Peter Reynolds

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IRELAND. Politicians And Gardai Who Want To Keep Cannabis Banned are on the Same Side as the Drugs Gangsters.

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In Ireland, 90% of people support the use of cannabis for medical purposes and, remarkably, nearly a third support legalisation for recreational use. So cannabis is very popular indeed. A great deal of money is spent on it, all of which goes into the pockets of criminals. Some are just friends of friends and not really causing any harm but move a step or two up the chain and right to the top it’s gangsters and organised crime. What they earn from cannabis goes into funding far more serious criminal activity with violence never far away. And the largely futile efforts to stop the cannabis trade cost Irish taxpayers hundreds of millions of euros.

So why isn’t the government taking action to enable access for medical use, to regulate an adult use market, save hundreds of millions of euros and pull the rug from underneath organised crime?

Evidence from other jurisdictions proves beyond doubt that a regulated market would remove most of the trade from criminals, cut related crime, protect consumers, control the stength and quality of the product and reduce all harms.

So why do they do nothing? Why do they refuse even to engage with the public on the subject?

You’d think they actually choose to be on the same side as the gangsters. I doubt that’s the case but the end result is the same: Micheál Martin; Leo Varadkar; Frank Feighan, the drugs minister; Eamon Ryan, whose party claims to support drugs reform; every member of the government and their officials, including Commissioner Drew Harris, stand right alongside the Hutch mob, the Kinahans and the other peddlers in misery and violence.

What’s most remarkable is that even the government’s efforts to meet public demand for medical access have been nothing short of pathetic. Four years after the Medical Cannabis Access Programme (MCAP) was announced, it is still not operational. In fact it’s nothing but a joke and, short of an outright ban, is the most restrictive medicinal cannabis programme of any nation anywhere in the world. It raises all sorts of important questions why the Irish medical establishment has such well organised opposition to medicinal cannabis and simply dismisses the vast amount of evidence in favour.  Ireland is isolated in this backwards and cruel policy.

Several large multinationals have tried to invest millions of euros in developing a medicinal cannabis industry, which would create hundreds of new, well paid jobs. But regulators at the Department of Health and Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) block and endlessly delay as if those are their instructions.

The Irish goverment’s policy on cannabis is confused, irrational and impossible to understand. The bottom line is that it is opaque and no one will respond or engage on the subject. That usually means they have something to hide. It could just be that they recognise their own incompetence on the issue. Or it could be something more sinister.

The Irish Cannabis Market.

According to the 2019–20 Irish National Drug and Alcohol Survey, 20.7% of 15-64 year olds have consumed cannabis in their lifetime and 7.1% report recent use, that’s nearly 300,000 people. Cannabis valued at €15.2 million was seized by Gardai in 2020 although based on typical valuations by law enforcement this is certainly an over-valuation.

Based on research carried out in the UK, adjusted pro rata for population size, the value of the cannabis market in Ireland is estimated at a minimum of €225 million and possibly as much as €675 million. It is costing the Irish state a great deal of time and money in law enforcement costs. Drug offences account for 11% of all recorded offences and of these nearly 69% are for personal possession most of which are for cannabis. With a €3 billion budget for justice in 2021 drug law enforcement would appear to cost around €330 million, most of which is for cannabis.

 

Written by Peter Reynolds

October 14, 2021 at 6:32 pm

Dame Carol Black’s Review of Drugs. A Missed Opportunity To Speak Truth to Power

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Dame Carol Black

There is some useful work in Dame Carol’s review but by definition it was only ever about supporting current strategy. She was constrained from the beginning by the terms of reference which stated: “The review will not consider changes to the existing legislative framework or government machinery.”

Given such an absurd restriction, I wonder why any self-respecting expert in policy would take on the role? At best it could only ever advise on tweaks and adjustments rather than the fundamental changes that are urgently needed.

It’s clear that drugs cause harms in our society.  They cause health harms to individuals, particularly in the case of the legally regulated drugs alcohol and tobacco but other drugs cause far more harms as a result of the illegal, unregulated markets through which they are produced and distributed.  These are called social harms but there is not a clear dividing line.  For instance, drugs produced illicitly are of unknown strength, purity and consumers cannot know whether they are contaminated with other, perhaps more harmful substances.

So treatment for addiction and dependency, which is what most of Dame Carol’s review focuses on, is essential and is scandalously under-resourced.  This is an entirely false economy as the consequences are devastating for our society.  As Dame Carol writes: “The drugs market is driving most of the nation’s crimes: half of all homicides and half of acquisitive crimes are linked to drugs. People with serious drug addiction occupy one in three prison places.”

Politicians don’t put sufficient resources into drug treatment because they are fools and their failure is based on stigma and lack of vision. They don’t think such funding wins votes. Why should people who aren’t consumers of street heroin or cocaine fund healthcare for people who have a problem they have brought on themselves and for which they broken the law in the process?

This indicates the very low opinion that our so-called leaders have of the electorate.  Of course there are people who hold such a short-sighted view and believe it’s not their problem and some even take the same view about those who suffer health harms from the legally regulated drugs, alcohol and tobacco.  But these people are in the minority and if politicians paid them the respect and took the time to explain how intelligent policy can benefit us all, then this nasty and self-defeating attitude would very quickly all but disappear.



So any rational person with even a modicum of foresight must support Dame Carol’s call for increased funding, better co-ordination and accountability between government departments.  She also writes that “A whole-system approach is needed, with demand reduction a key component, to drive down the profitability of the market.”  This is where the logic, usefulness and validity of her review begins to fall down, in large part because of those idiotic constraints placed on her that she cannot propose “changes to the existing legislative framework or government machinery”.

