Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘evidence

The Views Of Dr Sarah Wollaston MP On Drugs Policy. A Worrying Case Requiring A Good Dose of Evidence.

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Dr Sarah Wollaston MP is chair of the cross party Health Select Committee. She was a practising GP but is now the most senior Westminster politician, not in government, who has expertise in health and medicine.

The views she expresses are extremely worrying because they betray a complete failure to take note of the evidence, particularly surprising because of her profession.

 

I responded by explaining legalising drugs doesn’t mean a free for all, it means the opposite. We have a free for all now because control has been abandoned to criminal gangs. Regulation must be in accordance with a drug’s potential for harm. It’s more urgent to legalise and regulate dangerous drugs. Keeping crack and heroin supply in the hands of criminals maximises harms through unknown strength and contamination as well as violence and street dealing. Clean, safe supplies should be available in conjunction with therapy at reducing doses. It’s simply absurd that cannabis is illegal and this idiotic policy supports crime and creates a £6 billion criminal market with massive consequential harms. It is shameful and national disgrace that our government continues with this idiocy.

There is very little health harm from cannabis. Healthcare records prove this. There are more health harms from peanuts. 99% of harms of cannabis are created by goverment policy. Ignorance, prejudice and cowardice are the defining characteristics of UK drugs policy.

Dr Wollaston suggests that drug consumers are responsible for the violence and criminal activity around the drugs trade.  I say this is utter nonsense. It is for the government to take responsibility!! That’s what you’re paid for. Take this market out of criminal hands and PROTECT people. It is disgusting to blame consumers for the harms of the drugs market which are caused by government. How dare you blame consumers for the harms of the criminal drugs market which irresponsible governments have created! UK drugs policy MAXIMISES all health and social harms. We are plagued by ignorant, stubborn, anti-evidence fools in government who are killing our children.

It is shocking that you and colleagues in government can be so trapped in ignorance and denial of the vast amount of evidence from across the world that legal regulation minimises all drug harms. If UK drugs policy was in the dock then it would get a whole life sentence.

This is an appalling abdication of responsibility by a senior politician. Dr Wollaston isn’t in government but she echoes the evil attitude of ministers who cause most harms around drugs by their idiotic policies. It is government that must take responsibility not consumers. Do your job!!

I have written to Dr Wollaston asking if she will meet me so that I may show her the evidence she is overlooking.

Written by Peter Reynolds

April 10, 2018 at 9:50 am

UK Department of Health Has Neither Requested Nor Received Any Advice On Medicinal Cannabis.

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“I know nothing. I ask nothing. I understand nothing.”

This is the astonishing reality of the way the UK government is responding to the national outcry for access to cannabis as medicine. They are doing absolutely nothing.

Across the world a revolution is taking place as more and more jurisdictions are introducing legal access to medical cannabis. Medical professionals and patients alike are realising the huge benefits to be gained from re-opening access to this most valuable of medicines. Scientific research is proving beyond doubt that cannabis is a safe and effective medicine for a wide range of conditions. Many pharmaceutical companies are investigating different cannabinoids, extracts and therapies. Most of all, citizens are demanding access to a medicine that has been denied to them for no good reason and that can improve, even save the lives of people of all ages, from the baby with severe epilepsy to the grandparent suffering the effects of aging, even dementia. Cannabis can help improve and maintain good health in all of us.

Yet the UK government is not considering the evidence. Despite even a year long Parliamentary inquiry which recommended permitting access, the Department of Health has not considered nor even asked for any expert advice. My Freedom of Information request has established this beyond doubt. See here: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/395319/response/965315/attach/html/2/1078680%20Reynolds.pdf.html

I have been pressing my MP, Sir Oliver Letwin, on this issue ever since I became his constituent two years ago. Early on he was an extremely powerful cabinet minster, generally recognised as number three in the government after David Cameron and George Osborne but he was swiftly sacked when Theresa May became prime minister.  He has already announced he will not stand for re-election to the next Parliament.

Meeting with Sir Oliver Letwin MP

To be fair, Oliver has always listened to me politely and attentively.  We have met on about half a dozen occasions and we frequently exchange emails.  He has been more responsive to me than I had hoped and to begin with he told me he was investigating what was happening in government about the subject.  His answer was that the evidence has been considered, expert advisors have been consulted and ministers have concluded that there is not a good case for reform.

I have pressed him again and again, shown him reams of evidence, shared stories with him from across the world, both of scientific research and patient testimonies.  While always courteous towards me he has remained resolutely opposed.  I could have given up long ago.  Indeed, when I asked him why can’t we simply leave it to the professional judgement of doctors whether to prescribe it or not, he gave me an answer straight out of a ‘Yes Minster’ script.  He said: “But then they would prescribe it.”

At the beginning of this year I asked him once again for assistance in putting me before a minister to advance my case.  He replied:

“We have discussed this issue before, but I am happy to set out the reason why I will not support your proposals. The Department of Health have, as you know, considered this issue, have taken advice on it from their professional public health advisors, and have concluded that the gains in healthcare arising from the legalisation of medicinal cannabis (as opposed to cannabinoids) would not be sufficiently great to outweigh the risk of abuse.”

