Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘drug

The Root Of All Britain’s Drugs Problems Is In Marsham Street, London, SW1

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The Home Office describes its role as “to keep citizens safe and the country secure”. Its lead role in drugs policy achieves exactly the opposite of this.

It is a scandal encompassing successive governments for more than 50 years that the UK’s approach to drugs has been so utterly disastrous that our policy has caused far more harm than it has prevented.

Currently, the two issues of major concern are the rate of drug deaths and difficulty in accessing cannabis as medicine. It’s no surprise most people now recognise that drugs policy should really be a matter for the Department of Health. The only reason for keeping it in the Home Office is if you believe it is primarily a security issue and about enforcing the law to stop people using drugs and interventions to stop production and importation.  This is an outdated view based on misguided thinking.  The Home Office’s own research shows that laws, enforcement and penalties make absolutely no difference to drug use.  There is no justification for keeping drugs policy in Marsham Street, particularly when we consider the way this focus on security and enforcement has made all our drugs problems so much worse.

Famously, before the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, it is said there were about 3,000 problematic drug users in the UK. Today, the effect of this law, administered by the Home Office, is that figure has exploded to more like 350,000 problematic users.  It has been a disaster of unparalleled scale.

Victoria Atkins and Theresa May. The drug barons of Britain.

And everything about Home Office drugs policy makes the problems worse.  The only purpose of drugs policy must be to reduce harm but the Home Office is obsessed with a moral crusade of reducing drug use and the level of use is not the same as the level of harm.  Most of the time, the Home Office’s attempts to reduce use cause more harm than the use of drugs itself.  This is particularly true with cannabis where a criminal record, even a caution, causes far more harm to an individual than the use of cannabis. The Home Office already knows that criminal justice measures do not reduce drug use, so enforcement is largely futile and it causes harm.

It is dreadful that the Home Office is strongly resisting efforts to introduce drug consumption rooms (DCRs) which have been shown, conclusively, to reduce drug deaths.  In Glasgow, the local council and the Scottish government are backing the proposal but the Home Office is intransigent.  What is truly appalling and demonstrates a criminal standard of corruption at the highest level is the way that Victoria Atkins, a Home Office Minister, has lied and misled Parliament and the public on the evidence for DCRs.  She, of course is also a rabid anti-cannabis campaigner while her husband makes his living from cannabis production, licensed by the Home Office! This conflict of interest and hypocrisy well illustrates the fundamental corruption and dishonesty that is the Home Office culture.  The ‘hostile environment’ towards immigrants, first introduced by Labour but enthusiastically pursued by Theresa May when she became Home Secretary in 2010, is central to the way that Home Office officials conduct themselves, not only about immigration but every area of home affairs.  The ‘customer’ is the enemy in Home Office terms, someone to be distrusted. This is the way officials treat those who they are paid to serve.

Against this background, it’s astonishing that the new regulations enabling access to cannabis as medicine were introduced while Theresa May was PM.   No one is more strongly prohibitionist, nor, during her six years as Home Secretary, more in tune with the Home Office’s interfering, repressive culture.  It’s more than ironic that on leaving Downing Street she has purchased a flat in, you guessed it, Marsham Street!  This, the scene of her most shameful actions in government, is where she feels at home.

The introduction of the new regulations while she was PM shows that with a big enough media outcry , even the most stubborn bigot can be forced to concede. Though now the media spotlight has moved on, the desperately ill children, some having hundreds of seizures a day, have been forgotten. With just a couple of exceptions they still aren’t getting the medicine they need on the NHS. For them, the new regulatiions mean that they can now get their medicine legally but it has to be paid for privately. Typically this means expenditure of thousands of pounds per month which the families simply cannot afford.

