Having scored a hit with the reclassification of cannabis to class B, the prohibition lobby has the scent of victory in it’s nostrils. There is a new anti-cannabis campaign brewing, based on the “skunk panic”.

The claim being made by these people is quite simple: Cannabis has changed from the harmless, weak giggle weed that they all used to smoke back in the 60’s into a genetically modified highly addictive drug which is destroying teenagers minds.

This of course was the focus of Julie Meyerson’s book which this blog has already spent two entries commenting on, so we won’t go there again – but if you’re interested check out the previous two entries.

Last Sunday, when this blog normally gets put together, didn’t go as planned. Saturday evening I get a phone call from the BBC asking me to appear on the debating show “The Big Questions”, so Sunday morning was spent in suit and tie in a makeshift studio in a school in Enfield.

The thrust of the programme was  to ask that as cannabis has changed and become more dangerous, should we now subject it to stronger prohibition? Of course, this makes several assumptions chief amongst which is that prohibition is the best way to deal with drugs which are dangerous. So from the start those of us arguing against the motion were at something of a disadvantage.

Putting the case against skunk was an author – Julie Lynn Evans – who also works as a child psychotherepist who started by saying we don’t understand how cannabis has changed but then went on to explain that the ratio of THC/CBD is the reason. She said the old style “dope” was a completely different substance to “skunk” and that she would like to have that legalised.

The Telegraph reviewed the Myerson’s book on 8th March and described how they came to believe the problem was cannabis:

There was, however, one chink of light. A friend from Manhattan suggested they contact a London expert who had a fantastic track record of getting youngsters off skunk.

That expert was Julie Lynn Evans, one of the UK’s foremost psychotherapists and author of “What About the Children?”

Julie Lynn Evans isn’t new to all this, some two years ago she famously wrote in the Daily Mail

“Skunk is one of the most serious things on our streets today. I would rather my daughter took heroin.”

This article doesn’t seem to be available on the Daily Mail site anymore, but is archived on UKCIA here

Julie Lynn Evans claims to see victims of the skunk problem in her treatment room all the time.  She spoke as if she were a doctor, although quite what medical  qualifications she has is hard to discover, she keeps them well hidden from Google which is quite an achievement.

Also on the BBC debate was Marjory Wallace, the director or SANE. Ms Wallace was highly instrumental in getting the recent regrading of cannabis to class B. In support of her position a few years ago then she came out with some outlandish claims, which I note she has now modified. She now claims 1 in 10 are at risk of developing severe mental illness as a result of smoking “skunk”, accepting that most people will not suffer any ill effects. Again, her argument is that skunk is dangerous to children and young teenagers, therefore it should now be put into class A.

Also onthe programme was Gloria Harding, a mother of a young man who (she claimed) had developed schizophrenia as a result of his cannabis use.  Gloria is the fund raising officer for Talking About Cannabis – the prohibition campaign run by Debra Bell.

Something of a pattern is beginning to emerge here; the same group of well connected people.

To be fair to the BBC they did invite some people who could argue against all this onto the show, which included Dr Trevor Turner from Hackney who provided some very well informed arguments against the case being made and Chris Davis, Libdem MEP for North West who really knows his stuff. And I was there, in me suite.

However, the claim beingmade was that children were getting harmed through cannabis use which was due to the arrival of “skunk”. These anti-cannabis people seem to be claiming it would be fine for kids to be using the “old type” of “pre-GM non addictive” cannabis they used to smoke.

My first joint “My first joint”
This mock-up of the famous Ladybird books has been circulating around the web for years and as far as we can tell, the original author is (perhaps wisely) keeping his or her head down, but it makes the point very well.

These people are actually building this panic on the back of a very real problem – children are getting involved in the illegal cannabis trade. Indeed, a lot of children are getting involved.

This skunk panic is being hyped up in the hope of causing public concern over this danger to our children,  not to draw attention to what’s really happening, but to give the impression that we need more and stronger prohibition.

In truth however, what we’re seeing is the result of prohibition, the result of a massive and very profitable  industry operating without restriction, utterly uncontrolled. There is a saying in law reform circles: The minimum age for buying cannabis in the UK is £10 and so it is.

We can expect to hear a lot more about the skunk panic over the next few weeks as this clique of influential people use their connections to get their poison into the media. The danger is of course that politicians will smell votes in looking tough on drugs and will do something to play to the crowd.

The idea of making “skunk” class A is a non-starter. Of course, under prohibition there’s no way to know what you’re buying and there’s no way to tell simply by looking. In reality “Skunk” is a specific type of cannabis – a specific strain, but these people seem to be using the term generically to mean sensi weed grown under lights. But sensi cannabis grown under lights can be grown organically from seeds which produce a good ratio of THC to CBD, would they count that as “skunk” as well?

In any case, growing cannabis for sale already carries a 14 year prison term. If that isn’t a deterrent it’s hard to see what would be.

If there is a real concern about high THC cannabis, the answer is simple: Control the seed banks and ensure that the British cannabis crop is of the “right” type. The only way to prevent “skunk” – if it does need preventing – is by regulation and control of the commercial cannabis industry, which means legalisation, it can’t be done under prohibition.

The only way to protect children from the trade is also by legalising and controlling the trade, introducing age restrictions, licencing the dealers and so on.

In truth, this “skunk panic” is the law reform movements big opportunity and UKCIA for one will be making as much out of it as we can.

You can see “The Big Questions” cannabis debate – “Should we treat cannabis like heroin” – on BBC i-player for the next few weeks here. It’s in the last third of the show, 40 minutes in and runs for 20 mins.

Oh, and there is no such thing as “genetically modified” cannabis, that’s made that up as well.