Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘drugs policy

Dame Carol Black’s Review of Drugs. A Missed Opportunity To Speak Truth to Power

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Dame Carol Black

There is some useful work in Dame Carol’s review but by definition it was only ever about supporting current strategy. She was constrained from the beginning by the terms of reference which stated: “The review will not consider changes to the existing legislative framework or government machinery.”

Given such an absurd restriction, I wonder why any self-respecting expert in policy would take on the role? At best it could only ever advise on tweaks and adjustments rather than the fundamental changes that are urgently needed.

It’s clear that drugs cause harms in our society.  They cause health harms to individuals, particularly in the case of the legally regulated drugs alcohol and tobacco but other drugs cause far more harms as a result of the illegal, unregulated markets through which they are produced and distributed.  These are called social harms but there is not a clear dividing line.  For instance, drugs produced illicitly are of unknown strength, purity and consumers cannot know whether they are contaminated with other, perhaps more harmful substances.

So treatment for addiction and dependency, which is what most of Dame Carol’s review focuses on, is essential and is scandalously under-resourced.  This is an entirely false economy as the consequences are devastating for our society.  As Dame Carol writes: “The drugs market is driving most of the nation’s crimes: half of all homicides and half of acquisitive crimes are linked to drugs. People with serious drug addiction occupy one in three prison places.”

Politicians don’t put sufficient resources into drug treatment because they are fools and their failure is based on stigma and lack of vision. They don’t think such funding wins votes. Why should people who aren’t consumers of street heroin or cocaine fund healthcare for people who have a problem they have brought on themselves and for which they broken the law in the process?

This indicates the very low opinion that our so-called leaders have of the electorate.  Of course there are people who hold such a short-sighted view and believe it’s not their problem and some even take the same view about those who suffer health harms from the legally regulated drugs, alcohol and tobacco.  But these people are in the minority and if politicians paid them the respect and took the time to explain how intelligent policy can benefit us all, then this nasty and self-defeating attitude would very quickly all but disappear.



So any rational person with even a modicum of foresight must support Dame Carol’s call for increased funding, better co-ordination and accountability between government departments.  She also writes that “A whole-system approach is needed, with demand reduction a key component, to drive down the profitability of the market.”  This is where the logic, usefulness and validity of her review begins to fall down, in large part because of those idiotic constraints placed on her that she cannot propose “changes to the existing legislative framework or government machinery”.

Of course, no one in their right mind aspires to a lifestyle of addiction and dependency which dominates their life and inhibits fulfilment and success.  Substantial reduction in demand can be achieved through properly funded treatment. We should aspire to turning round the lives of the majority of the 300,000 problematic consumers of opiates and cocaine.  To do this we need to understand more effectively how and why their drugs consumption works.

Addiction to opiates shares the same dreadful reality as addiction to alcohol, that stopping or withdrawing from regular use is difficult, can be very dangerous and causes its own health harms.  Cocaine is different.  It’s not really addiction in the same sense, it’s more about compulsive behaviour. If you stop, after initial recovery from the tiredness and destructive lifestyle you will, quite quickly, begin to feel better. 

Where Dame Carol’s review falls over and becomes a little ridiculous is when she writes: “We can no longer, as a society, turn a blind eye to recreational drug use. A million people use powder cocaine each year and the market is worth around £2 billion. The vast majority of users do not see themselves as having a drug problem and they are unlikely to come forward for treatment.”

These people, alongside the vast majority of consumers of MDMA (ecstasy), cannabis and most other currently prohibited drugs are not suffering any health harms.  With very few exceptions, the only significant harms around their drug consumption are those caused by the criminal markets which current legislation has created.  The drugs themselves are, in most cases, far less harmful to health than the legally regulated drugs, alcohol and tobacco. 

The glaring error in Dame Carol’s review, forced on her by the constraints, that show her work to be propaganda in supporting an already failed policy, is when she writes “they are causing considerable harm to others through the supply chain, both here and abroad.”

This is a staggeringly irrational and biased statement, contrived to shift the blame from failed policy and irresponsible ministers onto drugs consumers.  You cannot blame consumers for the harms caused by politicians’ failure to regulate drugs markets.

In every other aspect of life we rightly expect government to act to protect us and keep us safe.  This is why we have speed limits, safety belts, MOT tests, why other forms of transport such as trains and aeroplanes are strictly regulated.  This is why alcohol, tobacco and also food are subject to regulation, why sports have governing bodies that set rules and standards to keep participants safe.

