Peter Reynolds

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The Man Who Smashed UK Cannabis Prohibition – And Looks Set To Do The Same In America.

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Dr Geoffrey Guy

Dr Geoffrey Guy

Across social media, it’s ‘on message’ to despise Big Pharma and to promote the idea that government and pharmaceutical companies are engaged in the business of making people ill and feeding them with drugs in the pursuit of profit.

In the cannabis campaign, it’s virtually compulsory to abuse, defame and promote conspiracy theories about GW Pharmaceuticals, the world’s leading developer of cannabis-based medicines.

Now GW Pharma is hardly ‘Big Pharma’. It’s annual revenues for 2014 were £30 million. By contrast, Pfizer’s 2014 revenue was $50 billion. But such trifling facts are of no concern to the keyboard warriors and trolls that plague the cannabis campaign and bring it into disrepute every day.

In any case, I’m not sure whose message this is and why anyone buys into this hate-filled invective and unjust condemnation of an industry that has saved so many lives. Antibiotics, vaccines and, yes, chemotherapy products have saved or extended millions of lives. The most profitable pharmaceutical product of all time, Zantac (ranitidine), cures or prevents stomach ulcers and has prevented millions from having to undergo major surgery. Certainly, as in any industry, there have been mistakes, things have gone wrong and much could be improved but overall, the pharmaceutical industry is a huge force for good in our world.

Those engaged in these bitter, vindictive, online campaigns are largely sheep, ignorant of the facts and simply jumping on another hysterical bandwagon that they understand nothing about. They complain about the pursuit of profit and that money is being made from medicines and healthcare. It’s a strangely socialist and anti-business attitude, particularly as so much of it comes from America, supposedly the home of free enterprise where the maverick and outsider who triumphs against all the odds is usually revered.

Dr Geoffrey Guy, who founded GW Pharmaceuticals in 1998, is such a man. He has broken the UK government’s prohibition of cannabis by outwitting a regulatory process run by the Home Office and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) that is corrupt, dishonest and denies scientific evidence. In my view, he deserves great admiration and should be seen as a hero by cannabis campaigners, not as the villain that he is often portrayed.

Now, both GW’s lead products, Sativex and Epidiolex, look set to gain FDA approval in the US. This will be a fantastic achievement for Dr Guy and all his colleagues. It’s also something that we Britons should be immensely proud about. Even though America is a very long way ahead of us in understanding and using cannabis as medicine, it is British science and expertise that is breaking down US federal prohibition. Soon most Americans will have state sanctioned access to medical marijuana but also the option for doctor-prescribed cannabinoid medicine of unparalleled quality and consistency.

Of course, for now GW Pharma stands against the use of raw herbal cannabis and at present that’s a rational business decision but I won’t be at all surprised if in future it moves into that market too. There are already unconfirmed rumours that GW is considering entering the CBD market.

This is a story of enormous courage, innovation and triumph against all the odds.  It is in the finest tradition of British ingenuity and business skill. Since the Middle Ages we have led the world in engineering, science and technology. Geoffrey Guy is another world leader from Britain, this small island that has given birth to so many. Surely, at least a knighthood, possibly a Nobel prize must be coming his way soon. Even if the curmudgeonly, loud mouthed critics of today attack him, in future years he will be seen as a great pioneer of medicine and he will deserve his place in history.

Written by Peter Reynolds

August 7, 2015 at 3:03 pm

Snooper’s Charter. This Is Why Americans Keep Their Guns.

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 “You can have my guns when you take them from my cold, dead hands.”

“You can have my guns when you take them from my cold, dead hands.”

Nick Clegg has caved in again.  Norman Baker sat next to the most monstrous woman in British politics as she sneaked her snide subversion of our freedom through parliament. These people are ‘Liberal Democrats’?

It is all decided.  There is nothing we can do.  Parliament adjourns in less than a fortnight.  There’s little your MP could do for you anyway, even if he or she had the balls to stand up against this railroading of fundamental changes to our rights.  The leadership of the main parties have conspired to pervert our democracy to their own ends. In America they would be put on trial for treason.  This is why Americans keep their guns. It is some protection against an overbearing state.

Meanwhile, in London, Boris Johnson’s water cannons have arrived. Julian Assange is still holed up in the Ecuador embassy. Edward Snowden, the great American hero is running for his life in Russia.

Bring the Guillotines To Parliament Square!

Bring the Guillotines To Parliament Square!

At least America has a constitution. British democracy is a sick joke. We have no control over our government.  Elections are meaningless.  Politicians are a self-serving, incestuous elite, part of the tripartite oligarchy with the Fleet Street Mafia and the bankers.  We are the servants of the state.  We can’t even determine the issues that the media and parliament consider.  Their agenda and priorities are imposed on us.  We can’t enact local medicinal cannabis laws as 23 states have in the US, where the people have instructed the government what to do.  We can’t define the debate on education, the health service or foreign policy.  We must just do what we’re told.