It seems that, at best, Sir Oliver is mistaken.  I have written to him again asking for comments on the FOI response.

Whatever reply I now receive, I urge everyone to get on to their MP about this.  It is a scandal.  There can be no doubt that it is irresponsible and negligent that the Department of Health is so clearly failing in its duty to the country.  That’s not to say how very cruel and inhumane this failure is or how much money legal medical cannabis could save the NHS.  Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health, must be called to account for this.

How To Campaign For Cannabis Law Reform Under A Theresa May Government.

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  • Lobbying Parliament

  • If the Government Won’t Regulate Cannabis Then We’ll Do It For Them

  • The CBD Market

  • Medical Cannabis

  • Educating And Influencing Researchers

For cannabis and drugs policy reform, out of 650 MPs, there could not have been a worse person to seize power than Theresa May.  There are a few who come close on both Tory and Labour benches but no one who has such a long record of bigotry, denial of evidence and refusal even to consider the subject.

Senior Tory MPs For Cannabis Law Reform

To be fair, I am a member of the Conservative Party, which to many people involved in the cannabis campaign is a mortal sin but my advocacy is based on science and evidence, not tribalism or wider politics.  In any case, though many find this fact hard to accept, there has always been more support from Tory MPs than Labour. Highly influential and senior Tory MPs such as Crispin Blunt, Peter Lilley and Dr Dan Poulter are powerful advocates for reform. I firmly believe that the only sustainable route to legalisation is commercialisation and the left wing, nanny state, anti-business types are already pushing the ‘Big Cannabis’ scare stories.

So what can we do and what are we doing to advance our cause in these dark days?  Theresa May always has been secretive, inaccessible, unresponsive and entirely disinterested in any opinion except her own.  How can we possibly make any progress with a PM who has already shown she is prepared to cover up or falsify evidence and defines herself by her belief in a supernatural power?

There is more support for cannabis law reform in Parliament than ever before.  It is now official policy of both the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party. The support from Scotland is far more valuable than that from the discredited LibDems.  With the added factors of Brexit and Scottish Independence, the SNP is in a powerful position to advance its policies.  Also, in Ireland, both north and south, public support for medical cannabis reform is exploding.  Michelle O’Neill, SinnFein’s new leader, has pledged medical cannabis reform if she is re-elected (though she has no power to do so!).  Her negotiating position is immensely strong now that the problems at Stormont, the rise of Sinn Fein and the Brexit factor all combine to make a united Ireland a real possibility.

During the coalition government from 2010 to 2015, few doors were closed to us.  Over that period, CLEAR conducted more meetings with ministers and senior politicians than the entire UK campaign had achieved in 50 years.  Because we had support from the LibDems, and introductions from the Deputy Prime Minister, even Tory ministers were ready to see us, even if they were merely paying lip service.  That all stopped with the election of a majority Conservative government and after Cameron stepped down the doors were slammed in our faces, bolted and double-locked.  The campaign has been in the doldrums ever since. Or has it?

The last major achievement of the last few year’s campaigning was the release of the APPG report on medical cannabis in September 2016.  Alongside it, Professor Mike Barnes, CLEAR advisory board member, published his review ‘Cannabis: The Evidence for Medical Use‘.  To all impartial and reasonable observers, these documents should have initiated positive government action towards reform, even if it was only very limited in scope.  But no, Theresa May didn’t leave it to Amber Rudd, her successor as home secretary, she stepped straight in herself on the day of publication, before she could even have read it and dismissed the report out of hand.  This echoes the apocryphal story of James Callaghan, then PM, throwing the 1969 Wooton Report in the bin without even opening it.  Such is the inertia and prejudice that has not softened at all amongst the bigots despite 45 years of science and research proving that there are better, safer, more beneficial options available on cannabis.

Lobbying Parliament

For now, individual lobbying of MPs is our only route to power. Over the years we have refined our approach to this and we know what works.  Getting into ping pong correspondence with an MP is a waste of time.  An initial letter or email needs to be followed up with a face-to-face meeting and a determined focus on getting a tangible result. What sort of result you should look for depends on your circumstances but getting your MP to arrange a meeting with a government minister should be your goal.

If you’re a medical user then you’ll want to meet a health minister, preferably the Secretary of State, if not a junior minister or perhaps an advisor to the Department of Health.  Work with your MP to achieve the best result you can.  Your MP doesn’t necessarily have to agree with you about cannabis but they should facilitate your communication with government, that’s their job. If you’re more interested in the economic or social benefits to be gained from reform, you could ask for an introduction to the Chancellor, a treasury or business minister, or someone at the Cabinet Office who is involved in policy development.  CLEAR can usually provide someone to accompany you on meetings but this must be arranged in advance and agreed with your MP or whoever your appointment is with.  Alternatively, we can provide advice over the telephone on how to approach the meeting, what to ask for and what evidence or supporting material to take with you.