Under the new regulations, cannabis-based products for medicinal use (CBPMs) are supposed to be available on prescription from specialist doctors as unlicensed, schedule 2 medicines. It’s proving difficult enough to get a doctor to prescribe, such is the lack of understanding amongst doctors and the incredibly restrictive guidelines that professional bodies have put in place.  On top of all that, the Home Office is doing all it can to obstruct access.  Clearly its duty is to facilitate implementation of the new regulations but it is hostile towards the people that seek access to cannabis.  It is and always has been institutionally opposed to cannabis.

For years there has been a procedure in place for those who are prescribed schedule 2 medicines containing controlled drugs to bring up to three month’s supply into the country without requiring a licence.  For cannabis this has been swept aside without any explanation or reason.  The process involved in importing CBPMs is tortuous and complex as the Home Office shows no flexibility, no compassion and places obstacles at every turn. And there is no accountability at all. All Home Office policies, decisions, actions and processes are opaque.  They see no reason to explain themselves. They do what they want, irrespective of the needs of the people concerned, or even the law. Marsham Street considers itself above the law, exempt from any judicial or democratic accountability. Ultimately, the prospect of applying for judicial review of its actions is completely out of reach for everyone except the super rich.

The other crucial aspect of delivering on the new regulations is to develop a UK-based cannabis industry where we are producing ourselves what our people need.  The Home Office has failed entirely to grasp this nettle. Reports are that dozens of applications have been submitted for licences but so far, a year on, the best information I can get is that only one, highly restricted, research-only licence has been issued. So even it doesn’t allow for porduction of CBPMs, all of which have to be imported at huge expense.

It remains the case that the only company licensed for commercial production of cannabis is GW Pharmaceuticals and its subsidiary/supplier companies.  A company in which Home Office minister Victoria Atkins and former Home Secretary and PM Theresa May both have a personal financial interest.  The depth of this corruption and the failure to hold these two crooks to account is surely one of the biggest political scandals ever in British history.

Home Office ministers have a great deal to answer for but also the officials who have restrained those few ministers, such as the Liberal Democrat Norman Baker, who have even dared to consider reform.  The prejudice and bigotry on drugs policy runs so deep it is difficult to see how it can change.  But change it must.  Britain desperately needs a PM and a Home Secretary with the courage and intelligence to grasp this nettle.  Until those people emerge we are destined to stay in a very dark and destructive place while more and more deaths, misery and serious violent crime are caused by those who are failing us so badly.

Written by Peter Reynolds

November 30, 2019 at 6:49 pm

The Shame Of Drugs Minster Sarah Newton MP.

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Sarah Newton is MP for Truro and Falmouth. Since July 2016 she has been Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office. Her responsibilities include drugs and alcohol.

During last month’s drugs debate Mrs Newton caused uproar in the House of Commons when she said she “would not agree that alcohol is the most dangerous drug” and that “alcohol taken in moderation is not a harmful drug”.

Both these statements are, of course, directly contradicted by a vast quantity of scientific evidence and many MPs corrected her dreadful mistakes as they spoke in the debate.  Mrs Newton demonstrates very clearly the standard of knowledge, evidence and probity that prevails in the Home Office.  It is locked into a policy of deliberately misleading both Parliament and the public on drugs and has been so for at last 50 years.  Mrs Newton is the just the latest MP prepared to sell their soul and integrity for ministerial office.

Her shame is compounded by the photograph above from March 2017 which shows her endorsing and supporting the work of the Portman Group, the alcohol industry’s shadowy lobbying organisation which works relentlessly to minimise controls on alcohol and public perception of the harms it causes.

There can be no doubt that this is a form of corruption.  Mrs Newton, along with the home secretary, Amber Rudd MP and her predecessor, Theresa May MP, is engaged in misleading the public, encouraging use of the most dangerous drug of all while misinforming about the less harmful alternatives such as cannabis.

Written by Peter Reynolds

August 8, 2017 at 4:22 pm

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

Add More Prohibition To UK Drugs Policy. A Recipe For Disaster.