We let these people take our guns away from us – and we were foolish to do so.  After the water cannons, what comes next?

PM MP

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Originally Published In Homegrown Outlaw's Blog

By Jason Reed

To all that support change in current policy, I invite you to take part in: PM MP.

What is PM MP?  Well, I am hosting a letter that I am encouraging as many people as possible to post one copy to the Prime Minister, and one copy to your MP.  It is through weight and numbers that points are grasped and policy changed.

It is also worth sending to the Home Secretary – Theresa May, and James Brokenshire – Minister for Crime Prevention at the Home Office.

If you would like to add your name and address so as to receive a reply, all the better.  If you wish to remain anonymous, then that’s also fine, but please do take the time to send just two letters to the Prime Minister and your MP at this address:

Prime Minister,
10 Downing Street,
London, SW1A 2AA

Your MP can be found here:

They Work For You

And your MP’s address will be:

MP’s NAME, or James Brokenshire, or The Home Secretary Theresa May
House of Commons,
London SW1A OAA

Below you can find the template letter that has been created to address the current law & policy that surrounds cannabis in Britain.  It is with a great deal of thanks to the Drug Equality Alliance for directing the wording to address this issue correctly.

Please do support this; please send the letters.  Fellow bloggers, please also host the letter and send forth.

Either copy & paste the below text into a letter, or I have provided downloadable links at the end of this blog post.  Thank you all. Jason.

Dear

I am writing to state my view that continuing prohibition of all private interests in cannabis is not in the best interest of society or the individual. Current policy is in many regards counter-productive and a drain on the country’s resources.  The administration of Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 is mandated to be under constant review & evidence based; it’s concern is solely to reduce social harm caused by drug misuse.  I submit that there can be no justification in law for the blanket ban on accessing a substance that many persons use responsibly, and many use to experience the amelioration of symptoms caused by various medical disorders.

The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 seeks to regulate human action re any harmful drug, it does not provide a mandate for prohibition, indeed when one examines the obligations of the ACMD one can see that the law seeks to make arrangements for the supply of controlled drugs.  The legislative aim is to control responsible human action and property interests through the regulation of the production, distribution and possession of any harmful drug; this being proportionate and targeted to address the mischief of social harm occasioned by misuse.  I note that the law does not prohibit the use of cannabis at all, and this often ignored fact was Parliament’s way of opening the door to facilitate a suitable and rational regulatory structure.  I place it on record that I wish the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 to be used properly, and neutrally; specifically; (under Section 1) – “(2) (a) for restricting the availability of such drugs or supervising the arrangements for their supply.

The prohibition of all private interests in cannabis & the denial of the possibility of responsible use has failed:

  • The estimated expenditure of £19 billion on the judicial ‘controls’ over UK drug policy is a large sum that cannot be justified in the current fiscal climate.  I do not believe it can be proven to be a valid policy even if the nation could easily afford it; it has a high price on liberty, and a paradoxical effect upon the health of all drug users – it has proved futile in almost every way, save for the government’s blind adherence to the international treaties it chooses to fetter it’s discretion to.
  • There is an estimated street value of £5 billion profit going directly to gangs and cartels, and this in turn funds organised crime, human trafficking, and all manner of hard-line criminality.
  • Children have easy & ready access to cannabis.  Children are dealing cannabis and using cannabis with relative ease.
  • There is an estimated 165 million responsible and non-problematic cannabis users worldwide.  There is anything from 2 – 10 million adult users in the UK.  There is no societal benefit to criminalising such a large portion of society, these are generally law-abiding persons who wish to use a substance that is comparatively safer than many drugs that government choose to exclude users of from the operation of the MoDA 1971 (despite the Act being neutral as to what drug misusers are controlled, the most harmful drugs such as alcohol and tobacco are excluded by policy, but this is not reflected in the Act itself).
  • Under prohibition, as in 1920’s America, quality control has suffered giving way to hastily harvested cannabis which acts as the modern day equivalent of the infamous Moonshine & Hooch. The UK media terms this bad product simply as “Skunk”. Cannabis is now being cut with harmful drugs, glass, metal fillings, and chemicals to give false potency, and to add weight for profit motivations.
  • To criminalise personal actions that do not harm others within the confines of privately owned property is at best draconian, and at worst futile & irresponsible.

I wish to encourage the adoption of a regulatory system that provides:

  • An age-check system to prevent the young and vulnerable from obtaining cannabis with the ease they currently have.
  • The partial saving from the £19 billion drug enforcement budget, alongside the estimated street worth of £5 billion potentially collected from cannabis.  This would be a considerable sum in aiding the country in fiscal crisis.
  • Quality control that can be accorded to cannabis production and sale, thus ensuring that there are no dangerous impurities and that the correct balance of cannabinoids are present (according to the needs of the user) to minimise potential harms.
  • Potency & harm reduction information can be provided to adults, ensuring education is the forefront of the regulatory model.
  • A restriction on marketing and the creation of designated discreet outlets. As seen in many countries, given a place of legitimacy, the cache of cannabis is lessened in favour of responsibility.
  • The freedoms and rights for non-problematic users to be respected.

