One in five Californians regularly uses cannabis, with addiction rates nearly 40 per cent higher than in states where it remains illegal.
In an investigation for The Mail on Sunday, Deputy Health Editor Eve Simmons said she found a ‘far more disturbing picture’ beneath the surface of the legalised cannabis industry in California than is usually reported.
Doctors have raised concerns about the repercussions from its increased availability, with hospital admissions for cannabis-related complications rising from 1,400 in 2005 to 16,000 by 2019.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan recently visited some upmarket cannabis ‘dispensaries’ in California.
He also praised the ‘high standards’ of legalised cannabis farms in the state, before launching a commission aimed at liberalising UK drug laws.
But when Simmons visited the state, she met with Dr Roneet Lev, an emergency doctor at a hospital in San Diego, who said: “We’ve been seeing the problems for a while now: depressive breakdowns, psychosis, suicidal thoughts, all related to cannabis.”
Dr Lev added: “We’ve been sold a lie, that cannabis use is harmless and even has a multitude of health benefits.”
His comments are supported by a review by psychiatrists at the University of Melbourne, which concluded that the evidence that cannabis helps anxiety, depression or insomnia is ‘too weak’ to justify regular consumption.
Dr Ziva Cooper, who runs the Centre for Cannabis and Cannabinoids at the University of California in Los Angeles, says “frequent and heavy use is becoming normalised in LA”.
She added: “Physicians across the US are seeing a lot more patients who have gone from smoking once every few months to using cannabis every day, and they don’t realise the harms.”
We’ve been sold a lie
Simmons also revealed experts’ concerns that legalisation in the UK would result in increasingly potent cannabis.
Naturally grown cannabis contains about four per cent THC, while levels in chemically treated plants range between ten and 98 per cent – putting users at even greater risk of addiction and violent behaviour.
She added that there is a misconception that legalisation results in the black market diminishing.
In California, it has doubled since 2016 and is now worth an estimated £6 billion – twice that of the legal industry.
In the UK
A recent poll in the UK found that legalising cannabis could result in almost six million more people using the dangerous drug.
Frank Young, Editorial Director at Civitas and co-author of the polling research, said: “It should make politicians stop and think before cravenly bowing to pressure to unleash a wave of new cannabis users on the UK.”
In its editorial at the time, The Daily Mail commented: “The weight of this and other evidence is simply overwhelming. Cannabis is a highly dangerous drug that ruins young lives.
“And for all the absurd posturing of London Mayor Sadiq Khan and his fellow advocates for a law change, legalisation would make a bad situation infinitely worse.”