This is all such a long time ago now a quick reminder is called for. Back in June MP Diane Abbott was all over the media warning of the increased danger caused by “skunk” cannabis. She did this on the basis of a question she asked to the Secretary of state for Health (see here for the story)

Her question was

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many people were admitted to hospital with a primary diagnosis of mental or behavioural disorder due to use of cannabinoids in each year since 2005-06

The answer showed an uptick in the numbers since reclassification of cannabis to class B, which is an interesting correlation Ms Abbott chose not to highlight, instead she used the figures to spread fear about cannabis use leading to mental health problems.

Actually, there is another issue – the question didn’t ask about cannabis, rather it asked about “cannabinoids” and that would seem to include the compounds found in “legal highs”, like Spice, K2 etc. These compounds are properly called “Synthetic Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists” or SCRAs.

To get to the bottom of this I wrote to my MP, Simon Wright (Libdem) on 17th June 2013

Dear Mr Wright

A recent question from Dianne Abbot to the Secretary of State for Health for health asked

“To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many people were admitted to hospital with a primary diagnosis of mental or behavioural disorder due to use of cannabinoids in each year since 2005-06”

The answer was

2005-06 946
2006-07 750
2007-08 735
2008-09 651
2009-10 713
2010-11 799
2011-12 1,003

This has been picked up in the press as further proof of the harm caused by skunk cannabis. However, the question wasn’t about cannabis as such, but the use of cannabinoids, which includes synthetic cannabinoids as found in the so-called “legal highs” such as K2, Spice etc which have been gaining popularity in recent times. It is interesting to note the rise since 2008-9, when synthetic cannabis became widely available

Can you ask the Secretary of State how many of these admissions were for the use of natural (including skunk) cannabis as distinct from the use of synthetic cannabinoids?

Sincerely

Derek Williams

Today, 2nd August, I have finally got a responce

This information is categorised according to the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10). ICD-10 has a code for cannabinoids, but does not break it down into sub-categories. Unfortunately I am therefore unable to provide the information that Mr Williams seeks.

So they don’t know and they don’t even try to collect such figures, yet Diane Abbott is quite happy to use spread fear on the basis of them.