Peter Reynolds

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Still ‘Insufficient Evidence’ for the NHS to Fund Medicinal Cannabis – or What’s it Really About?

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The laboratory evidence for medicinal cannabis is through the roof in proof of efficacy and safety. The observational clinical evidence is also conclusive.

The evidence that is ‘lacking’ is that which fits in with the medical establishment’s well-established formula for making senior clinicians rich. The same doctors that write the guidelines are the ones who earn the very fat fees for running clinical trials and decide which evidence is valid and which isn’t. When the Royal Colleges and the professional medical bodies have worked out a way to get cannabis under their control, suddenly all the evidence will be OK. Then the committees and advisory boards that these same doctors sit on will turn on the NHS funding tap.

Until then, doctors are frightened of cannabis. A medicine that works, that is safer than virtually all the pills you can buy over-the-counter and has powerful, beneficial effects for a very wide range of conditions is a real threat to vested interests and doctors’ status. It shakes their world and so they are eager to disparage it, exaggerate its risks and diminish its efficacy.

Only when the medical establishment understands how its pre-eminence is going to be maintained, knows where fees and prestige are coming from, then cannabis will be ‘discovered’ by the NHS and all the benefits to patients and in reduced costs will follow.

Written by Peter Reynolds

March 27, 2022 at 10:21 am

We Trusted Our Leaders Never to Permit Another Holocaust.

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We relaxed really, complacent, appalled at the past but confident that we as civilised people would never allow a tyrant to commit genocide, cause suffering on such a scale.  But that is exactly what Putin is doing in Ukraine.

The truth is our leaders are weak, indecisive and cowardly.  There is no leadership, merely reaction to opinion polls, focus groups and newspaper headlines.  None of them has the mettle that is required.  All of them will evade any courageous decision and any action they do take will be because they have been forced into it.

This is the perfect scenario for a bully and despot like Putin but we have already seen that the courage of the people of Ukraine is beating him back.  Were it not for the sheer quantity of soldiers and firepower that he has, he would already be defeated and probably disappeared to Siberia.

I believe the people of Europe, Britain and the EU countries are courageous like the Ukrainians, far more courageous than our leaders.

The only way to deal with a bully is to stand up to him, exactly as the Ukrainians are demonstrating.  We have submitted to Putin in Syria. We have appeased him over Crimea. We have stood back and watched him flatten Mariupol and now start the forced deportation of refugees – perhaps to slave labour or extermination camps?

We must stop him. Supplying arms and aid to Ukraine is helping to hold him back and he is running out of resources to run his war.  He is being backed into a corner, so we are creating the same peril as if we were fully engaged in the war.  He could easily unleash chemical, biological or nuclear weapons without any further reason.

I believe we have the capability from US and British warships in the Black Sea to impose a no-fly zone instantly and to launch devastating cruise missiles and air strikes at his key frontline units and supply lines.

My view is we should also have special forces engaged on assassination missions, multiple teams, each trying different routes and methods to locate and kill him.  This is the ethical choice, rather than military action that inevitably kills civilians.  The US, Britain and France have the military capability for this and now is the time to act.

We must not cower in fear, for if we do continue to permit these crimes against humanity then we become complicit in them.  I and I believe the majority of European people have the courage to act now and face him down.  If we do not, we may not get another chance.

Written by Peter Reynolds

March 24, 2022 at 6:13 pm

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Home Affairs Committee Inquiry into Drugs. Evidence Doesn’t Work with Politicians, Will Common Sense?

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I am unable to share my detailed response to the inquiry until it has formally accepted and published it. However, this introduction explains the basis of my submission.

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I am the president of CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform, the longest established and largest membership-based cannabis policy group in the UK, founded in 1999 with more than 600,000 followers. We represent people who support cannabis law reform, not all but most are also cannabis consumers. We are committed to a responsible, science and evidence-based approach.

I have participated in the cannabis law reform campaign for over 40 years. For over 30 years I have worked professionally in healthcare and medicine and for the past 10 years in the legal cannabis and cannabinoid industry.

The committee’s first inquiry into drugs was in 1983. I submitted evidence then at the tender age of 26 and to every inquiry since up to this year’s at the age of 64.