Of course, no one in their right mind aspires to a lifestyle of addiction and dependency which dominates their life and inhibits fulfilment and success.  Substantial reduction in demand can be achieved through properly funded treatment. We should aspire to turning round the lives of the majority of the 300,000 problematic consumers of opiates and cocaine.  To do this we need to understand more effectively how and why their drugs consumption works.

Addiction to opiates shares the same dreadful reality as addiction to alcohol, that stopping or withdrawing from regular use is difficult, can be very dangerous and causes its own health harms.  Cocaine is different.  It’s not really addiction in the same sense, it’s more about compulsive behaviour. If you stop, after initial recovery from the tiredness and destructive lifestyle you will, quite quickly, begin to feel better. 

Where Dame Carol’s review falls over and becomes a little ridiculous is when she writes: “We can no longer, as a society, turn a blind eye to recreational drug use. A million people use powder cocaine each year and the market is worth around £2 billion. The vast majority of users do not see themselves as having a drug problem and they are unlikely to come forward for treatment.”

These people, alongside the vast majority of consumers of MDMA (ecstasy), cannabis and most other currently prohibited drugs are not suffering any health harms.  With very few exceptions, the only significant harms around their drug consumption are those caused by the criminal markets which current legislation has created.  The drugs themselves are, in most cases, far less harmful to health than the legally regulated drugs, alcohol and tobacco. 

The glaring error in Dame Carol’s review, forced on her by the constraints, that show her work to be propaganda in supporting an already failed policy, is when she writes “they are causing considerable harm to others through the supply chain, both here and abroad.”

This is a staggeringly irrational and biased statement, contrived to shift the blame from failed policy and irresponsible ministers onto drugs consumers.  You cannot blame consumers for the harms caused by politicians’ failure to regulate drugs markets.

In every other aspect of life we rightly expect government to act to protect us and keep us safe.  This is why we have speed limits, safety belts, MOT tests, why other forms of transport such as trains and aeroplanes are strictly regulated.  This is why alcohol, tobacco and also food are subject to regulation, why sports have governing bodies that set rules and standards to keep participants safe.

We know from history the consequences of prohibiting alcohol which gave rise to the first gangsters and we have stumbled into the same dystopia by prohibiting drugs.  When alcohol was banned in the USA and consumption went underground, people stopped drinking wine and beer, preferring high-strength, much more harmful, often contaminated hooch.  The ultimate perversion of government’s responsibility was when it started to poison illicit supplies in an effort to deter consumption.  We are on exactly the same path now with drugs.  It is a path that will lead to greater criminality, more harm, more death, misery, ruined lives, massive expenditure, crime and the degradation of our society.  This is where current drugs policy is taking us and Dame Carol Black’s review supports this stupidity.

I cannot believe that an intelligent, experienced woman like Dame Carol would not recommend changes in current policy had she been allowed.  What we desperately need is people in her position to have the courage to defy the stupidity of government minsters and speak the truth, the whole truth.  All drugs must be legally regulated in direct relation to their potential for health harms.

Thus, alcohol, tobacco, opiates and cocaine, while legally available to minimise the criminal market, must be under strict control. In my view, with its well established place in our society, the sale of alcohol should be permitted in far fewer outlets.  There should be quantity limits.  It is crazy that in a supermarket you can only but two packs of painkillers but as many cases of whisky as you want.

Opiates should be on prescription only, with compulsory therapy but much easier to access so that those with a problem get their clean supply of known strength from a pharmacy, not from a gangster-controlled dealer.  Necessary funding for treatment must be in place but there will not be a surge of demand. Most people don’t want to use heroin!

Cocaine, which is not really any more harmful than alcohol, in some ways less, should be available to adults in restricted quantity and frequency for registered consumers from pharmacies.

At the other end of the health harm scale, cannabis and MDMA must be restricted by age and regulated for quality with known strength and absence of contamination.  We can virtually eliminate the criminal market in these drugs if we regulate them properly.

If we want to reduce the harms from drugs, this is the inevitable solution.  We can either continue to delude ourselves that we can stop drug use, which is a gift to the criminal market, or we must recognise that there is no other effective policy except legal regulation.

Whoever comes next of Dame Carol’s status and influence must speak this truth to power.

Written by Peter Reynolds

July 11, 2021 at 10:26 am

The FSA’s Intervention in the CBD Market is a Farce. Here’s the Clear and Simple Solution.

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I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry about the mess the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has got itself into in the cannabidiol (CBD) market.  After imposing costs of millions of pounds on business for no good reason, its deadlines have been missed, it’s got very few products on its ‘approved’ list and the whole situation is chaos.  It’s changed the staff involved (again) and there is no sign it is going to achieve anything except fritter away more taxpayers’ money and impose more unnecessary costs on more businesses.

It was always going to be a disaster because deeming CBD products ‘novel foods’ was false from the beginning. It was the European Commission (EC) that first imposed this nonsensical ruling, refusing to consider the comprehensive evidence submitted by the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) that extracts of CBD (and other cannabinoids) have been widely used in foods since as long ago as the 12th Century. Then, in anticipation of Brexit, the FSA, with no good reason, chose to adopt the EC’s novel foods policy and so this sad and futile story began.

The CBD market does need better regulation but ‘novel foods’ doesn’t address any of the issues of concern at all. It is a completely misguided policy.

There is no evidence of anyone, anywhere in the world, ever coming to any harm from consuming CBD as a food supplement, so the whole basis of deeming it as a ‘novel food’, as well as being false, is predicated on nothing. The reason for ‘novel foods’ regulation is safety and there is no evidence that CBD is unsafe.

There are just two issues which need addressing in regulating a CBD product: what the product contains and how it is marketed.

The first can be solved, at a stroke, by requiring all products to have an independent laboratory test certificate.  Not a certificate of analysis (COA) from a laboratory commissioned by the supplier but a certificate from an independent laboratory that has itself been certified by the regulator which, yes, should be the FSA. So this independent, ‘official’ COA will specify the cannabinoid content, certify that controlled cannabinoids are within the legal limit and that heavy metals and other contaminants are within prescribed safety limits.

