themselves through drug use and more needs to be done to raise awareness. We believe cannabis caused the depression and more should be done to investigate its links with mental illnesses.”
Parents of Stephen Breheny, who killed himself in December 2004 at the age of 22: Family blame drug use for student death

“I hate to think of other families going through the nightmare we endured. We will never recover from this, any of us. Guy may have taken his own life, but it was cannabis that killed him.”
Mother of Guy Summers, who killed himself in 2004 at the age of 17 after smoking cannabis for over a year: ‘Skunk killed my beloved son’

“People think nothing of cannabis nowadays. They just don’t realise this drug can tip you over the edge. A lot of people try it. With the government downgrading it, I think young people assume it is completely harmless. But it can destroy your mind.”
Mother of Laura Bower-McKnight, who killed herself in 2007: Mother blames cannabis for suicide of promising violinist daughter

“I don’t subscribe to the view it’s recreational and it’s no big deal to be smoking or selling cannabis. My experience of people I see in this court is that almost without exception they are seriously damaged by the use of cannabis. It certainly leads to mental illness. It is in my judgement a dangerous drug.”
Judge John Boggis, QC, 2007: Judge’s warning on cannabis danger as teenager is jailed

“Time and again we are getting cases where alcohol and cannabis seem to have resulted in violence. They just don’t seem to mix.”
Judge Peter Armstrong, 2008: Concerns over rise in cannabis and alcohol-fuelled violence

“There had recently been discussions by politicians as to whether or not it was a mistake to reclassify cannabis and whether or not it should be reclassified as B rather than C. When considering possible reclassification those whose duty it is to do so may reflect upon the death of Stuart Lester. The use of cannabis can lead to devastating effects. It may be thought that this may not have happened had this young man not used cannabis as a child.”
Coroner Stanley Hooper: Cannabis linked to man’s suicide

“There is a misconception that cannabis is not harmful and clearly this case demonstrates that it is. Heavy use of cannabis can impact on a person’s mental health. Mr Cooper Taylor was an upstanding member of the community who went to help a neighbour. He tragically lost his life and this poor elderly lady has been left physically and mentally scarred.”
Detective Chief Inspector Damian Allain: Cannabis addict jailed for life for stabbing Good Samaritan to death as he tried to protect elderly neighbour

“If you lie down with dogs you are going to get fleas. It is bad news, but the real bad news started when he first got arrested for smoking cannabis. Once he took that path we couldn’t get him off it. And it will happen to hundreds of others his age.”
John Butler: Axe attack father: cannabis ruined my son

“When I see that from the age of 10 you have been taking cannabis on a regular basis and even at 14 you were taking cocaine and ecstasy, any right-thinking person is going to think there has got to be something wrong in our society. It must be every victim’s worst nightmare to awake from a deep sleep and find an intruder armed with a knife. It is truly a picture of horror. You have had such an awful effect on this lady’s life.”
Judge Kerry Macgill: Cannabis-addicted boy aged just 14 raped 58-year-old woman at knifepoint in her home

“As I have already remarked, your case is a cautionary tale for those who think cannabis is a harmless drug. Quite how you managed to persuade yourself that an offence of the gravity of this charge was something you were prepared to do I confess I cannot really begin to imagine. It was a planned robbery and you took a weapon, a screwdriver.”
Judge William Hart: Cannabis addict’s student career wrecked after being jailed for robbing elderly shop assistant

“This was a cruel and cowardly attack on a young man who had done nothing wrong. You showed scarce regard for human life. Your initial motivation was robbery to get money to buy cannabis. In my judgement you got caught up in a frenzy of violence.”
Judge Adele Williams, jailing two 17-year-old boys for an attack on a fellow schoolboy in 2008 that left him in a coma: Teenagers jailed over mugging which left boy in coma

“This was a tragedy waiting to happen. It is true that one of the risk factors for your mental illness is genetic, within the family. The other risk factor is your persistent use of strong cannabis, known as skunk. The more you abused that unlawful drug, the more psychotic you became, to the understandable concern of your family. You had even smoked cannabis before you set out on the day in question and you bear responsibility for the taking of that drug.”
Judge Giles Forrester: Cannabis-smoking father jailed for life after fatal stabbing

“This is a very tragic story. He was an intelligent, likeable young man who went to university, and I suspect it was there that he came into contact with cannabis. Cannabis is a dangerous drug and is harming more and more people. It is as dangerous as hard drugs.”
Coroner Michael Rose: ‘Cannabis warning’ following suicide

“It is always worth underscoring this is not a harmless substance. In the hands of a 14-year-old, it’s the starting point of a disastrous sequence of events.”
Coroner Richard Hulett: Cannabis blamed for former Marlow man’s suicide

‘I’m trying to make sure Oskar is happy and safe and while you are addicted to weed and violent and abusive he’s not safe at all.’

‘You throw him around like a toy, suffocate him, stick your finger down his f***ing throat! And he’s always in the middle of our arguments and fights. If you aren’t going to protect your son and be a f***ing dad then I’m leaving.’

‘If you want to be in our lives if you really care about me and our son you would quit. You come home and suffocate our son because you can’t be arsed with him because you want weed.’

Messages from Tia Jobey, 19, to Kane Kennedy, regarding their seven-month-old son Oskar: Killer dad smothered baby son to death in rage ‘triggered by smoking cannabis every day’

“He hopes that if he can get himself off cannabis it will reduce the risk of him reoffending.”
Kelly Shooter, defending Joshua Webster: Derby teen dad Joshua Webster is ‘risking losing everything’ after assaulting woman at her home

“Cannabis f****d him up. He’s smoked it all his life.”
Brother of Joe Xuereb: Pictured: Office worker fighting for life with mother after horrifying hammer attack as family of man, 27, charged say “cannabis messed him up and he was sectioned eight years ago”

“If any case demonstrates the dangers and potentially tragic consequences of cannabis abuse, such as you had taken part in for many years, this is such a case.”
Judge David Hatton, QC, jailing a 25-year-old man for the attempted murder of his infant son, 8 November 2018: Dad jailed for ‘cannabis-induced’ baby murder attempt

Are these people, and many like them, completely wrong? Or are they on to something? If you agree with us that it’s the latter, please sign our parliamentary petition: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/231109