I do hope that you will give this matter the urgent attention it warrants.

Yours


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The Politics Of Cannabis

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Originally Published In ISMOKE Magazine Issue 1

Cannabis is a political issue.  Make no mistake about it.  The scientific, moral, medical and health arguments have all been won.  What we need to do now is find a way to make change happen.

It’s in the prohibitionists’ interests to keep debating all the ins and outs and going through the evidence because it diverts from the imperative for change. We have to keep repeating the truth.  We have to cut through their deception and scaremongering but above all, we have to demand action.

In the US, they’ve gone way, way past the silly and irrelevant arguments about cannabis being dangerous or harmful. We like to think that we’re smarter, a more mature democracy but so many Brits are still suckers for a Daily Mail scare story. The propaganda and bigotry still prevails here.  In America they simply accept that if you abuse or misuse something it may cause you harm. They rarely even mention the psychosis theory.  Even after Congresswoman Giffords’ shooting and the stories of Jared Loughner’s marijuana use, his friends were quick to step forward and say he’d stopped some time ago and actually seemed worse and more unstable without self-medicating on cannabis.  More importantly than that, the US media reported what his friends said rather than hushing it up because it wasn’t sensational enough.

Peter Hitchens, the Mail On Sunday columnist wrote a disgusting rant about the shooting, blaming it all on cannabis and having nothing to do with the truth at all. Now the US media are ridiculing him about Britain’s Reefer Madness.  He really is an example of the very worst in journalism.  The truth means nothing to him.  He is a liar and a mendacious frightener of the vulnerable, the elderly, of children and their parents.  You will be interested to know that the Legalise Cannabis Alliance has drawn a line in the sand.  We will no longer let such nonsense go unchallenged.  A formal complaint is being made in the LCA’s name to the Press Complaints Commission.  It will be the first of many.  We will no longer allow the British media to distribute lies without calling them to account.

The War On Prohibition Can Be Won!

Prohibition is fundamentally immoral.  It is nothing less than the unjustified oppression of a section of society.  It is as pernicious and evil as racism, sexism, homophobia or any other form of prejudice. It says that, irrespective of facts, evidence, science or justice, just because we disagree with you, we will make your activity illegal. We will criminalise you, imprison you, ruin your career, endanger your family, smear you with unjustified innuendo and suspicion. We will cause you far more harm than the activity you choose ever will.

It is pretty well accepted now, worldwide, that Nixon’s war on drugs can never be won.  It makes Vietnam or Afghanistan look like a little skirmish in some backwater.  It has been responsible for far more death, misery and destruction than any war since Nixon first declared it.  There are still those who cling to its ambitions, like our favourite preppy, baby face minister James Brokenshire   But he is rather like one of those Japanese soldiers, found on some remote Pacific island, thirty years after his Emperor surrendered – still dangerous, still committed to his cause but hopelessly out of touch, in need of re-education, a very, very sad case.

The war on prohibition is now in full flow and this is a campaign that can and must be won.  It is a war that has right and justice and common sense on its side.  It is time that we marshall our forces, determine our strategy, plan our tactics and hold fast to our courage as we advance on the enemy.  I believe that this year or next marijuana will be legalised in at least one state in America.  Once the dam is broken, progress will begin to roll out all over the world.

I believe that the Legalise Cannabis Alliance is the standard around which we should rally.  We are responsible, respectable, reasonable citizens and we need to unite to fight the war on prohibition.

What is vital is that the LCA communicates its messages effectively to the right people. It seems to me that one of, if not the most important audience is members of parliament. They, after all, are the only people who can actually change the law. We therefore have to play their game by their rules.

In the documentary “In Pot We Trust”, Aaron of the Marijuana Policy Project says that one man in short hair and a suit, lobbying congressmen can achieve more than hundreds marching in the street.  I think he’s right.

The LCA must re-launch its campaign.  We must overhaul our image, update the logo and the website.  We must become conscious of our communications, control and deliver our messages with ruthless effect, use all the spin doctor tricks and techniques, just as any other political party or pressure group.

I will put on a suit and tie for the LCA because that’s what is needed to make progress with politicians, through the media and, most importantly, with the great God of public opinion.

I think we also have to consider our name.  Not throw it out for the sake of something new but recognise that “Legalise” is a word that frightens people.  They think it means an uncontrolled free for all, whereas what we argue for is fact and evidence based regulation.  We also need to consider the word cannabis.  People are frightened to have it on their Facebook profile and concerned that it may come up in a Google search when they’re applying for a new job.  We have to consider these things.  I would argue that instead of saying “Legalise Cannabis”, we might say “End Prohibition”.

So we do need to become much more professional about our communications and image. Anything put out in our name needs to be “on message” in every sense of the phrase – look, feel, content, style, etc. Each target audience needs to be addressed on its terms. We need an analysis and a plan for each individual MP and constituency. We need a rota of pro-active media communications. We need to enlist the help of celebrities who support our cause.  This needs to be done consistently and repeatedly. We need a team of people all over the country working together with a plan to succeed.

