Toke Pure – another reply from Anne Milton at the Dept of Health.

Continuing the exchange between myself and Anne Milton at the department of health regarding asking the Government to run a campaign similar to Toke pure, designed to encourage cannabis users not to smoke tobacco along with their cannabis. You can read the previous exchanges here.

It’s important to remember when reading this reply that I emphasised I was not questioning the basic policy toward cannabis, I was simply and only asking for a harm reduction campaign aimed at cannabis users to encourage them to smoke without tobacco. The response is amazing for its stupidity, even by the low standards we’ve come to expect from especially this but also previous governments. As always the letter arrived by snail mail on paper, so I’ve had to transcribe it, so any errors are probably mine. Here it is, in full.

From Anne Milton MP

Dept of Health

To my MP, Simon Wright

Thank you for the letter of 28th September from your constituent (me) about cannabis and tobacco policy

I note Mr Williams’ continuing concerns about this issue. However I disagree with his statement that ‘the Governments policy towards cannabis is not “driven by science or even a desire to protect public health”. While there are no confirmed deaths due to cannabis use, we must take into account the other harms associated with cannabis:

* Chronic bronchitis and lung damage
* Inhibited reproduction functions
* A small but significantly increased risk of psychotic symptoms and disorders in later life associated with heavy use
* Schizophrenia (although this may be due to individual vulnerability rather than a universal risk; and
* Insomnia, depression, aggression and anxiety

If, as Mr Williams suggests, we were to advocate that people smoke cannabis without tobacco, we would be ignoring this evidence and putting people at risk of harm. It is because of these risks that we advise that no one smokes cannabis. The most important harm reduction measure that cannabis users can take is to not smoke cannabis. If needed there are services and online facilities available that can help individuals reduce or stop their cannabis use.

We remain very concerned about tobacco use, which, in all its forms, remains one of our most significant public health challenges and is a major cause of health inequalities in England. We are committed to tackling the costs  to health and wider society of tobacco use  and are determined to reduce the rates of tobacco use. As stated in my letter of 5th September (our ref PO00000637700) we are undertaking the actions set out in “Healthy lives, Healthy People; a Tobacco Control Plan for the UK”

Over the past 10 years there have been significant steps taken to reduce tobacco use: These include:

Introducing laws to provide protection from the harm caused by exposure to second hand smoke in enclosed  workplaces and public places;
Raising the age of sale for tobacco products from 16 to 18 years and;
Setting up an extensive nationwide network of local NHS Stop Smoking Services.

Today, smokers who quit with the support of the NHS are up to four times more likely to quit long termthan smokers who try to quit by going “cold turkey”. In October, the sale of tobacco products through vending machines became illegal and the brightly coloured displays of tobacco that we are used to seeing will also slowly start to be removed by next year. These measures will help to reduce tobacco use uptake in young people.

The evidence is clear that cannabis is harmful to health and that tobacco in any form – whether it is in cigarettes, roll ups, water pipes (including shisha) or combined with cannabis or any other drug – is harmful to health. Because of these risks we will continue to advocate that people do not smoke either substance and continue to help and support those who want to stop.

Please do contact me again id there are any further concerns.

Anne Milton

Some comments:

First she refereed to my comment in the previous letter:

I note Mr Williams’ continuing concerns about this issue. However I disagree with his statement that ‘the Governments policy towards cannabis is not “driven by science or even a desire to protect public health”.

The present policy is not driven by science and doesn’t pretend to be. The advice from the scientific advisory body (The ACMD) to keep cannabis as a class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 was ignored by the previous Prime Minister quite openly. He made the decision to move cannabis to the more serious class B against the committees advice for purely political reasons and was supported by this government in doing so.

If the policy were driven by health concerns then cannabis would be a ideally regulated drug, controlled for purity, strength and potency (THC/CBD), but at the very least users would be given effective harm reduction advice on the greatest risks associated with using it. This, of course, would mean advice on ways to consume cannabis without tobacco. The government is fully aware of the risks associated with tobacco (as she makes clear in this letter) and yet refuses to communicate known information to the people most at risk.

