Psychiatrists say "No" to Marijuana

By Mike Hedge, AAP Senior correspondent
MELBOURNE, June 24 AAP - Arguments supporting the legalisation of
marijuana were generally flawed and largely unconvincing, an international
conference of psychiatrists was told today.
Praising the Victorian government's decision earlier this month to
reject a recommendation to revise marijuana laws, prominent psychiatrists
said evidence that the drug triggered mental illness was too great to
Key delegates to the Collegium Internationale
Neuro-Psychopharmacologicum (CINP) said marijuana should be regarded as a
"hard" drug, rather than a "soft" one and was too dangerous to be made
completely legal.
Professor Fred Goodwin of the George Washington University in
Washington DC said research showed that any analogy between the use of
marijuana and alcohol was difficult to support.
"There is very little argument that the daily use of marijuana has an
effect, but for the 70 per cent of people who are social drinkers, daily
use is not harmful," Prof Goodwin said.
Prof Goodwin said one of the great difficulties with marijuana was that
the active chemical, THC, metabolised extremely slowly while alcohol
passed through the body relatively quickly.
"With THC you can find measurable quantities (in the body) four days
later which causes a staircasing effect of piling up more and more of the
chemical if it is used one day after another," he said.
"Analogies between alcohol and THC should be treated with great
scepticism. It is a flawed argument."
Prof Goodwin said the problem with THC was that it had been proved that
it stuck to brain tissue, eventually causing a dangerous build-up.
The Victorian government voted earlier this month against the
acceptance of key recommendations in a report it commissioned that
recommended the legalisation of marijuana on the grounds that such a move
would minimise criminal activity which surrounded it.
Among the recommendations of the report's author, Professor David
Pennington, were the legalisation of the possession of small quantities of
marijuana and the cultivation of up to five plants per household.
After several weeks of consideration and a day-long parliamentary
debate, coalition MPs voted to reject any change to the state's marijuana
Prof Goodwin said that apart from significant mental health risks, the
issue of confronting children with double standards should also be
"We found in the United States that to advocate legalisation was to
give kids a double message," he said.
"It's like saying, 'It's legal, but don't do it', the legislation
seemed to be hypocritical."
Prof Goodwin's views were supported by Prof Graeme Burrows, the
director of Melbourne University's psychiatry department, who gave strong
support to the government's stand.
"We can say that in this case, the government got it right," Prof
Burrows said.
He said the link between marijuana and psychiatric illness were too
well established to ignore.
"We know marijuana makes psychiatric illness worse, and we know that it
probably precipitates mental illness in predisposed people," he said.
The Victorian government said it may re-examine the marijuana issue at
a later date.
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