Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘cannabis

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

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.

 

A Very Large Majority of those Entering Cannabis ‘Treatment’ Are Coerced Into It By Authorities.

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This is very difficult data to track down but it’s a fact that needs to be clearly understood as the hard right, authoritarian press ramps up its anti-cannabis scaremongering this week.

Coercive medical treatment is unethical and possibly, in some cases, illegal but it is the principal route by which people in the UK are forced into GP and community health ‘treatment’ for cannabis ‘addiction’ or ‘cannabis use disorder’ as it is now termed.

Most people are told to go into treatment by the courts in return for a lighter sentence or no sentence at all. Young people are also ordered into treatment by the courts or by their school or college as an alternative to being expelled.

Public Health England’s own data showed that 89% of under-18s in treatment were coerced into it, only in 11% of cases did the patient themselves or their families believe they needed it.

SOURCE: Unfortunately as with so much drugs related information, the government has ceased to collect the data and the archives have been removed. The organisation Public Health England has now been shut down but for the sake of accuracy this was the source of this information: Table 2.4.1 http://www.nta.nhs.uk/uploads/young-peoples-statistics-from-the-ndtms-1-april-2015-to-31-march-2016.pdf

 

Written by Peter Reynolds

January 11, 2022 at 6:52 pm

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

Review. Tobor Elite Vaporiser

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UPDATE. 8th February 2022. I’ve now been using this product for over three months and I’ve become more and more pleased with it. It’s a triumph, overall the best handheld vape I’ve ever used and it’s a bargain at less than £100.

I’ve been using this new device for about a month now and I’m very impressed with it. It produces vapour more quickly than any other handheld vaporiser I’ve tried. It’s very easy to use and doesn’t seem to need the practice that others do before you get the ‘knack’ to using it effectively.

Even better, it costs less than £100, it’s robust and high quality. Like most vaporisers it’s let down by its battery which ideally would hold twice the charge. In practice it will only vape two bowls before it needs a re-charge but that seems to happen pretty quickly.

I think the reason it works so quickly is because the bowl is unusually large. I’ve learned not to fill it more than about one-third full and then the sheer size of the chamber, with hot air being pulled through it from all sides is what gets the evaporation going quickly. Another benefit is that it doesn’t need the temperature increased as you get to the end of the bowl. It just keeps cranking out vapour as the whole device, which nicely fills your hand, warms up and delivers those ‘big clouds’ which with many vapes are largely imaginary!

The poor battery life is a problem and means for those few hours in the evening when I want to use it, I have to have something else as well and at the moment (apart from the occasional neat joint) that’s my Arizer Solo 2 which has a fantastic battery life and I’ve acquired a water bubbler stem which is a definite plus. The Tobor Elite would work also well with a bubbler if one was available.

So this definitely gets a recommendation and the low price makes it a strong contender, particularly if it’s your first vaporiser as it’s so easy to use. The real test will be how the battery perfoms over time. They all deteriorate, hold less charge, take longer to re-charge and eventually give up completely. If it lasts a year I’ll be pleased, any longer would be exceptional. But this is excellent value for money and I don’t think anyone could be disappointed with it at the price.

It’s available here from Canna-Logic.

Written by Peter Reynolds

October 25, 2021 at 4:25 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Irish Cannabis Market.

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

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

 

Written by Peter Reynolds

October 14, 2021 at 6:32 pm

Review. Kanabo VapePod

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I’ve been intrigued to try this vaporiser ever since I first heard of it.  Its stand-out feature, though not a unique claim, is that it accurately dispenses cannabis vapour, clearly an important facility for medical use.  Perhaps what’s even more important is that it’s part of a package from Kanabo, newly quoted on the London Stock Exchange, alongside cartridges of different cannabinoid content. It’s the first credible, all-in-one prescription product for vaporised medicinal cannabis.

It doesn’t disappoint.  The packaging looks just right to be sitting on a pharmacy shelf.  There’s no silly cannabis branding.  You couldn’t mistake this for a children’s toy or a stoner’s gizmo.  It hits the spot precisely: functional, medical, professional.  It’s going to inspire confidence from anyone, including a naive cannabis consumer, when they collect this from their pharmacy. It elevates the sometimes jokey level of medicinal cannabis products to where they need to be.  It is perfectly judged.

