The Independent is traditionally seen as the voice of the liberal minded, free thinking left. So why on earth have I picked everyone’s favourite friendly lefty paper for the first bashing? independent1 How The Independent Failed You A series of articles in the Independent is arguably a major factor for why today, in England you can be put behind bars just for being found in possession of everyone’s favourite herb. weed1 How The Independent Failed You Sound proposterous? How could it be? Is this the same Independent that organised marches to legalise the  plant and for ten years campaigned for it’s legalisation. This wonderful campaign was based on the mountain of evidence supporting the case that cannabis is not a causal factor in psychosis and is one of the safest drugs known to man.

So.. What changed?

On Sunday 7th January 2007, the Independent published an article claiming that the Government would soon follow the advice of the Advisory Council on The Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) and upgrade cannabis. This was total nonsense, the ACMD report said the precise opposite.

“Instead of returning cannabis to Class B, the ACMD recommend ‘a sustained public education and information strategy’, aimed at children and young adults (7.2); a review of health services for cannabis dependent people (7.3); measures to protect schizophrenics from exposure to cannabis (7.4); and, ‘a substantial research programme into the relationship between cannabis use and mental health’ (7.5).”

Dr. Russell Newcombe’s analysis of ACMD (2006) Further Consideration of the Classification of Cannabis


No-one could challenge this because the report was not published yet. In fact even the home office’s analysis of the situation published that summer declared that alcohol and tobacco are far greater health concerns (however this report was supressed for a further four years and only released after an FOI request).

“But alcohol and tobacco account for more health problems and deaths than illicit drugs. To many young people this presents problems in understanding the rationale behind controlling drugs such as cannabis and ecstasy when their misuse contributes less overall harm to society than widely available drugs such as alcohol and tobacco.”… “In terms of death, illegal drugs amounted to 1,388 in 2003 compared to about 20,000 for alcohol and 100,000 for tobacco.”

Suppressed (2006) Home office report on drugs, released in 2010 following an FOI request [PDF]

It gets worse..

In the same article the Independent made the groundless claim that cannabis is now twenty times stronger than it used to be. This is not true and has never been supported. Yet they continue to spout this claim, on occasion, through the rampant hyperbole they are famed for lifting the figure up to 30x stronger.

“The ACMD published their report – Further Consideration of the Classification of Cannabis ‘ in January 2006. While focusing on mental health issues, the report also briefly addressed physical health and potency issues. On physical health, they noted that apart from possible respiratory damage among those who smoke cannabis, the main risks are to people with health problems and pregnant women. As regards potency, they emphasised that the purity figures produced from forensic analyses of seized cannabis are beset by methodological problems, and concluded that annual figures for the decade ending 2005 showed no evidence of trends. But when the figures are broken down by different products, they do show a clear rise in potency for sinsemilla (skunk) ‘ from 6% in 1995 to 14% in 2005.”

Dr. Russell Newcombe’s analysis of ACMD (2006) Further Consideration of the Classification of Cannabis

The cherry on the cake

The cherry on the cake came a year later when in true Independent style they went on to issue a front page apology for their ten years of good reporting and went all out in lampooning the evil weed. This was of course picked with both hands by every right wing rag in the business.

canop How The Independent Failed You

In the opinion pages the Independent published even wilder allegations, lifting the amount stronger cannabis had got to 30x, a figure presumerably made up on the spot. As a point of reference, the author really should have known better, in the same article stating…

“I smoked my first joint in the summer of 1968. I was 17 and it was the summer of love…the dope was plentiful and benign. It would come in from the Lebanon, Morocco or Afghanistan and I’d buy it in small lumps which looked and crumbled just like Oxo cubes….Everyone I knew in those days smoked pot and most people I know now have smoked at least once in their lives: some of them now run corporations and political parties, and there is no evidence that smoking pot ever hurt them

Pardon me, but in that case one would have thought then some pretty damn substancial evidence would therefore be needed to the contrary? Apparently not.

So what happened next?

I don’t need to tell you, it’s the same every time. The tabloids went nuts, rant and rave and caried the story to the grave. The Government caved under their pressure, fired the professors who never even got their voices heard in the first place (the real victims in the story) and promptly upgraded the plant to class B.

grow house 2 How The Independent Failed You

The irony of the story is that the main reason cannabis in circulation is now somewhat stronger than cannabis grown naturally is the fact it is illegal. Farmers are forced by the Government to grow specially bred cannabis indoors under bright lights rather than the way nature intended in order to go undetected. This creates a strong motive to grow more of the drug, quicker. Customers don’t complian because  it’s in their best interests to buy small amounts  so if they get found with it it’s only a misdemeanor.

Drug deal at school web ful How The Independent Failed You

In reality, few recreational or medicinal users want or need their heads blown off like this, but that is what the media ordered so that is what the government prescribed.

If you need a reliable source for drugs information the ACMD (the group of professors judged by the Government to be the the worlds leading experts on pharmacology before they fired them all for saying what they didn’t want to be heard) have reformed in the form of The Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs. Genunie scientific facts  are available on their website If you are still unsure that our legal system has been conned you would do well to read professor Nutt’s case here.

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    I’ve never really liked the Independent, it appears to just go where the money is. Apparently when it was originally conceived it was going to compete with the Telegraph for readers (its founders used to be journalists for the Telegraph), but they found the left was more fertile ground, so they ran with it. Its only real ‘independence’ seems to be that it will bend whichever way the wind blows. The Guardian, for all its faults, seems to be a more principled paper.

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