I also believe that we should re-register as a political party and field candidates in every byelection.  In fact, I would propose that we field the same candidate in every byelection and we build.the campaign and awareness over time.  I don’t expect us to win a seat in parliament but I do expect us to start being taken seriously. I want to see us on Newsnight and on Question Time.  When Debra Bell is asked for a quote or is interviewed about a cannabis story, I want us to be quoted as well and to be on the other side of the TV sofa facing down her mischief and misinformation.

Cannabis is a political issue.  If we get our act together and get serious about the war on prohibition, get serious about achieving results, explain the facts, expose the lies, then we can prevail. We can see the truth revealed.  We can win!

Obama And The Poodle Share A Problem

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Top Rated Questions For The President

I believe there was a “Your Freedom” type online initiative by Obama, even before he took office.  The highest rating idea was that inconvenient question of legalising marijuana.  So many people in America seem to be concerned about it, however hard the righteous and religious try to persuade them otherwise.  Why won’t America think as it is told to?

Then back in the heady summer of 2010, when coalition seemed hip and LibDem was cool, Dave’s poodle came unstuck with the same problem.  He said he’d “repeal unjust and illiberal laws” but he didn’t mean cannabis.  That was the top suggestion on his website too.  No, no, no – such nonsense won’t be considered.  Let’s hush it up, forget it happened.  What?  Your freedom?  Whose freedom?

Now Obama is there again.  His online town hall meeting on YouTube tomorrow night is dominated by calls to legalise the weed.  It happens every time.  YouTube cooperates of course and last time deemed such ideas “inappropriate”.  By the time you read this you will probably know the latest excuse.

See here for the latest update on the top questions for the President.

Obama and the poodle.  Two of the same.  Both once claimed more liberal attitudes.  Indeed, both have inhaled.  What useless, insincere, inadequate, weak and pathetic politicians we end up with.

Both of them are out of time.

Written by Peter Reynolds

January 26, 2011 at 10:04 pm

The Cannabis Campaign In 2011

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I believe that we can make real progress this year towards ending the prohibition of cannabis.

What we have to do, each and every one of us, individually, is take responsibility.

We have to stop complaining and start campaigning.

However just our cause, however unjust our opposition, no one is going to give us the right to cannabis.  We are going to have to take it.  Take it back from those who took it away from us.

Many of us can point to years and years of fighting for the cause but it is never enough!  We have to keep on. We have to welcome new campaigners and encourage them, not take the view that we’ve seen it all before, done it ourselves and why aren’t we getting the credit?   We have to welcome our fellow citizens to the war against prohibition, support them, bolster their confidence, build them up, not knock them down.

If the millions of people in Britain who use cannabis were to join together and be counted, we could make change happen!  I don’t know whether there are two million of us or ten million.  That’s how widely the estimates vary.  The Home Office used to say six millon use cannabis regularly.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that it is an outrage to democracy and justice that we are denied legal and properly regulated access to cannabis, whether we use it for medicine, relaxation or spiritual fulfilment.

We don’t all have to be campaigners but we do all have to be counted.  If we want change, we have to be prepared, at least, to sign petitions, to write the occasional letter, to put our heads above the parapet.  It’s so easy nowadays.  It can all be done online in the blink of an eye but more of us need to do it and keep doing it until politicians understand that they can bully us into silence no longer.

One of the problems of the online world, of Facebook, the forums and blogs, is that we’re just preaching to the converted all the time.  We may feel that we’re getting our message across but it’s to the same people over and over again.  When you see the disgusting response that Bob Ainsworth had to his brave initiative just before Christmas, when you see James Brokenshire smugly trotting out his prohibitionist agenda, when you see Cameron and his poodle backtracking on all their enlightened and liberal ideas, then you realise that the forces of darkness are set against us.   The war on drugs, which Brokenshire fights so enthusiastically,  is another Vietnam. It can never be won because it is, in fact, a war on democracy but there will be many casualties along the way.  Brokenshire counts the high level of adulteration of drugs on the street as a measure of success.  This is the sort of thinking that we are up against.  It is perverted.  It is evil.  It denies truth and science and justice.

It denies people in constant pain and suffering access to the medicine that they need.  Even if a doctor has prescribed cannabis, ignorant, professional political oiks who have never done a day’s real work in in their lives, think they know best.  Instead they force people towards expensive pharmaceutical products with horrendous side effects but huge profits for their co-conspirators in the corrupt world of Big Pharma and its self-important regulators.   As was seen so clearly in America in the last century, prohibition is fundamentally immoral and self-defeating yet our cowardly politicians hide behind it, preferring inaction, oppression and lies to the truth.

So I have asked myself, what can we do to break this stranglehold that politicians have on the truth?  How can we counter the crass and appalling propaganda that the Daily Mail puts out?  Why does the media love the story of Debra Bell, the mother who blames cannabis for her delinquent and dishonest son?  Why is the truth about cannabis so rarely told?  Where is the voice of the millions who know the truth?

