Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Archive for the ‘The Media’ Category

If the Mobs on Twitter and Facebook Want to Persecute Someone, Why Don’t They Choose a Deserving Case?

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For instance, what about Professor Finbar O’Callaghan, who has prevented children having access to cannabis medicine for epilepsy while making his living running £ multi-million clinical trials of pharmaceutical drugs?

These are the sort of people who should be hunted down and villified, not some weird eccentric who is a behind the scenes political adviser making private decisions about his own family.

Written by Peter Reynolds

May 24, 2020 at 9:42 am

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

BBC Horizon to Ramp Up Discredited Kings College ‘Skunk Scaremongering’

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Dr Marta di Forti. Scientist or Skunk Scaremonger?

Tonight’s BBC Horizon is going to follow the long-established BBC policy of overstating and exaggerating the potential harms of cannabis.

From clips already released it is clear the programme is to promote as gospel truth the hysterical scaremongering and fanciful statistical projections coming from Dr Marta di Forti at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry. This so-called scientist and her colleagues base all their conclusions on profoundly unscientific methods, false assumptions, bizarre statistical trickery and the misuse of the tabloid term ‘skunk’ as if it actually means something.

This is the way the BBC has always operated – to support the false narrative of the establishment about cannabis, to demonise it, to minimise if not ridicule its medicinal benefits and to cherry pick evidence and biased opinion to support its case.

Anyone with any real knowledge of cannabis who has spent any time properly reseraching the evidence will know that Dr di Forti’s projections and claims are ridiculous.  This is a British phenomenom.  It occurs nowhere else in the world.  Every other nation’s media, scientific and medical community takes a balanced and realistic view and recognises that cannabis is largely benign and for 99% of people, 99% of the time is harmless.  Perhaps most instruictive is that virtually nowhere else in the world will you hear the word ‘skunk’ used by real scientists.  Originally the name of a specific strain of cannabis it is now merely a scary word used to frighten people and it has no specific or defined meaning.  Its use is, in fact, the very opposite of science.

But don’t take my word for it. In a devastating critique of di Forti’s latest 2019 study, read the words of leading scientists from Australia and the Netherlands as they dismantle di Forti’s wild overclaiming and statistical trickery: High-potency cannabis and incident psychosis: correcting the causal assumption

Written by Peter Reynolds

August 28, 2019 at 10:29 am

Review. ‘Cannabis Health’ Magazine

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This is a milestone in cannabis law reform.  A glossy magazine, produced to the highest standard, fit to sit alongside Country Life, Cosmopolitan or Vogue.  It treats the subject with intelligence, with insight and the stories it tells are told with respect, sensitivity and common sense.

It would be easy to have made this sensationalist, to have made exaggerated claims, launched strident attacks on those who still oppose consumption of the plant or fallen into the trap of folklore rather than science, magic rather than medicine.  The publishers have hit the bullseye with the right tone and style and provided it reaches the right coffee tables, perhaps doctors waiting rooms, it will help to drive reform. Never before have I been moved by a magazine but this represents the achievement of a level of acceptance that sometimes I doubted I would see in my lifetime.

CLEAR was able to contribute to this first issue, introducing our members, Robert Cohen and Marie Emma Smith, whose stories of how cannabis has transformed their lives are beautifully told and I am honoured to have been interviewed as part of a feature on the campaign.

It’s intended to be quarterly but I won’t be surprised if it takes off and becomes monthly before very long.  There is a huge reservoir of advertising expenditure which has been stymied by the short-sighted attitude of social media companies. It will be poetic justice if traditional publishing can do well out of the reintroduction of this traditional medicine. A free, one year, postal subscription is available to the first 10,000 people to register by emailing chloe@aspectpublishing.co.uk

There is still a logjam of prejudice and lack of understanding, particularly amongst cowardly politicians and a medical establishment that feels threatened by a subject where patients know more than doctors.  ‘Cannabis Health’ wll help to break this down.  The sheer weight of public support, enthusiasm and real life experience will soon leave these sceptics desperate to catch up.  Get yourself a copy and enjoy quality writing about cannabis published in print rather than online.  The world is changing!

