The Importance of Language in the Cannabis Legalisation Debate

11 mins read

Over the last few weeks, the debate around Skunk has in some circles, reared its head again.

In my circle, the debate is always there and the position is clear. Skunk is a favourite strain of many close friends and myself. Not some psychotic inducing evil and dangerous form of cannabis.

Skunk has, depending on who you listen to, come to be a word which defines badly grown cannabis, or ‘Street Weed’ if you will. Since we do not know definitively what triggers psychosis we should stop immediately attributing the cause to ‘skunk’. Why aren’t we attributing it to Kush instead?

Because “everyone agrees that skunk causes psychosis” (it doesn’t, I made that quote up for effect), there is simply not enough will to develop alternative theories because “the science is settled”. Science is never settled and so we cannot accept the position that high THC causes or triggers psychosis. What about smoking fertilizer in poorly flushed weed? What about mixing it with tobacco (harmful behavior as a result of prohibition)? What about smoking pesticides in cannabis produced en masse and by people who don’t care about the contamination of their product with serious chemical agents which if smoked could well trigger a psychotic episode. Using cannabis correctly simply doesn’t trigger anything apart from a trip to the fridge…

Cannabis has been around since man was standing upright. I think we’d know if it caused psychiatric illness. We don’t need modern psychiatry or treatment services to present lies dressed up as empirical evidence. Our modern day hybridized cannabis isn’t that much different to it’s landrace parentage.  For those who disagree, come and smoke some Durban Poison or Malawi or Thai stick with me and we’ll see what you think about ‘strong cannabis’ being a result of prohibition. It’s a result of good husbandry and horticulture.

I digress, (forgive me, it’s easy to go off topic because these points are important and need to be hammered home on a continuous basis.)

The point of this blog was neither to debate what skunk is, (if you don’t know, look it up); nor to re-open the debate about the fake news that is Cannabis induced psychosis. The point of this blog was to discuss the importance of language and even more so, the importance of language when in battle. Because friends, we are in a battle, a very real battle to preserve our cannabis culture.

When the day of regulation comes I do not want it to be the day that prohibition got a revamp. I do not want to be buying government weed online (or even worse from Pharmacies) and only being allowed to buy “balanced strains’. I want to be able to access all sorts of strains; strengths and I want to consume it with fellow ‘cannaseurs’ in an adult environment free from prejudice and judgment. I want to have Super Skunk and Orange Hill and all the fabulous strains of skunk as they were originally bred. I want my haze to be 30% THC and 0% CBD. I don’t want people who haven’t got a clue about cannabis and legislators restricting what we can and cant have.

Now, why do I get my knickers in such a twist over the word skunk? Many activists and reformers speak to me. “Give it up”, they say; “it’s only a word”. We have to get traction and then build from there. Better to get some form of legalisation in and the rest will follow. I absolutely get that tactic but I don’t believe it is well thought out. It is in fact extremely short sighted.


All Warfare is based on deception  Therefore the clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy and does not allow the enemy’s will to be imposed on him

-(Sun Tzu, The Art of War)

I spent time in Amsterdam recently and chatting to staff working in the many fantastic coffee shops we visited, they were literally lost for words when our party explained how the word skunk is being used. And not just by the prohibitionists, but by some in the reform movement.

We don’t refer to moonshine alcohol as Gin do we? The Gin enthusiasts would be up in arms, and what about the negative reputational impact on all the Gin Palaces and specialist Gin Bars out there?

Quite. So we call it what it is. Moonshine and not Gin. Then, the public knows that when they hear or use the word moonshine it means illegally produced alcohol, probably very high in strength and potentially deadly. And then when they buy Gin they are not scared that it might be Moonshine.

And we need, no, absolutely MUST to get to that position with Street Weed. So that when the word ‘Skunk’ is used, it is used to describe one of the greatest strains of cannabis there is. One with phenomenal medicinal qualities. Fantastic recreational benefits, from a gardening perspective are great fun to grow (yielding massive crops and can often catch out even the most experienced grower!). Moreover, and most importantly, everyone understands what it is.

When words stop meaning anything then there are no more answers, only better and better lies and lies won’t help us in this fight” (John Snow, Game of Thrones)

It’s a pretty good quote isn’t it? The cannabis community has a real problem (and I speak for all of us on this I know) with the way in which the public have been duped, lied to, mislead and downright brainwashed when it comes to the truth about cannabis. What’s happening across the world is testimony to that. So it’s staggering that when we are in full battle mode, instead of correcting those mistruths and educating we’ve just shrugged our shoulders and said ‘nah, it’s only a word mate, yeah skunk causes psychosis so give us legal cannabis and it won’t be a problem anymore’

My daughter came home from school recently and told me that if you take skunk you can go blind. The schools liaison police officer pumping this bullshit into them should be sacked for gross negligence but why should we be surprised?  Skunk is after all wildly dangerous.

So what’s happened, is we have unwittingly enabled the lie to be reinforced. In fact, we’ve stupidly been coerced into taking the position that the danger of skunk is a key reason why we need a regulated cannabis market.

What happens on day one of regulation when I want to buy a bag of Super Skunk, or Lemon Skunk, or whatever and I get told, ‘no, sorry we are not allowed to sell skunk because it causes psychosis. Here have some 1:1 THC:CBD ratio cannabis, thank your lucky stars those reformers sorted it all out?

Sod that.

In science, language and nomenclature are everything. We don’t have half the world referring to rain as snow, and snow to rain. They are both forms of precipitation but we all understand what each one is because the word is true to the matter it is describing. It’s gut-wrenching to hear heavyweights like David Nutt using the word skunk to mean ‘street weed’ but then maybe not be into gardening that much. So let’s help him out guys please!!

We HAVE to set the agenda. And we have to do that through education. The Romans were experts at assimilation. Christmas and Easter both Pagan feasts widely celebrated in very different contexts in the British Islands until the Romans came, imposed Christianity on us as part of their conquest, stole the language and gave us back our feast days repacked as something entirely different. No going back from that. Let’s not repeat those mistakes.

I don’t want the same thing to happen with cannabis because we were incapable of seeing the bigger picture and taking a longer-term view. As a species we learn nothing from History. We are useless at it, let’s not let that be our downfall.

Written by Cardiff Cannabis Cafe

Let’s Talk about Skunk

As part of our “let’s talk about series”, in this video Tyler Green talks about the term skunk and its incorrect use in the UK.

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