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