I return to the divisions there are within our cause.  Just as in California, where the growers sabotaged Proposition 19, so we have our own subversive and destructive elements. We have a breakaway group here, an independent campaigner there.  We have medicinal users who are eloquent and persuasive on their own account but will not work with others.  We have hugely courageous individuals who have campaigned and put their freedom on the line but will not reconcile themselves to co-operation.  We have to cut through this.  We have to unite, to generate a momentum that means we cannot be ignored.

That is why, just before Christmas, I decided to join the Legalise Cannabis Alliance.  I was a member of the original Legalise Cannabis Campaign and I saw how the LCA made strenuous efforts, particularly around the 2005 general election. I believe it was right and effective to put forward our views on the political stage.  This is what we must do again.

The LCA is to re-register as a political party and, in due course, I hope to stand as a parliamentary candidate.  Realistically, I don’t expect to be elected but I do expect to make our voice heard. I expect our opinions and our views to be respected and given proper consideration.  When the Daily Mail or the BBC turns to Debra Bell for comment, I expect them to turn to us as well.  When Mrs Bell is on the TV sofa, I want to be alongside her.  I want the opportunity to speak the truth in the face of propaganda.  If they want to put up eminent professors and doctors as well then I encourage it.  Science and independent reason is on our side.  The intellectual and scientific debate has been won many times over.  Now we must win the political battle and the truth is our strongest weapon.  All we have to do is shine the light on it so that the scare stories, the hysteria and the propaganda shrink back into the shadows.

We will be a single issue party with a commitment to de-register once we have achieved our aims.  I urge you all to join the LCA.  I’m going to do everything I can to make it easier to join. Possibly we need to make it cheaper.  Certainly we need to do everything we can to encourage as many people as possible to stand up and be counted.  We need to be able to accept card payments, operate direct debits.  We need as many as possible to join whether or not they use cannabis. We need to reform the law, regulate supply and distribution and realise the huge benefits as a medicine, as a gentle pleasure and as a new source of billions in tax revenue.  That’s the way forward.  Reform, regulate and realise.

One of the most repulsive images I saw last year was the fat, conceited Simon Heffer chortling into his glass of wine and saying that we need to “get nasty” in the war on drugs.  Well I’ve got news for the pompous, hypocritical boozer and for James Brokenshire and his cronies, nobody’s going to be getting nasty from this side.  We’re just going to tell the truth.  And we’re going to keep on telling the truth until it drowns out their lies.  We’re going to tell the truth again and again and again until we get the right to our drug of choice, to the plant that creates peace not violence, to the plant that heals that doesn’t kill, to the plant that we have a right to use and enjoy as we please.

UK Drug Strategy 2010 – A Plan To Fail

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Mother Knows Best

Gone are the days when central Government tells communities and the public what to do.

Rt. Hon. Theresa May, MP, Home Secretary, December 2010

A slim volume of treacle-like and turgid social worker-speak shot through with a few strands of sharp hypocrisy.  See here.

A disappointment?  Not really, it’s pretty much what I expected – an authoritarian, moralistic smokescreen behind which the government will do what it wants with no regard whatsoever for the views or the welfare of the people.  It stinks.

It claims to be radical in that it turns away from reducing the harms caused by drugs and instead aims to force abstinence. In other words, do as we say or suffer the consequences.  It is, in fact, a medieval solution to a 21st century problem.  It seems that the British government no longer cares about the harm caused by drugs.  All it cares about is that you STOP!  This is the ultimate exposition of Nancy Reagan’s discredited “Just Say No” campaign because it really is “just” say “no” – no other option exists.  This from a government that advocates giving people methadone  to “treat” cannabis use.  Can you believe it?  That isn’t medieval. It’s prehistoric – or perhaps better described as mid 20th century, a sort of Dr Mengele method.

I give Ms May credit for one thing.  She mentions alcohol alongside drugs in the first sentence of her foreword.  That is progress but from then on there is little of any value.  Nothing that you couldn’t have copied from any out of date A level textbook on social work.

The laughable assertion quoted above that the government doesn’t tell us what to do is just absurd.  Never has there been a more hard line approach to the drugs issue.  See Edwin Stratton’s article in The Guardian here which reveals just how draconian, anti-civil liberties and severe this government is.

In the penultimate paragraph of her foreword, Ms May acknowledges that there were calls during consultation on the strategy for “liberalisation and decriminalisation”.  She dismisses these as not “the answer” but fails entirely to consider the enormous harm caused and crime created by existing policies.  I will be making Freedom Of Information requests to determine just how much notice was taken of the consultation.

There is a complete failure to understand or consider the harms of prohibition.  Britain now stands as one of the most backward and restrictive countries in the world when it comes to drug policy.  We now rub shoulders with those countries that execute people for drug possession.  There is no civilised country in the world with a more repressive drugs policy than Britain.