The device itself is a bit fatter and a bit shorter than the standard vape pens that we all know. It’s a black plastic, octagonal tube with a translucent coloured mouthpiece. I think I prefer its thickness compared to standard vape pens but that may be the size of my hands. A woman might still prefer the thinner design.

I was provided with two cartridges which come in smaller boxes. They’re described as “Pure Distillate Hemp Extract” and I have the “Reload. Feels like a moment of clarity and focus” and the “Relax. Quiet your mind & find tranquility”. The difference between them is the blend of terpenes which are added back into the distillate once it’s been refined.  Inside the box is what looks much the same as the small vape cartridges that we’re already used to, with the mouthpiece already attached.  It really couldn’t be easier.  You just drop the cartridge into the end of the tube and it’s ready to go.  Equally you can just pull one cartridge out, it’s held in by a magnet and replace it with another.  The only thing I’ve found to criticise so far is that there is no distinguishing mark on the cartridges so it’s impossible to tell them apart.

Of course, I’ve only been provided with the CBD cartridges. Where this product is really going to come into its own is when prescribed with cartridges that contain THC.

So to the crucial issue. How does it accurately dispense vapour, metered dosing as it is called? It’s a patent pending device, designed in Israel, where the only other metered dosing vape, as far as I know, the Syqe, also originates. It seems to work simply by limiting the duration of an inhalation to about two seconds.  In the interests of testing it out, I did see if I could cheat it and it’s definitely the case that if you pull harder you inhale more vapour. Each inhalation is supposd to dispense 1.2mg of CBD, so I think you can increase this fairly easily but only within a narrow band.  It’s no criticism.  I’m impressed with the way this works and I only wish I could try it with a THC cartridge.  But this is a new world now, in a good way.  I can’t see Kanabo sending me a THC cartridge to try if it’s not prescribed and that is the way it should be really.

As for the contents of the cartridges themselves, they’re clearly quality products and I fervently hope that prescribers will have the option of specifying from a wide range of cartridges with different cannabinoid and terpene content.

With the sole exception that each cartridge needs labelling so you know which one you’re using, I can’t fault this. It’s the right idea, well executed and this is the future of medicinal cannabis as a serious medicine.

Written by Peter Reynolds

August 3, 2021 at 12:58 pm

A Small Victory Against Misleading Reporting on Cannabis in the British Press

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The peculiar relationship between drugs policy and evidence in Britain is caused largely by inaccurate, misleading and sensationalist reporting in the press. Our politicians’ inability to deal with this subject, even to engage in serious debate about it, is all about their fear of being dubbed ‘soft on drugs’ by the newspapers.

At last, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) has upheld one of my many complaints about inaccurate reporting. This was a particularly egregious example of distortion and twisting of facts to suit a newspaper’s anti-cannabis agenda.

In January 2021, the Daily Telegraph published an article headlined “’Super skunk’ cannabis led to surge in mental health crisis”. This old trope, that cannabis causes mental illness, is now confined almost exclusively to our corner of North-West Europe. The Irish also suffer under this myth and to a lesser extent, so do Australia and New Zealand but everywhere else in the world a far more balanced and realistic view is taken.

There is no evidence to support it as a direct causal effect, only that it may, in some instances, be one of a number of component factors. Science shows that cigarette smoking and traffic pollution may be far more potent factors, not to say general adolescent angst and many other issues of modern life.

Nevertheless, in Britain, the press and therefore our politicians are obsessed with the idea and regard it as fact. It is this wicked prejudice that for decades has held back access to cannabis as medicine and still does so today. Our most senior clinicians have shown themselves incapable of separating fact from fiction and in a wider context, this myth is probably still the most important factor in holding back general drugs policy reform.  Because of politicians’ weakness in the face of newspaper sensationalism, they have enabled a massive £6 billion market to develop under the control of organised crime which now causes enormous harm throughout society.

My complaint read as follows:

“This article asserts that “cannabis has contributed to a record 100,000 people admitted for NHS treatment for drug-related mental health problems”

In fact, in deliberately misleading and sensationalist fashion, figures for primary diagnosis and secondary diagnosis have been combined. Total figure for primary diagnosis in relation to all drugs is 7,027, secondary diagnosis accounts for the other 93,000+ and means that for 90% of these admissions, the primary reason may have been nothing to do with drugs.