We know from history the consequences of prohibiting alcohol which gave rise to the first gangsters and we have stumbled into the same dystopia by prohibiting drugs.  When alcohol was banned in the USA and consumption went underground, people stopped drinking wine and beer, preferring high-strength, much more harmful, often contaminated hooch.  The ultimate perversion of government’s responsibility was when it started to poison illicit supplies in an effort to deter consumption.  We are on exactly the same path now with drugs.  It is a path that will lead to greater criminality, more harm, more death, misery, ruined lives, massive expenditure, crime and the degradation of our society.  This is where current drugs policy is taking us and Dame Carol Black’s review supports this stupidity.

I cannot believe that an intelligent, experienced woman like Dame Carol would not recommend changes in current policy had she been allowed.  What we desperately need is people in her position to have the courage to defy the stupidity of government minsters and speak the truth, the whole truth.  All drugs must be legally regulated in direct relation to their potential for health harms.

Thus, alcohol, tobacco, opiates and cocaine, while legally available to minimise the criminal market, must be under strict control. In my view, with its well established place in our society, the sale of alcohol should be permitted in far fewer outlets.  There should be quantity limits.  It is crazy that in a supermarket you can only but two packs of painkillers but as many cases of whisky as you want.

Opiates should be on prescription only, with compulsory therapy but much easier to access so that those with a problem get their clean supply of known strength from a pharmacy, not from a gangster-controlled dealer.  Necessary funding for treatment must be in place but there will not be a surge of demand. Most people don’t want to use heroin!

Cocaine, which is not really any more harmful than alcohol, in some ways less, should be available to adults in restricted quantity and frequency for registered consumers from pharmacies.

At the other end of the health harm scale, cannabis and MDMA must be restricted by age and regulated for quality with known strength and absence of contamination.  We can virtually eliminate the criminal market in these drugs if we regulate them properly.

If we want to reduce the harms from drugs, this is the inevitable solution.  We can either continue to delude ourselves that we can stop drug use, which is a gift to the criminal market, or we must recognise that there is no other effective policy except legal regulation.

Whoever comes next of Dame Carol’s status and influence must speak this truth to power.

Written by Peter Reynolds

July 11, 2021 at 10:26 am

Politicians Who Want To Keep Cannabis Banned are on the Same Side as the Gangsters and Drug Lords.

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This article was published in the Daily Express on 8th April 2021 as ‘Legalising cannabis will slash drug crime and levy taxes, it’s nuts not to’

Sadiq Khan has suggested, timidly, a ‘drugs commission’ to look specifically at the legalisation of cannabis. No.10 has hit back saying that a review is waste of time and it has no plans to change the law because “illicit drugs destroy lives and cannabis is a harmful substance”.

I agree.  A review would be a waste of time. We already have all the evidence we need from around the world and it is clear that legalisation would reduce all harm, undermine the gangsters, cut street dealing and violence, protect children and families.

I also agree that “illicit drugs destroy lives” but it’s not the drugs that do that, it’s the fact that they’re illicit.  The law against cannabis causes far more harm than cannabis itself.

Yes, cannabis can be harmful but we have wealth of evidence showing that it is much less harmful than alcohol, tobacco, energy drinks, traffic pollution and many things we consume regularly. Peanuts and shellfish cause far more health harms than cannabis.

But even if you believe the hysteria and exaggeration about the dangers of cannabis, does it make sense to allow gangsters to control the market?  If it’s so dangerous, to protect children and the vulnerable, our government should take responsibility and take control of the market. Look what has happened in many other places, legal regulation of cannabis takes it off the streets and into licensed retailers who have to obey age limits, label their products so adults know what they are buying and pay taxes, which in the USA are raising millions of dollars which are spent on schools, healthcare, drugs education and other community projects.

In Britain we spend £6 billion every year on cannabis and on top of that hundreds of thousands of people grow their own. No one pays any taxes on it and all the profits are used by organised crime to fund other criminal activity.

It’s the criminal cannabis market that provides the funding for county lines.  Young people are groomed into delivering hard drugs by being offered “a bit of weed’. The epidemic of knife crime is driven largely by the gangs and they are funded by their trade in cannabis.  It funds prostitution, modern slavery, people trafficking, it’s where all the gangsters’ money comes from and the very last thing they want is for it to be legalised.

The alternative can be seen in reality in the USA, Canada, Uruguay and other places. In Canada, after just two years of legalisation, already more than half of all cannabis is bought through licensed retailers. In the USA, where cannabis is legalised, underage use has gone down.

