Dear journalists - Please stop calling synthetic cannabinoids ‘cannabis’

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Rarely does a day go by that the UK media doesn’t do something pretty terrible. Sometimes it’s on purpose, when they know that putting things across in a certain context means more advertising revenue and more money in their pocket. Other times, it’s because the journalists themselves just don’t know what they’re talking about. That one is more common I believe.

One of the most frustrating parts of British journalism today is the propensity to report on synthetic cannabinoid studies and real life cases as cannabis. The two are not the same and are nothing like each other. I suppose we should start with what synthetic cannabinoids actually are. Cannabinoids are a broad spectrum of chemical compounds that are produced by the cannabis plant. They are also produced by many other plants and animals. Cannabinoids are even found in human breastmilk. That’s right, you’ve been taking cannabinoids since you were born.

THC is the most well known cannabinoid, CBD or cannabidiol is probably the second most well known. There are probably another 50-100 naturally produced cannabinoids out there too. Then there are synthetic cannabinoids. These are created by chemists in a laboratory, by changing the chemical structure of previously known cannabinoids. Sometimes they mimic something like THC almost identically, other times, it completely changes the effect it has on humans, many times for the worse. People have died and been taken seriously ill by taking these synthetic cannabinoids.

These problems with synthetic cannabinoids are precisely why its completely disingenuous to compare natural herbal cannabis to synthetic cannabinoids. It’s morally wrong to call them cannabis and change the public’s perception of cannabis by linking stories of completely different chemicals to stories of cannabis production. Cannabis and synthetic cannabinoids are as close to each other as beer and white spirit. You wouldn’t warn people about the dangers of drinking alcohol by telling people what happens when people drink white spirit, and cannabis should be no different.

Perhaps one day you’ll realise how stupid you make yourselves sound.

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