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Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘Association of Chief Police Officers

The Weak And Ineffectual Response Of Most MPs To The Cannabis Debate.

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CLEAR has been mobilising its members as never before to lobby their MPs in advance of the cannabis debate on 12th October.

There are honourable exceptions but most responses have been unhelpful, dismissive and have completely failed to deal with the arguments put forward.  Most MPs are indoctrinated with the false reporting churned out by the press, scared stiff of the subject and not prepared to look any deeper.

It is a terrible indictment of these people, each of whom costs us about £250,000 per year in salary and expenses. Most simply do not do their job properly, certainly not in the interests of or representing their constituents, mainly they just pursue their own political ambitions and interests. They cannot be bothered to deal with the cannabis issue.

Usually, from both Tory and Labour MPs, the responses parrot the official Home Office line. Most are too lazy to inform themselves about cannabis and the facts and evidence around current policy which costs the UK around £10 billion per annum.  This vast sum comprises a futile waste of law enforcement resources and the loss of a huge amount of tax revenue.  It provides funding to organised crime, including human trafficking, and does nothing to prevent any health or social harms around cannabis.  In fact, if anything it maximises these harms, endangering health, communities and the whole of our society by enforcing a policy which is based not on evidence but on prejudice. Source: http://clear-uk.org/media/uploads/2011/09/TaxUKCan.pdf

Paul Flynn MP

Paul Flynn MP

As Paul Flynn MP, said in the House on 14th September:

“There is [a debate] in a fortnight’s time, on a subject that terrifies MPs. We hide our heads under the pillow to avoid talking about it, but the public are very happy to talk about it in great numbers. That subject is the idea of legalising cannabis so that people here can enjoy the benefits enjoyed in many other countries that do not have a neurotic policy that is self-defeating and actually increases cannabis harm.”

Source: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?id=2015-09-14a.185.0#g194.0

Below I reproduce a reply from one MP. This is the standard MP line on cannabis.  The words may vary slightly but essentially this is the response that the Home Office enforces and, irrespective of party, these are the disingenuous statements that MPs hide behind.

“I believe cannabis is a harmful substance and use can lead to a wide range of physical and psychological conditions. I therefore do not support the decriminalisation or legalisation of cannabis at this time.

I welcome that there has been a significant fall in the numbers of young people using cannabis, and the number of drug-related deaths among under-30s has halved in a decade and I would not want to see this progress undermined.”

Stating cannabis is harmful is meaningless and and an evasion of the question. Anything can be harmful. Such an assertion only has any meaning when in comparison to other substances.  In fact, cannabis is relatively benign, even when compared to many foods.  It is much less harmful than energy drinks, junk food, all over-the-counter and prescription medicines and, of course, tobacco and alcohol.  Compared to these two most popular legal drugs, cannabis is hundreds of times less harmful. Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4311234/

Prof Les Iversen

If cannabis can lead to a wide range of physical and psychological conditions, what are they and how likely is cannabis to bring them on compared to other substances? In fact, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, whose publications are often presented as evidence of cannabis harms, states unequivocally

 “There is no evidence that cannabis causes specific health hazards.”

Source: http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/problemsdisorders/cannabis.aspx

There is a reported fall in cannabis use from the British Crime Survey.  However, the Association of Chief Police Officers reports ever increasing incidents of cannabis cultivation and there has been a massive surge in the use of ‘legal highs’ or novel psychoactive substances.  Without exception, these are far more harmful than cannabis and their very existence is the product of government policy.  In places such as Holland and the US states that have legalised, there is no problem at all with such substances.