The second can be solved, at a stroke, by properly funding the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to fulfil its function as regulator of the Human Medicines Regulations 2012, the law that prohibits claims of medical benefit being made for commercial gain about products which are not licensed as medicines.  The MHRA has dismally failed to fulfil this function, which is ironic as it first brought CBD to regulatory attention in 2016 over the issue of these medical claims.  It simply does not have the resources to do this job. Hundreds of reports have been submitted to the MHRA by the two trade associations, the CTA and CannaPro, but not acted upon.  As a result the law is now widely ignored both by unethical suppliers and by all the national newspapers which regularly run unlawful advertisements and advertorials despite the fact that in theory, the maximum penalty for these offences is two years in jail.

These two steps, taken together, will completely solve the regulatory requirements for the CBD market.

 

Politicians Who Want To Keep Cannabis Banned are on the Same Side as the Gangsters and Drug Lords.

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This article was published in the Daily Express on 8th April 2021 as ‘Legalising cannabis will slash drug crime and levy taxes, it’s nuts not to’

Sadiq Khan has suggested, timidly, a ‘drugs commission’ to look specifically at the legalisation of cannabis. No.10 has hit back saying that a review is waste of time and it has no plans to change the law because “illicit drugs destroy lives and cannabis is a harmful substance”.

I agree.  A review would be a waste of time. We already have all the evidence we need from around the world and it is clear that legalisation would reduce all harm, undermine the gangsters, cut street dealing and violence, protect children and families.

I also agree that “illicit drugs destroy lives” but it’s not the drugs that do that, it’s the fact that they’re illicit.  The law against cannabis causes far more harm than cannabis itself.

Yes, cannabis can be harmful but we have wealth of evidence showing that it is much less harmful than alcohol, tobacco, energy drinks, traffic pollution and many things we consume regularly. Peanuts and shellfish cause far more health harms than cannabis.

But even if you believe the hysteria and exaggeration about the dangers of cannabis, does it make sense to allow gangsters to control the market?  If it’s so dangerous, to protect children and the vulnerable, our government should take responsibility and take control of the market. Look what has happened in many other places, legal regulation of cannabis takes it off the streets and into licensed retailers who have to obey age limits, label their products so adults know what they are buying and pay taxes, which in the USA are raising millions of dollars which are spent on schools, healthcare, drugs education and other community projects.

In Britain we spend £6 billion every year on cannabis and on top of that hundreds of thousands of people grow their own. No one pays any taxes on it and all the profits are used by organised crime to fund other criminal activity.

It’s the criminal cannabis market that provides the funding for county lines.  Young people are groomed into delivering hard drugs by being offered “a bit of weed’. The epidemic of knife crime is driven largely by the gangs and they are funded by their trade in cannabis.  It funds prostitution, modern slavery, people trafficking, it’s where all the gangsters’ money comes from and the very last thing they want is for it to be legalised.

The alternative can be seen in reality in the USA, Canada, Uruguay and other places. In Canada, after just two years of legalisation, already more than half of all cannabis is bought through licensed retailers. In the USA, where cannabis is legalised, underage use has gone down.

The most important thing is that in these places there is now some real control over cannabis. Crime has been reduced. Gangsters don’t rule the streets anymore. There’s no problem with ‘Spice’ because why would anyone buy that dangerous synthetic when they can get the legal, top quality, much safer real thing?

In the USA there are now 350,000 new jobs in the legal cannabis industry. That’s equivalent to 50,000 new jobs in Britain and those are jobs that have been taken away from criminals. All those workers now pay taxes too.  It’s a win-win solution

Today it seems that the main opposition to legalising cannabis comes from the organised crime gangsters and from our politicians. Why? All they ever do is come out with the same non-explanations as Boris Johnson has.  They don’t seem to want to discuss the subject at all and most of them, including Boris, have said they have used cannabis themselves!

In fact, in a video that is widely available on social media, in the year 2000 Boris Johnson asks why his “respectable neighbours who roll up a spliff and quietly smoke it together” are “in breach of the law”?  And he says “I think there is a danger that the government is becoming out-of-touch with what people are actually doing”.

The truth is that legalisation is inevitable.  Every day that our politicians put it off they cause more harm. Another child is sold highly potent, so-called ‘skunk’ on the street. Another young girl is groomed into using hard drugs by being offered some new clothes and a ‘bit of weed’. Another young man is stabbed to death in some stupid dispute over territory, the sort of argument that is dealt with by normal business methods in places where cannabis is legally regulated.

So next time you hear a politician being ‘tough on drugs’, realise that its not drugs he’s being tough on, it’s the people in your community.  Banning cannabis hasn’t worked, there is more of it consumed across the world than ever before. There is a choice, let the gangsters keep running it, terrorising our streets and communities or get tough on them!

Take away the cannabis trade from organised crime and take responsibility for it.  Control it.  Reduce its harms. Benefit from safer streets, increased tax revenue, more jobs, less crime. Ask your MP, whose side are you on?  Are you on our side, looking after us properly, or are you on the same side as the gangsters?

Written by Peter Reynolds

April 11, 2021 at 10:25 am

Courage and Cannabidiol

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The story of how brave British small-businesses created a £1.7 billion market and now face destruction at the hands of the overbearing Food Standards Agency and its big business sponsors.

Hundreds of people who set up small businesses selling CBD products face the looming deadline of 31st March 2021 that the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has imposed for its ‘novel foods’ regulations to come into force.

These people, the essence of the British entrepreneurial spirit, are being crushed by misguided over-regulation that is not based on any evidence and which will gift the market to big business while removing from shelves the products which millions of people have gained great benefit from.