If the Government Won’t Regulate Cannabis Then We’ll Do It For Them

With an intransigent government that does it all it can to evade engagement on this issue, there is more that CLEAR is already doing.  If the government won’t take responsibility and regulate cannabis, then step by step we are going to do it for them.  Someone has to, there is far too much harm and suffering caused by present policy.

The CBD Market

Through 2016 the CBD market in the UK really began to take off.  These are products derived from industrial hemp, grown legally under licence that offer many of the therapeutic benefits of cannabis.  They should, in fact, be more accurately termed low-THC cannabis as apart from crystals and a few, rare examples of isolated CBD, they are whole plant extracts and contain all the cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and other compounds found in the plants from which they are made.  Therefore they offer many of the ‘entourage effect’ benefits but with very low levels of THC.  It was obvious though that this market was heading for problems.  More and more dubious suppliers were starting up, many making brazen claims for the medical effects and benefits of their products and many without any product testing, quality assurance or honest customer service.  The law was then and always has been crystal clear, you cannot make medical claims for a product without it being properly licensed or regulated.  Inevitably, in June 2016 the MHRA stepped in and sent threatening letters to a number of CBD suppliers.

CLEAR took the initiative.  We wrote to the MHRA requesting a meeting.  We engaged with the leading CBD suppliers and our advisory board members Professor Mike Barnes and Crispin Blunt MP were quickly on the case.  The story has already been extensively reported but now, nearly a year on, our efforts are coming to fruition. We led the approach to the MHRA and in the process created what is now the Cannabis Trades Association UK (CTAUK).  It is now recognised by the MHRA, it has established a code of conduct and it is now the gold standard of quality, ethics and legality that can give anyone buying CBD products real peace of mind.  There are still cowboys out there, making false claims, selling products that offer no real benefit and even endangering their customers with products that are illegal under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 or the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016.  Now though, customers can go to the CTAUK website and choose a supplier that is operating legally, ethically and within the regulations that the industry itself has established.  We expect the MHRA very shortly formally to endorse CTAUK members as legitimate suppliers of CBD products as food supplements.

Medical Cannabis

Professor Nigel Mathers, Honorary Secretary, Royal College of GPs

Neither can we accept the government’s irresponsible and cruel policy towards people who need cannabis as medicine. So CLEAR has taken a further initiative. After Theresa May’s dismissal of the APPG report, we approached the Royal Colleges of medicine.  We pointed out that whatever the government might say, around one million people are using cannabis as medicine.  Doctors have a duty and an ethical responsibility to educate themselves on the subject and be able to provide properly informed care to their patients.  Our efforts have borne fruit.  Professor Mike Barnes and I have worked with Professor Nigel Mathers of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP).  We will be producing a draft set of guidelines on medicinal cannabis for GPs which will go the next meeting of the RCGP Council and is planned for publication in June 2017.  If the government won’t do it, we will and the medical profession agrees with us.  This will be the greatest practical advance ever made in medical cannabis in the UK.

Educating And Influencing Researchers

Dr Musa Sami, Peter Reynolds

The UK is the most prolific source of research into the harms of cannabis, particularly the tenuous links between cannabis and psychosis.  Despite dozens of studies, mainly from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College Hospital, this has never been shown to be any more than statistical correlation.  Most of these studies are confounded by tobacco use but the latest work from Professor Sir Robin Murray and his team shows an even stronger correlation between tobacco and psychosis than cannabis.

Across the world, UK scientists have become notorious for this scaremongering which seems little different from the ‘reefer madness’ hysteria.  To be fair, much of this is down to the UK media which has barely advanced since the 1930s in its reporting.  It provides the environment in which researchers are able to gain funding for research into cannabis harms but hardly ever for cannabis benefits.

CLEAR is now working with the Institute of Psychiatry to develop a new and more balanced way of surveying the effects of cannabis.  Dr Musa Sami has asked us to advise on the construction of a questionnaire on which the Institute will base its future work.

Bad Behaviour On Both Sides Of The Cannabis Debate.

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Is Mr Angry For Or Against?

Cannabis evangelists, with their conspiracy theories and religious ‘belief’ that cannabis is totally harmless and cures everything, are every bit as delusional as those who subscribe to ‘reefer madness’.

We see this every day on the CLEAR Facebook page.  Anything we share that is even slightly negative about cannabis or that suggests some people might be vulnerable to some harm from using it, produces a hostile, often hysterical reaction.

100% Fake News

Actually, the evangelists play straight into the hands of prohibitionists.  They make fools of themselves by behaving as if we have committed the most heinous blasphemy by daring to criticise their favourite plant.  Particularly amongst our American followers, many cannot distinguish between sharing something and endorsing it.  We share many news items we disagree with but when it comes to science we neither agree nor disagree, it’s all part of the body of evidence that needs to be considered and balanced.