The 100,000 figure is clearly associated with cannabis yet the actual figures for cannabis show a decline from 1135 in 2018/19 to 1087 in 2019/20.

It is crystal clear that this presentation of the data is deliberately designed to mislead and sensationalise.”

What has always surprised me in running many of these complaints is the vehemence with which the newspapers have tried to defend what are nothing more than lies.  The Daily Telegraph did exactly the same this time, trying to adduce a large volume of irrelevant information that had nothing to do with its inaccurate journalism but was just about pushing its anti-cannabis agenda. As I wrote to IPSO at one stage:

“The Telegraph is entitled to publish as much one-sided, cherry picked evidence as it wishes except that if it does not do so accurately or distorts it to the point that it is misleading, it is in breach of clause 1 of the Editors’ Code.

I have no doubt that the newspaper will continue its current policy until the flood of money into the cannabis sector reaches such a level that it will be acting against its own self-interest.  That day is now very close and then the Telegraph will face the challenge of explaining to its readers why it has misled and deceived them for so long.”

So, IPSO has upheld my complaint and its full decision can be seen here. On the face of it, the result will just be another small correction that few people will read. But I hope that the time and money it has cost the Telegraph to deal with this might have some impact in future.

I’ve just heard that the Telegraph has appealed against IPSO’s decision which demonstrates just how keen it is to continue misreporting about cannabis!

 

 

 

Written by Peter Reynolds

July 26, 2021 at 5:46 pm

100 Days Since Health Minister Stephen Donnelly Promised To #talktovera

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Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD

It was in late March.  The #talktovera hashtag had already been trending on Twitter in Ireland for several weeks when Vera Twomey received a text message from Stephen Donnelly promising that he would be in touch shortly.  100 days on and he hasn’t made contact at all.  A few days ago an official from the Department of Health (DOH) telephoned with some vaguely encouraging words but Donnelly himself has completely failed to honour his promise.

#talktovera is a campaign that has attracted the support of millions of people but the abuse the Twomey family has endured at the hands of politicians and officials is only the tip of the iceberg of Ireland’s self-destructive problem with cannabis.  It is an issue that highlights the division between a youthful, progressive electorate and a political establishment that is 20 years behind, confused between the repression of the Catholic Church and deep seated vested interests in medicine and the civil service.

Vera Twomey honoured at the 2018 People of the Year Awards

Vera’s remarkable personal effort, including walking in protest from Cork to Dublin, led to a special ministerial licence for her daughter Ava, enabling her to access medicinal cannabis that has undoubtedly save her life.  Now around 50 people in Ireland also benefit from a similar licence but funding of the medicine is a mess with no consistent or rational policy in place.  Ava is far more fortunate than others as the cost of her medicine is met by the state but only after her parents have to find €9500.00 every three months and then wait five weeks for it to be reimbursed.  This is an enormous burden for any working family and means they live in peril where illness or work problems could easily result in a serious threat to Ava’s life. #talktovera started as a straightforward and reasonable request to the health minister to discuss the matter and find a resolution.

Four years ago, largely as a result of the attention that Vera had brought to the issue, the Irish government announced its Medical Cannabis Access Programme (MCAP).  Not a single patient has yet been prescribed cannabis under its provisions and funding for it has has only just been announced.  It enables consultants to prescribe for just three conditions and they are restricted to just four products, all of which will be funded at source by the state. But none of the products used by the 50 people with a ministerial licence are included and on the face of it they were abandoned to continue finding the money themselves, with only a few, including Ava, ever getting it reimbursed.

This ridiculous state of affairs has transfixed Stephen Donnelly. He and his officials have failed to deal with the issue properly and the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be an excuse for something that needed only a few minutes of his time.  It does require the courage to grasp the nettle and cut through reluctant, stubborn officialdom and a medical etablishment that is way behind every other country in Europe in embracing the remarkable power that medicinal cannabis offers.

To be fair, Micheál Martin, the Taoiseach, has spoken directly to Vera on a number of occasions. He was always supportive of Vera’s initial campaign for Ava but his contact has been in a personal capacity and for some reason he has felt unable to instruct his health minister to deal with the matter. He could also have instructed DOH officials over Donnelly’s head but he hasn’t been prepared to do this either.