The FSA has not consulted with the industry in any meaningful fashion and is imposing draconian new rules which even at this late stage remain unclear, confusing and require enormous, unnecessary and wasteful expenditure in pointless bureaucracy.

To be clear, if you are one of those millions who discovered that CBD could help with anxiety, pain, insomnia and or a host of other conditions, the products you rely on may not be available much longer.  But there is a way through this. Read to the end of this article to find how you will still be able to access the ‘real CBD’ that you need.

The most important thing to understand is that there is no evidence anywhere in the world that anyone has ever come to any real harm from using CBD products. Despite this, the FSA is forcing businesses to put their products through an incredibly complex series of tests which cost a huge amount of money, in some instances hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Even the smallest companies are having to submit a dossiers on individual products which cost around £5000 each to produce.  Imagine how many bottles of CBD oil a small shop or website has to sell to pay for just one of these.  And they are completely pointless.  There is no need for them at all.  The FSA has just invented them and it’s nothing to do with public safety because there is no danger from any of the products concerned.

The Association for the Cannabinoid Industry

What this is really about is that big business missed out on the CBD boom.  They turned their corporate noses up at it, didn’t want to get involved because of the stigma and prejudice associated with anything to do with cannabis.  Then, within the space of a few years, they found that all their big customers, the multiples, were starting to stock CBD and it was selling very well indeed.  So much so that the value of CBD sold in Britain is now more than the value of all vitamin C and vitamin D products combined. It’s a huge market with estimates of its size ranging from £300 million to £1.7 billion per year (New Frontier Data).

So big business is now calling the shots.  A sinister organisation, the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI), run by a man, Steve Moore, with connections to the sleaziest end of the Conservative Party, is supporting the FSA in this scheme and his aim is simply to price small businesses out of the market and hijack it for his big business friends. Never has a bigger confidence trick been pulled on consumers. The small businesses that created the CBD market had established trade associations from within their own ranks which charged a few hundred pounds for membership and did an excellent job of representing the industry. The ACI demands membership fees of £25,000 per year, pricing out the small businesses and using its funding to bully and intimidate any business that doesn’t want to sign up.

Steve Moore of the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry

There are problems in the CBD market that need addressing. It does need better regulation. There are disreputable businesses selling products that are not what they claim.  They don’t have the amount of CBD in them that is advertised and they are certainly not medicines which can treat cancer, diabetes, depression and serious illnesses.  But these problems are already covered by existing laws. The problem is they are simply not being enforced.  The regulators who should be acting against these rogue companies include the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Trading Standards.  Despite reputable CBD businesses delivering hundreds of reports about rogue suppliers, virtually nothing has been done.  To be fair the MHRA and Trading Standards just don’t have the resources to carry out this work, so the idea of giving them even more work, with incredibly complex regulations to enforce, is just barmy.  It makes no sense.

The Human Medicines Regulations 2012

Even our largest newspaper publishers have been allowed to get away with breaching the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 which prevent anyone from making a commercial gain out of claiming medicinal benefit for a product which is not a licensed medicine. This criminal offence can result in a two year prison sentence, yet the Daily Mail runs such ads every day.  So do most of the tabloids and those newspapers that like to call themseleves ‘quality’, do something equally illegal. They run advertorials or sponsored reviews of products which if you click and buy pay the publishers commission.

These crimes have been reported to the MHRA and to the ASA but they have done nothing about it and the illegal advertising continues to this day.  As for the confidence trickster companies making these illegal medicinal claims, nothing has been done about them either and they continue to scam people with cancer cures and miracle medicines.  Now the ACI is using this conduct as part of the justification for their ‘novel foods’ scam. Of course the two issues are completely unrelated.

But all is not lost.  Undoubtedly, the ‘real CBD’, the whole plant extract, containing all the goodness and nourishment extracted from low-THC cannabis plants, will be taken off the shelves of the multiples but there will be a flourishing ‘grey’ market, mainly online and there will be nothing that the FSA, ACI or their enforcers will be able to do about it.

The FSA’s understanding of CBD and cannabis is virtually non-existent. The original CBD trade associations spent years trying to educate FSA’s people and urging them to co-operate on appropriate regulation but they didn’t want to know. Now the FSA has chosen to listen to its own and ACI’s ‘experts’ who are trained and indoctrinated in the prohibition mindset. Consequently its statements and rulings on its new regulations are so poorly drafted that they leave a gaping hole for the brave, pioneering businesses that created this market.  A genuine, whole plant oil that preserves the natural proportions of the compounds in the hemp plants from which it is extracted is molecularly identical to those plants and hemp is specifically excluded from novel foods regulations.

So ‘whole plant’ is what you must look for if you want ‘real CBD’, the product that so many people benefit from.  The ACI and FSA are pushing nasty, ineffective isolates and synthetics that are useless in comparison and require far higher doses to achieve the same results as a few drops of whole plant oil.

One More Problem as the Home Office Steps In on THC Levels

CBD originally took off because more and more people were becoming aware of the medicinal benefits of cannabis. CBD was seen as a way to enjoy some of these benefits legally and without getting ‘high’ from the THC in cannabis.  But CBD was always a euphemism to avoid the stigma around cannabis and to reassure people they weren’t buying something illegal. In fact, whole plant CBD products are low-THC cannabis oil.  Under a provision of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations, a trace amount of 1mg of THC per bottle of CBD oil has  been allowed. It’s far too little to get anyone high. You’d have to drink about three bottles in one go before you felt anything.

But surprise, surprise, now the Home Office has started to get involved too. Again, without a shred of evidence of any harm, it is considering reducing this limit very substantially.

Why?

