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The New Reefer Madness

Romesh Senewiratne 2009

This man doesnt like ganga.

His name is Wayne Hall, and he is currently employed as Professorial Research

Fellow and Director of the Office of Public Policy and Ethics at the Institute for
Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland. He also has
Professorial appointments at the Schools of Psychology and Political Science
and International Relations, according to the website of the Academy of the
Social Sciences in Australia.
Prior to taking up these many positions at the University of Queensland,
Wayne Hall was employed by the Universities of Western Australia (1983-86)
and New South Wales (1986-88) where, the same website claims, he
introduced the teaching of bioethics into the undergraduate medical
curriculum. He also, and this is what has prompted the writing of this essay,
has been an Adviser to the World Health Organization on:
1. The health implications of cannabis use (1993-1996)
2. Drug substitution treatment (1995-1996)
3. Contribution of illicit drug use to the Global Burden of Disease (20002002)
4. The ethics of risk management (2001)
5. Vaccine against drug addiction (2001)
6. Neuroscience research on the addictions (2002)

Seeing that Professor Wayne Hall has been employed now by the university at
which I graduated in medicine, I feel obliged to expose the fraud of this
dangerous man. Wayne Hall is dangerous because he is the public face of a
tyrannical machine that diagnoses and treats people, young and old, for
behaviour that most people, and all sane people would regard as, not just
normal, but desirable. That this machine has seconded the authority of the
United Nations and World Health Organization is a testament to its power and
influence, but not of its credibility, as you will see in the following pages.

The United Nations and the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale

The following page is from a 1995 World Health Organization publication,
entitled The Management of Mental Disorders: Volume 2, Handbook of the
Schizophrenic Disorders:

It may seem unbelievable that feeling on top of the world or like everything
is falling into place could be seen as abnormal, let alone a sign of a
moderately severe mental disturbance. Perhaps, you may think, I am making
this up, or at least presenting this page out of context. Please read on, it gets
Most people like getting excited. Its exciting! A nice thing. A good thing in
most peoples eyes. But not in the eyes of the World Health Organization,
which predicts the contribution of mental illness to the global burden of
disease to increase in decades to come. From the same version of the Brief
Psychiatric Rating Scale:

This the front and back cover of the publication, from which the rating scale for
elevated mood is taken:

You may notice the logo at the bottom of the back cover. Its very subtle for a
drug company ad. This is supposed to be a publication by the World Health
Organization, not a promotion for drugs produced by the Belgian drug
company Janssen Cilag (which has, since this 1995 publication, become part of
the British pharmaceutical giant Johnson and Johnson).
The senior author of this publication, and the only medical doctor of the three
credited authors, is this man:
His name is Gavin Andrews, and he is a senior
psychiatrist at the University of New South Wales,
where Wayne Hall was employed from 1994 to 2001.
The Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale, or BPRS, that
Professor Andrews includes in Handbook for the
Schizophrenic Disorders was originally developed as a
psychological measuring tool at the Veterans Administration Hospital in
Maryland, USA, in 1962. The original tool, comprising 16 measures to evaluate
the mental state of patients, was expanded by psychologists at the University
of California in the early 1990s. It is this expanded scale of 24 measures that is
included in Handbook for the Schizophrenic Disorders.
Cannabis and Psychosis

In recent years we have seen increasingly assertive claims that smoking

cannabis triggers schizophrenia in (genetically) susceptible people, and that
it causes, or at least triggers, psychosis in the vulnerable. Psychosis is
generally taken to mean a loss of touch with reality. This, it is taught in
medical schools around the world, is a typical symptom of schizophrenia,
along with others, including delusions, paranoia and a collection of mental
phenomena referred to as formal thought disorder.

Such jargon, compounded by confusion about what these terms really mean is
at the heart of the new reefer madness. It is because of ignorance among the
public and politicians about the history of these terms, their misuse in the
past for dubious socio-political reasons, and the unscientific methodology
behind the claims psychiatrists and their stooges (such as Wayne Hall) that the
new reefer madness has gone largely unchallenged. Ignorance about the
vested interests that are generating the propaganda has resulted in the
maintenance, and indeed expansion of the counter-productive prohibition of
ganga. This has resulted in tens of thousands of people being incarcerated for
years on end, and hundreds being executed for trafficking what is, contrary
to the chemistry of the herb, termed a narcotic.

