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Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘Drug Equality Alliance

A Tale Of Two Conferences

with 33 comments

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”

A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens.

It was at its best as the brave Clark French and Cure Ukay gave their personal testimonies as medicinal cannabis users at the European Student Drug Policy Reform Conference.  It was at its worst when Peter Hitchens confronted me and Sir Ian Gilmore  at the University of Bedfordshire “A Ceasefire In The War On Drugs?” debate.

The Cannabis Panel

I am so proud to have been associated with both Clark’s and Cure’s contributions at the Manchester conference last weekend.  There were tears in the audience as first Clark, who has MS, then Cure, who has Crohn’s,  explained the reality of their daily lives and the relief that cannabis provides.  The following day, Clark had a relapse and he hobbled to the front to explain, his legs in spasm.  He went outside to take his medicine and literally skipped back into the conference hall.  It was like watching Christ telling someone to take up his bed and walk.  It was intensely moving.  It refreshed my enthusiasm.  It reignited my rage.  They are both warriors for the cause of great courage and dedication.  They are my inspiration.

The conference was a worthy and well-organised event.  Lembit Opik gave a barnstorming speech which had them whooping and cheering in the aisles. There were fascinating contributions from Sebastian Saville and Niamh Eastwood of Release, Darryl Bickler of the Drug Equality Alliance, Chris Hallam and Tom Lloyd of the  International Drug Policy Consortium.  There were very practical workshops on campaigning and an engrossing lecture from Chris Rose of Campaign Strategies.  I know I’m biased but I think Clark and Cure were the stars of the show!

And so to London on Wednesday evening for the debate at Kings College University, near Waterloo.  As I walked into the lecture theatre, there was Peter Hitchens chatting with Sir Ian Gilmore. I marched straight up and introduced myself, explaining to Hitchens that I am responsible for the four Press Complaints Commission complaints that he is currently facing.  I enquired after his brother’s health and he gave me a long and detailed explanation about Christopher’s oseophageal cancer.  He was extremely courteous to me.  I took my seat directly in front of him.

Ceasefire In The War On Drugs?

Hitchens spoke first.  He is the arch dissembler, presenting facts in such a way that he draws you towards a false conclusion. To be fair, he is a fine speaker but at the heart of his argument is an intellectual vacuum.

Sir Ian Gilmore, ex-president of the Royal College of Physicians went next.  He was quiet and dignified and presented a very scientific approach to harm reduction. Finally, Tim Hollis, Chief Constable of Humberside, stood in for David Blunkett. He was an entertaining speaker. I always rather like intelligent policemen.  They have a difficult job to do and I think the good ones are very valuable to society.

So to questions…and I was fidgeting in my seat with impatience!  I had my go, talked about the harms of prohibition, about taking the more pragmatic approach with a regulated system and the evil injustice of the denial of medicinal cannabis.  Right in front of me Hitchens was visibly seething. When I pointed out that his brother is a passionate advocate of medical marijuana he snapped.  He pointed at me, glared and shouted “Leave my brother out of it!”.

Steve Rolles from Transform spoke as did Harry Shapiro from Drugscope. Tom Lloyd, who had also spoken in Manchester contributed and there were many other intelligent observations and comments.  Hitchens was clearly unhappy.

We went back to the panel and Hitchens was aggressive in his response, gesturing at me and talking of  “idiots” and accusing Sir Ian of talking “drivel”.  I heckled him. he promised to “deal with you later” with another Alan Sugar-style stab of the  finger.  Sir Ian was next and he rather politely suggested that “Peter has his head in the sand” – at which Hitchens exploded!

He grabbed his coat and bag and made as if to leave.  It was a very deliberate flounce in high dudgeon.  Later it was suggested he did it for dramatic effect but no, it made him look foolish.  He was flummoxed by the opposition.

The chairman, ex-BBC presenter John Silverman, skillfully restrained him and persuaded him to stay.  In his closing statement Hitchens quoted some statistics from Portugal in an effort to disprove that country’s success with decriminalisation.  It would be against the rules for me to accuse him of anything more than dissembling but no one in the room recognised any truth in his figures.

It was an entertaining evening and a good opportunity to raise the profile of  CLEAR.  I’m back next week for another session entitled “How the World’s View of the Drugs ‘war’ is Changing”.

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PM MP

with 24 comments

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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Home Office Backtracks On Cannabis – Part 2

with 12 comments

See the original article here.

The Home Office has been denying to me all week that it had changed its story.  It claimed that it had said “Drugs such as heroin, cocaine and cannabis are extremely harmful and can cause misery to communities across the country.”  It claimed that cannabis was never included in this statement.

Today it finally owned up.  It issued this statement at 5.18pm this evening:

A Home Office spokesperson said:

“There is clear evidence that drugs such as heroin and cocaine are extremely harmful substances.

“There is also clear evidence that cannabis is a harmful drug which can cause both physical and psychological problems. Even the occasional use of cannabis can be dangerous for people with diseases of the circulatory system, and it can contribute to heart disease and lung cancer.

“In this instance there was a drafting error with the original version of this statement, which was subsequently rectified.”

Does It Look Dangerous To You?

Now, I understand and respect the professional efforts of the Home Office PRs to damp down this story.  It just doesn’t wash though does it?

Why did it take nearly two weeks to correct this error?

Why did they try to cover up the error in the first place?

All this from a government department that emphasises how important are its “health and education messages” and that it must not send “the wrong message – to young people in particular.”

Of course, the truth is that the Home Office sends inaccurate and misleading messages about drugs all the time.  Everyone, except the Home Office ministers and mandarins, agrees that the present drug classification system is nonsense, that it amounts to nothing less than misinformation.  In fact, the Home Office is currently less than seven days away from a judicial review of its political manipulation of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.  The Drug Equality Alliance co-founder, Casey Hardison, has taken it upon himself to challenge the Home Secretary and the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) in the Administrative Court for its irrational, unfair, and possibly illegal exclusion of alcohol and tobacco from control under the Act.

Even David Cameron agrees that ecstasy should not be a class A drug – see here.  The debacle and embarrassing nonsense about the ever-changing classification of cannabis destroyed Alan Johnson’s integrity for good.  Young people have been watching the government’s “messages” for years, comparing them to their own experiences and realising  that the government talks rot when it comes to drugs.  The Home Office is inconsistent, unreliable, contradictory and nothing short of dangerous when it comes to messages about drugs – as they’ve just proved, yet again.

As for the revised statement, there is evidence to show that smoking cannabis can cause the same damage to the cardiovascular system as smoking tobacco, but no one smokes anywhere near the same amount of cannabis as they do tobacco – they’d be asleep!  In fact, the very latest research shows that cannabis has an extraordinary protective effect for tobacco smokers and may actually reduce the likelihood of lung cancer.   Other recent research has also shown cannabinoids to have remarkable effects in shrinking brain, head, neck and breast cancers.

The Home Office is so far out of date it’s difficult to believe.   It still talks sensationally about the dangers of “new stronger strains of cannabis known as skunk”.   The truth is that skunk has been the predominant type of cannabis available in the UK for more than 20 years.  That’s how up to date the Home Office is.   Finally, the “psychological problems” story.  Sure, any psychoactive substance has the potential for harm but increasingly there’s evidence to show cannabinoids actually have an anti-psychotic effect.  One of the most useful applications of medicinal cannabis is in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

To those who don’t already know the facts, I say simply google your questions.  Even the Home Office, much as it might try, has not yet found a way of silencing the truth.