Broken Britain

Emphasis is given to the introduction of elected Police and Crime Commissioners.  I support this move.  Hopefully, these elected officials, being closer to reality and not ensconsed in Whitehall’s ivory towers, will mitigate some of the damage that this strategy could cause.  They will have the impossible job of trying to implement these ideas and will surely give Ms May and her protege James “Broken Britain” Brokenshire some lessons in reality and common sense.

The statistics and figures quoted in the strategy are manifest nonsense.  Apparently the economic and social costs of Class A drug use are £15.4 billion per annum while the equivalent figure for alcohol is £18 – 25 billion.  Supposedly the total illicit drug market in Britain is worth just £4 – 6 billion per annum while the market for alcohol is £30 billion.  There are just 320,000 heroin and/or crack cocaine users but tens of million that use alcohol.  These figures just don’t add up.  Maybe that’s part of the reason this strategy is so badly conceived and directed.

It’s only part of the reason though.  The main problem is that the government’s approach is based on prejudice and an arrogant, moralistic, proselytising stance.  See David Nutt’s article here on what the government would do if a completely safe alternative to ecstasy was developed.  Prohibition is immoral and evil in itself.  When will our politicians wake up to what most of the rest of Europe and the USA already knows?

Powerful Medicine. Gentle Pleasure.

Cannabis, the most widely used illegal drug by a factor of at least 10 barely gets a mention except in passing.  This, in itself, exposes the inane content of this strategy.  The government apparently intends to deal with cannabis in exactly the same way as it deals with heroin and crack.  The medicinal use of cannabis, now a burgeoning industry and source of hope to people all over Europe and America isn’t even mentioned.  The crass stupidity of this strategy is almost beyond belief.

So the battle lines are drawn.  Every other civilised country in the world is coming to terms with the fact that the war on drugs is unwinnable, even lost.  Theresa May, like some mad first world war general, is blowing her whistle and urging on millions more to go over the top into certain death, or at least misery and degradation.  Her slightly fey, sweet boy, Colonel Jimmy is hiding behind her, determined to gain credit for something but definitely not doing anything worthwhile, “Crikey!  Not me. I’m staying safe.”

This could be a deeply depressing day but at least now we know where we stand.  David Cameron and Nick Clegg have completely turned around on the progressive and liberal ideas they have advocated in the past.  Nothing is a better indicator of the integrity and intelligence of a government than its drug policy.  Britain is shamed by this effort which will inevitably cause more harm, cost more money and ruin more lives.

Advisory Council On The Misuse of Drugs Meeting, 18th November 2010

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I attended this meeting last Thursday at Church House, just around the corner from the Houses of Parliament.

There were approximately 35 members of the council in attendance, sitting around a huge U shaped table with perhaps 20 people in the public seats.  Inevitably, such a huge meeting could only touch on adminstrative matters and formalities.  Clearly, most of the ACMD’s work is done in much smaller working groups.  However, there was an interesting Q&A session and I was pleased to experience a council meeting.  I wouldn’t recommend it for light entertainment though!

Prof. Leslie Iversen

Professor Leslie Iversen was in the chair for the last time. His post and those of eight other members have been advertised and their replacements will be appointed as from 1st January 2011.  These are voluntary positions with members receiving only expenses and subsistence payments for their work.  They undertake an onerous and important responsibility and I commend them for their public service.

Full minutes should be available on the Home Office website here within a few weeks.  However the main items of interest were:

  • the ACMD’s response to the Home Office’s drug strategy consultation
  • a report on anabolic steroids
  • a report on the issuing of foil by drug clinics as an alternative to injection
  • a report on 2-DPMP, marketed as the “Ivory Wave ” legal high
  • a request to report on khat, the herbal product from East Africa that contains cathinone, the same active ingredient as mephedrone
  • a request to report on cocaine use after a recent report placed Britain at the top of the European league table

Then we came to the Q&A session and, of course, yours truly had a question prepared.  First though there was a large contingent of the Somalian community present appealing for the prohibition of khat.

I have to say that nothing I have heard about either mephedrone or khat has interested me or persuaded me to experiment.  There were a number of emotional and passionate speeches rather than questions; one from an ex-khat addict, one from a Somalian psychiatrist and others from community members. It’s clear that khat does cause harm but it saddened me that the only solution being suggested was prohibition.  I understand this as a knee jerk reaction but it won’t work.  All it will do is drive use undergroud and make the problem worse.  Professor Iversen himself commented that the price of khat where it has been banned is 20 times that of where it is legal.  If prohibition is enacted in Britain all we will be doing is playing straight into the hands of criminal gangs yet again.

I asked the council whether there wasn’t an urgent need for it to update its advice to the government on the medicinal benefits of cannabis.  I cited the recent MHRA approval of Sativex which is, of course, nothing more than a tincture of herbal cannabis.  I also mentioned that Arizona had just become the 15th state in America to introduce a medical marijuana programme and that Israel has recently announced a massive increase in growing facilities and dispensaries.