Ganga is an ancient Indian word of Sanskrit origin, that also means river
(hence the river Ganges). The Cannabis Sativa plant has been used
medicinally and socially for thousands of years, and is one of the first known
plants to be cultivated. The first recorded cultivation, in China, dates back to
2737 B.C., and archaeologists have found evidence of its use from ancient
China, India, Egypt, Greece and Africa. Later it spread to the Middle East,
Europe, especially Russia, the Caribbean and North and South America. In
most of these parts of the world, the leaves and flowers of the female plant
were dried and smoked or used in cooking. The seeds were a valuable source
of cooking oil, and do not cause the mood-improving effects of the female
flowers, or heads of the plant. Importantly cannabis (often as a tincture) was
used in many medicines, prior to the demonization and international ban on
the plant.
Accepted medical uses of cannabis in the states in which medical use is legal
are diverse, and include epilepsy, Parkinsons Disease, AIDS, glaucoma, cancer,
anorexia and nausea. It can also be used for its calmative and mood-elevating
properties and for insights and creative perceptions. Ingesting cannabis
heightens visual and auditory perception, and it is therefore a potent
stimulator of creative excitement. Of course, pathologising creative
excitement as a pathological sign of hypomania or mania means that those
experiencing such highs are liable to find themselves in a locked ward.

The University of New South Wales Resurrects Reefer Madness

The Weekend Australian, one of the two national newspapers for sale in
Brisbane (both owned by Rupert Murdoch) contained three promotions for
the New Reefer Madness on 17.10.2009. One the front cover was the familiar,
eye-catching, seven-lobed leaf of the ganga plant:

Looked at in context:

Super grass? Cute pun. But the story advertised on the front page, and briefly
summarised on page 3 is anything but cute:

Yes, despite centuries of use of ganga to elevate the mood, and its well
known euphoric effects, the Murdoch press is claiming that new evidence
reveals that cannabis causes depression. They are also claiming it doubles the
risk of developing schizophrenia. Very convenient for marketing expensive
SSRI antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs, the promotion of which
happens to be the central focus of so-called research at the University of
New South Wales. Mind you, its not just Gavin Andrews, head of the mood
disorders unit at the University of New South Wales that sleeps with the
pharmaceutical industry senior academics, including neuropsychiatry
researchers from all of Australias oldest universities are in on the deal.
The purveyors of the new reefer madness are influential in Australia not
because they are telling the truth, but because the propaganda they are
spewing forth is strongly supported by the real drug pushers in the modern
world the major drug companies, pharmaceutical giants like Janssen-Cilag,

Glaxo Smith Kline, Pfizer, Roche and Eli Lilly. These drug companies sell drugs
to elevate the mood and reduce anxiety, to treat psychosis, schizophrenia,
mania and whatever new labels the American and European psychiatric
professional bodies create. And new disorders are created every few years
with each new edition of the American Psychiatric Associations Diagnostic
and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and the World Health
Organizations International Classification of Disease (ICD).

It wasnt always like this. Take this more sensible publication from the 1970s,
also by a University of New South Wales academic. Frank Crowley was a
professor of history, who co-wrote this well-researched and credible account
of cannabis use in Australia with Lorna Cartwright, a lecturer in pharmacology
from the University of Sydney:


This little book does not promote ganga and begins by referring to what some
regard as a sacred herb as dope. The opening sentence reads, Marihuana is a
drug. At the same time the authors do warn about alarmist media reports,
and concede that it was rumour and invention in the 1930s and 40s by the
U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics under Harry Anslinger that persuaded
Western legislators to ban what had previously been regarded as a vital crop
throughout the world.
A more nuanced perspective is presented in publications such as this, from the
1970s and early 1980s since then, sensible discussion about cannabis in the
medical and scientific literature has been lacking, replaced by the copious
propaganda pushing the New Reefer Madness. Cannabis has dangers with
overuse, but they pale into insignificance when compared to the dangers of
alcohol and the plethora of legal drugs. In addition, the medicinal, healthpromoting uses of cannabis should be investigated further, with government
(public) funding exploring the many pharmaceutical properties of the Cannabis
sativa plant.
Other uses of the plant that Wayne Hall and Associates want exterminated
include those many that utilise the incomparable strength of hemp fibre.
Planting fields of hemp is also good for the planet and will contribute to
cleaner air. The seeds of the plant can be harvested for vegetable oil and other
uses. It is surely time for Cannabis sativa to be legalised globally and those
responsible for misleading the public about this valuable herb to be exposed as
naked emperors parading in their transparent academic garb, competing for
funds delivered by a hot air balloon of nonsensical jargon and politicians tuned
into the New Reefer Madness as presented by Rupert Murdoch and Associates.

Romesh Senewiratne