The most important thing is that in these places there is now some real control over cannabis. Crime has been reduced. Gangsters don’t rule the streets anymore. There’s no problem with ‘Spice’ because why would anyone buy that dangerous synthetic when they can get the legal, top quality, much safer real thing?

In the USA there are now 350,000 new jobs in the legal cannabis industry. That’s equivalent to 50,000 new jobs in Britain and those are jobs that have been taken away from criminals. All those workers now pay taxes too.  It’s a win-win solution

Today it seems that the main opposition to legalising cannabis comes from the organised crime gangsters and from our politicians. Why? All they ever do is come out with the same non-explanations as Boris Johnson has.  They don’t seem to want to discuss the subject at all and most of them, including Boris, have said they have used cannabis themselves!

In fact, in a video that is widely available on social media, in the year 2000 Boris Johnson asks why his “respectable neighbours who roll up a spliff and quietly smoke it together” are “in breach of the law”?  And he says “I think there is a danger that the government is becoming out-of-touch with what people are actually doing”.

The truth is that legalisation is inevitable.  Every day that our politicians put it off they cause more harm. Another child is sold highly potent, so-called ‘skunk’ on the street. Another young girl is groomed into using hard drugs by being offered some new clothes and a ‘bit of weed’. Another young man is stabbed to death in some stupid dispute over territory, the sort of argument that is dealt with by normal business methods in places where cannabis is legally regulated.

So next time you hear a politician being ‘tough on drugs’, realise that its not drugs he’s being tough on, it’s the people in your community.  Banning cannabis hasn’t worked, there is more of it consumed across the world than ever before. There is a choice, let the gangsters keep running it, terrorising our streets and communities or get tough on them!

Take away the cannabis trade from organised crime and take responsibility for it.  Control it.  Reduce its harms. Benefit from safer streets, increased tax revenue, more jobs, less crime. Ask your MP, whose side are you on?  Are you on our side, looking after us properly, or are you on the same side as the gangsters?

Written by Peter Reynolds

April 11, 2021 at 10:25 am

Review. ‘Drug Use for Grown-Ups’ By Dr Carl L. Hart

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“I discovered that the predominant effects produced by the drugs discussed in this book are positive,” Carl L. Hart writes in his new book. “It didn’t matter whether the drug in question was cannabis, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine or psilocybin.”

Carl Hart is a tenured professor of psychology at Columbia University, an experienced neuroscientist and a father. He believes that if “grown-ups” like him would talk freely about the role of drugs in their lives, we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in, a mess brought about by our ruinous drug policies, which have had such profound — and profoundly unequal — consequences for those who fall afoul of them.”

I’m reading Carl Hart’s book. Like him, I’m fortunate to have avoided any legal consequence from my ‘hobby’.  I share his advantage of having a decent education but I’m also white and from a relatively privileged, solid, two parent, loving family background.  If it wasn’t for this I doubt I would have been so lucky.  At one point in my life my hobby did become a habit but it was my advantages that got me through.
The older I become the more I realise that our appalling drugs policies are about class and race discrimination and they only serve to make these divisions worse. This is why our politicians do nothing because they, like me, can get away with doing as they wish.

Written by Peter Reynolds

February 28, 2021 at 3:15 pm

My Predictions for Cannabis in the UK in 2021

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On medicinal cannabis, the senior clinicians and bureaucrats at NHS, NICE and the professional medical bodies will continue to do all they can to block access. Until key individuals are offered fat fees to run clinical trials they will continue to insist that this is the only form of evidence that is acceptable. They will continue to ignore and reject all evidence from overseas. The clamour from more and more patients will grow. The private clinics will boom but our political ‘leaders’ will continue to be impotent in the face of the vested interests of the medical establishment.

The Cancard will take off and police forces will welcome it as a sensible solution.  More and more people will grow their own and cannabis will become completely decriminalised by default.  Only if you’re behaving like an idiot or are engaged in large scale commercial grows and/or gangsterism will the police be interested.  Again our political ‘leaders’ will be useless and too scared of the tabloid media and their bigoted, poorly-informed backbenchers to do anything.  Meanwhile the cannabis trade will continue to drive county lines, knife crime, prostitution, modern slavery, all off the back of profits from cannabis but Boris and his buffoons will refuse to understand this or follow the evidence that legal regulation is the solution.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA), in collaboration with the big business lobbyists, The Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI) , will succeed in getting all the multiples and major retailers to stop selling whole plant CBD extracts, which are what work and what consumers want. Dozens of small CBD companies who actually built this market will be put out of business by the FSA/ACI and hundreds of people will lose their jobs.  FSA/ACI will continue to ramp up their false propaganda that CBD can be toxic despite a complete absence of any real world evidence – all this with the intention of pricing small, artisan suppliers out of the market. Nasty, ineffective, isolate-based products will come to dominate the high street. Despite this, whole plant extracts will continue to be available online and the FSA will discover that it can’t enforce its rules because its definition of ‘novel food’ doesn’t actually fit genuine whole plant extracts.  They will bring prosecutions against some suppliers but these will fail once expert evidence is adduced.

