Drug Free Australia says no to cannabis

Drug Free Australia’s Gary Christian responds – cannabis still leads to violence and homicide

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We gave a rather scathing critique of Gary Christian’s public submission into the ‘Inquiry into cannabis use in Victoria’ last week. The article was viewed by tens of thousands of people and widely received on Facebook and Reddit. Even LadBible and MensHealth picked up on Gary’s claim that cannabis turns “violence and aggression into homicide”.

Comments from readers ranged from well thought out responses to unsavoury, unintelligent insults. As such, he was almost obliged to reply. And he did – with a 1,500 word email.

We initially had plans to counter his arguments once again with our own research, but something a little more interesting came to mind. You.

Pondering Pot is a community of cannabis supporters, and that’s why you’re here, right now, because you’re part of the community. And so, to prove we’re not the only ones that believe in cannabis, we’re asking you to help us.

If you’d like to show your support for cannabis and debate Gary Christian’s response, please leave a comment below. You don’t have to address every point he makes, just the ones you’d like to. We’d love to see our community take on the debate as well.

Please keep your comments informative, educational, and respective.

This is his response, word for word (with some added formatting).


Gary Christian here from Drug Free Australia.

I just want to give you a reasoned and fully evidenced answer to various assertions you made in your article in Pondering Pot re my testimony to the Vic. Cannabis Inquiry.

Can I say at the outset that I respect anyone who goes to the trouble of attempting some rigour in critique, and the fact that you have screenshots of some of my slides and that you have checked my sources rates pretty well with me.

So just taking your assertions one – the ones needing to be challenged.

Cannabis and Homicide

“To Gary Christian – if you can provide one documented source where cannabis use, and only cannabis use, has directly caused someone to murder one of their friends or family, we’ll shut down this website and join your cause – helping Australia become drug free (including alcohol, coffee, pain killers, opioids, and tobacco).”

My response is a simply SBS report on the Raina Thaiday murder of 8 children – 7 her own plus her niece  https://www.sbs.com.au/news/queensland-mother-who-killed-eight-children-deemed-unfit-for-trial.  The psychiatrist clearly puts the murder down to cannabis-induced psychosis/schizophrenia and that is what the court concluded.  Also https://www.sbs.com.au/news/why-cairns-mum-raina-killed-her-kids

I think that is all you asked for so I would like, seriously, to invite you to join us at Drug Free Australia in our work of informing Parliamentarians about the many harms of cannabis.  If you are as good as your word we can use someone with an eye for detail and evidence.

But I can give you a lot more. It just happens that the Thaiday murder is the opening story in Alex Berenson’s book Tell Your Children where he documents dozens of court records, newspaper reports of court records, and journal studies showing the link between cannabis induced psychosis and schizophrenia and violence and homicide.

There is a wealth of medical journal studies, and I don’t know of anyone who knows the literature that seriously questions the causality of cannabis as it tracks through to violence and homicide.  In fact it is so well understood that that was the reason I did not send more than one review to the Inquiry – one that specifically singles out domestic violence.  Anything I say in testimony to a Parliamentary Inquiry that is not already dealt with in the submissions we sent (there were two separate ones for Drug Free Australia) I always send in a day or two later, with chapter and verse and full copies of the journal studies.

Again, there are plenty of good journal reviews showing that cannabis leads to violence and aggression – the first is the one addressing moreso domestic violence.

  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5663469/ – after removing confounding by alcohol use, personality disorder etc
  • Association Between the Use of Cannabis and Physical Violence in Youths: A Meta-Analytical Investigation | American Journal of Psychiatry (psychiatryonline.org)

There are plenty of studies showing that cannabis is causal in psychosis and schizophrenia

  • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30902669/  – the one I cited in testimony which I of course sent to the Inquiry after giving testimony
  • The world’s most authoritative review on cannabis and its effects on health, positive or negative is the US National Institutes of Health 2017 review which correctly treats cannabis as causal where Conclusion 12.1 says:

CONCLUSION 12-1 There is substantial evidence of a statistical association between cannabis use and the development of schizophrenia or other psychoses, with the highest risk among the most frequent users. – National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice; Committee on the Health Effects of Marijuana: An Evidence Review and Research Agenda. The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research (p. 295). The National Academies Press. Kindle Edition.

Notice that they speak of ‘development’ of psychoses – where it is not just a statistical correlation where those with mental health issues self-medicate with cannabis

  • There are literally over 100 studies that show the same

And plenty of studies showing the link between schizophrenia and violent homicide

  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2718581/
  • Thus cannabis causes psychosis/schizophrenia which causes elevated homicides is linear logic and described well in Alex Berenson’s book on cannabis and homicide – Tell Your Children
  • Remember the standard of proof for such horrifying homicides being tied to cannabis psychosis is not a random controlled trial (which would be meaningless in this context) but rather the findings of court cases, with which Berenson’s book is filled

Again, we would be rapt if you let readers of Pondering Pot know this evidence.  I can cite literally hundreds of papers on these points.

