Critics have accused Channel 4 of glamorising cannabis, ahead of tonight’s first episode of a TV programme about taking the drug.
The show ‘Drugs Live: Cannabis on Trial’ monitors the effects of two types of the Class B drug and a placebo on 22 volunteers, including celebrities Jenny Bond, Jon Snow and Matthew Parris.
During the filming for the programme, the candidates underwent tests after taking the drugs, involving a brain scan and checking changes to mood, emotions and memory.
Julia Manning, head of independent think-tank 2020 Health, criticised Channel 4 for “encouraging experimentation” with substances that have “significant side-effects”.
“This is not about science, it’s about viewing figures. The legislation we have seems to be deterring drug taking so why do we need to open the Pandora’s box and encourage more experimentation?
“It’s glamorising and trivialising the issue”, she added.
Professor David Nutt, who was fired as a Government drugs advisor in 2009 for claiming cannabis is less harmful than alcohol, appears on the programme as an expert, with University College London professor Val Curran.
Prof Nutt’s organisation DrugScience helped fund the Channel 4 trial.
Each volunteer on the programme takes low-strength cannabis, known as hash, and potent cannabis, called ‘skunk’.
Mary Brett, Chairman of campaign group Cannabis Skunk Sense, said: “Skunk is a dreadful drug and it is very irresponsible to have a show with such biased experts.
“It will be a platform for Professor Nutt to peddle what he thinks about drugs to an audience of young people”, she commented.
Fay Watson, Secretary General of Europe Against Drugs, said: “Placing someone into a MRI scanner when they are under the influence may be useful to assess the immediate impacts of cannabis, but it’s not going to demonstrate the long-term harms people are most concerned about.
“Cannabis use is associated with a wide range of negative side-effects such as anxiety, psychotic episodes, depression, cancer, stroke, as well as IQ decline in young people”, she added.
Recent research from King’s College London found the risk of psychosis to be three times higher for people who smoke ‘skunk’, compared to non-smokers.
People who smoke skunk every day are five times more likely to develop the condition, prompting claims that smoking cannabis is like playing “Russian roulette with your mental health”.