Thoughts about synthetic cannabis

I left this comment at this post on The Standard. The original Herald article which I refer to is here.

This doesn’t cover every aspect of the synthetic cannabis issue, but I think the particular issue I touched on is an important one, especially thinking about how we discuss social issues: whose voices are heard, and what assumptions are made.

I must admit to being a bit concerned at the paternalistic tone of some of the reporting on synthetic highs, specifically around people who have serious mental health issues like schizophrenia. I would prefer to hear from those people themselves. I appreciate it can be difficult for people whose relatives have issues like this, but I think there are a lot of risks involved: as you’ve said in your post, Shane, you appreciated Una Macnaughton’s bravery in telling ‘her personal story’.

To be honest, it isn’t her personal story. It’s her son’s (and he’s 21, not ‘a boy’.) He’s clearly going through an incredibly tough time. Maybe synthetic cannabis is the one thing which helps him control his symptoms. Maybe natural cannabis would be even better. But in the kind of summary we get from that Herald article, there’s no nuance, just a basic ‘bought Kronic, got schizophrenia, is crazy and dangerous, ergo ban synthetic cannabis’ narrative.

There’s certainly no statement from a qualified psychiatrist to establish that the Kronic gave himschizophrenia (and there are studies which show no link between cannabis causing schizophrenia). But that’s the obvious implication, and I don’t think this issue needs scaremongering. Untested substances with damaging side effects should be regulated. It’s common sense.

I also think there have to be other factors in play which explain why people are ‘queuing’ up to get synthetic cannabis. There aren’t jobs, there aren’t opportunities to get ahead, our government is grinding people down to benefit the wealthy and eroding our ideas of community and solidarity. Making synthetic cannabis the focus of our outrage is a lot easier than addressing those things – but it won’t address the underlying issues, and people will just find other risky ways to escape.

What do you reckon?

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