I am paraphrasing here, of course, but Professor Iversen threw up his hands in horror at being asked to review cannabis again when he has already done so three times.  The general view from the council seemed to be that whatever was said to government on this subject,  no notice would be taken.  I shall be following up my oral question with a letter to Profesor Iversen.  We have to expose this Home Office lie that there are no medicinal benefits from herbal cannabis and that this is based on advice from the ACMD.  It isn’t.  It’s a government deception.

For me the most important part of the day was the opportunity to introduce myself in person to Professor Iversen.  I thanked him for agreeing to become a founder council member of the British Medicinal Cannabis Register.  He said how enthusiastic he was about the register and that he has been an advocate of medicinal cannabis since the 1990s.

“Outrageous Scaremongering” Over Cannabis

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Last October,  36-year old Julie Ryan was found dead in bed by her three children, now aged 14, 13 and 8.  At a coroner’s inquest in Oldham last week, pathologist Dr Sami Titi said “The direct cause of her death was cardiac arrest because of a history of smoking cannabis”.

Dr Sami Titi

Julie’s family claims that this is not true, that Julie’s cannabis use has been blamed because the Royal Oldham hospital failed to treat her properly. In Britain, there has only been one previous occasion when a death has been attributed to cannabis. In 2004, Lee Maisey, 36 of Pembrokeshire, who smoked half a dozen “joints” a day, was found dead on his living room floor after complaining of a headache.

At the inquest in Oldham, the coroner, Simon Nelson, was said to be surprised at the pathologist’s story and questioned him closely. Dr Titi insisted that “smoking of cannabis is well known to have a negative impact on the heart and can cause heart attacks in young people”. The coroner said that in 15 years he had never heard a pathologist so confident that cannabis could be fatal. He recorded a narrative verdict of “death from cardiovascular complications induced by cannabis smoking”.

Coroner Simon Nelson

Julie’s brother, Kevin Ryan, says that the pathologist’s remarks are “outrageous scaremongering”. Her mother, Linda, is bewildered by events. As planned, Julie’s children had stayed with her while the inquest was taking place. Now they have returned home to the furore of this extraordinary verdict and are extremely distressed.

Julie had visited the Royal Oldham hospital several times complaining of chest pains but been sent away with a diagnosis of heartburn. The post mortem examination revealed she had a severely enlarged heart and had suffered a previous heart attack which had not been diagnosed. Family sources said “It’s a cover up. Cannabis doesn’t kill. They made a big mistake.” Mary Burrows, Julie’s cousin, who was very close to her, said she preferred to smoke cannabis rather than have a drink and that “she was a wonderful mother and her kids miss her so much”.

Dr Mark Eckersley, a local Manchester doctor, said “More and more pressure is being piled on medical professionals to propagate this type of untruth by the powers that be.” He said doctors need to maintain credibility with the community and that “this type of nonsense makes my blood boil”.

A spokesman for the Royal Oldham hospital said “Miss Ryan died from a heart attack and cardiovascular problems. Our thoughts and sympathy go to her family.”

On 2nd November in California, Proposition 19 is expected to permit the personal use of cannabis for the state’s 28 million adults. As a result, new tax revenues of $1.4 billion are anticipated, up to 110,000 new jobs and a boost of up to $18 billion to the state’s economy from spin-offs such as coffee shops and tourism.

In America, any health concerns about the plant are far outweighed by health benefits. Medical cannabis is already regulated in 14 states with another 12 in the planning stage. In Britain, Sativex, a whole plant extract of cannabis, was recently authorised as a treatment for MS. It costs about eight times what medical cannabis costs in America, Holland, Spain, Israel and very shortly Germany, where there is a fully regulated supply chain. In Britain, despite a House Of Lords Scientific Committee recommendation, the government refuses to consider such a move. Many patients whose doctors have prescribed Sativex have been denied funding from their health authority. In some of these cases, criminal prosecutions have been brought against them for cultivating their own plants.

A spokesman for GW Pharmaceuticals, developers of Sativex, said “The therapeutic ratio for cannabis is so high that it is virtually impossible to ingest a fatal dose”.

Prof. David Nutt

Professor David Nutt was sacked as chairman of the Home Office’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs last year after claiming that cannabis was less harmful than alcohol and tobacco. His successor, Professor Les Iversen, also maintains that cannabis has been “incorrectly” called dangerous and says it is one of the “safer recreational drugs”.

On Friday, Professor Nutt said cannabis “seems to cause much less harm than alcohol and that banning the plant is “unjust and therefore undemocratic”. He added: “The previous government’s policy to deter cannabis use by forceful policing increased convictions for cannabis possession from 88,000 in 2004 to 160,000 in 2008. As well as ruining many lives through getting a criminal record, this added massive costs to taxpayers in extra policing and prison costs.”

Prof. Les Iversen

Dr Sami Titi, the pathologist, was unavailable for comment and did not respond to emails. It has not been possible to identify any scientific support for his conclusions.