The legal British cannabis market will continue to develop in faltering steps because of the obstacles inherent in the way the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 is applied. The government is terrified to undertake the wholesale reform that is urgently needed because of outdated and ignorant attitudes.  It’s so transfixed by the drugs issue that it won’t even make the small tweaks to regulations on industrial hemp, exempt products and licensing that would give a massive boost to business prospects.  I can see no chance of any progress until the Covid crisis is over and ministers have more bandwidth to look at other issues.  Even then it’s going to need some new blood in cabinet.  Although Boris Johnson himself probably does have the instinct for reform, he is surrounded by third rate ministers, most of whom could never be considered progressive and are hardly visionary or ambitious thinkers.

The Birch-Moore cartel will continue to try and monopolise the entire British cannabis space.  Paul Birch, the multimillionaire stoner who landed a fortune from shares in his brother’s business, provides the cash and Steve Moore, former architect of David Cameron’s damp squib ‘Big Society’ project, runs the show. Volteface, Centre for Medicinal Cannabis, the ACI, Hanway Associates, Familes4Access are all different faces of the same core team, all characterised by generous funding, a young, aggressive team and an arrogant disdain for everyone else in the market.  Birch’s money has definitely brought some welcome benefits and was the missing ingredient in achieving the media coverage which led to the legalisation of medicinal cannabis in 2018.  They took ideas and policies developed by other groups and added a well-funded PR operation because the reality is that however important your message, without the hard cash you just don’t get coverage on daytime TV and the main news programmes.  Aside from causing great division, particularly amongst the families campaigning for their epileptic children, the negative and malevolent aspects of their work is best demonstrated by the ACI’s manipulation of the CBD market and bullying of many small businesses.

I’m hopeful that at least in Scotland, which has the worst drug deaths record in Europe, there will be some progress on dealing with problematic hard drug use and its consequences.  The heroic actions of Peter Krykant, who is illegally running a mobile drugs consumption room in Glasgow and saving lives every day, have had a big impact.  This man deserves every bit as much praise as Captain Tom, Marcus Rashford or anyone else who has engaged in altruistic campaigning in 2020. He deserves a knighthood. As I write this, the latest reports suggest Nicola Sturgeon might even defy the dinosaurs in Westminster and fund appropriate harm reduction measures which are so desperately needed.

Until our political ‘leaders’ wake up to the fact that the entire criminal drugs market and the tens of billions it costs the UK are driven by the prohibition of cannabis there will be no real progress either on reducing the cost or improving public health.  The kids who are being stabbed on London’s streets, the young people who are trafficked and the vulnerable hard drug addicts who are being cuckooed as part of county lines dealing, it all starts with the criminal trade in cannabis.  That’s where the money comes from and until the market is taken away from the gangsters and properly regulated, things will only get worse.

Although we’ve all despaired about some aspects of the US political system, the progress on cannabis, even in Republican states, shows what real democracy can achieve. Local ballots have forced reluctant and often hostile politicians to comply with what the people want and make cannabis legally available.  The Biden-Harris team have promised federal decriminalisation and expungement of criminal records for all non-violent cannabis offences.  I think this will happen.  Even if the Republicans retain control of the Senate this issue has built up a head of steam that won’t be stopped. Remarkably, the one issue that transcends the terrible divides in American politics is cannabis.  If the Senate goes Democrat we could see much more far-reaching change.  And once the federal law on cannabis changes, you watch all the slimeball politicians throughout the rest of the world pretending that’s what they wanted all along.

Overall, I am optimistic. Hopefully, as we head through summer and into autumn next year, Covid will be behind us, we’ll all be back to earning a proper living and a lot closer to enjoying our cannabis in freedom, for pleasure, medicine or both.  My very best wishes and the compliments of the season.

