Chief medic who called for ban on smoking in parks accused of double standards after she admitted using hash cakes and hallucinating
- England‘s top doctor blames bad experience on ‘contaminants’ in the drug
- Smokers’ group Forest accuse chief medical office of double standards
- Anti-drugs campaigners says her ‘contamination’ comment is ‘nonsense’
By DAVID WILKES FOR THE DAILY MAIL PUBLISHED: 17 October 2014
Earlier this week, England’s top doctor called for a ban on smoking in parks to set a better example for children. But yesterday, Dame Sally Davies spoke again about the time she ate hash cakes and hallucinated.
The chief medical officer, who has previously admitted taking cannabis at university, blamed the bad experience which made her stop dabbling with the illegal drug on ‘contaminants’ in an interview.
Her drug experience sparked guffaws from smokers’ group Forest who accused her of double standards and derided her notion of adults as role models.
Anti-drugs campaigners said her ‘contamination’ comment was ‘dangerous’, ‘careless’ and even ‘nonsense’. They say the mind-altering chemical THC in cannabis is more likely to make users hallucinate – as ‘contaminated’ cannabis is practically unheard of.
Recalling the ‘three or four times’ she ate hash cakes, Dame Sally, 64, said in the interview with The Times newspaper yesterday: ‘The last time there were contaminants in it and I had hallucinations.’
The Government’s most senior medical adviser first revealed she had tried cannabis baked into cookies while studying medicine at Manchester University in the late 1960s and early 1970s on BBC Radio 3’s Private Passions last year.
On that occasion she said: ‘I never smoked, so I couldn’t smoke joints, but I did have some cookies until on the third or fourth occasion I had hallucinations and I have never touched it since. I think I understood through that what my father said to me when I told him I was going to try it. He said drugs de-civilise you, you stop being a civilised person.’
The mystery ‘contaminants’ in her latest telling of the hash cake hallucinations incident has led to raised eyebrows among anti-drugs campaigners.
Mary Brett, chairman of drugs prevention charity Cannabis Skunk Sense, said: ‘It’s a careless thing to say. It implies contaminants are responsible for the hallucinations when it is more likely THC was responsible.
‘To toss it off as ‘contaminants’ is a throwaway remark that really could be quite dangerous.
‘Cannabis is something that has never really been badly adulterated with anything else. I remember reading someone ground up glass and put it in cannabis a few years ago, but apart from that I have never read anything about it being contaminated.
‘It sounds most unusual. Does she know what the contaminants were or who put them there? Did she eat a whole cookie instead of half this time? She needs to answer that.’
A National Drugs Prevention Alliance spokesman: ‘People take cannabis because cannabis effects the brain and quite a few people do have a bad experience as a result, either short term or long term.
‘How could she know if it had contaminants in it? Did she have it analysed? The whole thing is a nonsense. We would expect rather more rational comments from the Chief Medical Officer.’
In her wide-ranging Times interview, Dame Sally warned that since her student days ‘cannabis has got much stronger and I worry about that. Cannabis used by people whose brains are still developing, adolescents, is not a good idea, particularly in high doses.’
A National Drugs Prevention Alliance spokesman said ‘People take cannabis because cannabis effects the brain and quite a few people do have a bad experience as a result, either short term or long term.’
She also told how ‘the things that damage our health – whether it’s diet leading to obesity, smoking or addiction – are individual choices’ and said: ‘I think it’s very important we don’t sidestep that by becoming a nanny state.’
Earlier this week she backed a plan for smoking to be outlawed in public parks in London, saying: ‘We all know smoking is bad for health. So I welcome any measures to reduce both active smoking and its role-modelling in front of children.’ Campaigners have denounced the plan as an attack on civil liberties.
Yesterday Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ group Forest, said: ‘She was happy to eat hash cakes when she was young. Now she wants to stop people smoking a legal product in the open air where there is no risk to anyone other than themselves.
‘The idea that adults have to be role models for the next generation is ridiculous. Let today’s youth find their own way, just as Dame Sally did when she was young. Educate but don’t over-regulate.
‘Unfortunately today’s public health industry is driven by control freaks like Dame Sally who want to micro-manage our lives in a way they would never have accepted when they were young.’
The dangers of long-term cannabis use, including mental health problems, were recently laid bare in a 20-year study by Professor Wayne Hall, a drugs advisor to the World Health Organisation. He found cannabis doubles the risk of developing psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia.