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Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘HIV

Breakthrough In The Drugs Debate!

with 32 comments

Bob Ainsworth

Tomorrow, Bob Ainsworth MP, former Home Office drugs minister and Secretary of State for Defence, will call for the legalisation and regulation of drugs. He is to lead a Parliamentary debate in Westminster Hall, at 2.30pm on Thursday 16th December 2010.

Great credit for this must go to the inestimable Transform Drug Policy Foundation, which has led the fight against prohibition.  This is an extraordinary breakthrough.  The news literally brought tears to my eyes.  We have fought so long for such progress.

Mr Ainsworth said;

“I have just been reading the Coalition Government’s new Drugs Strategy.  It is described by the Home Secretary as fundamentally different to what has gone before; it is not.  To the extent that it is different, it is potentially harmful because it retreats from the principle of harm reduction, which has been one of the main reasons for the reduction in acquisitive crime in recent years.

However, prohibition has failed to protect us. Leaving the drugs market in the hands of criminals causes huge and unnecessary harms to individuals, communities and entire countries, with the poor the hardest hit. We spend billions of pounds without preventing the wide availability of drugs. It is time to replace our failed war on drugs with a strict system of legal regulation, to make the world a safer, healthier place, especially for our children.  We must take the trade away from organised criminals and hand it to the control of doctors and pharmacists.

As drugs minister in the Home Office I saw how prohibition fails to reduce the harm that drugs cause in the UK, fuelling burglaries, gifting the trade to gangsters and increasing HIV infections. My experience as Defence Secretary, with specific responsibilities in Afghanistan, showed to me that the war on drugs creates the very conditions that perpetuate the illegal trade, while undermining international development and security.

My departure from the front benches gives me the freedom to express my long held view that, whilst it was put in place with the best of intentions, the war on drugs has been nothing short of a disaster.

Politicians and the media need to engage in a genuine and grown up debate about alternatives to prohibition, so that we can build a consensus based on delivering the best outcomes for our children and communities. I call on those on all sides of the debate to support an independent, evidence-based review, exploring all policy options, including: further resourcing the war on drugs, decriminalising the possession of drugs, and legally regulating their production and supply.

One way to do this would be an Impact Assessment of the Misuse of Drugs Act in line with the 2002 Home Affairs Select Committee finding – which included David Cameron – for the government to explore alternatives to prohibition, including legal regulation.

The re-legalisation of alcohol in the US after thirteen years of Prohibition was not surrender.  It was a pragmatic move based on the government’s need to retake control of the illegal trade from violent gangsters. After 50 years of global drug prohibition it is time for governments throughout the world to repeat this shift with currently illegal drugs.”

Peter Lilley MP, former Conservative Party Deputy Leader said;

“The current approach to drugs has been an expensive failure, and for the sake of everyone, and the young in particular, it is time for all politicians to stop using the issue as a political football. I have long advocated breaking the link between soft and hard drugs – by legalising cannabis while continuing to prohibit hard drugs.   But I support Bob Ainsworth’s sensible call for a proper, evidence based review, comparing the pros and cons of the current prohibitionist approach with all the alternatives, including wider decriminalisation, and legal regulation.”

Tom Brake MP, Co-Chair, Liberal Democrat Backbench Committee on Home Affairs, Justice and Equalities said;

“Liberal Democrats have long called for a science-based approach to our drugs problem. So it is without hesitation that I support Bob Ainsworth’s appeal to end party political point-scoring, and explore sensitively all the options, through an Impact Assessment of the Misuse of Drugs Act.”

Labour’s Paul Flynn MP, Founder Council Member of the British Medicinal Cannabis Register said;

“This could be a turning point in the failing UK ‘war on drugs.’ Bob Ainsworth is the persuasive, respected voice of the many whose views have been silenced by the demands of ministerial office. Every open rational debate concludes that the UK’s harsh drugs prohibition has delivered the worst outcomes in Europe – deaths, drug crime and billions of pounds wasted.”

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British Medicinal Cannabis Register

with 16 comments

In California there are more than 500,000 medical marijuana card holders.  How many people use cannabis as medicine in Britain?

The British Medicinal Cannabis Register aims to find out and provide a database of facts and evidence for doctors, scientists, researchers, campaigners, government and anyone with a bona fide interest.   Users register via the BMCR website, providing details of their method of use and the conditions treated.  While patient confidentiality is guaranteed and records held on the database will have the same legal status as any other medical record, users do not have to provide their full address.   They can register with the first part of their postcode and a verifiable email address.

Of course, according to the British government, “cannabis is dangerous and has no medicinal benefits”.  However, Sativex, a cannabis tincture, has been approved by the MHRA as a treatment for MS spasticity.  Sativex is pharmacologically identical to cannabis.  It is cannabis – with the addition of ethanol and a little peppermint oil. (A tincture is an alcoholic extract.)

There is no more common sense in US federal law where cannabis is a schedule 1 drug with “no medicinal uses”, yet the US government has held a patent  (no. 6630507) since 2003 for “cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants, for example, in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia.”

If you can make any sense of either the British or US governments’ position then please educate me?   I think they are irrational and cruel.  They actively deny people in pain and suffering the relief they need which is comprehensively proven both by science and experience.  On both sides of the Atlantic this amounts to nothing less than an evil injustice and oppression of vulnerable people.

Thank God and the US constitution that in America 14 states have introduced a regulated system of medical marijuana.  Two-thirds of Europe permits medicinal cannabis and Israel has just introduced a major programme including new growing facilities and dispensaries.  In Britain there is no such compassion and the Home Office ducks and dives and manipulates and dissembles to evade EU law that would permit cannabis as medicine.  In the UK there is appalling wickedness and cruelty perpetrated on the back of political cowardice.

Baroness Meacher

The BMCR was launched this week and received an immediate boost with the announcement of Baroness Molly Meacher, Paul Flynn MP,  Matthew Atha and Dr Michael Vandenburg as members of its governing council.  Baroness Meacher has a distinguished career in health and social care.  Paul Flynn has long campaigned for drug law reform.  Matthew Atha is the director of the Independent Drug Monitoring Unit and Dr Michael Vandenburg is the pre-eminent expert witness in the courts on pharmaceuticals and drugs.

Whether the BMCR succeeds in its aims depends entirely on whether those who use cannabis as medicine have the courage to register.  Only then will sufficent evidence be available to embarrass the government into essential and overdue reform.  The danger is that those who find relief  will prefer to keep quiet and say nothing.  No one could blame them if they do.

It is time for all those concerned to grasp this nettle and make a stand. Are we seriously going to continue to imprison sick and disabled people for using a medicine that is proven to be effective and far less costly, dangerous and harmful than pharmaceutical alternatives?

I urge all those concerned to register at the BMCR website: www.bmcr.org.uk.