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Unique amongst western democracies, the UK is reinforcing its ‘war on drugs’ with the most inane blanket ban on anything that has a psychoactive effect.

In the face of all the evidence, even of Ireland which has seen a similar policy result in increased heroin use and a crimewave, the buffoons at the Home Office and No.10 are pressing ahead.

The result will be more criminal markets, more misery, more death, more crime, more harms.  It is madness on a grand scale – but it’s actually more sinister than that.

Prohibition is a fundamentally immoral policy because it turns the forces of law enforcement against the people they are supposed to protect.  It is cancerous to any society.  Banning things never works.  It only makes the problem worse.

It is bound to fail and we have seen it do so again and again. Nevertheless, weak politicians return to it in
the delusional belief that this time it will work. What encourages them is that it allows them to appease
vested interests. That starts with the tabloid press but it’s really all about the alcohol industry and its
monopoly of legal recreational drugs.

When the brewers, distillers and bankers say bend over, Cameron drops his trousers and says ‘how would you like me?’. Look at the deliberate suppression of the evidence on minimum unit pricing. Cameron’s hypocrissy about corruption at the G7 is astonishing. UK drugs policy is run for the benefit of vested interests and has nothing to do with reducing harm.

It is ludicrous that the most dangerous, addictive and harmful drug of all is the only one that is legal.

The rise of NPS is entirely the product of our lunatic and futile policy of banning safe substances such as
cannabis and MDMA.

Make no mistake, compared to booze, aspirin, paracetamol, ibuprofen, hay fever remedies – weed and E are safe. Check the facts of usage, deaths and hospital admissions.

This new bill is a pathetic concept by illiberal, repressive, rather stupid and weak policymakers. It disgraces Britain.  In terms of humane, rational, evidence-based drugs policy it puts us second only to Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia. The only thing that distinguishes us from these medieval regimes is that we don’t execute people for drug possession.

Written by Peter Reynolds

June 7, 2015 at 6:54 pm

Drugs Policy Goes To Police Minister.

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Mike Penning, MP. Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice

Mike Penning MP

The Home Office has confirmed that responsibility for the UK drugs strategy goes to Mike Penning, MP for Hemel Hempstead, the Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice.

This must be indicative of the attitude that we can expect from the new Conservative government.  It would seem that this is a hardening of drugs policy as being a criminal justice issue rather than something to do with health.

Ironically, Penning is MP for a constituency that takes its name from the long history of cannabis cultivation in the UK.  Hemel Hempstead means Hemel’s cannabis farm.  Cannabis hemp was, of course, one of the most widely grown agricultural crops prior to the 20th century for its tremendous value as fibre for rope and textiles. Its history as a source of medicine has been largely forgotten but it was widely used and as many as half of all medicines in the British pharmacopoeia once contained cannabis. Without doubt cannabis was used as a recreational drug as well but the experiment of prohibition which began in 1928 has obscured all this history.

Penning is on record as a hardliner on drugs policy. In February 2015, he publicly rebuked Mike Barton, chief constable of Durham, saying:

“I do not agree at all with the chief constable of Durham. I have told him so and I will continue to tell him. Drugs are a scourge in our society and we must do everything we can to crack down on them.”

He has also twice submitted written questions asking how many deaths there have been from cannabis.  Of course, on both occasions the answer has been none but it reveals a worrying lack of knowledge and suggests a readiness to listen to or even promote evidence-free scaremongering.  He has also been responsible for the dreadful drug driving legislation, widely criticised by all informed parties and a classic example of bad lawmaking driven by the tabloid press rather than by evidence.

So this is very worrying and depressing news for those interested in drugs policy reform.  CLEAR will be reaching out to Mr Penning through our network of supportive Tory MPs and we will be seeking a meeting as soon as possible to present our case.  Most urgently we will seek his support for allowing the prescription of medicinal cannabis by doctors.

