Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Dope is not main enemy

Evening Standard - March 26th 2007

CHARLOTTE Ross's plea to tighten the law on cannabis, coloured by personal family tragedy, does not make for rational policymaking (23 March).

Speaking personally and not for my party as a retired consultant psychiatrist formerly in charge of a secure ward, I entirely agree with Professor David Nutt's view that cannabis is less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco to the nation's health.

It is still highly unlikely that normal cannabis consumption causes schizophrenia, in the absence of predisposed genetic loading.

The real concern should not be mentally ill people's access to cannabis, but the poverty of care in the community they sometimes receive, the closure of long-stay hospitals and the mental health act's inadequacy at dealing with "revolving door" patients who refuse their antipsychotic medication after discharge to the community.

In my clinical experience, I have never witnessed a clear-cut example of cannabis-induced psychosis, but certainly witnessed the devastating effects of alcohol in engendering violent behaviour in predisposed mentally disordered individuals.

I am very conscious of the need for politicians to respect what is done by adults that does not harm others, and to modernise by connecting with youth.

Experience in EU countries such as Belgium, which partially decriminalised cannabis five years ago, has not, to my knowledge, shown any resulting rise in violence or schizophrenia.

Dr Charles Tannock MEP MRCPsych