Singer Justin Bieber promotes pre-rolled cannabis joints he calls “Peaches,” the name of a song from an album. It does this in association with a Los Angeles-based company, Palms Partners, which specializes in selling packs of seven joints for $ 32 in California and Nevada. “I’m a fan of Palms and what they do in making cannabis accessible and helping to de-stigmatize it, especially for the many people who find it useful for their mental health,” he says.
Bieber is part of a strange coalition seeking to legitimize cannabis (marijuana) for its beneficial health properties or because they believe criminalization has failed and has been proven to be counterproductive. Online advertising for recreational cannabis in the United States claims it is an antidote to depression. Amazon, the world’s largest delivery company, is reportedly lobbying Washington for the legalization of marijuana at the federal level.
In Britain, former leader of the Conservative Party, William Hague, pleads in a newspaper column to move “from the perception of drug use as a criminal problem to a health problem, achieving a crucial culture change” . He congratulated Portugal on having reclassified the possession and purchase of drugs for personal consumption as an offense.
The legalization and commercialization of cannabis is well advanced from Uruguay to Canada and at least 10 states in the United States. Paradoxically, this shift towards tolerating cannabis as more or less harmless is taking place just as scientists conclusively prove the link between cannabis and psychosis (a less shocking word than “madness” or “madness”, but the meaning is the same ). The cause and effect relationship is as well established today as it is between smoking and lung cancer.
“Numerous prospective studies have shown that cannabis use carries an increased risk of subsequent schizophrenic-type psychosis,” says an article by Sir Robin Murray of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London and Wayne Hall of National Center for Youth. Substance abuse research at the University of Queensland. They cite a study showing that, although Portugal is considered a pioneer in the field of drugs, the rate of hospitalization for psychotic disorders has increased 29-fold since decriminalization 15 years ago. Another study calculates that between 30 percent and 50 percent of new cases of psychosis in London and Amsterdam would not have happened if the person had not smoked very strong cannabis.
Personal observation confirms this: Doctors in mental hospitals have told me that they no longer bother to ask patients if they have used cannabis, but simply assume they have. The situation deteriorated as the proportion of THC, the psychoactive substance in cannabis that produces the “high”, increased precipitously. Once as low as 3 percent, it dropped to 10 to 15 percent in Europe and North America, although in Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational use, THC can reach 70 percent. Those who use cannabis on a daily basis, especially if they are young, face an increasing risk of permanent mental depression.
But if cannabis has already had its “tobacco moment,” when the damage it causes is scientifically proven, why do celebrities like Justin Bieber want to destigmatize it and persuade consumers that it will improve their mental health?
Some of the cannabis boosterism taps into its old association with a bohemian lifestyle and “the swinging sixties”. But it is the commercial pressure that becomes much more important in the lobbying for its legalization. Businesses see they can make money: Planned legal sales of cannabis will reach $ 66.3 billion by 2025, according to a report. Big profits will pay for advertising and lobbying campaigns extolling the virtues of drugs and seeking to question or distract from the damage they cause.
The cigarette industry did this a century ago, funding “independent” experts who sought to cloud or discredit the evidence that smoking causes cancer. Governments have been seduced by the high tax revenues from tobacco sales and reluctant to do anything to reduce it. Hollywood stars like John Wayne, Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy have happily – and profitably – glorified cigarettes, much like cannabis is currently.
Companies seeking to emulate tobacco companies at their peak of profitability have formed a bizarre de facto alliance with liberals and progressives, who are dismayed at the disastrous mess created by government drug policy. The so-called “war on drugs” has clearly inflicted more misery on the United States, certainly on the black community, than actual military conflicts.
But overreacting to government failure causing momentum in the opposite direction carries equal dangers. Proponents of greater drug tolerance almost invariably believe that cannabis is much less nasty than heroin and cocaine. But I have met psychiatrists, with a long experience in treating victims of drugs of all kinds, who believe that cannabis is more dangerous than other drugs because it has the potential to harm many more people.
Around three million people use illicit drugs in England and Wales, of which around 2.5 million use cannabis, around 10% per day in 2017/18, according to the Medication review Dame Carol Black report. Much of the cannabis is produced in the UK, sometimes by Vietnamese organized crime groups using slave labor. Most drug-induced violence occurs between the gangs that control the heroin and crack markets, which are worth around £ 5 billion a year. The decriminalization of drugs, especially cannabis, will not affect this kind of battle for territory and market share. The supply chains are very different between the different drug markets with heroin from Afghanistan wholesaled by Turkish and Pakistani gangs and cocaine from Latin America controlled by Albanians.
Legalizing cannabis will do nothing to harm organized crime groups, but it will make the drug much more widely available. The idea of proponents of legalization that the government will tightly regulate its quality and sale is naïve. If the authorities cannot control it when it is illegal, they will be able to control it even less when it is legal. But legalization – and even limited decriminalization – will send the message that cannabis use is a benign activity and doesn’t do much harm to you or anyone else. The deterrent effect of illegality will evaporate, and drugs will be no different from alcohol and tobacco.
Once commercially available, all of the old persuasive tools once used by the cigarette industry kick in, as unstoppably happens in the United States. Celebrities like Justin Bieber will “destigmatize” drugs and give them the sparkle of youth and fashion. Once the tobacco company victims cough their lungs unnoticed by the wider community, and this time around, cannabis victims will disappear into mental hospitals without anyone realizing it.