Undoubtedly this is co-ordinated with the FSA and the ACI. The aim is the same, to destroy the small businesses that created this market, to ramp up the costs of selling CBD so high that only big business can afford it and to prohibit the sale of the whole plant, low-THC cannabis oil that is so valuable for so many people.  And there is no credible evidence to support any of it, except what the FSA has cooked up to support its pre-determined conclusion. There is no evidence that the trace amounts of THC in whole plant oil have or could cause anyone any harm and it is all part of the same scam.

So remember, if you want ‘real CBD’, you’re going to have to go online. Look for those courageous businesses that provide whole plant extracts and avoid isolate or synthetic products which are a waste of money.

As the Best of Britain Dies, the Evil Spectre of Anslinger Rises in Steve Moore, Government Stool Pigeon and Traitor to the Cause.

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Harry Anslinger. Steve Moore.

They say bad news comes in threes and this morning we were greeted with the appalling news of another ignorance-based clampdown by the Home Office on CBD products.  Then, shortly after lunch, we heard that the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI) which has been collaborating with the Food Standards Agency to destroy all the small businesses that created the CBD market, has gone into partnership with Trading Standards.  It will train Trading Standards officers to assist them with enforcement action against the small businesses which compete with ACI’s big business clients. These small businesses sell ‘real’ CBD, genuine whole plant extracts, while ACI is bulldozing regulators towards nasty, ineffective, isolate and synthetic-based products.

Finally we hear the terrible but not unexpected news that Captain Sir Tom Moore has succumbed to pneumonia, exacerbated by Covid-19.

RIP Captain Sir Tom Moore

Where Captain Sir Tom Moore represented the very best of British and was a symbol of hope and endurance for us all, the gone-to-seed figure of Steve Moore, head of the ACI, is the very opposite.  What cruel irony that they share the same surname!  When Paul Birch, the multimillionaire stoner, gave Steve Moore the funding he needed to launch his Big Pharma-inspired assault on the British cannabis market, he cannot have realised that he was unleashing a tyrannical, bullying monster, almost the reincarnation of Harry Anslinger, the evil force behind ‘reefer madness’ and the father of the war on drugs. The Birch-Moore cartel now has its tentacles into every aspect of the British cannabis market and is eyeing Europe as its next target. We must see that our neighbours are warned. A tie up with the EU bureaucracy would be exactly in line with Moore’s modus operandi.

Birch, who is known to suffer psychotic episodes, once resulting in an intervention from anti-cannabis advocate Lord Monson, provided Moore with the cash to buy up a long list of highly qualified scientists, lawyers and PR consultants. They have taken his thirty pieces of silver and set about the systematic destruction of the wonderful story of British enterprise and innovation that led the world in CBD products.  The contrast between the great Captain Tom and the ignoble, self-serving Moore could not be greater. The coronavirus has taken so much from us and only an individual tied to the sleaziest end of the Conservative Party could exploit it and turn it to his own disgusting advantage.

We should not lose heart though because now the enemy has revealed himself in all his sordid reality.  Across the Atlantic, a new, decent administration is about to decriminalise cannabis federally.  Moore’s advantage will be shortlived.  The prohibitionists in the Home Office and British establishment will shortly be trounced by market forces that are more powerful even than their dead hand, with resources that far exceed anything that Birch and Moore can muster.

It may be a few years yet but the immense benefits of real cannabis which for few short years as ‘real’ CBD have helped so many people in Britain will return.  When the day comes for Birch, Moore and their Gestapo of assistants to meet their maker, they will not do so with the honour and righteousness of Captain Tom but with a squalid record of ignominy and disgrace.

Written by Peter Reynolds

February 2, 2021 at 6:59 pm

My Predictions for Cannabis in the UK in 2021

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On medicinal cannabis, the senior clinicians and bureaucrats at NHS, NICE and the professional medical bodies will continue to do all they can to block access. Until key individuals are offered fat fees to run clinical trials they will continue to insist that this is the only form of evidence that is acceptable. They will continue to ignore and reject all evidence from overseas. The clamour from more and more patients will grow. The private clinics will boom but our political ‘leaders’ will continue to be impotent in the face of the vested interests of the medical establishment.

The Cancard will take off and police forces will welcome it as a sensible solution.  More and more people will grow their own and cannabis will become completely decriminalised by default.  Only if you’re behaving like an idiot or are engaged in large scale commercial grows and/or gangsterism will the police be interested.  Again our political ‘leaders’ will be useless and too scared of the tabloid media and their bigoted, poorly-informed backbenchers to do anything.  Meanwhile the cannabis trade will continue to drive county lines, knife crime, prostitution, modern slavery, all off the back of profits from cannabis but Boris and his buffoons will refuse to understand this or follow the evidence that legal regulation is the solution.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA), in collaboration with the big business lobbyists, The Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI) , will succeed in getting all the multiples and major retailers to stop selling whole plant CBD extracts, which are what work and what consumers want. Dozens of small CBD companies who actually built this market will be put out of business by the FSA/ACI and hundreds of people will lose their jobs.  FSA/ACI will continue to ramp up their false propaganda that CBD can be toxic despite a complete absence of any real world evidence – all this with the intention of pricing small, artisan suppliers out of the market. Nasty, ineffective, isolate-based products will come to dominate the high street. Despite this, whole plant extracts will continue to be available online and the FSA will discover that it can’t enforce its rules because its definition of ‘novel food’ doesn’t actually fit genuine whole plant extracts.  They will bring prosecutions against some suppliers but these will fail once expert evidence is adduced.

The legal British cannabis market will continue to develop in faltering steps because of the obstacles inherent in the way the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 is applied. The government is terrified to undertake the wholesale reform that is urgently needed because of outdated and ignorant attitudes.  It’s so transfixed by the drugs issue that it won’t even make the small tweaks to regulations on industrial hemp, exempt products and licensing that would give a massive boost to business prospects.  I can see no chance of any progress until the Covid crisis is over and ministers have more bandwidth to look at other issues.  Even then it’s going to need some new blood in cabinet.  Although Boris Johnson himself probably does have the instinct for reform, he is surrounded by third rate ministers, most of whom could never be considered progressive and are hardly visionary or ambitious thinkers.