Written by Peter Reynolds

December 24, 2020 at 12:51 pm

Professor Les Iversen, Tightrope Walker and Unsung Hero of Cannabis Law Reform

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Leslie Iversen, born October 31 1937, died July 30 2020

Daily Telegraph obituary ‘Leslie Iversen, pioneering neuroscientist who studied the effects of drugs on the brain’

I’m sad that the latter years of Les Iversen’s life have been skipped over in this obituary. As with so many scientists who have had some influence in the political field, he had to tread a tightrope between scientific evidence and the ignorance, bigotry, prejudice of those in politics who are far more concerned with tabloid headlines than facts.

His chairmanship of the ACMD was conducted with great skill and enormous patience as politicians took decisions which were diametrically opposed to evidence. If Les had had his way, the medicinal benefits of cannabis would have been acknowledged far sooner and his knowledge would have cut through the vested interests of senior clinicians which are currently stalling progress on uptake of this most valuable medicine.

Les was appointed chair of ACMD following the disgraceful sacking of David Nutt who had the temerity to tell government the facts about relative drug harms. Les was less of an abrasive character than David Nutt although their professional opinions on government drugs policy were closely aligned. He continued to speak truth to power and, as he told me many times, was completely frustrated by politicians’ attitude to cannabis and their preference for the Daily Mail’s guidance on drugs policy rather than science.

From 2010, as the campaign for cannabis law reform became far more professional and began to attract support from more and more backbench MPs, it was immensely valuable to have someone who was strong and certain in advising ministers of the facts, even if they chose not to act on them. He must take a huge amount of credit for the legalisation of medicinal cannabis in 2018. He was immensely skilful at remaining in post in order to provide the best advice while actually telling ministers that their polices were foolish. He has never received the recognition for this that he is due.

Today’s ACMD is supine in comparison, crippled by legislation which has effectively castrated it and turned it into a committee that will confirm whatever the Home Secretary of the day requires. Scientists and clinicians, more than ever, are controlled by the big businesses and fat cats who want to determine drugs policy based on self-interest and prejudice rather than science. Les was one of the last of the noble breed of scientists who told the truth without fear or an overriding concern for their bank balance.

Written by Peter Reynolds

October 27, 2020 at 12:14 pm

Five Reasons Why Boris Johnson Should Legalise Cannabis Now

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1. Popularity

Polls confirm that a majority of British voters support reform of our cannabis laws. More than three-quarters are strongly supportive of medicinal cannabis.  There has been a sea change in attitude, also strongly accelerated by the rise of the CBD market, itself born entirely out of small, entrepreneurial British businesses. Boris could catch this wave, delight more than half of the electorate immediately with a bold, radical move and dispel much of the ‘nasty party’, authoritarian mood that has come out of the Covid crisis. Properly explained, a new policy can also deal with the concerns that still remain about cannabis. It should be presented as a solution to the four further reasons set out below and because, in 2020 no one wants to see their son, daughter, mother or father turned into a criminal just for cannabis.  A large majority of electors support this.

2. Mental health

For many years, politicians have been advocating that mental health should be treated with the same priority as physical health. The Conservative Party has promised it repeatedly over the past decade. For those that fear cannabis contributes to young people’s problems, legal regulation is, without doubt, the solution. Age limits and licensed rather than criminal distribution channels will minimuse underage use. Proper labelling and limits on THC content of licensed cannabis will protect against the negative effects of so-called ‘skunk’.  For the millions that we know already use cannabis actually to help with their mental health, particularly during lockdown, it will enable access to new, safely controlled and designed products with ideal ratios of CBD and other ingredients. These will be far preferable to the massive bill both in NHS expenditure and side effects that we currently pay for tranquilisers, anti-depressants, sleeping and anxiety medicines.

3. Tax revenue

The potential for an enormous net gain to the British economy, turning what is now only a drain on resources into a new revenue stream is huge. Serious, erudite work has been completed by a number of well-respected institutions. The most pessimistic estimate a net gain of about £1 billion. The most optimistic projections are 10 times as much. Looking to actual experience around the world, most likely is somewhere in the middle, perhaps around the £6.7 billion that the Independent Drug Monitoring Unit calculated in its 2011 study. As we emerge from the Covid crisis into a deep recession, cutting our costs and increasing our income are going to be vital and cannabis isn’t going away. We have to choose whether to waste money on it or make money from it. Cannabis legalisation won’t just cover its own costs but provide billions more that can be added to the public expenditure budget – and we are going to need every penny.