What stands out in all these inquiries is the overwhelming weight of evidence and opinion in favour of radical reform.  Yet despite this, apart from the legalisation of access to prescribed medicinal cannabis in 2018, no progress has been made.  On the contrary, politicians continue to prefer to posture as ‘tough on drugs’ rather than follow evidence or public opinion.

There is no doubt of the failure of current policy, yet both major parties continue to stick rigidly to prohibition. This despite the highest ever level of drug deaths, the de facto decriminalisation of cannabis by police and widespread contempt for our drug laws demonstrated by colossal consumption, particularly of cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy (MDMA) by people of all ages and social backgrounds.

There is also no doubt of the cost of this failed policy, estimated to be in the region of £20 billion per annum, and that it drives crime, violence, gangsterism and the breakdown of cohesion in society.  One of the common misconceptions, which ministers dishonestly promote, is that it is drugs that drive these problems when in fact it is almost always policy that is the cause. Present policy directly supports and encourages organised crime.

What will it take for politicians to grasp this nettle?

Clearly, erudite submissions of evidence and logical argument do not work, however well qualified or experienced the source. Despite many politicians’ admissions of drug use, once in office they choose to continue with policies that, had they been caught with illegal drugs, would probably disqualify them from the jobs they now hold. Frequently, when they leave office they suddenly reverse their position and support reform. This brazen hypocrisy causes great damage to our society and contributes to widespread contempt for our political system.

So, in this submission, I address the issues concerned with common sense. For instance, specifically on cannabis, it is easily possible to find scientific evidence either maximising its dangers or minimising them. In the UK, mainly due to research at the Institute of Psychiatry, we have a particularly extreme point of view on its likelihood to cause mental illness but this is unique in the world. Most other countries take a far more balanced approach and the media is not as hysterical about these potential harms.  It is possible to swap studies ad infinitum and nothing is achieved by this. Instead, I propose the common sense that since the 1960s the number of cannabis consumers has risen from about zero to about 3 million, yet there is no correlation at all with the rate of diagnosed mental illness which is steady or declining.

The fantastic statistical projections from the Institute of Psychiatry, using the most esoteric mathematical formulae, drive fear about cannabis but they simply do not match the real word experience of the millions of people who regularly consume the drug.  It is this sort of mismatch that paralyses our ability to reach a consensus. This is why I believe that far more weight needs to be given to common sense.

Drug use is a normal part of life for most people. The distinction between drugs which are legally permitted, alcohol and tobacco, and drugs which are banned is, in itself, extremely harmful. Alcohol and tobacco are two of the most harmful drugs, much more harmful than many drugs that are banned. It is common sense that the law should guide people accurately, not mislead them as at present.

Written by Peter Reynolds

March 24, 2022 at 1:55 pm

Putin’s War. He has to be Stopped Now. Delaying Will Make it More Difficult.

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Ukrainian soldiers trying to save the father of a family of four — the only one at that moment who still had a pulse — moments after being hit by a mortar while trying to flee Irpin, near Kyiv, on Sunday. Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

Written by Peter Reynolds

March 6, 2022 at 7:46 pm

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Assassination Is the Ethical Option.

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I am for assassination of Putin and key Russian government and military officers.

sniper4 rifleThis is the option that minimises casualties and puts most risk on professionals who have chosen their role.  Special forces would welcome this task. They may bear heavy casualties before they succeed but they are volunteers and it is better than the death of civilians, particularly children. Multiple small teams infiltrating by helicopter, HALO parachute jump and every possible route equipped with our most sophisticated weaponry.  Many will die but only one needs to succeed.

It’s what we should have done with Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi, Netanyahu and Assad.  In any circumstances, if there is justification for action that may result in civilian casualties, there is better justification for assassination.  It’s the ethical option.

Written by Peter Reynolds

February 26, 2022 at 8:15 pm

Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelenskyy

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The leader of a proud, free nation. A beacon of hope, strength, and freedom. A President willing to die for his people rather than cower to an autocrat. Centuries from now, statues of this man will stand across Ukraine remembering his leadership.