The Birch-Moore cartel will continue to try and monopolise the entire British cannabis space.  Paul Birch, the multimillionaire stoner who landed a fortune from shares in his brother’s business, provides the cash and Steve Moore, former architect of David Cameron’s damp squib ‘Big Society’ project, runs the show. Volteface, Centre for Medicinal Cannabis, the ACI, Hanway Associates, Familes4Access are all different faces of the same core team, all characterised by generous funding, a young, aggressive team and an arrogant disdain for everyone else in the market.  Birch’s money has definitely brought some welcome benefits and was the missing ingredient in achieving the media coverage which led to the legalisation of medicinal cannabis in 2018.  They took ideas and policies developed by other groups and added a well-funded PR operation because the reality is that however important your message, without the hard cash you just don’t get coverage on daytime TV and the main news programmes.  Aside from causing great division, particularly amongst the families campaigning for their epileptic children, the negative and malevolent aspects of their work is best demonstrated by the ACI’s manipulation of the CBD market and bullying of many small businesses.

I’m hopeful that at least in Scotland, which has the worst drug deaths record in Europe, there will be some progress on dealing with problematic hard drug use and its consequences.  The heroic actions of Peter Krykant, who is illegally running a mobile drugs consumption room in Glasgow and saving lives every day, have had a big impact.  This man deserves every bit as much praise as Captain Tom, Marcus Rashford or anyone else who has engaged in altruistic campaigning in 2020. He deserves a knighthood. As I write this, the latest reports suggest Nicola Sturgeon might even defy the dinosaurs in Westminster and fund appropriate harm reduction measures which are so desperately needed.

Until our political ‘leaders’ wake up to the fact that the entire criminal drugs market and the tens of billions it costs the UK are driven by the prohibition of cannabis there will be no real progress either on reducing the cost or improving public health.  The kids who are being stabbed on London’s streets, the young people who are trafficked and the vulnerable hard drug addicts who are being cuckooed as part of county lines dealing, it all starts with the criminal trade in cannabis.  That’s where the money comes from and until the market is taken away from the gangsters and properly regulated, things will only get worse.

Although we’ve all despaired about some aspects of the US political system, the progress on cannabis, even in Republican states, shows what real democracy can achieve. Local ballots have forced reluctant and often hostile politicians to comply with what the people want and make cannabis legally available.  The Biden-Harris team have promised federal decriminalisation and expungement of criminal records for all non-violent cannabis offences.  I think this will happen.  Even if the Republicans retain control of the Senate this issue has built up a head of steam that won’t be stopped. Remarkably, the one issue that transcends the terrible divides in American politics is cannabis.  If the Senate goes Democrat we could see much more far-reaching change.  And once the federal law on cannabis changes, you watch all the slimeball politicians throughout the rest of the world pretending that’s what they wanted all along.

Overall, I am optimistic. Hopefully, as we head through summer and into autumn next year, Covid will be behind us, we’ll all be back to earning a proper living and a lot closer to enjoying our cannabis in freedom, for pleasure, medicine or both.  My very best wishes and the compliments of the season.

Written by Peter Reynolds

December 24, 2020 at 12:51 pm

Five Reasons Why Boris Johnson Should Legalise Cannabis Now

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1. Popularity

Polls confirm that a majority of British voters support reform of our cannabis laws. More than three-quarters are strongly supportive of medicinal cannabis.  There has been a sea change in attitude, also strongly accelerated by the rise of the CBD market, itself born entirely out of small, entrepreneurial British businesses. Boris could catch this wave, delight more than half of the electorate immediately with a bold, radical move and dispel much of the ‘nasty party’, authoritarian mood that has come out of the Covid crisis. Properly explained, a new policy can also deal with the concerns that still remain about cannabis. It should be presented as a solution to the four further reasons set out below and because, in 2020 no one wants to see their son, daughter, mother or father turned into a criminal just for cannabis.  A large majority of electors support this.

2. Mental health

For many years, politicians have been advocating that mental health should be treated with the same priority as physical health. The Conservative Party has promised it repeatedly over the past decade. For those that fear cannabis contributes to young people’s problems, legal regulation is, without doubt, the solution. Age limits and licensed rather than criminal distribution channels will minimuse underage use. Proper labelling and limits on THC content of licensed cannabis will protect against the negative effects of so-called ‘skunk’.  For the millions that we know already use cannabis actually to help with their mental health, particularly during lockdown, it will enable access to new, safely controlled and designed products with ideal ratios of CBD and other ingredients. These will be far preferable to the massive bill both in NHS expenditure and side effects that we currently pay for tranquilisers, anti-depressants, sleeping and anxiety medicines.

3. Tax revenue

The potential for an enormous net gain to the British economy, turning what is now only a drain on resources into a new revenue stream is huge. Serious, erudite work has been completed by a number of well-respected institutions. The most pessimistic estimate a net gain of about £1 billion. The most optimistic projections are 10 times as much. Looking to actual experience around the world, most likely is somewhere in the middle, perhaps around the £6.7 billion that the Independent Drug Monitoring Unit calculated in its 2011 study. As we emerge from the Covid crisis into a deep recession, cutting our costs and increasing our income are going to be vital and cannabis isn’t going away. We have to choose whether to waste money on it or make money from it. Cannabis legalisation won’t just cover its own costs but provide billions more that can be added to the public expenditure budget – and we are going to need every penny.