4. Jobs

About 250,000 people work in the legal cannabis industry in the USA and numbers are expected to grow significantly as legalisation expands. That’s equivalent to creating about 50,000 new jobs in the UK. A legally regulated cannabis industry would create huge investment in sophisticated cultivation and production facilities, distribution and retail channels. The CBD industry has already created hundreds of new businesses and thousands of new jobs in the way that only new industries can. We can already see that the push back from big business and big pharma that have missed out on this boom is about destroying jobs and stifling innovation. The path that the EU and the FSA are trying to force the CBD industry down is really about protectionism for the established pharmaceutical and supplement industries.  We are going to need new markets, new thinking and fresh ideas to create new jobs.

5. Crime and violence

The long held ‘gateway’ myth that consuming cannabis ‘leads on to harder drugs’ has been disproven over and over again by science. It’s still strangely prevalent amongst the poorly informed but even the UK government’s expert advisors formally rejected it in 2008. The laws against cannabis and the £6 billion criminal market that they have created is the gateway to deliquency, knife crime, county lines exploitation and hard drugs. The police and our political leaders have found themselves on the same side as organised crime, for they share the desire to keep cannabis banned. The public demand is not going away and a responsible government would act to regulate the market, to make it safer and to protect consumers. The criminal cannabis market is how young people get groomed and enticed into county lines and it’s what drives knife crime. It drives and funds much more serious crime. It is undermining our society. It really is one of the most idiotic, irrational and counterproductive of all government policies.  A legally regulated market will pull the rug from under this nightmare scenario.  As Canada has proved, within two years, around 50% of the market has already moved to legal channels and the damage caused by nearly a century of prohibition is gradually being undone.

Written by Peter Reynolds

October 3, 2020 at 4:30 pm

Priti Patel on Poppers Demonstrates How Corrupt and Irrational Is UK Drugs Policy

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Priti Patel wants to legalise ‘poppers’, a drug with dangerous effects on the heart and eyes, in order to help the sex lives of gay men who account for around 3% of the population. Yet she refuses to legalise cannabis, a drug that is generally very safe, even though it can provide real medicinal benefits for 100% of the population.

‘Poppers’ is the well established street name for alkyl nitrites, a type of drug that is inhaled, producing a massive and almost instantaneous ‘hit’ by relaxing ‘smooth muscle’ which results in the dilation of blood vessels in the brain. This leads to a drop in blood pressure which the heart immediately responds to by increasing its rate and so a huge amount of extra blood surges into the brain.  Crucially, another smooth muscle that is affected is the anal sphincter and so the gay male community has found poppers a useful aid to anal sex. They can fairly be described as making anal sex safer and more pleasant, preventing ruptures or tears.

It would be a good thing to legalise poppers and to regulate their production and supply so that use of them is as safe as possible.  Alongside legal regulation, information on harm reduction could be offered and the whole environment surrounding their use could become much more sensible and civilised. It would be a even better thing to legalise cannabis. All the same benefits of safety and the environment would result but they would affect many millions more people.  In addition, the £6 billion criminal cannabis market, which feeds violence, gangsterism, county lines, hard drug dealing, modern slavery and much more serious crime, would be dealt a terminal blow.  It wouldn’t stop immediately but it would be the beginning of the end and it would transform many aspects of British society. I believe the benefits would be much wider and more far reaching than we can even imagine.

So what can possibly explain this move?  Why would such an irrational policy be proposed by the Home Secretary?

Priti Patel is quite possibly a very pleasant woman and she is to be admired for rising to dizzying heights in  political life despite the prejudice towards both her gender and race.  She has an unfortunate manner and glint in her eye that seems to appeal to to the authoritarian side of the ‘nasty party’, probably exactly why Boris Johnson made her Home Secretary to appease the hard right, for he is essentialy a libertarian.  Why is she so keen to move on poppers but not on other drugs where reforming their legal status is far more urgent and would deliver benefits on a far greater scale?

It’s instructive to recall what happened in Parliament when it first seemed that poppers would be banned under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016.  Crispin Blunt, the Conservative MP and a prominent advocate for drugs policy reform, declared himself a user of poppers and sure enough, within a few weeks the Home Office had found a way to exclude them from the Act.

 

I expect no one would agree more with me than Crispin Blunt on the urgent need for cannabis to be regulated and, indeed for other drugs, far safer than poppers, such as MDMA (ecstasy). Present policy maximises the dangers of all drugs and while a fatal cannabis overdose is impossible, people do die fom MDMA overdoses because in an unregulated, criminal market no one knows the strength of what they are taking.

There can only be one reason why Ms Patel is making this irrational move on poppers and it’s because she has been subject to lobbying, probably from other MPs who hold the same position as Crispin Blunt.