Written by Peter Reynolds

February 26, 2022 at 2:41 pm

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Regardless of any Police Inquiry, the Corrupt Nature of Parliament has at last been Exposed

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It’s up to the Speaker to act. This arcane old boys club must be brought into the 21st Century and the dishonest, secretive nature of political parties and the whipping system abandoned for ever.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle’s biggest problem is that the status quo suits the Conservative and Labour Parties very well. Although they may seem to be opposed to each other, the reality is that they act in unison to shore up this system which keeps power ebbing and flowing between them and the last people they are concerned about are voters.

The UK’s democracy is unfit for purpose. It should be producing governments that are genuinely representative of the whole country. Even though one manifesto or set of proposals may win an election, a modern democracy cannot be ruled by tyranny of the majority. Governnment must act in the best interests of all.

It’s inevitable that any such reforms will also have to examine our first-past-the-post election system. Again, this has served the two main parties well and they will resist any change. Indeed they will in unison to sabotage any progress as they have in the past. That is why these decisions cannot be trusted to MPs. We need to find a democratic method that will achieve a fair result. The idea that comes to mind is a Citizens Assembly and/or a series of referenda held by a modern, digital system that will produce accurate results quickly.

At every stage the old guard will try to wrest back control, so there is no point making the assembly or referenda advisory. They must be decisive and no backroom deals between party grandees in Mayfair restaurants or gentlemans’ clubs must be able to intervene.

Switzerland manages to govern by referenda and there is simply no reason (whatever we will undoubtedly be told) why an efficient online system involving every registered voter cannot be developed.

I won’t be holding my breath. I’ll be surprised if such reforms can be completed within the 20 or 30 years that I have left but unless we start to move in this direction, then I predict much more conflict of the sort we had over Brexit. With the scrutiny that our politicians are now subject to, however much they try to resist it, there will likely be further police inquiries as grubby politicians try to succeed in 21st Century government using an 18th century system.

Written by Peter Reynolds

January 22, 2022 at 5:34 pm

The Times Picks up the Reefer Madness Baton from the Daily Mail

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Stigmatising cannabis consumers and patients with one-sided and biased reporting is irresponsible misinformation, not journalism

It’s that time of year, King’s College Institute of Psychiatry has started its fundraising round so it’s time for the annual cannabis and psychosis scare story.

Over the past 10 years, in January or February each year, a press release goes out with its lead researchers, Professor Sir Robin Murray and Dr Marta di Forti, pushing another set of extremely scary statistics about how cannabis is driving consumers insane.

This year, two things are different, Firstly, there’s no new study, just repetition of previous claims.  Secondly, instead of being led by the Daily Mail, it’s The Times that has taken up the role of terrifying parents and this year there’s also a new story about over-55s who are ‘addicted’ to cannabis.

The Times’ reputation as the newspaper of record and the supreme example of English-language journalism has been faltering for some time. The decline started, inevitably, when Rupert Murdoch bought the newspaper in 1981.  It’s now tabloid-sized and, surprisingly often, tabloid in its style and disdain for the truth. In the main it is still a good source of news reporting and has an honourable record in covering the increasing acceptance of and value in the medical use of cannabis.

However, starting in September 2021 with a major feature in the Sunday magazine by Megan Agnew,‘Cannabis psychosis: how super-powered skunk blew our minds’, it has become an uncritical promoter and advocate for everything that comes out of King’s College about cannabis.

Ms Agnew interviewed me at length several months before her piece was published and I dare say she spoke to other people on the reform side of the debate as well.  Certainly not one word of what I said made it into print.  It might as well be a paid-for advertorial for Marta di Forti and Robin Murray’s work.

I’ve met Robin Murray several times. In fact, I once sat next to him for two days in a conference held in the House of Lords. In person he’s nowhere near the anti-cannabis zealot he’s portrayed as in the press and there are other people in his team who I have worked with on research projects who I think, although they wouldn’t say it, are actually on my side!  Nevertheless, the message about their research that is portrayed in the media is clearly deliberate and it is wildly misleading.