4. Jobs

About 250,000 people work in the legal cannabis industry in the USA and numbers are expected to grow significantly as legalisation expands. That’s equivalent to creating about 50,000 new jobs in the UK. A legally regulated cannabis industry would create huge investment in sophisticated cultivation and production facilities, distribution and retail channels. The CBD industry has already created hundreds of new businesses and thousands of new jobs in the way that only new industries can. We can already see that the push back from big business and big pharma that have missed out on this boom is about destroying jobs and stifling innovation. The path that the EU and the FSA are trying to force the CBD industry down is really about protectionism for the established pharmaceutical and supplement industries.  We are going to need new markets, new thinking and fresh ideas to create new jobs.

5. Crime and violence

The long held ‘gateway’ myth that consuming cannabis ‘leads on to harder drugs’ has been disproven over and over again by science. It’s still strangely prevalent amongst the poorly informed but even the UK government’s expert advisors formally rejected it in 2008. The laws against cannabis and the £6 billion criminal market that they have created is the gateway to deliquency, knife crime, county lines exploitation and hard drugs. The police and our political leaders have found themselves on the same side as organised crime, for they share the desire to keep cannabis banned. The public demand is not going away and a responsible government would act to regulate the market, to make it safer and to protect consumers. The criminal cannabis market is how young people get groomed and enticed into county lines and it’s what drives knife crime. It drives and funds much more serious crime. It is undermining our society. It really is one of the most idiotic, irrational and counterproductive of all government policies.  A legally regulated market will pull the rug from under this nightmare scenario.  As Canada has proved, within two years, around 50% of the market has already moved to legal channels and the damage caused by nearly a century of prohibition is gradually being undone.

Written by Peter Reynolds

October 3, 2020 at 4:30 pm

Facebook Moderation and Censorship AKA ‘Community Standards’ Going Haywire

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It may be automated systems going wrong or it may be another misguided crackdown on legitimate

posts but as usual with Facebook it’s impossible to get any answers, explanation or guidance.

The CLEAR team has run a Facebook page now for 10 years.  According to Facebook data it’s the second most ‘liked’ page on cannabis and drugs policy and its ‘engagement’ is usually in the top three of all similar pages worldwide.

We’ve experienced everything crazy that Facebook has thrown us over those 10 years.  But in the past few weeks the inexplicable and quite ridiculous censorship has reached new levels.

Over the years, our page has been hijacked three or four times by breaches in Facebook’s (not CLEAR’s) security. On each occasion it has taken up to a month to regain control which has involved endless unanswered messages and emails.  Most recently Facebook has required notarised statements and evidence to restore control to our admins even though they have 10 years history on record.  On one occasion, whilst the page was out of our control, Facebook took no notice at all of a stream of hardcore porn videos that were posted day after day.

Facebook’s attitude to cannabis and drugs policy is wildly inconsistent. It goes through periods of not taking any notice at all to what’s happening at present, which is where even the most innocuous mentions get sanctioned.  Even links to academic, scientific and medical papers or research get removed on the basis that they are ‘promoting drug use’ or even more absurd, ‘selling drugs’.

Today, it has removed one post in which Lisa Quarrell has been told that the NHS will not pay for her son’s medicinal cannabis because she had previously ‘gone private’ to obtain it and it would be an ‘improper use of NHS funds’.  It has also removed a post about a designer who has been ordered to pay Starbucks $500,000 because he designed a bong that looks like a Starbucks coffee cup.

Peter Reynolds was recently blocked from posting, first for three days and then for seven days for posting a meme inviting subscriptions to our email newsletter, the CLEAR Daily News.  This, apparently, is ‘selling drugs’.  We’ve been posting exactly the same meme regularly for over two years with no problem at all.

What’s really worrying is that two long online ‘chats’ with Facebook concierge support (available to advertisers) achieved nothing except for mindless repetition that the post ‘goes against community standards’.  These are real people constrained to the role and inteligence of a bot, unable to think or exercise any discretion.

Meanwhile the endless, lunatic, conspiracy theories on vaccines, Bill Gates, 5G, coronavirus, etc. fill up the newsfeed.  Reports indicate that child porn,  fraudulent scams, misuse of celebrities’ images, terrorist ideology and violence are still not under control.

Facebook is an essential tool for any business, NGO or campaign.  You simply have to be on it. It’s a monopoly that is out of control.  In reality it seems to have more power over governments and regulators than they have over it. It needs to be broken up. The fact that it is also Instagram and WhatsApp is a ridiculous state of affairs.  How have Zuckerberg and his bots been able to get away with this?  Their ‘community standards’ or at least the enforcement are clearly an abuse of US constitutional rights and that is the only jurisdiction of which they take any notice.

CLEAR has put many tens of thousands of pounds into Facebook advertising.  Pages now have to pay if they want to reach their followers.  Before the algorithms changed all our posts would reach thousands of people, sometimes hundreds of thousands. In the last couple of years in many instances that has gone down to single figures. All the time, money and expertise we have invested in Facebook is being wasted.  We have been cheated out of it by this out-of-control, arrogant monolith.  As of this week our executive committee has stopped all Facebook advertising for good. It’ll make no difference to Facebook of course, until thousands of others do the same thing but we are not going to give them any more of our members’ money.

We will continue to do our best to bring our followers the news in the face of this draconian censorship.  All our posts are also on Twitter which is in many ways (not always!) a better and more adult forum but, of course, it’s very unfocused and inflexible.  The minute that there is a viable alternative to Facebook, CLEAR will be off.  It’s a phenomenon that has run its course. We need more intelligently managed and properly regulated online media to communicate through.

Written by Peter Reynolds

May 9, 2020 at 2:11 pm

The Root Of All Britain’s Drugs Problems Is In Marsham Street, London, SW1

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The Home Office describes its role as “to keep citizens safe and the country secure”. Its lead role in drugs policy achieves exactly the opposite of this.

It is a scandal encompassing successive governments for more than 50 years that the UK’s approach to drugs has been so utterly disastrous that our policy has caused far more harm than it has prevented.