So while I welcome the legal regulation of poppers, cannabis and MDMA should come first.  It’s no surprise that once again our politicians pursue drugs policy that is irrational and corrupt.

 

Written by Peter Reynolds

August 17, 2020 at 5:25 pm

Facebook Moderation and Censorship AKA ‘Community Standards’ Going Haywire

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It may be automated systems going wrong or it may be another misguided crackdown on legitimate

posts but as usual with Facebook it’s impossible to get any answers, explanation or guidance.

The CLEAR team has run a Facebook page now for 10 years.  According to Facebook data it’s the second most ‘liked’ page on cannabis and drugs policy and its ‘engagement’ is usually in the top three of all similar pages worldwide.

We’ve experienced everything crazy that Facebook has thrown us over those 10 years.  But in the past few weeks the inexplicable and quite ridiculous censorship has reached new levels.

Over the years, our page has been hijacked three or four times by breaches in Facebook’s (not CLEAR’s) security. On each occasion it has taken up to a month to regain control which has involved endless unanswered messages and emails.  Most recently Facebook has required notarised statements and evidence to restore control to our admins even though they have 10 years history on record.  On one occasion, whilst the page was out of our control, Facebook took no notice at all of a stream of hardcore porn videos that were posted day after day.

Facebook’s attitude to cannabis and drugs policy is wildly inconsistent. It goes through periods of not taking any notice at all to what’s happening at present, which is where even the most innocuous mentions get sanctioned.  Even links to academic, scientific and medical papers or research get removed on the basis that they are ‘promoting drug use’ or even more absurd, ‘selling drugs’.

Today, it has removed one post in which Lisa Quarrell has been told that the NHS will not pay for her son’s medicinal cannabis because she had previously ‘gone private’ to obtain it and it would be an ‘improper use of NHS funds’.  It has also removed a post about a designer who has been ordered to pay Starbucks $500,000 because he designed a bong that looks like a Starbucks coffee cup.

Peter Reynolds was recently blocked from posting, first for three days and then for seven days for posting a meme inviting subscriptions to our email newsletter, the CLEAR Daily News.  This, apparently, is ‘selling drugs’.  We’ve been posting exactly the same meme regularly for over two years with no problem at all.

What’s really worrying is that two long online ‘chats’ with Facebook concierge support (available to advertisers) achieved nothing except for mindless repetition that the post ‘goes against community standards’.  These are real people constrained to the role and inteligence of a bot, unable to think or exercise any discretion.

Meanwhile the endless, lunatic, conspiracy theories on vaccines, Bill Gates, 5G, coronavirus, etc. fill up the newsfeed.  Reports indicate that child porn,  fraudulent scams, misuse of celebrities’ images, terrorist ideology and violence are still not under control.

Facebook is an essential tool for any business, NGO or campaign.  You simply have to be on it. It’s a monopoly that is out of control.  In reality it seems to have more power over governments and regulators than they have over it. It needs to be broken up. The fact that it is also Instagram and WhatsApp is a ridiculous state of affairs.  How have Zuckerberg and his bots been able to get away with this?  Their ‘community standards’ or at least the enforcement are clearly an abuse of US constitutional rights and that is the only jurisdiction of which they take any notice.

CLEAR has put many tens of thousands of pounds into Facebook advertising.  Pages now have to pay if they want to reach their followers.  Before the algorithms changed all our posts would reach thousands of people, sometimes hundreds of thousands. In the last couple of years in many instances that has gone down to single figures. All the time, money and expertise we have invested in Facebook is being wasted.  We have been cheated out of it by this out-of-control, arrogant monolith.  As of this week our executive committee has stopped all Facebook advertising for good. It’ll make no difference to Facebook of course, until thousands of others do the same thing but we are not going to give them any more of our members’ money.

We will continue to do our best to bring our followers the news in the face of this draconian censorship.  All our posts are also on Twitter which is in many ways (not always!) a better and more adult forum but, of course, it’s very unfocused and inflexible.  The minute that there is a viable alternative to Facebook, CLEAR will be off.  It’s a phenomenon that has run its course. We need more intelligently managed and properly regulated online media to communicate through.

Written by Peter Reynolds

May 9, 2020 at 2:11 pm

If I Believed Corbyn Could Bring Down This Corrupt Conservative Government I’d Join The Labour Party. But Can He?

with 3 comments

I truly believe that tribalism is one of the most destructive forces in politics.  Sticking with same party just because you’ve always done so and perhaps because your parents did too, will not advance our society. We should cast our vote for a reason, not out of blind loyalty.