Written by Peter Reynolds

June 6, 2019 at 3:31 pm

‘Cannabis Law is Simply Criminal’. Letter to the Sunday Times, 26th May 2019

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The Sunday Times, 26th May 2019

Thank you to the Sunday Times for publishing my letter about cannabis today.

In fact, it was orginally a comment left on this article: ‘CBD products being rated for tax — but still seized’.  I received an email asking for my permission to publish it as a letter which clearly I was happy to agree to.

Obviously I accept that letters will be edited but when this is done to alter very substantially the original meaning, questions have to be asked.

Why is the Sunday Times protecting corrupt, senior British politicians from facts which are in the public domain? In the original the last two paragraphs read:

“Our politicians are incompetent, stupid and in some cases brazenly corrupt on this subject and reform is inevitable, although how long it will take remains to be seen.

While Theresa May and the Home Office drugs minister, Victoria Atkins MP, both continue to make personal financial gain from licensed cannabis production, the UK has a steeper hill to climb than Ireland. Corruption at the very top of government is difficult to overcome.”

Written by Peter Reynolds

May 26, 2019 at 3:49 pm

Dr Who and Rosa Parks

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I am that small child who hid behind the sofa from the Daleks.  I remember it vividly. I associate it with being allowed to stay up late and having red sauce sandwiches for supper.

But since William Hartnell, no Doctor has ever charmed me.  I’ve appreciated the effort and attempted humour in all of them. Some have become iconic, like Tom Baker with his long scarf but none of them ever made the show compulsive viewing for me.  In fact as time went on it bored me.

Jodie Whittaker, the first female doctor, is a revelation. It was only on in the background but the writing and her perfomance are spellbinding and it captured me.  That elusive humour is achieved, the wit is right on point.  It is delightful.

And never has Dr Who moved me so deeply. With an elegant and perfectly judged time travel satire on the Rosa Parks story.  The dramatisation that inspired tears to roll down my cheeks with a science fiction wonder, belief suspended, all my entertainment receptors tingling. It was simply the very best of television.  Dont miss it, catch up here.

Written by Peter Reynolds

October 28, 2018 at 7:16 pm

Posted in Biography, television, The Media

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Cannabis Advocates Really Need To Stop Accusing Doctors of Being Bribed By Pharmaceutical Companies.

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There may well be some doctors who are corrupt and there are still, despite much improvement, serious questions over the relationship between pharma companies and doctors but the idea that every member of the Faculty of Pain Medicine who signed that letter to the Times is taking bribes is ridiculous.

The real reason is ignorance and that’s not an attack on doctors, it’s a reason.  They have been subject to the same relentless torrent of reefer madness propaganda from government and media as the rest of society.  They have been prevented even from learning about the endocannabinoid system by the authoritarian policy of prohibition and any doctor in the UK who has any experience of cannabis as medicine will have been in breach of professional ethics as well as the law.

CLEAR has been working with some of the very few enlightened doctors since way before the cause of cannabis as medicine became fashionable.  Working with members, their MPs and doctors, we have organised lobbying of ministers and MPs over more than the past 10 years. In several instances we had doctors, both GPs and consultants, contact the Home Office to enquire about obtaining a licence for a specific patient.  In at least three instances these doctors were then contacted by Home Office officials who warned them off using threats and intimidation.  Shocking but completely true.

It is and it always has been government – stupid, prejudiced, bigoted and self-opinionated politicians – who have prevented access to cannabis, even in the face of overwhelming evidence.  This means that there has been no education at all and doctors are as poorly informed as everyone else. They’re also, and understandably, worried, even scared.  They don’t understand cannabis, many will not even have heard of the endocannabinoid system and they are concerned about being sued, professionally disgraced, losing their job and now of being swamped by patients demanding cannabis about which they know nothing.