As for “drug-related deaths”, this is classic disinformation.  What does it have to do with cannabis? Are our MPs so badly informed that they cannot distinguish between different drugs?  Sadly, in many cases the answer is yes. Even so, this is a false claim.  The latest figures show an increase in the number of drug poisoning deaths to the highest level since records began in 1993.  So much for the claimed “progress”.  Source: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171778_414574.pdf

Just recently MPs have started to address the question of medicinal use, almost certainly because of the rising clamour from people in pain, suffering and disability.  Also because the UK is now a very long way out of step with the rest of Europe, the USA, Canada, Israel, Australia and most ‘first world’ countries. Source: http://clear-uk.org/static/media/PDFs/medicinal_cannabis_the_evidence2.pdf

“I am aware that one of the issues raised is around enabling the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. I know that cannabis does not have marketing authorisation for medical use in the UK, and I understand that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency can grant marketing authorisation to drug compositions recognised as having medicinal properties, such as in the case of Sativex.”

A marketing authorisation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is a deliberate diversion from the issue.  Medicines do not have to have an MHRA marketing authorisation.  Doctors can prescribe any medicine, licensed or unlicensed, as they wish.  However, since 1971, medical practitioners have been specifically prohibited from prescribing cannabis on the basis of no evidence at all except minsters’ personal opinions. Source: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2001/3997/made.

Applying for an MHRA marketing authorisation costs over £100,000 as an initial fee and clinical trials have to be conducted at a cost of at least the same again.  Instead, minsters could simply move cannabis from schedule 1 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations to schedule 2 alongside heroin and or, more logically, to schedule 4, alongside the cannabis oil medicine Sativex. This would place the whole question of the use of cannabis as medicine in the hands of doctors and not in the politically motivated hands of Westminster.  Isn’t that where it should be?

your-country-needs-youThis is the most important short term objective of the cannabis campaign – move cannabis out of schedule 1.  Not only would this enable doctors to prescribe Bedrocan medicnal cannabis as regulated by the Dutch government but it would mean research could start in earnest. The restrictions presently in place on cannabis, because it is schedule 1, make research very expensive, complicated and are a real deterrent.

If you haven’t lobbied your MP on the cannabis debate yet, you still have time to.  If you can, get along and see them in a constituency surgery. Full guidance is provided here but you must act now: http://clear-uk.org/guidance-on-how-to-lobby-your-mp-for-the-cannabis-debate/

Most MPs run surgeries on Fridays so that means you have just this coming Friday, 2nd October and the following 9th October.

Please at least ensure you write to your MP.  This is our moment and we are having an impact. Make sure you do your bit.

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This Absurd Waste Of Police Time And Resources

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The spectacle of police officers breaking down doors all over the country is ridiculous.  It is the most disgraceful waste of police time and resources.  Last year the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) said the total number of  “commercial cannabis factories” found in 2009/10 was 6,886 – more than double the 3,032 discovered two years ago, and more than eight times the annual average between 2004 and 2007.

What does this cost?  What does it achieve?

The prohibition of cannabis is a major error in government policy.   It is prohibition that has made cannabis-growing so attractive to organised crime and with that has come violence and human trafficking.  It is the law that puts police officers in harm’s way, that creates violence on our streets.  It is the same stupid law that sends the same police officers using the same tactics into the homes of responsible citizens.  People who are growing a few plants for themselves, who have real medical need, are treated as if they are violent criminals.

Prohibition is the most inane, discredited, intellectually redundant idea there ever was!  Yet our poodle politicians whimper along behind it without the courage to grasp the nettle and undertake the reform that is desperately needed.

This is no minor issue.  It should be high in priority because, aside from the cost to human life and liberty,  in Britain it means that £19 billion per annum is being recklessly and uselessly discarded every year.  Police officers are put in danger.  Innocent citizens are terrorised.  Organised crime profits.  Ministers won’t even discuss it.

I remember last year I heard the story of a police officer involved in a raid who had both arms nearly severed by falling glass.  What ludicrous system is it that puts citizen against citizen like this, and endangers life on all sides?

And so the crooked circle turns, around and around.  There is no excuse.  All the intellectual, moral, health and science arguments have been won. The government’s policy is manifestly wrong, fundamentally immoral and a huge waste of money.

This is a scandal of neglect, cowardice, wasted lives and wasted money that shames our nation.