Of course, the reality of social media is that those who shout loudest or comment most frequently are not necessarily representative of the whole audience.  We put a lot of effort into moderating our page to make it as informative as possible.  We have a very strict policy on bad language.  We won’t tolerate commenters abusing each other or launching vicious personal attacks (even if they are against Donald Trump or Theresa May).  All single word comments are deleted.  No one wants to read an endless string of “bullshit”, “BS” or worse.  Far too often we have to ban some commenters immediately.  We simply don’t want people who can express themselves only through a string of obscenities getting in the way of our newsfeed.

A few days ago we shared the study presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 66th Annual Scientific Session, held in Washington, D.C.  It suggests that cannabis use can raise the risk of stroke and cardiac failure.  The furore and firestorm of abuse that erupted is quite ridiculous and only serves to make the cannabis campaign look completely ridiculous.  There are clearly limitations in the study.  Firstly, it doesn’t show causation, merely statistical correlation.  Secondly, all the subjects had been discharged from hospital so clearly had suffered some serious health problem.

It is a ridiculous way to behave for anyone who wants to advance the cause of cannabis law reform.  It’s also utterly stupid constantly to accuse scientists, researchers or indeed CLEAR of being corrupt, dishonest, ‘in the pocket of Big Pharma’ or often far, far worse.

It is true that the history of cannabis prohibition is all about lies, deceit, misinformation and propaganda.  There are still some people, even in elevated positions such as UK prime minister Theresa May, who wish to continue with this form of repression but wiser counsel is prevailing in most parts of the world.

More and more scientists, researchers and doctors are studying the effects of cannabis and rarely does a day pass without a cannabis report being published somewhere in the world. What were almost accepted prejudices such as the ‘gateway theory’ and that ‘cannabis causes psychosis’ are being debunked more and more often.

Of course, scientists, researchers and doctors, just like everyone else, have been subject to all the propaganda for the past 100 years, so there is still much prejudice and confusion to dispel but we should respect and value the work of such people even if we don’t like all their conclusions.

On any subject, truth lies in assessing and balancing all the evidence that is available.  CLEAR will continue to share all significant evidence published about cannabis whether it is positive or negative.  Similarly, we will continue to share stories from the tabloid media that seek to demonise or scaremonger about cannabis.  It is important that people see the propaganda that is being published and the way that public opinion is formed.

 

Written by Peter Reynolds

March 12, 2017 at 3:48 pm

The UK Government’s Very Last Excuse For Denying Access To Medicinal Cannabis.

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hop-cannabis-leaf
Essentially, UK government policy on cannabis hasn’t altered since 1971.  Despite the vast amount of new evidence published since then and revolutionary change, particularly on medicinal use, all across the world, successive governments have stubbornly and obstinately refused to consider any sort of reform.

It doesn’t matter which party has been in power, Conservative, Labour or the coalition, it’s a subject that ministers and MPs simply refuse to engage with.  It’s easier that way for them and be in no doubt: laziness, fear of a media backlash and deeply ingrained prejudice are the key factors in this impasse.

Grubby, Corrupt Deal Between Brown And Dacre

Grubby, Corrupt Deal Between Brown And Dacre

We had the downgrade to class C in 2003 and then back up to B in 2009 but this was a turgid and useless effort.  No notice was taken of any evidence arising from this experiment.  It was enacted to enable police to concentrate more on class A drugs and reversed based on Gordon Brown’s ‘Presbyterian conscience’ and a grubby, corrupt deal with Paul Dacre to win the Daily Mail’s political support.  In fact, use went down while cannabis was class C and back up again when it was upgraded but governments have no interest in facts or evidence on this subject, only in political expediency and spinning advantage with the media.

The clamour for medicinal access has increased enormously, just as the evidence for its safety and efficacy has become overwhelming. The UK is now virtually isolated amongst first world countries with a cruel, inhumane and anti-evidence policy which makes us a laughing stock with all who are properly informed. It’s not a laughing matter for the victims though.  For those persecuted by this nasty policy it is tears, pain, suffering, disability – all of which could be alleviated to at least some extent just by a stroke of the Home Secretary’s pen.  It is sickening that all those who have held that office over the last 45 years escape without any shame or opprobrium on their character.

comp-home-secretaries

Home Secretaries Have A Lot To Answer For

CLEAR receives hundreds of letters and emails every year from people who have written to their MP about medicinal cannabis and it is astonishing that unlike almost every other policy, exactly the same words are used by all MPs. They slavishly repeat the Home Office line which is ruthlessly enforced across party lines.

There have been some subtle changes.  The marketing authorisation issued for Sativex in 2010 has led to a minor change in the tired and inaccurate line ‘there is no medicinal value in cannabis’.  It’s now become ‘there is no medicinal value in raw cannabis’.  This is scientifically and factually incorrect.  Pharmacologically, Sativex  and the ‘raw’ plants from which it is made are identical.  It is whole plant cannabis oil and its authorisation by the MHRA as an extract of THC and CBD is fundamentally dishonest.  GW Pharmaceuticals reveals it contains more than 400 molecules, the MHRA says it only contains two and “unspecified impurities”.

