Drug Policy

That Lethal British Marijuana

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In 2004 the British government downgraded marijuana from a Class B to a Class C drug, making simple possession of small quantities a "non-arrestable offense." The current prime minister, Gordon Brown, seems bent on reversing that reform, saying "we really have got to send out a message to young people [that] this is not acceptable." Shortly after taking office, Brown asked the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to take another look at cannabis policy. Although the council reportedly has recommended that marijuana remain in Class C, Brown is expected to ignore its advice. On Tuesday he said:

I don't think that the previous studies took into account that so much of the cannabis on the streets is now of a lethal quality….I have always been very strongly of the view that cannabis is unacceptable and we have got to send a message.

According to Reuters, "Brown said he was particularly worried about the growing use of skunk cannabis, which he described as 'more lethal.'" There has never been a documented case of death by marijuana overdose. Based on extrapolations from animal studies, the ratio of marijuana's lethal dose to its effective dose is something like 40,000 to 1 (compared to between 10 and 20 to 1 for aspirin and between 4 and 10 to 1 for alcohol). So even if the average THC content of marijuana has increased as dramatically as drug warriors claim (and it hasn't), and even if pot smokers did not adjust their intake accordingly (and they do), there would be no practical effect on marijuana's toxicity. The chance of a lethal overdose remains, for all intents and purposes, zero. And no matter what kind of stoned logic Brown favors, zero is not more than zero.

[Thanks to NORML's Paul Armentano for the tip.]

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  1. skunk cannabis, which he described as ‘more lethal.’

    Technically, he’s right, since any number times zero is zero. In fact, skunk is 1000x more lethal!

    By the way, Jacob, did you hear about the arrest of 100 people, about 50 of which were in South Florida, for growing a harmless plant? LINKY

  2. Every time I hear this nonsense, I want to smear some of that ulta-lethal dope on the pointy end of a umbrella, and jab the person spewing it right in the fetlock.

  3. It is nice to know that all of the drug warior idiot class doesn’t live in the U.S.

  4. or the ultra-lethal stuff on an umbrella

    I should get back to work.

  5. Synthetic THC in pill form has been legal most of my life. Smoking tulips while ingesting a THC pill is legal. Why is smoking hemp with THC in it illegal?

  6. P Brooks,
    No worries, you score double point for use of the word “fetlock”.

  7. I think that one of the main reasons being given behind the potential upgrade to Class B was that it was causing schizophrenia or something like that. Just goes to show, schizophrenics are likely to be dangerous to freedom in a free society………………..

  8. While skunk cannabis may not be lethal, the stench from the old MOTU toy Stinkor drop you like a sack of cement.

  9. What an idiot. I always hate that “send a message” shit. The message it is sending me is that Brown is an ignorant douchebag.

  10. Good for Gordon Brown, he’s “always been very strongly of the view that cannabis is unacceptable”. Don’t let anything like medical studies and advice, statistics, or principles of freedom get in the way of what you FEEL is right. Colbert would be proud.

    In all seriousness, he’s flat-out saying the stuff is LETHAL, when it flat-out isn’t. Is the media there concerned at all that he got it COMPLETELY wrong?

  11. British Press.
    it’s only the “Daily Mail” and just about every rupert murdoch rag in england and australia. the man puts randolph hearst to shame with his reefer madness. some of the better papers have been running positive cannabis pieces and the letters columns have been in favour.
    the pharmaceutical, plastics, paper and bio-fuels industries know that hemp is a better product and they’re scared of the shareholders as they foresee profits falling.
    as for g brown – he’s in appalling political trouble and is likely to behave irrationally imo. his charisma is crashing round his feet.

  12. I don’t think that the previous studies took into account that so much of the cannabis alcohol on the streets is now of a lethal quality….I have always been very strongly of the view that cannabis nicotine is unacceptable and we have got to send a message.

    Hypocracy

  13. Speaking of stupid British policy, did reason cover this yet?

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7364475.stm

  14. What an idiot. I always hate that “send a message” shit.

    Children shouldn’t drive, vote or drink, therefore adults should be arrested for driving, voting or drinking (not while driving) to “send a message”.

  15. Give the guy a break. He probably heard somebody talking about the killer weed they had on spring break, and took them too literally.

  16. Maybe he is just confused. Maybe his sister’s friend’s cousin’s boyfriend was on Ibiza and bought some killer weed but it turned out to be oregano and the boyfriend was allergic to oregano but for some reason didn’t smell it, he just rolled a riza, fired it up and fell over dead.

    Or he’s an ass, like most British PMs have been.

  17. London is having an election for Mayor today. The Los Angeles Times reports on the third candidate:

    A distant third in the 10-candidate field is Liberal Democrat Brian Paddick, an openly gay former deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police who refers to Johnson as a “clown,” but who has taken flak for being soft on marijuana during his time with the police.”

    There appears to be support in the Liberal Democrat Party for decriminalizing marijuana. They hold 62 seats in Parliament.

  18. Brown should claim that he smoked marijuana all his life and that accounts for his mental disability.

  19. Higher percentages of THC makes marijuana LESS lethal, since the deaths are attributable to cancer caused by inhaling the carcinogens in the smoke, not by the THC itself. More potent dope = less smoke inhaled.

  20. He probably heard somebody talking about the killer weed they had on spring break, and took them too literally.

    It would be hard to come up with a more sympathetic remotely-plausible explanation than that.

  21. Gene Berkman | May 1, 2008, 5:41pm | #

    If I lived in Great Britain, I would always for the Liberal Democrats. They seem to be on the right side of the issues much more than Labor or the Torries.

  22. OMG!!! You got them in Britian as well…idiots who know little and talk a lot a crap…propaganda to control the masses..fear, fear and more fear..with little substance.

  23. One plant can yield up to $6,000 in drugs three or four times a year – and many of the homes have hundreds of plants, officials say.

    One plant = 1.5 to 2 times minimum wage tax-free. Prohibition will never work.

  24. shit i bet that lethal skunk is the chronic! haha

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