Written by Peter Reynolds

February 9, 2011 at 1:17 pm

European Parliament – Public Hearing On Cannabis Regulation

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The European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies (ENCOD) has organised a public hearing on cannabis regulation at the European Parliament on 8th December 2010.  See here for full details.

In March 2009, the European Commission published the “Report on Global Illicit Drug Markets 1998 – 2007” .  This concludes that current policies of prohibition are failing in their main objective to reduce the demand and supply of illicit drugs.  Current policies may also be a crucial factor in generating and increasing harm to individual drug users, their direct surroundings and society at large.

According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) in its 2010 annual report, Europe faces new challenges posed by changes in drug supply and use.  The report also highlights the increased usage of cocaine, heroin and of a record number of new synthetic drugs.

ENCOD says that prohibitionist policies have failed to tackle the issues of drugs and drug use effectively and it is time to investigate alternative approaches.  European authorities must produce a thorough impact assessment of the costs of the current policy of prohibition and the economic benefits of decriminalisation and, as a start, the regulation of the cannabis market.

Victor Hamilton

It has been calculated that cannabis regulation would save billions in law enforcement costs, foster harm reduction, weaken the illegal cartels, and provide the opportunity to generate considerable income from taxes. The examples of California, Spain, The Netherlands and Portugal lead the way.

Victor Hamilton, the well known cannabis campaigner and former Legalise Cannabis Alliance (LCA) parliamentary candidate, liaises as a UK representative with ENCOD.   He has submitted the following letter to ENCOD in advance of the public hearing on the current state of cannabis in Britain.

Dear Joep,
Thank you for the invitation to attend the hearing on 8th December 2010.  I am afraid that both my health and the expense involved prevent me from attending.

However, as you know, ending the prohibition of cannabis and encouraging more and better use of the plant in all its forms is my main concern.  Cannabis offers many benefits medicinally, recreationally, spiritually and, as hemp, in ecologically sound fuel, construction materials, paper and plastics alternatives.  Prohibition of cannabis is a far greater crime than any perpetrated by those who use it.  It is a scandal and a sad litany of wasted opportunity and resources.

In the UK, based on research I have done and confirmed by the Independent Drug Monitoring Unit (IDMU), a legalise, regulate and tax regime could produce between £4 – 6 billion pa in new tax revenue.

For the benefit of the hearing, please allow me to update you on the present situation in Britain.

Calls For Decriminalisation

There have been calls for a relaxation of cannabis laws from a number of sources:  The Bar Council, the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Physicians, The Lancet, Professor Roger Pertwee, Professor David Nutt and the Association of Chief Police Officers.  The new coalition government’s “Your Freedom” website was swamped with calls for legalisation.

Reaction To Propositon 19

The cannabis community was eager with anticipation for the Proposition 19 vote in California, despite a dearth of media attention.  Even the BBC, obliged under its charter to provide balanced coverage, found very little time for an issue that affects at least six million Britons.  Strangely, the best of the lot was The Daily Telegraph, formerly known as the most conservative paper, it told us more about what was happening than any of the others.

The result was a disappointment and reminded us how our own campaigning has suffered from internal divisions and a lack of focus.  Nevertheless. legalisation seems inevitable in the US, even if only at state level, within the next few years.

Formation of British Medicinal Cannabis Register

This exciting initiative to create a database of medicinal users in Britain was announced only in November.  I was honoured to be invited to sit on the BMCR council as a medicinal user representative.  Other members of the council include very eminent individuals such as Baroness Meacher, the MP Paul Flynn, Matthew Atha of IDMU and Dr Malcolm Vandenburg, the pre-eminent expert witness on drugs.

The real coup though was the announcement of Professor Leslie Iversen as a council member.  Professor Iversen is the government’s chief scientific advisor on drugs.  Yes that’s the British government which continues to state that cannabis has “no medicinal benefits”.