Just by the way, the journal study supporting the 350% chance of suicide, was in Drug Free Australia’s Queensland’s submission as a full article reprint which is on the Victorian Inquiry’s website.  It is my job to speak to evidence given in our submissions.  The study was Association of Cannabis Use in Adolescence and Risk of Depression, Anxiety, and Suicidality in Young Adulthood: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis | Adolescent Medicine | JAMA Psychiatry | JAMA Network

Cannabis and Driving

The evidence on cannabis causing vehicle and machine accidents in workplaces is so well known and accepted I didn’t even think of sending evidence.  It is such common knowledge that driving under the influence of medical cannabis will still be ticketed.  Why?  Because everyone knows the relationship between cannabis and driving accidents.

For many years now DFA has sent its own comprehensive 2007 review of cannabis and driving – a review still found on our website and sent to numerous Parliamentary Inquiries  https://drugfree.org.au/images/book-paper-pdf/DFA_CannabisPaper.pdf and my evidence more particularly referenced the French study

https://www.bmj.com/content/331/7529/1371

Autism

I sent the 2019 study to the Inquiry after giving my evidence.  This is a massive study of all CDC data in the US and the geo-spatial-temporal results demonstrate causality which goes well beyond the correlations, say of opiates and autism. https://www.longdom.org/open-access/effect-of-cannabis-legalization-on-us-autism-incidence-and-medium-term-projections.pdf  Also Mendeley Data – Impact of Converging Sociocultural and Cannabinoid-Related Trends on US Autism Rates Dataset: Combined Geospatiotemporal and Causal Inferential Analysis 

Pregnant men should not use cannabis

Well, you CAN have pregnant men these days.  But the issue is that cannabis shattering chromosomes is as much a male issue as a pregnant mum issue.  The action is the same on male DNA and the damage is passed on in the sperm and then down to all generations following.  Chromothripsis causes mutations which cause cancers and congenital abnormalities.  Downs syndrome, cleft palette, and all those abnormities are no small things for the women who have these babies, but it is not just the female who contributes the faultry DNA.

Agreed – we need to do things differently

There were two sets of charts in my presentation – the increased use and harms of cannabis under a legalised cannabis regime and another set of charts at the end which was vastly decreased drug use under solid prevention programming.  Is the Australian Govt doing what works at this moment, as per Tough on Drugs?  Well no.  We know what works but our politicians just do the same old stuff.

80% don’t give approval to regular cannabis use This is Table 9.7 from the 2019 NDS Household Survey accessed at https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/23e94b50-bdfc-4395-a591-e74a60a3fe14/aihw-phe-270-9-Perceptions-and-policy-support-tables.xlsx.aspx 

More Australians support legalisation

When did you last see an SBS or ABC program carefully laying out the case against legalisation as I did the other day – and I could have gone on for another hour with evidence.  I would grant your point about the majority of Australians supporting legalisation only if I had seen them get a fair shake of both sides of the argument.  But no, they only hear one side, ad infinitum, like a broken record.

0.5% cannabis deaths on road

Not sure where this data comes from but we know the data from legalisation regimes shows a steep rise in driving deaths where cannabis is involved.

ACT – legal cannabis?

A letter sent to our President from Scott Morrison’s office clearly said that Federal law overrides Territory law where one contradicts the other.  And there were plenty of media articles in the ACT dealing with these kind of conflict issues.  I think you’ll find that most people in the ACT think that the Federal Police, which are the ACT’s police force, are acting under Federal law and not Territory law, therefore it is not legal.

No increase in hospitalisations for cannabis

They certainly had them in Colorado as per our data.  Do we even have a capture mechanism for such things in Australia?  Perhaps not.

Suicides and cannabis

We note that our graph on Colorado suicides only recorded cannabis-involved suicides.  It’s in the heading.  It is a fair assumption, that when cannabis causes a 350% greater suicide rate for users that the rise in cannabis suicides in Colorado are causally related to cannabis.

Growing black markets

The issue is that there is increased use under legalisation, which means that both legal and black markets are growing.  Colorado’s HB220 and 221 under Governor Hickenlooper in 2017 addressed a growing black market, not a black market that had lost a chunk to legal markets.


So there you have it folks. What do you think? Let him know your thoughts in the comments below.

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10 Comments

  1. “There are plenty of studies showing that cannabis is causal in psychosis and schizophrenia.”
    Yeah, well right back atcha; there are plenty of studies showing that religion is causal in psychosis and schizophrenia.