This is best demonstrated by going to the Lancet website, where all the Murray/di Forti papers are published and reading the other scientists who debunk both the results and the methodology that Murray/di Forti use.  Of course, this never gets mentioned in the press. The Times has completely excluded it from all its coverage.  Go to https://www.thelancet.com/ and search for ‘High-potency cannabis and incident psychosis: correcting the causal assumption’. You’ll see a whole new perspective on King’s College and its scientists.

This obsession with demonising cannabis is centred on the UK, precisely because of the endlessly repetitive work carried out at King’s College and the appetite that British press has for sensationalising it.  Australia also suffers from it to some degree but nowhere else in the world experiences the same systematic, ludicrous scaremongering.  That’s not to say that the potential dangers of cannabis as a psychoactive substance are ignored, they’re simply given proportionate recognition.  Clearly anything that affects the mind can, potentially, cause harm and needs consideration, just as we do with alcohol, coffee, energy drinks and many medicines. Sadly there will always be casualties but provided we do all we can to minimise them, they do not justify prohibition.  The evidence is clear that always causes more harm than good and it is self-evident that harm is better controlled and casualties more effectively prevented in a legal environment, not in a market run by gangsters and organised crime.

 

Keir Starmer: Flaccid, Vaciliating, Confused, as he Directly Contradicts Himself on Cannabis

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The Labour leadership candidates asked if they would decriminalise cannabis, 18th Feb 2020.

On 18th February 2020, during the Channel 4 Labour leadership debate, all the candidates were asked whether they would decrimnalise cannabis. Keir Starmer replied “I wouldn’t immediately. I have supported schemes where cannabis possession, you’re not arrested, you’re not prosecuted for it. And I believe in that.”

Since then he’s hardened his stance, probably in order to appeal to the Daily Mail demographic, just as his predecessor Gordon Brown did in 2009 when he raised cannabis from class C to class B on the orders of Paul Dacre, then editor of the depraved rag.

But the denouement for Starmer, when he confirmed himself as a weak, spineless irrelevance was this week when Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, announced his plans for exactly the sort of depenalisation which in 2018 Starmer said he believed in. “I’ve said a number of times and I will say again: I’m not in favour of us changing the law or decriminalisation. I’m very clear about that.”

Yes, while Starmer’s as clear as mud, it’s very easy to be clear about him!

The tragedy for Britain, on drugs policy and everything else, is that Keir Starmer is the only alternative to the sleaze, corruption and incompetence of Boris Johnson and the Conservatives.

Written by Peter Reynolds

January 6, 2022 at 7:13 pm

The Crazy Conspiracy Theories that Undermine the Cannabis Campaign

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No, Theresa May’s husband does not own the largest cannabis farm in Europe. No, ‘the government’ is not growing cannabis, exporting it all over the world, making millions from it while denying it to British people. No, you do not have to be a Tory donor to get a licence to grow cannabis. No, MPs do not have investments in cannabis companies which is why prices are so high. No, the former drugs minister, Victoria Atkins MP, did not give her husband a licence to grow cannabis.

These and an almost limitless variety of permutations of the same ideas are endlessly repeated on social media and it’s reached the stage where one version or another is regarded as fact by many people.

These ideas do us no favours. The don’t prove some massive conspiracy about cannabis in the government, Parliament or amongst the wealthy elite because they are simply fake. They make fools of us all and play straight into the hands of prohibitionists who paint cannabis consumers as paranoid fantasists with wild obsessions about imaginary conspiracies and plots.

Sadly, on the last point, from what I’ve seen over the past year in particular, they’re right – at least to some degree about some people!

Of course, they arise because it genuinely is impossible to see any rhyme, reason or common sense about the way that cannabis is handled in the UK. With the exceptions of France, Ireland and Sweden, Britain has the most backwards, regressive and irrational position on cannabis and wider drugs policy of any country in Europe.

It’s inevitable that people will try to look for explanations and because there is dishonesty in drugs policy, because the Home Office has been lying to us about the harms of cannabis for at least 50 years, people develop extraordinary theories that are enhanced if you’ve just had a couple of big hits off your bong.