She States

While there are no confirmed deaths due to cannabis use, we must take into account the other harms associated with cannabis:

* Chronic bronchitis and lung damage
* Inhibited reproduction functions
* A small but significantly increased risk of psychotic symptoms and disorders in later life associated with heavy use
* Schizophrenia (although this may be due to individual vulnerability rather than a universal risk; and
* Insomnia, depression, aggression and anxiety

There are, of course, no “confirmed deaths due to cannabis use” in around 5000 or so years of recorded history, I think it’s reasonable to assume from this that cannabis use doesn’t kill anyone. Tobacco however, does and we are dead certain about that.

The other risks she states may or may not be valid – although they are at the very least over stated in a way typical of politicians when they try to defend the undefendable. However, even if true, most of them are irrelevant to the claim that mixing cannabis with  tobacco makes the health risks very much worse.

The only smoking related issues listed there are

* Chronic bronchitis and lung damage

Now there is a lot of research to indicate cannabis does not cause the lung damage it might be expected to do, for example:

Marijuana Use and Lung Cancer: Results of a Case-Control Study (Tashkin) found:

the association of these (lung) cancers with marijuana, even long-term or heavy use, is not strong and may be below practically detectable limits

Marijuana and chronic obstructive lung disease: a population-based study (Wan)

Smoking only marijuana was not associated with an increased risk of respiratory symptoms or COPD.

” COPD is “chronic obstructive Pulmonary disease” – it’s not nice and is strongly connected with tobacco smoking. It should be remembered that the results of those two studies only refer to pure cannabis smoking, not tobacco filled joints. So her claims of lung damage are at best doubtful, although cannabis use may cause bronchitis, especially with heavy use

However in as much as they are in any way true they are dependent on the amount of smoke inhaled, it really is a quantity thing; the more smoke you breath in, the greater the risk. Smoking pure cannabis means breathing in far less smoke, probably a factor of 10 or more less.

Also tobacco adds a level of addiction and hence compulsive smoking that cannabis simply lacks. Tobacco/cannabis smokers are very likely to smoke a joint not so much for the cannabis effects as to satisfy the tobacco craving.

This is really very, very simple and it makes her statement that

 If, as Mr Williams suggests, we were to advocate that people smoke cannabis without tobacco, we would be ignoring this evidence and putting people at risk of harm.

Completely and utterly braindead stupid, a statement way beyond polite comment.

I emphasis again that I am not suggesting cannabis is without harm, especially if used heavily, nothing on earth is utterly harmless and cannabis is no exception to that rule. All I’m pointing out is that mixing cannabis with tobacco certainly make things worse, very much worse. That this is true is beyond doubt, surely?

The most important harm reduction measure that cannabis users can take is to not smoke cannabis.

So is she suggesting cannabis users should eat cannabis? If so then will they advise users to do that? Or does she equate “using” with “smoking” and simply mean to imply users should stop using? I suspect it’s that actually.

But in any case, assuming her claims of harm are true and assuming the best course of action is to stop smoking cannabis, it isn’t going to happen and she must know that. Even if the policy of stopping use is spectacularly successful there will still be millions of mostly young cannabis users out there ignoring her advice and toking away.

I’ll write a reply in a day or so.

 

7 thoughts on “Toke Pure – another reply from Anne Milton at the Dept of Health.

  1. you should be clear that harm reduction is a well understood concept deeply embedded in drug policy in the UK and around the world. applying HR principles to cannabis is sensible and consistent with existing drug policy in other areas.

  2. “All I’m pointing out is that mixing cannabis with tobacco certainly make things worse, very much worse. That this is true is beyond doubt, surely?”

    Im extremely sure that she knows exactly where your going with that statement. She obviously KNOWS tobacco is a much bigger health risk than cannabis. But she is of the status quo, keeping tobacco and alcohol legal, whilst keeping cannabis illegal. Of course it seems idiotic and flawed that she would not admit to that. But these constituants are all following the agenda of their party. Anyone to steer away from that would be ostracised and ridiculed. Therefore she has been very careful about what she says and how she says it. But as you state it clearly makes her look STUPID AS FUCK. Do you think she gives the slightest shit about how she appears to the public? NO. All she cares about is that she keeps bringing that hefty pay packet in, and to do that she must obey her peers. It sucks, but this is the flawed political world we live in today. All based on bullshit hearsay. Once again we need to get this fucking system out of the way and replace it with something that WORKS for the BETTERMENT of mankind and not trying to keep us in the fucking stone ages.

