- 20 May 19
The Cannabis Risk Alliance's Arguments Have Been Debunked Countless Times In Hot Press
Headlines have been made today by twenty Irish doctors who've warned of the "increasingly relaxed" attitude towards cannabis, and why we shouldn't go the decriminalisation route, in a letter to the Irish Times. Hot Press understands that another group of doctors who vehemently disagree with them are currently preparing their response.
The Cannabis Risk Alliance's arguments have been debunked countless times in Hot Press, not least by addiction specialist Dr. Cathal Ó Súiliobháin who was a vociferous supporter of Luke 'Ming' Flanagan's Cannabis Regulation Bill 2013. Here's what he had to say...
“I’m very happy to stand up and say, ‘Look, I’ve been treating drug users for 20 years," Dr. Ó Súiliobháin told us. "Based on my experience, the prohibition of cannabis is causing more harm than good and we should really look at reforming it.’
“Usually with the patients I see, the issues are getting into trouble with the law or school – and that creates family difficulties. They mostly come to doctors to have screenings and to demonstrate to the courts that they’re no longer taking it. The problem is that cannabis is illegal, not that they’re suffering adverse effects from it.
“Every single drug you take – even food items – cause problems. There are 400 deaths a year in the US from penicillin, but we don’t ban that. Making something illegal doesn’t stop people doing it; in fact with young people, especially, it encourages use.
“To be honest,” Ó Súiliobháin continued, “it’s a peripheral issue with me. The drugs that cause serious harm in Ireland are alcohol and tobacco; then you’ve heroin, cocaine and the head shop-style of chemicals; down the bottom are tea, coffee and cannabis. I don’t see it as a major drug problem.”
What about claims that cannabis – and the high-THC content strains of skunk in particular – can trigger psychosis?
“As far as I know, there’s no demonstrated causality between the use of cannabis and psychosis,” Ó Súiliobháin proffered. “There is an association – but there’s also a very strong association with tobacco and heavy alcohol use. I just think you take away the criminality, control and regulate it and provide treatment for the people – if any – who do have a problem associated with cannabis.
“The reality is that a large part of the population have used cannabis without any ill-effects – including a significant number of people from the professional classes such as doctors, lawyers, policemen… priests possibly, I don’t know! They don’t need scientific studies to tell them it’s not ‘killer weed’. It’s not going to cause terrible chaos around the country. They understand that, but very few people will stand up and say it should be decriminalised, because they’ve nothing to gain – and probably quite a lot to lose – from doing so. Introducing this bill will be very good in that it will get the conversation started. The fact that we don’t have medicinal cannabis products available in Ireland – and their benefits are well-proven – shows how behind the times we are compared to most other parts of Europe, the US and Canada.”
Why, if cannabis is relatively so harmless, are Garrett McGovern and him the only Irish doctors openly supporting its regulated legalisation?
“The medical community here is extremely conservative; their training dictates that,” Ó Súiliobháin reflected. “They don’t want people out there doing ‘crazy’ stuff like suggesting a change in drug policy. You’re trained to be conservative, to follow your orders. We couldn’t even get a hundred people to vote in favour of abortion at the last Irish Medical Organisation AGM in Killarney. They voted against it; whereas the general population was polled at the time to be strongly in favour of it.
“I heard one of the Ministers a few years ago say, ‘Illegal drugs are illegal because they’re dangerous’. A lot of the general public who won’t have had contact with cannabis and seen it used would be of that opinion. They don’t really have the interest to read the research or look at alternative models like the States or Canada. Which was the exact same situation in the States and Canada 20 years ago! Public opinion does change, albeit slowly.”