Evidence piles up that cannabis harms us. Yet our laws have never been softer. Are we, asks Peter Hitchens, soft in the head?
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When you hear the word ‘soft’, you tend to feel comfortable and safe. Who wouldn’t take the soft option, given the choice? Soft cops are kinder than hard cops. Soft furnishings are more attractive than hard chairs. Spies take the soft route into the enemy country. You’d give a child a soft drink, but never hard liquor.
And so we come to soft drugs, particularly cannabis, the subject of the most brilliant marketing campaign in modern times, so organic and herbal that many teenagers don’t think it’s a drug at all.
But what is really soft about cannabis? I personally know one young man, Henry Cockburn, who smoked cannabis in his early teens and is now permanently on powerful antipsychotic medication, his life changed out of all recognition. I’m told that correlation is not necessarily causation. But then again, correlation is not necessarily *not* causation.
Now, perhaps for the first time, comes news of research which strongly suggests that teenage use of supposedly ‘soft’ cannabis may damage the brain irreversibly, causing an eight per cent drop in IQ.
In short, dope can make you less intelligent than you would otherwise have been, for the rest of your life. You don’t get your lost wits back, ever.
Eight per cent may not sound much, but it means worse exam results, less chance of going to a good university, less hope of a good job, or perhaps of getting a job at all.
Researchers found this worrying fact by looking for it. It helped that IQ is a generally-accepted objective measure – unlike mental illness, which is hard to define and has ever-shifting boundaries. But the truth is that our society, in which dope-smoking is considered virtually normal by the Sixties generation, hasn’t looked very hard for evidence that cannabis isn’t soft.
‘It never did me any harm’, I have often heard them say. Well, how do they know? What if, without it, they would have been smarter than they are, smart enough to know that the young need to be protected from this danger, and warned seriously against it.
And yet our society treats it as a trivial joke, a thing ‘the kids’ can be expected to do. Schools and the government assume that teenagers – who are most vulnerable to its dangers – will take it. Instead of abstinence, they preach ‘harm reduction’.
And, just as evidence begins to pile up that cannabis may be hard as nails, and hard as a life of needless disappointment and failure, our laws against it have never been softer.
Are we soft in the head?