More recently, and in the face of an explosion of supportive evidence, another line has been added.  This states that ‘the UK has a well established process for the approval of medicines through the MHRA and that any company wishing to bring a medicinal cannabis product to market should follow this procedure.  In fact, inside sources suggest that the government is very keen to see new cannabis-based medicines approved by the MHRA.  It would take the wind out of the sails of the medical cannabis campaign

This is the very last excuse for denying access to medicinal cannabis. It is nothing but an excuse and one that is misleading and based on deception.  If we can expose how weak, inappropriate and fake it is, the government will have nowhere else to hide.

Firstly, as demonstrated with Sativex, the MHRA process is incapable of dealing with a medicine that contains hundreds of molecules.  It is designed by the pharmaceutical industry for regulating single molecule medicines, usually synthesised in a lab, which have the potential to be highly toxic.  CLEAR rejects the tired, boring theory that ‘Big Pharma’ is engaged in a massive conspiracy to deny access to cannabis and to ‘keep people ill’ so it can continue to sell its products to the NHS. The MHRA isn’t engaged in such malevolent conduct, it’s simply incapable of sativex-with-cannabis-leafproperly evaluating a whole plant extract through its existing methods.

The bright, shining truth of this, that totally demolishes the government’s position, is that in every jusrisdiction throughout the world where medicinal cannabis has been legally regulated, it is through a special system outside pharmaceutical medicines regulation. Every other government that has recognised the enormous benefit that medicinal cannabis offers has come to the same conclusion: cannabis is a special case.  It is far more complex but much, much safer than pharmaceutical products.

Of course, there is also the ludicrous status  of cannabis as a schedule 1 drug, which prevents doctors from prescribing it.  If it was moved to schedule 2, alongside heroin and cocaine, or to schedule 4 alongside Sativex (the logical choice), doctors could be prescribing it tomorrow and high-quality, GMP and EU regulated medicinal cannabis from Bedrocan would be immediately available.

So the MHRA is the final excuse, the last obstacle to a revolution in healthcare in the UK.  We need an ‘Office of Medicinal Cannabis’ as there is in the Netherlands, or ‘Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations’ as administered by Health Canada. Colorado has its ‘Medical Marijuana Registry Program’ and other US states have similar arrangements.  Israel’s Ministry of Health has its ‘Medical Cannabis Unit’.  In Australia, its equivalent of the MHRA, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, has established its own set of medical cannabis regulations.

This is now the most important factor in achieving medical cannabis law reform.  Next time you contact your MP or in any advocacy or campaign work you do, this is where to focus your energy.  Cannabis is a special case, it is not like other medicines.  Once we can open the eyes to this truth the path ahead will be clear.

Written by Peter Reynolds

January 31, 2017 at 11:56 am

Top UK Soap ‘Coronation Street’ To Run Medicinal Cannabis Storyline.

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izzy corrie

Coronation Street Character, Izzy Armstrong

Could This Be A Breakthrough In The UK Campaign For Medicinal Cannabis?

Cannabis used as medicine has appeared before in UK soaps but the news is that this Coronation Street storyline could be less jokey and trivial and actually deal in science and truth.  If so it could be a major breakthrough against an intransigent government that flatly refuses even to consider the evidence.

Coronation Street is the world’s longest running soap opera still in production.  Each episode reaches an average of between five and eight million viewers.  It is deeply enmeshed in the fabric of British working class culture.  If it puts a positive spin on medicinal cannabis it could change public opinion quicker than almost anything else.

Most senior politicians know the truth about medicinal cannabis but refuse to act, leaving millions in unnecessary pain and suffering for fear of a media backlash.  But the media is changing too.  Aside from a few individual dinosaur journalists and the bigots who edit the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph, the rest of the media is pretty much onside.

population membership adThe UK government’s position is nothing short of ridiculous, particularly given developments throughout the rest of the world.  Look to Australia for the latest progressive, evidence-based change in policy, where very soon 23 million people will gain legal access to medicinal cannabis.

A positive Coronation Street storyline will give the cowards in the Department of Health and the refuseniks in the Home Office a way out. It is inevitable that reform will come. This could mean it is sooner rather than later.

Written by Peter Reynolds

December 19, 2015 at 2:11 pm

Cameron On Cannabis Part 6

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Cameron On Cannabis Part 5 is here.

David Cameron’s mistakes about university places, immigration and cannabis have been on my mind over the Easter holiday.  Given the huge resources he has to ensure that his information is correct, it’s not really acceptable for our prime minister to be so error prone.  If the problem is that his attempts at spin are not working and he’s deliberately telling untruths but being caught out, well perhaps that’s even more worrying.

Whichever may be the case, and I’m ready to give Mr Cameron the benefit of  the doubt about his sincerity, we are entitled to call him to account.  I decided to give him another prod about the errors and mistakes he’s making about cannabis.

