The Spectator

Letters | 17 January 2019

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The straight dope

Sir: Much of the media and a large part of the political class in Britain seem to have fallen completely for the propaganda of one of the biggest greed lobbies in the world, the billionaire-backed campaign for cannabis legalisation. Articles such as the one by Robert Jackman (‘Homegrown industry’, 12 January) suggest that marijuana is a benign drug, and make vague claims for its supposed medical benefits. Yet across the world, as Alex Berenson’s new book on the subject, Tell Your Children, shows, worrying developments are correlated with this poorly researched, expensively hyped and brilliantly spun adventure.

In Finland, Denmark and the US, recorded instances of mental illness have sharply increased as the unfettered use of marijuana has become more widespread. In the US state of Washington, the first to legalise marijuana, the crimes of murder and aggravated assault have risen far faster than national averages. Mr Jackman rejoices that Sir John Major and Nigel Farage have both called for ‘revisiting’ Britain’s allegedly harsh drug laws, which any alert observer can see are almost wholly unenforced. I should have thought that any cause which has managed to beguile both these noted figures is one which more thoughtful, well-informed citizens should view with special suspicion. The smell which Mr Jackman describes engulfing the town of Downham Market is the distinctive, pungent scent of snake oil.

Peter Hitchens

London W8

Drugs that work

Sir: Robert Jackman claims a change in law is needed to ‘break the effective monopoly’ supposedly held by GW Pharmaceuticals over cannabis-based medicines. This is not so. GW has earned its world-leading position through 20 years of painstaking research and risky, expensive investment, creating over 500 jobs here in Britain. Our work is finally bearing fruit, with one medicine for multiple sclerosis, approved in 29 countries including the UK, and another, for severe forms of childhood-onset epilepsy, approved in the US and under review in the EU. If approved, we plan to make our epilepsy treatment fully available in the UK, contrary to Mr Jackman’s claim that such treatments are being blocked. No law change is required for companies to put other cannabis-based medicines into clinical trials and we encourage them to do so. Anecdotal evidence is no substitute for the hard data required by regulators to demonstrate safety and efficacy. Far from being a cosy stitch-up, GW is a story of British innovation and entrepreneurship on the cusp of success against the odds.

Chris Tovey

GW Pharmaceuticals, London W1

Remainers on the Green

Sir: How curious that, just a few pages after your editorial on the increasing use of insult in political debate, Charles Moore should write that College Green is ‘infested’ with Remain supporters (The Spectator’s Notes, 12 January). The word clearly aligns them with rats or disease and I would imagine that a writer as clever as Moore chose it deliberately. It is with this insidious use of language that rising hysteria and intolerance (your words) gain strength and he should really know better.

Anthony Horowitz

London EC1

No platform for protestors

Sir: We’re delighted Charles Moore has been watching the BBC’s politics coverage (12 January). But far from indulging protestors on College Green, the BBC has gone to some lengths to avoid placards of any kind interfering with our camera shots, including broadcasting from double height platforms. The protestors have, in turn, made their own endeavours to get into shot by extending the height of their placards.

Jonathan Munro

BBC Head of Newsgathering, London W1

Mind your manors

Sir: I’m sure we are all delighted that James Delingpole has finally achieved his ambition of becoming a country squire (12 January). However, it is a bit much to claim that he can now be ‘rude, eccentric, antisocial, reckless, prejudiced, reactionary, unkempt, unapologetically conservative and free’. James, as your readers will attest, has been all those things and more for years. How about self-deprecation, consideration for those less fortunate than oneself, humility and kindness? Unlike a hacking jacket, these qualities cannot be bought at Cordings. Yet they surely are a more accurate description of a life well-lived.

John Smith

Chesham Bois, Bucks

A bout with Bacon

Sir: In my review of Michael Peppiatt’s The Existential Englishman (12 January) I related an encounter I had with Francis Bacon in Muriel Belcher’s Colony Room. You unfortunately deleted the following from it: ‘I always loved being groped, but was also ticklish, and burst into laughter; “Gedoff!”’ The effect of the deletion was to turn my accepting laughter into a prim scowl of disapproval, the very opposite of what I had taken pains to convey. This was mean to the memory of Francis Bacon, whom I admire hugely, and it was unfair to me. I was not uptight about such things as a young man, and would never wish to suggest that he had committed any offence. I am much against the hounding of people in the present for bawdiness in the past.

Duncan Fallowell

London W11

Let them eat meat

Sir: My heart went out to the poor cats who have fallen victim to their owners’ vegan ideology (‘Meat-free moggies’, 12 January). It is cruel to try to inflict veganism on one of nature’s most committed carnivores. I am glad the RSPCA has had the guts to tell the truth about cats needing meat. What a pity some equally sensible body could not do the same for the animals’ owners.

Dr Allan Chapman