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October 30, 2013


Last June, magistrate Yvonne Davies was forced from her job because she  pleaded with a cannabis grower to mend his illegal ways. In October, she had an opportunity to update concerned parents at the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cannabis and Children.

Yvonne Davies

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Last June, Manchester magistrate Yvonne Davies was forced from her job because she pleaded with a convicted cannabis grower, Christopher Duncan, to mend his ways. She did so because her own brother, Glen Harding, died tragically after becoming a habitual cannabis user. Duncan had no problem with her saying that to him.

Davies had no doubt that her brother’s disastrous descent was the result of this dangerous and potent drug. Just as when science first linked cigarettes with lung cancer, direct causal evidence is lacking – but the correlation is so strong that no responsible person can ignore it. So there she was, enforcing the law as it is written down, trying to do a bit of good by sharing her grief. And what happened?

Peter Reynolds, who campaigns to legalise cannabis, lodged a complaint which initiated a chain of events culminating an action to remove her from office. The Lord Chief Justice and the Lord Chancellor disagreed and instead gave an official reprimand but a pressured “back to duty” meeting led to her leaving.

Why stay? Magistrates do not get paid. The amount of time and money she spent serving justice was penalising her own business as a psychotherapist and mental-health counsellor. Davies has 21 counsellors who give their time and experience free of charge to help people with drug and other issues. This was expanding, reaching out and making a difference to even more people.

Fotolia_3851105_Duey“A wise society would praise Davies for trying... to help the young resist the tremendous peer pressure to risk their sanity by drug-taking” wrote Peter Hitchens in the Daily Mail at the time.

It was a view strongly shared by those attending the All-party Parliamentary Group on Cannabis and Children in October, chaired by Charles Walker. This page cannot do justice to the breadth and depth of comments, but we can share some highlights.

Readers can also get more information from the www.cannabisskunksense.co.uk charity website.

“Our 19 year-old son took skunk cannabis which made him very ill. He had to be sectioned. We managed to obtain short term talking therapy but there seems to be nothing for long term therapy. There seems to be so few resources to prevent relapse,” said one parent.

“My son is schizophrenic after taking up skunk while at university. What do you think of the drug liberalisation that is being suggested?  I am horrified. It is going to open the flood gates as more kids will use it,” added a mother.

“The official drug education policy is harm reduction.  That is dreadful: it acts as a green light to some children.  Why teach them to take drugs safely? They are illegal and dangerous,” said CanSS trustee Mary Brett.

“We have already seen the enormous social costs attached to alcohol use which has got so much worse since the relaxing of licensing. The same thing would happen with drug legalisation. There would be more users and more problems. You can repair septums after cocaine use, but you cannot repair a damaged brain. Skunk is toxic. If there is a predisposition to schizophrenia, it blows the gates open. Even if you don’t have a predisposition, it causes huge damage. People have not caught up with the risks attached to skunk use,” Walker commented.

“A huge problem is when you have dual diagnosis.  Some consultants deal only with the addiction whereas another deals with the mental-health aspect. Both say that it is not their problem and parents are bounced from one to the other trying to get help. It should be dealt with as one problem,” added Dr Ian Oliver.

“Numbers are hidden, because doctors are just not reporting the problems. Cannabis use is seen as an aside,” explained Kathy Gyngell of the Centre for Policy Studies.

“I have been battling with government ‘harm reduction’ website Frank for years – it should give drug-prevention not ‘how to use’ information. And it has the wrong facts. For example, it claims that current skunk is twice as strong as the old herbal cannabis – but it is at least eight times as strong,” Brett summarised.


Ann Stoker

Those of us working in drug prevention know what an uphill struggle it is to get into schools and colleges with a 'don't do drugs' message. But we are also aware that we need to do more than educate our young people - we need to change the whole culture surrounding drug use. From tv, radio, magazines, newspapers, pop songs, cartoons - we see constantly items which glamorize and normalize drug use. If every parent took a few minutes, each time they saw pro-drug messages, to write a complaint to the offending source we might stand a chance of changing the culture. Non drug-using young people - still the majority - also need to stand up and be counted - until drug use is no longer seen as cool but as unhealthy and totally unnecessary. One good way to reach young people is to show them how drug use effects not only the poor workers but the environment in producing countries .. the devastation caused is shocking and most youngsters are passionate about such causes.

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