Dear Mr Cameron,

I refer to my last letter of 5th April 2011.

The statements you made about cannabis in your Al Jazeera YouTube interview were inaccurate and misleading.  Please will you now correct them?

“Incredibly damaging…very, very toxic…leads to, in many cases, huge mental health problems”

This is simply not true Mr Cameron. Professor Les Iversen, chair of the ACMD, your chief drugs advisor, is on the record, repeatedly, stating that cannabis is very, very low in toxicity and relatively safe.  Furthermore, all the experts agree that the risks to mental health are very, very small, certainly much less than alcohol or tobacco.

On the medicinal use of cannabis you said:

“…the science and medical authorities…are free to make independent determinations about that.”

This is also untrue Mr Cameron.  The Home Office stands obstinately in the way of medicinal use despite overwhelming, peer reviewed scientific evidence.  It denies the relief of a safe and inexpensive medicine to thousands who are trapped in pain, suffering and disability.  This is a cruel policy and a disgraceful shame on our nation.

Please will you now correct these untruths Mr Cameron?  They were your words.  You were not advised by the Home Office.  CLEAR represents the interests of at least six million regular users of cannabis in Britain, thousands of whom use it as medicine.  We are reasonable, responsible, respectable citizens and taxpayers and we are entitled to insist that our prime minister speaks the truth

Recently, you also spoke misleading words about cannabis and mental health on “Jamie’s Dream School” and you said that “…if you legalise drugs you will make them even more prevalent than they are”, yet this too is contradicted by all the evidence in Portugal, Holland and the USA.  Even the No 10 Strategy Unit Drugs Policy Project reported in 2003 that “There is no causal relationship between availability and incidence…problematic drug use is not driven by changes in availability or price.”

This time though you were talking directly to young people, those who your government says it is most important to send the correct message to.  Mr Cameron, the only message that government consistently sends to young people is that it does not tell them the truth about drugs.

Please Mr Cameron, we are entitled to expect that you tell the truth and that you correct errors when they are made.  These statements were not matters of opinion nor of interpretation, They are determined by scientific evidence.  Will you please now correct them?

Yours sincerely,

Peter Reynolds

House Of Lords Condemns Government Drug Policy

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This evening, at the behest of Lord Norton of Louth, the House of Lords ripped apart our disgraceful and incompetent government drug policy.  Without exception, every speaker highlighted the human and financial cost of the disastrous course that the British government is on.  You can watch the  debate here from 19:48 onwards.

“Evidence! Evidence! Evidence!”

Again and again, highly intelligent speakers demolished the government’s strategy and contrasted it with the approach in other countries: Holland, Spain, Portugal, the Czech Republic and the USA.

“Why doesn’t the government recognise reality?”

Baroness Molly Meacher was particularly magnificent; stirring and powerful: “We have the evidence and lots of it”.

Cameron and his poodle, Theresa May and most of all Brokenshire must be grovelling in dismay at their humiliation.  Lord Stevenson of Balmacara said “…there is a good case for drugs policy being transferred to health and taken away from the Home Office…Judging from the evidence that we have heard tonight, something clearly has to happen soon!”.    Brokenshire’s job is on the way out!

The government response was stumbling and barely competent.  “A review is not warranted…what we want to do is give our strategy a good try”. There was a particularly embarrassing deception about the effect of banning mephodrone.  I am certain that Lady Neville-Jones herself was uncomfortable delivering it.

All in all this was a victory for truth, an inspiration and an absolute defeat for government drug policy.

The Politics Of Cannabis

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Originally Published In ISMOKE Magazine Issue 1

Cannabis is a political issue.  Make no mistake about it.  The scientific, moral, medical and health arguments have all been won.  What we need to do now is find a way to make change happen.

It’s in the prohibitionists’ interests to keep debating all the ins and outs and going through the evidence because it diverts from the imperative for change. We have to keep repeating the truth.  We have to cut through their deception and scaremongering but above all, we have to demand action.

In the US, they’ve gone way, way past the silly and irrelevant arguments about cannabis being dangerous or harmful. We like to think that we’re smarter, a more mature democracy but so many Brits are still suckers for a Daily Mail scare story. The propaganda and bigotry still prevails here.  In America they simply accept that if you abuse or misuse something it may cause you harm. They rarely even mention the psychosis theory.  Even after Congresswoman Giffords’ shooting and the stories of Jared Loughner’s marijuana use, his friends were quick to step forward and say he’d stopped some time ago and actually seemed worse and more unstable without self-medicating on cannabis.  More importantly than that, the US media reported what his friends said rather than hushing it up because it wasn’t sensational enough.

Peter Hitchens, the Mail On Sunday columnist wrote a disgusting rant about the shooting, blaming it all on cannabis and having nothing to do with the truth at all. Now the US media are ridiculing him about Britain’s Reefer Madness.  He really is an example of the very worst in journalism.  The truth means nothing to him.  He is a liar and a mendacious frightener of the vulnerable, the elderly, of children and their parents.  You will be interested to know that the Legalise Cannabis Alliance has drawn a line in the sand.  We will no longer let such nonsense go unchallenged.  A formal complaint is being made in the LCA’s name to the Press Complaints Commission.  It will be the first of many.  We will no longer allow the British media to distribute lies without calling them to account.

