The BBC needs to be clear on cannabis

Other | Wednesday 30th October 2013 | Conor

As we all know, the BBC is state funded. That means that it is paid for by us, the public, through TV license fees. Its main responsibility is to provide impartial public service broadcasting. Why then does it feel it can get away with constantly providing one-sided bias information regarding cannabis use?

On Monday (28th October) BBC East Midlands aired a programme about the consumption of cannabis in the UK. To promote the programme they released this article, which would be laughable if it were not so shameful.

Some of the claims they make would not be as derisory if they were backed up by facts and figures, but facts and figures seem to be something the BBC are incapable of producing. This isn’t just a one off incident either; their selectively blanketed coverage has been going on for years.

An article published only last year by the beeb states that “88% incorrectly thought tobacco cigarettes were more harmful than cannabis ones - when the risk of lung cancer is actually 20 times higher.” Had the BBC bothered to research the facts they would have stumbled upon a study carried out by Donald Tashkin, M.D., Professor of Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in Los Angeles. It should be mentioned that Tashkin set out to prove a link between smoking cannabis and lung cancer, but after an extensive long term study of over 2000 people, he found that there was no link between the two. Cannabis use has never resulted in death and smoking pure cannabis has even been shown to actually improve lung function and reduce cancer risks (Tashkin, UCLA, 2005).

Another favourite line wheeled out by the BBC is the, tenuous at best, link between cannabis and mental health issues. A recent study (oddly enough reported in the Daily Mail) carried out by the University Medical Centre, Utrecht in the Netherlands shows that THC, the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis, could in fact be used as a cure for depression and other mental illnesses.

A paragraph in the article published earlier this week by the BBC said: “David Manley from the Nottinghamshire Health Care NHS Trust says it is not unusual for him to meet young people who smoke 20-30 skunk joints each day.” Now this is one where I have had to devise my own facts and figures. On average, £10 worth of weed in the UK will get you 3 joints. Let’s average David Manley’s claims and settle on 25 joints a day. It would take just over 8 (8.3333 to be precise) £10 bags to achieve 25 joints. In a monetary sense this would total at £83.33 a day, and that is a horrendous amount of money.

Call me a cynic, but something tells me David Manley may be twisting the truth a bit there. If I, as a person with minimal mathematical aptitude can come up with these figures, then I’m sure someone at the BBC could have crunched some numbers and found that these claims were quite frankly absurd.

At its core, the BBC has a duty to provide unbiased coverage of matters in the public interest. With legalisation of cannabis occurring in Colorado and Washington within the USA, as well as Uruguay, the issue of legalisation is obviously in the global public interest, not just the UK. Surely then the BBC should know that they are doing nothing with their selective coverage but making people disillusioned when they should be stating proven facts from both sides of the debate.

By Conor Giles