Julie Ryan’s family is left bemused and uncertain by this verdict. Three children are without a mother and confused about contradictory messages. The 13 year old has been posting on websites about her concerns. Meanwhile, the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office have criticised the government for basing drugs policy on opinion rather than evidence. James Brokenshire, the Home Office Minister, in direct contradiction to his own advisers, continues with the story that cannabis is “extremely harmful”.

James Brokenshire

Both David Cameron and Nick Clegg are on record over the last 10 years as consistently calling for reform in drug policy. The Your Freedom website has been overwhelmed with requests for evidence based regulation of drugs and the legalisation of cannabis but the government is riding roughshod over this public outcry. A consultation document on a new drugs strategy was issued just over a week ago but it seems meaningless and dishonest as all the big decisions have already been taken. Cannabis campaigners, working on behalf of six million regular users in the UK, are outraged at what they see as hypocrisy, misinformation and regressive government action.

Dr Mark Eckersley, exasperated and concerned at the pathologist’s evidence said “This is simply not true. Hearing this story is more likely to cause a heart attack than the ingestion of any cannabinoid”.

Written by Peter Reynolds

August 31, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Posted in Health, Politics

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Was Tony Blair A Force For Good?

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My Non-Appearance On Sunday Morning Live

Since Wednesday the BBC had been in touch every day.  This morning they started calling me and testing my webcam and sound from 8.30am.  They had me sitting at my desk from 9.45am, 15 minutes before the programme started.   I was warned I could be in shot at anytime.  I drank too much coffee.  I did get a little nervous and jittery.  I was desperate for a cigarette even though I gave up six months ago!

Who was that suave, debonair, good looking chap in the crisp white shirt on the background screens?  Yours truly of course, waiting patiently for my big moment, trying not to sneer or laugh too raucously at the ridiculous first discussion on animals.

I had my notes blu-tacked to the window frame right behind my webcam, adjusted so that viewers would never lose deep, seductive eye contact with me.

“We’re coming to you now Peter”

“Stand by”

I fancy I can see Susanna Reid flushing slightly in anticipation of introducing me…

“Uh, sorry Peter, we’re not going to be able to come to you.  Out of time I’m afraid.”

Such are the trials and tribulations of my life!  Suddenly the programme was over.

You'll Get Your Chance, Gorgeous

Turning to far more important things, the dogs and I set off for the hills.  My mobile rang and it was Anna from the BBC, apologising and promising me dinner and a hot night with Susanna all at the corporation’s expense.  “No, sorry, I can’t be bought off.  Call me tomorrow. I’m too busy now.”

On the panel in the studio had been Mary Whitehouse’s successor, frumpy Anne Atkins and the utter jerk, Francis Beckett.   What a prat?  Why would anyone want to listen to his obnoxious, ill considered views, delivered with all the grace of a blind, three legged rhino?

Was Tony Blair a force for good?  This was the question I was supposed to be answering.  The BBC had come to me as a result of this article.  I had, of course, considered my response and this is what I intended to say.

Was Tony Blair A Force For Good?

I do not count myself as a Tony Blair supporter.  I never voted for him.  In fact, at all those elections I deliberately spoiled my ballot papers writing “no suitable candidate” across them.  I am an admirer though.

I think you have to give him credit for a number of things.  He rescued Labour from its madness and turned it into a credible and electable political party.  That was good for democracy.  He finished off the good work that Margaret Thatcher had done on the unions.  He was her true successor.  Now the only nutters that we have left are Tweedledum and Twitterdee from Unite and the mad and bad Bob Crowe from the railways.

You have to give him huge credit for Northern Ireland, for Kosovo and Sierra Leone.  I think he was also responsible for a fundamental change in British politics in that he reconciled caring with competition.  For the first time it was accepted that you could have a social conscience but still believe in business and the free market.

On Iraq, clearly it is a good thing that we got rid of Saddam Hussein although, personally, I think we should have assassinated him.  If there was a moral justification for war,  for shock and awe, then there was for assassination.  Even if we had lost thousands of special forces that would have been better than hundreds of thousands of innocents.  I do think that Blair became carried away with George Bush and that was a mistake.  Bush will be forgotten long before Blair.  He was not of the same calibre.  All he had to offer was the might and power of America.

Fundamentally, what you have to ask is did Tony Blair act in good faith?  I believe he did.  I believe he is an honourable man.  Look backwards from Blair to Thatcher and there’s noone else until Churchill and then Lloyd George.  That is the company in which Tony Blair will be remembered.  He is a great man.

I Was There For You Tone!

The one thing I really don’t understand in this man of vision and intelligence is his conversion to Catholicism.  I can just about accept his Christianity although why a man with his intellect needs organised religion I don’t know.  I really can’t understand why he wants to be allied to the institution that has been responsible for more evil over the last 2000 years than any other.  I think it demeans him.  He has far, far more to offer the world than that stupid old bigot the Pope, for instance.  It seems to me the Catholic Church will benefit far more from him than he will from it.   That’s his business though.