In the 42 years that I have been entitled to vote I have only ever voted Conservative (with one exception which I shall explain later) but as we now have the most corrupt government in my lifetime, I will vote for whichever candidate is most likely to get the Conservatives out of office.  I’ll go further in that I am now seriously considering joining the Labour Party.

Self-Serving and Corrupt

Our government is corrupt because it pursues self-serving policies for its tribal advantage and not on the basis of evidence. Astonishingly it has managed to destroy the opportunity that Brexit presented.  That the cabinet is still bickering two years after the referendum and has no agreed policy is conclusive proof that the party is reckless, irresponsible and unfit to govern.

The Conservative Party is in crisis and is dragging Britain down with it. It has moved so far away from its fundamental principles of individual liberty, individual responsibility, small government and free markets, that it has become unrecognisable.

Instead we have a party and a rump of aging opinion that has become an authoritarian, bureaucratic, self-serving, repressive enforcer of an austere nanny state. It is so out of touch with developing opinion and values that it is doomed.

My area of special interest, drugs policy, is a pillar of this crumbling mausoleum. What Theresa May and her allies have imposed on us for so long is now causing immense harm throughout our society and it is a microcosm of the wider problem with the party.

As an advocate for drugs policy reform and a Tory, I’ve been unpopular with the party I have voted for all my life and with the left which has tried to hijack this liberal cause as its own.

As I pass 60 I am delighted and rewarded to see so many joining my progressive cause. However, I am no more optimistic about the Labour Party on drugs policy.  This reform is being driven from the bottom up and will happen regardless of the buffoons who have resisted it for so long.  It is vital now that we overturn this tyrannical government which has failed on so many policies but in particular has destroyed the great opportunity of Brexit and left us in the worst possible position.

In future, I will vote for whichever candidate best assures me of overturning this government. The bigger question is whether I should now join the Labour Party. I will never be a socialist but I am pragmatic and that means I am precious close to becoming a Labour Party member and I will certainly be voting for Jeremy Corbyn.

We must demolish the old Conservative Party before we can rebuild a party of the centre right that is fit for the future.

Written by Peter Reynolds

May 27, 2018 at 1:39 pm

More Lies From The Home Office. A UK Government Department That Is Institutionally Dishonest.

with 3 comments

This deceit from the Home Office needs to be called out straightaway.  Andrew Gilligan, the Sunday Times journalist, did a great job of getting the Victoria Atkins cannabis scandal out into the mainstream and I thank him for that.  I gave him a great deal more evidence of Home Office maladministration than he used but he managed to bring out yet more brazen dishonesty in the process.

The Home Office said: “When she was appointed . . . the minister voluntarily recused herself from policy or decisions relating to cannabis, including licensing.”  This is absolute nonsense.  It is a lie of the sort that you might expect from a small child that doesn’t really understand what is dishonesty.

Ms Atkins was appointed a Home Office minster on 9th November 2017.  Since then she has spoken or provided written answers on aspects of drugs policy which either directly or indirectly concern cannabis.  In fact, for decades our government hasn’t had a drugs policy, it has its inane drug strategy which treats all drugs exactly the same.  The only difference as far as the Home Office is concerned are the penalties applied on conviction.

Ms Atkins has enaged on matters relating to drugs policy which either directly or indirectly concern cannabis on 23 occasions that I have been able to identify since she was appointed.

Organised Crime: Drugs. 23rd April 2018

Slavery: Children. 23rd April 2018

Organised Crime: Drugs. 16th April 2018

Drugs: West Midlands. 12th March 2018
Cannabis: 7th March 2018
Slavery: Vietnam. 20th February 2018
Human Trafficking: Vietnam. 6th February 2018
Drugs: Internet. 5th February 2018
Slavery: Children. 31st January 2018
Drugs: Spain. 31st January 2018
Drugs: Misuse. 29th January 2018
Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. 29th January 2018
Organised Crime: Drugs. 24th January 2018
Drug Consumption Rooms. 17th January 2018
County Lines. 17th January 2018
Organised Crime: Drugs. 8th January 2018
Misuse of Drugs: Minsterial Group. 14th December 2017
Organised Crime. 8th December 2017
Drugs: Misuse. 4th December 2017
Slavery. 30th November 2017
Drugs: Misuse. 27th November 2017
Slavery: Children. 27th November 2017

 

 

 

 

Written by Peter Reynolds

May 14, 2018 at 9:07 pm