Letter to MP from a parent
The following is a letter to Richard Graham MP from a parent who attended a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Children and Cannabis. Scroll down for his reply.
Gloucester, 22 October 2013
Dear Mr Graham,
Yesterday, I attended a meeting of the Cannabis and Children All-Party Parliamentary Group in the House of Commons. I attended one of these meetings several years ago, and I am wondering what, given all the talk, has changed. Not much, I fear. Young people are still very much at risk, and although there is much planning about drug education. I fear this will be as ineffective as some of the anti-smoking campaigns seem to have been. For many youngsters, ‘danger’ acts as a stimulus. As Kathy Gyngell of the Centre for Policy Studies points out, young people’s brains are wired to take risks without understanding the consequences, and they are not mature enough for the latter until their early/mid-twenties.
My own daughter died at the age of 25 as a result of drug addiction which started with recreational use of cannabis – a much milder form then than is available now. Sadly, she continued to smoke, drink and use cannabis and harder drugs throughout her pregnancy, which caused irreparable damage to my granddaughter, who had developmental issues as an infant and young child, and, it seems, a predisposition to follow her mother down the same path, although she was only 5 months old when my daughter died.
This is a double heart-ache, although I believe there is hope for my granddaughter if only something can be done to educate ADULTS, especially those supplying these substances, as to the real harm they are causing. Many won’t care, of course, so something needs to be done about that too. One member of the meeting yesterday, who had travelled from Bristol where he helps provide voluntary support to users and their families asking for help, suggested that because the problem is so huge, government will do all they can to avoid tackling it head-on in case it is deemed to be a failure, and I fear he may be right. However, something needs to be done to prevent other young people losing their sanity, lives, or both, and to prevent other families from being torn apart.
Kathy Gyngell suggested that the government’s Drug Advisory body would do well to listen to some of the real evidence from such families. Scientific data is all very well, and statistics can be manipulated, but there are thousands of real stories out there, which need to be heard. I would be very happy to stand up and give evidence to this, or any other body.
My own experience goes beyond the personal. I am a retired teacher, Early Years centre Manager and Special Needs support worker, and in all these roles I have met children who have been damaged by their parents’ drug use, and whose futures are limited, in many cases sorely, because of this. For them too, any education initiative is going to be negated by their home circumstances, which is why any preventative programme has to be aimed at adults too. It is quite frightening how ‘streetwise’ even primary school children are during Gloucestershire Life Bus sessions.
When David Cameron visited Gloucester before the last General Election, he promised that any government he led would tackle the problem of drug use, and this has to include cannabis – a dangerous substance in itself, but also the thin end of the wedge. Given the ‘broken society’ speeches of 2011, I am surprised that the contribution of the misuse of drugs is not higher up the political agenda.
I would be very grateful if you would support programmes aimed, not at legalising cannabis/drug use, but at helping those already damaged by it, and at preventing such use in the future.
Richard Graham MP replied:
"I would certainly oppose legalisation of cannabis, and I think many others would: and I don't see any government intention to put this forward.
Meanwhile although money is tight the better outcomes of tough love mean that more people do get Nelson Trust like treatment, and they don't only deal with people who've kicked the habit.
The key thing is keeping the young off the stuff in the first place, and for this youth mentors, parents, schools and police have to work even more closely."