Resolution Statement: Complaint 01148-14 Reynolds v The Daily Telegraph
Summary of complaint
1. Peter Reynolds, on behalf of CLEAR, complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Daily Telegraph had published an article, headlined “Cannabis ‘on a par with heroin or alcohol for addiction’”, on 7 October 2014, which raised a breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
2. The complainant expressed concern that the newspaper had wrongly claimed that a study had revealed that cannabis can be as addictive as heroin or alcohol. In fact, the study had shown that 9% of cannabis users develop dependency, in comparison to 23% of heroin users and 15% of alcohol users. He also said the paper was a review of literature published over the last 20 years, and not “a major new study” based on 20 years of research.
3. The newspaper said that Professor Hall’s paper had stated that the risk of addiction in cannabis users increased to one in six among those who initiated use in adolescence and half of daily users. Its summary of the paper as finding that “cannabis can be as addictive as heroin or alcohol” was, therefore, accurate. It also considered that “major new study” was a fair and accurate description of Professor Hall’s monograph and contended that its statement that the study had been based on 20 years of research was not significantly misleading.
Relevant Code Provisions
4. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published.
5. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore instigated an investigation into the matter.
6. The newspaper offered to publish the following clarification on page two:
“Our report ‘Cannabis on a par with heroin or alcohol for addiction’ (Oct 7) said a study on addiction had found cannabis can be as addictive as heroin or alcohol. In fact, where directly comparable figures were given, the risk of dependency among those who had ever used cannabis was 9%, as opposed to 23% for heroin and 15% for alcohol.”
It also offered to replace the online headline “Cannabis as addictive as heroin, major study finds” with “Cannabis can be highly addictive, major study finds” and amend the first paragraph to read “Cannabis can be highly addictive, cause mental health problems and lead to hard drug use, according to a major study led by a leading British expert on addiction”. In addition, it offered to append the following clarification to the online article:
Amendments have been made to this report to reflect the fact that where Prof Hall’s study gave directly comparable figures, the risk of dependency among those who had ever used cannabis was 9%, as opposed to 23% for heroin and 15% for alcohol.”
7. The complainant confirmed that the publication of the correction and amendments would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.
8. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.
Date complaint received: 08/10/2014Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 12/12/2014 Back to ruling listing