  3. Perhaps Anne Milton and Simon Wright could be asked to consider that the issues regarding cannabis “smoking” and its alleged harms are readily dismissed by (a) universal adoption of vapourising instead of smoking as method of administration– eliminate the carbon monoxide and other toxic factors contributing to outcomes portrayed as result of cannabis use; (b) recognition that vapourisation can be achieved with small-diametre pipes (“one-hitters”) permitting exact control of air temperature entering the top opening so that only vapourisation occurs without need for any burning; (c) reduction, in use of one-hitters, from the “joint” dosage of 500-mg and more to a uniform upper limit of 25 mg per toke, making the fatal admixture of tobacco both unnecessary and protectively difficult.

    Of course we know H.M. Govt. likes the quick easy $igarette tax money, and popularization of vapourising one-hitters (for cannabis, tobacco or any herb) will doom the lucrative $igarette format and all that easy tax money– requiring MP’s to raise taxes or cut popular programs antagonising their constituents. Cannabis tax to the rescue?

  4. Seems pretty fair to say that Cannabis and Tobacco are both harmful and that government policy is to recommend complete abstinence from both. But it does not answer why tobacco is legal and cannabis is not. Hard to claim a consistency of approach in light of this fact. And for that matter why is complete abstinence from alcohol not recommended since this is probably more harmful than either substance ?

    (I would argue) BEST NOT TO SMOKE AT ALL !

    I am not sure whether I can agree with the ‘Toke Pure’ notion either. I would say – ‘Vaporise’ it or better yet make a food-stuff or drink laced with cannabis (once you get the dose right this is the safest way to take the drug)

  5. Agree with phrtao in part, but as to harm comparison note that WHO expert Douglas Bettcher (May 31, 2011) says ‘TOBACCO” (meaning almost entirely the hot burning overdose $igarette format; more than 90% of tobacco users are inhalant $igarette smokers) kills 6 million annually, compared with ALCOHOL
    2.5 million.

    No surprise why tobacco, not cannabis, is legal– the “tobacco” (i.e. slave addictive $igarette) industry still has the money/clout to control the government (and military might) of the United States of America and its partners in war and politics.

    If cannabis is legalized,

    (a) millions of cannabis users will switch from easy-to-hide but noxious 500-mg “joint” (carbon monoxide etc.) to safer 25-mg serving-size one-hitters;

    (b) up to a Billion (American-style; you guys say thousand million?) i.e. 1,000,000,000 poor puffsucking $ig addicts worldwide will follow the example, kicking the overdose habit, and

    (c) the 1-1/2-century high-profit dominance of the $igarette format is down the toilet as deserved. (Time to “BAIL OUT PHILIP MORRIS!”)

    You’re right– VAPORISE IT! But note, with a screened 5.5-mm inner diameter screened one-hitter connected to a drawtube, you can VAPORISE just fine!

    This is what many buyers of high quality but unnecessary L400 vaporisers didn’t know– all you have to do is hold the lighter flame far enough (usually starting at 3 cm) below the entrance to the bowl that the hot air sucked in is kept at about 200 C/ 392 F for the first ten or fifteen seconds of slow steady sucking during which time you are getting the vapours out.

    I predict no corporation will build a consumer empire on providing one-hitters because anyone can make their own out of parts found in your garage or dirt cheap.

    Hey phrtao, please don’t say “the drug” like the right-wing pseudointellectuals do. Surely “the herb” is o.k.? (How do you guys pronounce that over there?)

  6. hi all,
    Some nice correct info here shud be all about the legalisation to get good herb and uncut solids available via coffeeshops or via your gp on prescription and other more purer forms of cannabis like bubble hash , skuff and cannabis oil to make it much more easy to consume it orally. has to be about harm reduction ive started putting half a torn of filter inside my roaches these days as i put at least 300mg in a joint if not half a gram.

    We need to get it legalised asap in uk its silly. Only people that do not want it legalised are either uneducated, stupid or a mp ! ( bribed of by alcohol & possibly tobaco companies no doubt! )and drug dealers. It wastes police time when all cannabis arests/action would be freed up so they could concentrate on catching real criminals !!! But oh yea i forgot they are to stupid to catch real crims so they need cannabis covictions to bump their figures up for all the pen pushers !!!

    ITS A SAD STATE OF AFFAIRS ISNT IT GUYZ N GALZ !

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