  2. Give us belligerent status and we’ll negotiate with the government the same way they negotiate with us – at gun point.

  3. So because one goes to cannabis for relief in heated situations because it relaxes you, it automatically becomes the demon just because, it’s like charging someone for something and then also his mate that did nothing wrong with the same charge just because he was there at the time, even if he did nothing or tried to help better the situation. See where I’m going with this this guys arguments are completely invalid, the studies he should be looking at are the ones done on countries and states that already have legal cannabis and how much it’s boosted there society, the things he’s mentioned here just don’t end up happening… crazy hey everyone in the countries didn’t turn out to be Drug induced schizophrenics so why are you so worried I mean is it because when you compare your safety argument against how safe it is to consume tobacco an alcohol it quickly becomes comical doesn’t it. Wake up! Stop being such selfish man. that just because it doesn’t work for a small minority that you would deny it to the millions it helps. And the hundreds of thousands of cancer patients that have been cured from CBD/THC OIL. THAT DID NOT NEED CHEMO!!!

  4. As much as public debate should be encouraged, I struggle to understand why DVA and similar get seats at the table despite putting this and other unsubstantiated claptrap in the public domain. It adds nothing to the debate and little more than personal opinion wrapped up as fact. For those that took the time to make reasoned submissions, supported by evidence, this should feel like punch in the guts.

  5. In addition , mr Christians advocate of cannabis harm ‘violence & homicide’ far more aptly suits alcoholism & hard drug use ,, this absolutely destructive ice epidemic would far more benefit his attention & concern . Education regarding the REAL harms of these is most immediately necessary , please focus your opposition to these,

  6. Gary Christians narrow view doesnt fit reality , like most well meaning but ill informed crusaders , who really should ‘readup a bit more’ … quoting lop sided statistics with circumstantial anecdotes is blinkered & regressive . I think he should talk to the majority of people who have experienced cannabis use without incident . For some elucidating facts , perhaps even try a little , after all , cannabis hasnt killed anyone , if someone is psychotic, & kills their children , it was probably endemic in that persons mental state. Doubtless many millions do not act this way , & should not be a one size fits all example.

  7. Regarding his key reference ..
    Agroup of 75 scholars and medical professionals have criticised a controversial new book about the purported dangers of marijuana, calling it an example of “alarmism” designed to stir up public fear “based on a deeply inaccurate misreading of science”.
    Tell Your Children, by Alex Berenson, was released last month. It has reignited debate about the drug in a social and political climate rapidly trending towards the legalization of recreational use.
    Berenson argues that proponents of marijuana use have ignored evidence that the drug’s active compound, THC, may precipitate the onset of schizophrenia and provoke acts of violence in individuals who experience a psychotic “break”.
    On Friday, 75 scholars and clinicians signed an open letter, joining a chorus of disagreement with Berenson by arguing that “establishing marijuana as a causal link to violence at the individual level is both theoretically and empirically problematic”.
    The signatories include academics from New York University, Harvard Medical School and Columbia University and care providers including addiction medicine doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers.
    “We urge policymakers and the public to rely on scientific evidence,” they wrote, “not flawed pop science and ideological polemics, in formulating their opinions about marijuana legalization.”
    https://www.theguardian.com/…/marijuana-book-tell-your…

  8. Alex Berenson
    Born January 6, 1973 (age 48)
    New York, U.S.
    Occupation Author
    Education Bachelor’s degree
    History and Economics
    Alma mater Yale University (1994)
    Genre Nonfiction, spy fiction
    Subject Politics
    Notable awards Edgar Award (2007)[1]
    Website
    alexberenson.com
    Alex Berenson (born January 6, 1973) is an American writer. He was a reporter for The New York Times and has authored several thriller novels and a book on corporate financial filings. His 2019 book Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness and Violence sparked controversy, earning denunciations from many in the scientific and medical communities. During the coronavirus pandemic, Berenson has appeared frequently in American right-wing media, making numerous false claims about the virus and its vaccines…… ~ Wikipedia

    • I think this is why use of Wikipedia renders an immediate fail in universities because it is so often radically wrong. All the things Berenson has been saying about the virus – Wuhan lab, masks etc are now all shown to be true and that Fauci knew all along. This is something you will never see on Wikipedia but it is news that is at last being posted by mainstream media. https://www.newsweek.com/politics-science-are-both-catching-big-marijuana-opinion-1596664

      • Happy to debate with you, Gary, but can we keep things real. You know that formal evidence linking a lab in Wuhan to the ensuing pandemic is yet to be found. To authoritively suggest otherwise is pretty disingenuous and an extraordinary interpretation of the facts based on what’s now known about the virus.

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