Subversion of Schengen Agreement

Several British medicinal users travelled to Holland for prescriptions from a doctor believing that their medicine was then protected by the Schengen Agreement.  At first the Home Office agreed but then changed its position to say that British residents are not covered.  The ridiculous situation now is that any non-UK resident can bring prescribed medicinal cannabis into Britain and use it without restriction. A UK resident cannot.

Increasing Evidence Of Medicinal Benefits

There is a never ending flow of information from all around the world on the extraordinary power of cannabis as a medicine.  Facebook groups, blogs and organisations such as the LCA and UKCIA keep spreading the news.  Particularly strong evidence has been revealed for cannabinoids as a treatment for Alzheimer’s, head, neck, breast and prostate cancer, fibromyalgia, ADHD and migraine.  The mainstream media seem only interested in scandal and scare stories. They publish news about vastly expensive new pharmaceutical products but not about cannabis cures.

Confusion At The Home Office

Understandably, the British government’s position looks increasingly absurd.  The Home Office veers between describing cannabis as very harmful, harmful, dangerous, extremely dangerous and changes its story every time it is challenged.

Approval of Sativex

Sativex won welcome approval from the medicines regulator as a treatment for spasticity in MS. Despite the fact that Sativex is nothing more than a tincture of herbal cannabis, the government now maintains that “cannabis has no medicinal benefits in herbal form”.  Sativex is approximately eight times the cost of herbal medicinal cannabis and many health authorities are refusing to fund it.

New UK Drug Strategy

The government is to announce a new drugs strategy in December.  There is expected to be a shift in emphasis towards healthcare interventions rather than criminal sanctions but no move away from prohibition.  The more liberal views expressed by both David Cameron and Nick Clegg over the last 10 years seem to have changed now they have come to power.

Joep, I hope this is helpful and informative for the hearing and for you and your colleagues.

Victor Hamilton

Boris To Decide MP Prosecutions?

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Up and down the country Chief Constables have been deluged with complaints about local MPs.  Many constituents believe that their MP’s conduct has gone beyond error and misjudgement to the point where the police need to investigate.  There is huge anger and if Harriet Harman’s “Court Of Public Opinion” gets its way then there is to be much humiliation and many prison sentences for miscreant MPs.

The Man For The Job

The Man For The Job

Chief Constables are accused of sitting on their hands and being in fear of taking on such high profile suspects.  In fact, there is confusion about jurisdiction and about what recourse is open to the public if the police will not take action.

An attempt has already been made to bring a private prosecution against Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.  District Judge Bruce Morgan at Redditch Magistrates Court adjourned the application for a summons and referred the matter to the Metropolitan Police, saying that the applicant could *come back to court” if the Met failed to investigate.

The Association Of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) says that the Met is taking the lead and that jurisdiction for all MPs is likely to be in the Met’s hands as expenses claims are paid out from Parliament and not in the constituencies.

The Met’s current position is still that it’s thinking about it.  It “needs to understand the Parliamentary processes for expenses” as part of its assessment as to whether to launch an investigation.  After its clumsy and inept handling of the Damian Green affair it’s not surprising that discretion should be the better part of its valour but really, it’s a shabby response to what is probably the greatest ever betrayal of public trust.

Perhaps that’s what the problem is.  It all just seems too big, too grand, too important.  In reality, the sordid, self-serving decisions that so many MPs have taken are just as small and pathetic as any shoplifter or petty thief.

What we need here is clarity and courage.  We deserve a police service that can see through the obfuscation, blather and bluff.  If  you look at them in the same way as you would a shoplifter or a petty thief , brush away their pathetic excuses, well, officer, what are you going to do now?

If the police fail to take action, where will the public turn?  The Independent Police Complaints Commission has a very narrow remit.  It can only address questions of police misconduct.  Questions of policy, or the conduct of Chief Constables are a matter for the local police authority and in London, that means the Metropolitan Police Authority, chairman of which is ex-MP, Boris Johnson.  The Association of Police Authorities (APA) is waking up to this fast approaching buck and where it might be stopping.  Let’s hope Boris is too.