The reality is that in Ireland, on this issue, its political leaders are not in charge. The tail is wagging the dog.  Officials at the DOH and the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) are not in charge either.  They submit to a regressive, bigoted medical establishment that ignores best practice and evidence from around the world and is fundamentally hostile to cannabis.  They in turn submit to the powerful forces of gangsterism and organised crime that pervades Irish society, still, tragically, with significant paramilitary influence behind it.

I can attest to my own experience of Ireland’s self-destructive problem with cannabis.  Although I have now lived in the Republic for four years, before that while living in the UK, then still a member of the European Union, I have been trying to help Ireland develop a medicinal cannabis industry. I have learned that there are powerful forces resisting any progress with a calculated determination to procrastinate and prevaricate. As far back as 2015, I first approached the DOH with a proposal from one of the leading Canadian licensed producers to establish an Irish facility.  Since then, three further clients, each substantial international organisations, actively seeking to invest tens of millions of euros in Ireland, have walked away, frustrated by backwards, negative thinking, prejudice and bigotry.  Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of jobs have been lost and tens of thousands of Irish people are denied access to the medicinal cannabis that could improve their health.

The UK remains way behind where it should be in access to medicinal cannabis but as I work with clients in both countries, in comparison Ireland makes the UK look like Califiornia.  It’s pathetic the way that senior clinicians in the UK continue to resist the inevitable and the huge weight of positive evidence but Ireland is far, far worse. Some of it is to do with it being a very small country, a population of only five million, any one senior doctor who achieves professional and political influence can become immensely powerful.

Dr Ray Walley leads Irish doctors against cannabis

Dr Ray Walley, formerly president of the Irish Medical Organisation and prominent in health politics, runs the Cannabis Risk Alliance, a cabal of senior clinicians that promote 1930s ‘reefer madness’ ideas about cannabis. In 2019, to its eternal shame. the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland invited Alex Berenson, a tabloid journalist and author of spy and conspiracy fiction, to address its members on his theories that cannabis causes violent crime and has no medical benefits. It’s hardly surprisng that when in 2017, the HPRA convened an expert working group to review the medical use of cannabis, its conclusions were about as negative as you would expect from ‘experts’ with zero knowledge of cannabis steeped in prejudice from all their colleagues. It would be funny, were it not so tragic, that the ludicrous conclusion of its work is that pain is now excluded from MCAP. It’s the condition for which millions of people around the world successfully use cannabis but according to these fools it doesn’t work in Ireland.

It’s absolutely clear that it’s these attitudes that control officials in the DOH and HPRA and have led them to frustrate any political will to support medicinal cannabis.  It’s the HPRA that has taken an absurd length of time to identify four products for MCAP that are actually a hopeless mismatch for the three conditons that it covers.  Ironically, the products selected would be more suited to treatment of pain which is, of course, excluded from the programme.  There is a suggestion that officials selected these products based on lobbying from their producers rather than their suitability.  I have seen no evidence for this but based on my other experiences, it makes sense.

The HPRA was also charged with setting up a licensing system for the cultivation of cannabis and production of medicines but to my first hand knowledge it has been dilatory to the point of negligence. Senior officials at HPRA have twice made promises to my clients on timings which they have reneged on, costing my clients substantial investments of time and money.

It is clear to me that there is institutional hostility towards cannabis in the DOH and HPRA and that this is fuelled by the prejudice and ignorance that pervades the medical establishment.  In the face of this, Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly are impotent, useless and incapable of making any progress.

Irish drugs gangsters thank their customers for their continuing support

Then, to far more sinister effect and at the root of all this is the burgeoning criminal market in cannabis, the credible evidence that at least 10,000 Irish people are regularly accessing illicit cannabis to deal with their medical conditions, that probably half a million more are engaging with the gangsters to buy cannabis for pleasure and relaxation. Behind this is violence, misery, human trafficking and the massive cannabis cashflow that funds the even more dangerous trade in hard drugs by the gangsters and paramiltaries.

Cannabis could be a huge opportunity for Ireland in better medical treatment, new businesses, increased employment and a healthier and happier society. Instead it is a massive problem caused by weak politicians, incompetent officials, a corrupt medical establishment and violent orgainsed crime.  An Garda Siochana, the Irish police, are trapped in the middle but it’s the Irish people that are the real victims. And the weak, pathetic, hypocritical and cowardly health minister, Stephen Donnelly, still won’t #talktovera.

Written by Peter Reynolds

July 3, 2021 at 5:20 pm