The War On Prohibition Can Be Won!

Prohibition is fundamentally immoral.  It is nothing less than the unjustified oppression of a section of society.  It is as pernicious and evil as racism, sexism, homophobia or any other form of prejudice. It says that, irrespective of facts, evidence, science or justice, just because we disagree with you, we will make your activity illegal. We will criminalise you, imprison you, ruin your career, endanger your family, smear you with unjustified innuendo and suspicion. We will cause you far more harm than the activity you choose ever will.

It is pretty well accepted now, worldwide, that Nixon’s war on drugs can never be won.  It makes Vietnam or Afghanistan look like a little skirmish in some backwater.  It has been responsible for far more death, misery and destruction than any war since Nixon first declared it.  There are still those who cling to its ambitions, like our favourite preppy, baby face minister James Brokenshire   But he is rather like one of those Japanese soldiers, found on some remote Pacific island, thirty years after his Emperor surrendered – still dangerous, still committed to his cause but hopelessly out of touch, in need of re-education, a very, very sad case.

The war on prohibition is now in full flow and this is a campaign that can and must be won.  It is a war that has right and justice and common sense on its side.  It is time that we marshall our forces, determine our strategy, plan our tactics and hold fast to our courage as we advance on the enemy.  I believe that this year or next marijuana will be legalised in at least one state in America.  Once the dam is broken, progress will begin to roll out all over the world.

I believe that the Legalise Cannabis Alliance is the standard around which we should rally.  We are responsible, respectable, reasonable citizens and we need to unite to fight the war on prohibition.

What is vital is that the LCA communicates its messages effectively to the right people. It seems to me that one of, if not the most important audience is members of parliament. They, after all, are the only people who can actually change the law. We therefore have to play their game by their rules.

In the documentary “In Pot We Trust”, Aaron of the Marijuana Policy Project says that one man in short hair and a suit, lobbying congressmen can achieve more than hundreds marching in the street.  I think he’s right.

The LCA must re-launch its campaign.  We must overhaul our image, update the logo and the website.  We must become conscious of our communications, control and deliver our messages with ruthless effect, use all the spin doctor tricks and techniques, just as any other political party or pressure group.

I will put on a suit and tie for the LCA because that’s what is needed to make progress with politicians, through the media and, most importantly, with the great God of public opinion.

I think we also have to consider our name.  Not throw it out for the sake of something new but recognise that “Legalise” is a word that frightens people.  They think it means an uncontrolled free for all, whereas what we argue for is fact and evidence based regulation.  We also need to consider the word cannabis.  People are frightened to have it on their Facebook profile and concerned that it may come up in a Google search when they’re applying for a new job.  We have to consider these things.  I would argue that instead of saying “Legalise Cannabis”, we might say “End Prohibition”.

So we do need to become much more professional about our communications and image. Anything put out in our name needs to be “on message” in every sense of the phrase – look, feel, content, style, etc. Each target audience needs to be addressed on its terms. We need an analysis and a plan for each individual MP and constituency. We need a rota of pro-active media communications. We need to enlist the help of celebrities who support our cause.  This needs to be done consistently and repeatedly. We need a team of people all over the country working together with a plan to succeed.

I also believe that we should re-register as a political party and field candidates in every byelection.  In fact, I would propose that we field the same candidate in every byelection and we build.the campaign and awareness over time.  I don’t expect us to win a seat in parliament but I do expect us to start being taken seriously. I want to see us on Newsnight and on Question Time.  When Debra Bell is asked for a quote or is interviewed about a cannabis story, I want us to be quoted as well and to be on the other side of the TV sofa facing down her mischief and misinformation.

Cannabis is a political issue.  If we get our act together and get serious about the war on prohibition, get serious about achieving results, explain the facts, expose the lies, then we can prevail. We can see the truth revealed.  We can win!

Legal Medicinal Cannabis In Britain

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In The Pink

Last week Jim Starr flew into Bristol Airport from Amsterdam carrying 80 grammes of herbal cannabis as prescribed for him by a Dutch doctor.  That’s just under three ounces of dried flower heads.  He was carrying it in a parcel about the size of a telephone directory.

There was no one at customs, even though Jim went through the red channel and had telephoned ahead to advise the airport that he was bringing the cannabis in.  He waited, even looked around for someone, anyone, but there was no one to be seen at all.  He wanted to declare what he had with him.  He’s never wanted to break the law.  He knew that he was risking confiscation of the cannabis, possibly even arrest but the coast wasn’t just clear, it was deserted.  The authorities had evidently decided that in their “war on drugs”, this time, discretion was definitely the better part of valour.  They were in full scale retreat.