Currently, the two issues of major concern are the rate of drug deaths and difficulty in accessing cannabis as medicine. It’s no surprise most people now recognise that drugs policy should really be a matter for the Department of Health. The only reason for keeping it in the Home Office is if you believe it is primarily a security issue and about enforcing the law to stop people using drugs and interventions to stop production and importation.  This is an outdated view based on misguided thinking.  The Home Office’s own research shows that laws, enforcement and penalties make absolutely no difference to drug use.  There is no justification for keeping drugs policy in Marsham Street, particularly when we consider the way this focus on security and enforcement has made all our drugs problems so much worse.

Famously, before the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, it is said there were about 3,000 problematic drug users in the UK. Today, the effect of this law, administered by the Home Office, is that figure has exploded to more like 350,000 problematic users.  It has been a disaster of unparalleled scale.

Victoria Atkins and Theresa May. The drug barons of Britain.

And everything about Home Office drugs policy makes the problems worse.  The only purpose of drugs policy must be to reduce harm but the Home Office is obsessed with a moral crusade of reducing drug use and the level of use is not the same as the level of harm.  Most of the time, the Home Office’s attempts to reduce use cause more harm than the use of drugs itself.  This is particularly true with cannabis where a criminal record, even a caution, causes far more harm to an individual than the use of cannabis. The Home Office already knows that criminal justice measures do not reduce drug use, so enforcement is largely futile and it causes harm.

It is dreadful that the Home Office is strongly resisting efforts to introduce drug consumption rooms (DCRs) which have been shown, conclusively, to reduce drug deaths.  In Glasgow, the local council and the Scottish government are backing the proposal but the Home Office is intransigent.  What is truly appalling and demonstrates a criminal standard of corruption at the highest level is the way that Victoria Atkins, a Home Office Minister, has lied and misled Parliament and the public on the evidence for DCRs.  She, of course is also a rabid anti-cannabis campaigner while her husband makes his living from cannabis production, licensed by the Home Office! This conflict of interest and hypocrisy well illustrates the fundamental corruption and dishonesty that is the Home Office culture.  The ‘hostile environment’ towards immigrants, first introduced by Labour but enthusiastically pursued by Theresa May when she became Home Secretary in 2010, is central to the way that Home Office officials conduct themselves, not only about immigration but every area of home affairs.  The ‘customer’ is the enemy in Home Office terms, someone to be distrusted. This is the way officials treat those who they are paid to serve.

Against this background, it’s astonishing that the new regulations enabling access to cannabis as medicine were introduced while Theresa May was PM.   No one is more strongly prohibitionist, nor, during her six years as Home Secretary, more in tune with the Home Office’s interfering, repressive culture.  It’s more than ironic that on leaving Downing Street she has purchased a flat in, you guessed it, Marsham Street!  This, the scene of her most shameful actions in government, is where she feels at home.

The introduction of the new regulations while she was PM shows that with a big enough media outcry , even the most stubborn bigot can be forced to concede. Though now the media spotlight has moved on, the desperately ill children, some having hundreds of seizures a day, have been forgotten. With just a couple of exceptions they still aren’t getting the medicine they need on the NHS. For them, the new regulatiions mean that they can now get their medicine legally but it has to be paid for privately. Typically this means expenditure of thousands of pounds per month which the families simply cannot afford.

Under the new regulations, cannabis-based products for medicinal use (CBPMs) are supposed to be available on prescription from specialist doctors as unlicensed, schedule 2 medicines. It’s proving difficult enough to get a doctor to prescribe, such is the lack of understanding amongst doctors and the incredibly restrictive guidelines that professional bodies have put in place.  On top of all that, the Home Office is doing all it can to obstruct access.  Clearly its duty is to facilitate implementation of the new regulations but it is hostile towards the people that seek access to cannabis.  It is and always has been institutionally opposed to cannabis.

For years there has been a procedure in place for those who are prescribed schedule 2 medicines containing controlled drugs to bring up to three month’s supply into the country without requiring a licence.  For cannabis this has been swept aside without any explanation or reason.  The process involved in importing CBPMs is tortuous and complex as the Home Office shows no flexibility, no compassion and places obstacles at every turn. And there is no accountability at all. All Home Office policies, decisions, actions and processes are opaque.  They see no reason to explain themselves. They do what they want, irrespective of the needs of the people concerned, or even the law. Marsham Street considers itself above the law, exempt from any judicial or democratic accountability. Ultimately, the prospect of applying for judicial review of its actions is completely out of reach for everyone except the super rich.

The other crucial aspect of delivering on the new regulations is to develop a UK-based cannabis industry where we are producing ourselves what our people need.  The Home Office has failed entirely to grasp this nettle. Reports are that dozens of applications have been submitted for licences but so far, a year on, the best information I can get is that only one, highly restricted, research-only licence has been issued. So even it doesn’t allow for porduction of CBPMs, all of which have to be imported at huge expense.

It remains the case that the only company licensed for commercial production of cannabis is GW Pharmaceuticals and its subsidiary/supplier companies.  A company in which Home Office minister Victoria Atkins and former Home Secretary and PM Theresa May both have a personal financial interest.  The depth of this corruption and the failure to hold these two crooks to account is surely one of the biggest political scandals ever in British history.

Home Office ministers have a great deal to answer for but also the officials who have restrained those few ministers, such as the Liberal Democrat Norman Baker, who have even dared to consider reform.  The prejudice and bigotry on drugs policy runs so deep it is difficult to see how it can change.  But change it must.  Britain desperately needs a PM and a Home Secretary with the courage and intelligence to grasp this nettle.  Until those people emerge we are destined to stay in a very dark and destructive place while more and more deaths, misery and serious violent crime are caused by those who are failing us so badly.

Written by Peter Reynolds

November 30, 2019 at 6:49 pm