The trick though, which is what anyone who understands anything about psychology will tell you, is that in each of them, at the root is a tiny grain of truth which has been distorted, exaggerated and falsified until it becomes, apparently, a massive scandal. So much so, that even as I have done many times, you explain in great detail why some particular theory is fake, the response is often ‘no smoke without fire, ‘there must be some truth in it’.

But all these conspiracy theories do is dissipate our energy, divert our focus and attention, distract us from the real story and actually obscure what is more about cock-up, cowardice and stupidity than any grand plan. The reason this government, just like the last Labour government, maintains the prohibition of cannabis, is mainly about ignorance and fear. They don’t believe that it is something their core supporters want to see changed and although many senior politicians fully understand the arguments, the idea of explaining why reform is a good idea looks like far too much hard work and for what?

Don’t be fooled that it’s all about the ‘effing Tories’. Labour has a far worse record on drugs policy. It was Margaret Thatcher who first introduced clean needle exchange when HIV/AIDS first struck. She was a scientist by training and understood the value of evidence. Note that that there is a dearth of scientific training amongst current members of both Houses of Parliament. It was Gordon Brown, Labour PM, who reclassified cannabis upwards to class B in 2009, basically on the instructions of Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail. And it was Alan Johnson, Labour Home Secretary, who sacked Professor Nutt for stating the scientific facts that cannabis and MDMA are much less dangerous than alcohol, tobacco – and even horse riding. And finally, most surprising of all, it was Theresa May and Sajid Javid, Conservative PM and Home Secretary respectively, who legalised medicinal cannabis in 2018 Solely, of course, because of public outcry over incredibly emotive stories of small children with epilepsy.

Jacob Rees-Mogg. Stoned out of his tiny mind.

Of course there are MPs, mostly Conservatives, who have investment portfolios and, within the confines of the law, may well have investments in cannabis companies. It’s perfectly legal for anyone to invest in cannabis companies both in the UK and abroad, although not to being any profits back to the UK if they’re from activities that would be illegal here – such as producing and selling recreational cannabis. Great store has been made of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s alleged investments in cannabis but although there are few more odious MPs, there really isn’t any substance worth bothering about in these allegations. In 2007, he was one of the founders of Somerset Capital Management but he now owns less than 15% of it and plays no active role. It has been involved in advising on investments in Canada’s cannabis industry so, by a convoluted route, it is possible that some of the profits from fees earned on this advice have made their way back into his pocket but there’s no evidence at all that he had any involvement.

The Theresa May’s husband’s story has been invented because he, Philip May, is a mid-ranking employee of Capital Group, another investment company which at one point was the largest shareholder in GW Pharmaceuticals, owning about $300 million in its shares. GW’s sub-contractor, British Sugar, does run the largest cannabis farm in Europe at its Wissington glasshouse in Norfolk. But there’s no evidence at all and nothing even to suggest that Philip May had anything to do with it. And you have to put it in context. Capital Group’s investments exceed $2 trillion and it has owned $20 billion of Amazon shares, $2 billion of Starbucks, $5 billion of McDonald’s and $1.5 billion in Ryanair. It’s GW investment was tiny, insignificant and now it doesn’t own any shares in it at all.

And yes, it’s true. British Sugar’s managing director, Paul Kenward, is marrid to Victoria Atkins MP, who was drugs minister for a short time but its licence to grow cannabis was issued before she was even an MP.

Paul Kenward with a big, fat, badly-photoshopped bud

The biggest problem that all this nonsense creates is that it destroys the credibility of the cannabis campaign. If we want to see progress the people we have to persuade aren’t cannabis consumers and that is, of course, the majority. They already have various perceptions, mostly negative, of those of us that do enjoy cannabis. Most of these are thanks to the government-originated propaganda, gratefully published and exaggerated by the tabloid press and most of them revolve around the idea that cannabis causes mental health problems. These wild, evidence-free conspiracy theories appear to confirm this idea.

So please, stop it! Put your energy into something worthwhile and effective. Write to your MP. Arrange to meet them and explain in calm, respectful terms why cannabis matters to you and why you want to see the law reformed.

 

Written by Peter Reynolds

January 4, 2022 at 7:42 pm