Jim had confirmed to the airport that he had the necessary paperwork to prove it was prescribed medicinal cannabis.  His doctor had told him that he was protected under Article 75 of the Schengen Agreement which states “persons may carry the narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances that are necessary for their medical treatment provided that, at any check, they produce a certificate issued or authenticated by a competent authority”

Prescription

Of course, even then, it didn’t stop the journey being a nerve wracking and tense experience.  Now, safely at home in Dorchester with his family, Jim understands from the Home Office that he is entitled to bring in the cannabis as prescribed for him by his Dutch doctor.  He can bring in up to three month’s supply at a time if he carries it on his person. Otherwise he has to apply for an import licence and have it shipped to a UK pharmacist.

Jim is 36 and is married to Emma, with whom he has two children.  Originally from Birmingham, he was a very active man in full time employment until in 1999 he was diagnosed with a degenerative disease of the spine.  In 2003 he was involved in a road accident and suffered terrible spinal injuries. His life seemed hopeless. The cocktail of powerful drugs he was prescribed, including morphine, were debilitating in themselves.  He couldn’t face a future in which he was turned into a zombie, unable to enjoy any sort of decent life with his wife and children. He admits frankly that he was suicidal.

One day in 2004, Jim was upstairs in bed in so much pain and despair that he could barely move.  A friend called round to see him and offered him a joint. Half an hour later Jim made it downstairs for the first time in three weeks.  Suddenly he had hope and the possibility of a future with his family.

Life since then has been a constant game of cat and mouse with the police and drug dealers.  Apart from risking arrest and even prison, Jim has also been in danger of being robbed or ripped off by dealers. He’s never wanted to break the law. He told his doctor the relief that cannabis provided and as soon as Sativex became available, even before it was officially licensed, his doctor prescribed it for him. Unfortunately, the very next day she rang to say that because of licensing and regulation problems she wouldn’t be able to prescribe it again.  In fact, Jim did manage to get another prescription for Sativex but again it was withdrawn, this time because his health authority refused to fund it.

Jim has been an active campaigner for the legalisation of cannabis ever since.  He has organised a series of marches, protests and petitions in Dorchester, Weymouth and even Downing Street. Over the last seven years, three MPs, Oliver Letwin, Jim Knight and Richard Drax, have written various letters in support of him.  He is a distinctive figure in his wheelchair with his dyed beard which has earned him the nickname “Pinky”.  Perhaps he has been a little too high profile for the Dorset police who he accuses of persecuting him.  Unable to obtain Sativex or afford the prices and risks of dealers, Jim enlisted the help of a friend to grow his own medicine. Inevitably, in May 2009 the police arrived and Jim was arrested.

Campaigning

In August this year at Dorchester Crown Court Jim was given a two year conditional discharge for growing cannabis. He is now pursuing a complaint against the police alleging brutal treatment during his arrest.  Other complications, allegedly at the police’s behest, have led to the DVLA revoking his driving licence although he has never been arrested, charged, convicted or even stopped on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Jim has become an avid recorder of everything.  He uses mobile phones, video cameras and audio recorders to retain evidence of every contact with the authorities.  He has a video recording of an officer saying to his wife “Look luvvy, whatever he grows up there from now on is up to him.  We promise it don’t bother us”.  Foolishly, he took the officer at his word.  Three weeks after receiving his conditional discharge the police arrived again.

There was no provision for transporting him to the police station in his wheelchair.  The officers were warned not to lift him by his arms because of his spinal condition.  They wrenched him out of his chair by gripping his shoulders and underpants causing anal bleeding due to an existing condition. He was refused a doctor at the station. There was no provision for disabled people, even for his special toilet needs.  He was refused access to any of his prescribed medication or even his specialist anti pressure sore mattresses.

The following day he attended hospital and was diagnosed with torn shoulder muscles.  In fact, his spinal column is so delicate that any movement could potentially paralyse him. This is the basis of all his high profile campaigning and must be well known to the police.  Jim now faces another charge of cultivating cannabis and a possible prison sentence.

With Mr Nice

The trip to Holland was a last resort, only made possible by the generosity of a friend.  The Dutch doctor was horrified at the range of highly toxic prescription medicines given to Jim and prescribed two grammes per day of medicinal herbal cannabis.  He told Jim that he shouldn’t be using Sativex as the alcohol in its solution was like pouring petrol on a fire, given his medical conditions.

So at last, Jim seems to have the medicine he needs.  He will have to continue to rely on the generosity of friends to pay for it.  He is applying for a Home Office licence for the cannabis to be imported to a local pharmacist who can then dispense it to him.  He will continue to campaign for the right to grow his own for free.  The costs of cultivation at home are minimal compared to the rigmarole of importing from Holland or the massive “Big Pharma” cost of Sativex.

Jim is not the first person to get the medicine they need in this way but he is the first to go public about it.  Many tens of thousands may now wish to follow his example.  Most European countries and 15 US states already regulate the provision of medicinal cannabis. Surely it is time for the government to consider reform of what looks increasingly like an absurd and cruel law.