I asked on the BLF  Facebook page for a contact e-mail and was given a personal address to send comments to. I’m awaiting a reply

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11th June 2012

<name address etc>

Sir

I have been given your e-mail address as the one to contact regarding the BLF’s recent report into cannabis: “The impact of cannabis on your lungs”.

To be blunt, the report cherry picked studies which supported the prohibitionist point the BLF seemed to want to make whilst playing down those which came up with the “wrong” result. The headline claim that cannabis is twenty times more dangerous than tobacco is nothing short of alarmist and seems designed to produce scary headlines, it has no firm basis in fact.

I would suggest you read the latest blog from Prof David Nutt (“Smoke without fire? Scaremongering by the British Lung Foundation over cannabis vs tobacco” http://tinyurl.com/cudxwrs) who gives a thorough rebuttal to that claim.

I am not claiming cannabis is “safe” or “harmless”; smoking any material is probably damaging to the lungs and the less smoke you breath in the better, but the science does seem to lead an informed reader to the conclusion that cannabis is relatively less harmful that tobacco, a claim you seem to dismiss. Relatively safer of course does not imply “safe”, simply less dangerous, a concept most people understand.

Indeed the NHS, in the document issued in 2011 entitled “A summary of the health harms of drugs” state regarding cannabis:

* No cases of fatal overdose have been reported
* No confirmed cases of human deaths
* Cancers: no conclusive evidence that cannabis causes cancer

These are claims that simply cannot be made for tobacco, or indeed very many other drugs. Do bear in mind that cannabis has a recorded history of use covering some 5000 years, “No confirmed cases of human deaths” is not a recent observation.

Perhaps more importantly however, the overblown and alarmist claims made in this report have obscured a very important finding which really should have been the focus of attention, namely the extra danger posed to cannabis users from the connection with tobacco and the need for a government campaign designed to encourage cannabis users to stop smoking cannabis mixed with tobacco. Mixing the two drugs is essentially a northern European habit and many cannabis using cultures around the world would never dream of doing this, it is therefore something which would be possible to influence if the political will were there. You could have helped make that happen, had you wished.

This is a very real missed opportunity and a significant disappointment. You do provide some evidence that mixing tobacco with cannabis puts cannabis users at a far higher risk of developing COPD, having somewhat begrudgingly accepted that there doesn’t seem to be a strong link between cannabis and COPD and yet you chose to bury this vital message in a morass of alarmist scaremongering. You chose to highlight the possibility that mixing the two drugs makes the tobacco more dangerous without mentioning the fact that it makes cannabis use very, very much more dangerous. Why did you chose to distort the message in this way?

In addition of course tobacco is very much more addictive (both physically and psychologically) than is cannabis, therefore habitually smoking cannabis mixed with tobacco gives cannabis smoking an addictive quality pure cannabis use could never have. Yet in your report you emphasised the addictive potential of cannabis by highlighting the fact that the low rate you claim is higher for young users, while not mentioning the same fact is true for all the other drugs you mentioned, all of which have a higher addictive potential than cannabis.

Finally, as if to emphasis the dire warnings about cannabis you also supported the claims of an increased risk of psychosis from cannabis use, claims which are highly disputed and in any case, not within your remit.

I would like to ask that you withdraw this report and issue a retraction in the press, along with a re-evaluation of the facts you presented with a view to demanding a harm reduction campaign aimed at encouraging the safer use of cannabis. In doing so you should highlight the fact that tobacco use makes cannabis far more dangerous than it need be, that would be far more honest.

I would like to ask that you support the campaign run by my website www.ukcia.org and also by Cannabis Law Reform CLEAR www.clear-uk.org called “Tokepure” which is designed to do just that. You can see Tokepure at

http://www.ukcia.org/activism/tokepure.php
and
http://www.clear-uk.org/tokepure

You might also like to read my blog entry at http://ukcia.org/wordpress/?p=1438

I hope you will appreciate the potential for harm this report has. Many people – especially young cannabis users are alienated by the constant bombardment of prohibition supporting cod science. As a result they are likely to simply ignore everything. You have done your cause a huge disservice, please correct your mistake.

Sincerely

Derek Williams