Of course, it was thoroughly stupid to assert in the letter that “the evidence suggests that the prescribing of cannabis (containing the psychoactive and addictive tetrahydrocannabinol component) will provide little or no long-term benefit in improving pain and may be associated with significant long-term adverse cognitive and mental-health detriment.”

There is no reasonable interpretation of the evidence that supports this. THC can be addictive in a very modest sense but the withdrawal symptoms and negative effects are trivial compared to those from opioids which doctors prescribe readily and frequently.  There is excellent evidence from many sources that cannabis containing THC and CBD benefits pain and while there may be some cognitive and mental health effects, to suggest they are significant or even come remotely close to those from opioids is false and in opposition to the evidence.

I repeat, doctors aren’t saying this because they are bribed by pharmaceutical companies, it’s because they have no idea what they are talking about.

The urgent requirement now is medical education.  It is amazing how radical the new regulations are and many people still don’t seem to realise how far the government has gone.  They go much further than we at CLEAR had even dared to dream and the definition of cannabis-derived medicinal product (CDMP) is very broad.  When we were consulted on it by the Department of Health and MHRA we never thought they would accept all our recommendations.  They enable the prescription of every form of cannabis, including flower, oil and concentrate, provided they meet quality standards.

So the problem with the law is gone. Literally, it is all over. It is absolute and total victory. Now two big problems remain. Education is the first but this is being addressed.  NICE has acted commendably fast to start recruiting a panel to advise on prescribing guidelines and Professor Mike Barnes, CLEAR’s scientific and medical advisor has already developed a series of introductory online training modules. Early in November his Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society launches and this will be an important forum for the future.

The second big problem is supply.  Where are the CDMPs to come from?  Sativex falls into the definition and this was GW Pharma’s big opportunity to act responsibly and imaginatively.  The possibility still exists that it will substantially reduce the absurd, rip-off price that it has been charging for Sativex since 2010.  If it had the imagination it could very easily turn over some of its production to unlicensed CDMPs for which there is now a ready market. I fear that it is wedded to licensed products only, hugely expensive and, in my judgement, unnecessary clinical trials and very high prices for its end products.  If so, then I will be selling my shares.  I admire the company for its courage, innovation and high standards but if it does not seize this opportunity then I believe it is failing in its duty to shareholders and also to Britain, which let’s remember has gifted it a privileged and unique opportunity in the world.  Fail now to provide for the needs of UK patients and that amounts to betrayal.

So for now the only possible sources of supply that meet the definition will be Bedrocan in the Netherlands and some of the Canadian licensed producers. US companies cannot export.  Neither can the Israeli companies and they would also face a thoroughly deserved boycott of their products even if Netanyahu was to issue export licences.  Bedrocan can barely meet demand from its existing customers and there is talk of it having difficulties with a ceiling on its export licenses. Only some Canadian producers meet the required GMP quality standards and they too are facing shortages as they also supply the recently legalised recreational market which is seriously short of product.

So the Home Office has to act and start issuing domestic production licences and it has to do so immediately.  Whether it will, remains to be seen.  Its drugs licensing department is a shambles, staffed by officials who do not even understand the law they are supposed to administrate, who regularly give different, contradictory answers on different days and exceed their lawful authority as a matter of course.  If there is a ‘hostile environment’ for immigration in the Home Office, for drugs licensing and cannabis production it has been hostile but also aggressive, paranoid and stupid ever since the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

The urgent need is for prospective British cannabis producers to mobilise their MPs and for immediate pressure to be brought on the Home Office at the highest level.  Sajid Javid has shown he can act decisively.  Expanding domestic cannabis production is the inevitable next step in what he has already achieved.  He must act now.

So the future in the UK for those who need cannabis as medicine is brighter than could ever have been imagined.  The next steps are challenging but nowhere near as difficult as the campaign to reform the law that CLEAR has fought for nearly 20 years.  Don’t blame doctors, continue to blame the government and hold their feet to the fire until they act on medical education and cannabis production as they must.