This reinforces my view that CLEAR’s strategy of engagement and persuasion is the correct way forward. Protests and making demands never have worked and never will, particularly with ministers like Penning.

Sometimes it seems that some UK politicians are oblivious to what is happening in the US, Uruguay, Israel and across Europe, not just on access to medicinal cannabis but on wider drugs policy reform.  That will be another objective; to educate and inform him of policies that more enlightened jurisdictions are pursuing and the great benefits for public expenditure savings, new tax revenue, health, crime and Tory values of individual liberty and free enterprise.

Written by Peter Reynolds

May 16, 2015 at 12:25 pm

I Have Had The Most Terrible Post-Election Nightmare.

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Libdem leaders

Julian Huppert, Norman Baker, Lynne Featherstone

Our principal allies on the Liberal Democrat benches have all lost their seats.

Quickly now, the government will be formed.  No surprise that Theresa May has already been reappointed Home Secretary but who will the junior Home Office ministers be?

Brokenshire may leave for another department.  He’s probably due for a promotion.  It would be very good to see the back of him.  Who will the Crime Prevention Minister be?  Within that portfolio rests responsibility for drugs.

This is when the nightmare struck.  Key candidates for Home Office ministers will be backbenchers who have sat on the Home Affairs Select Committee.  I hardly dare write his name in case it puts ideas in Cameron’s mind – Michael Ellis.

Michael Ellis

Michael Ellis

Ellis is a hard line prohibitionist, anti-drugs, anti-liberty, anti-science, criminal barrister with a particular record of boorish behaviour during PMQs.  He’s a junior barrister working out of chambers in Northampton and he thinks that his experience with a few scumbag dealers qualifies him to know all about drugs policy.

The idea is a nightmare.  Cameron will see his increased number of seats as vindication of all past policies so he may well go further to the right.  I hope I’m wrong. Perhaps we will get some young MP with a brain in his head and an eye for the free market economy that is blossoming in Colorado and elsewhere.  Let’s hope so.

There’s also the new members of the Home Affairs Select Committee.  Who will they be?  We need to get to know them and present our case.

We must re-design, re-target, re-focus and refine our campaign for our new audience – Tory ministers are our most important targets.

Our messages must be developed for Tory eyes. More focus on the free market, profit opportunities, public expenditure savings.  And our tactics must work with Tories as well.  There is even less room now for the self-defeating tactics of protest, civil disobedience and flaunting alternative lifestyles in a way that distracts from our very powerful arguments.  Such tactics might cause a right-wing backlash now.

Instead of being self-obsessed, as so much of the cannabis campaign is, if we want to be effective we must see things through the eyes of our target audiences, look outward not in, recognise that preaching to the choir achieves little.  It is people who don’t agree with our cause that we must talk to and it is to their standards that we must dress and behave if we want to influence them.

Now, more than ever before, we need to be smart about the way we campaign for cannabis law reform.  We do have allies in the Tory party and the worldwide momentum continues to build.

A few adjustments on the tiller are necessary but we remain on course.  Let’s just be sure we adjust our sails and our technique for the new weather.

Shocking Misconduct By South Wales Police.

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drugs search

On 11th March, South Wales Police (Heddlu De Cymru), posted this alarming picture on its Facebook page.

What is the purpose of placing such a sign outside someone’s home?

It can only be to humiliate them.  It also raises serious issues of justice and the law.  It brands the house, indeed the whole street, so the neighbours aren’t going to be happy either.  It also delivers a verdict. What happened until innocent until proven guilty?

For anyone, innocent or guilty, having your home searched is traumatic and it should be done with respect, courtesy and consideration for any children, elderly or sick people who may be upset.  It’s a craven breach of fundamental human rights to privacy and dignity.

It should be a disciplinary matter both for the officers who devised this policy and those who have implemented it.

CLEAR will be submitting a formal complaint.

Written by Peter Reynolds

March 13, 2015 at 6:54 pm