Peter Reynolds

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Posts Tagged ‘Liberal Democrats

Cruel And Irresponsible Response from UK Government To Parliamentary Report On Medicinal Cannabis.

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doctor-tips-bud-out-of-pot

Unsurprisingly perhaps, the response to the recent call from MPs and peers to legalise cannabis for medicinal use has come straight from the top.  Theresa May’s longstanding reputation as a denier of science and evidence on drugs policy is reinforced by her peremptory dismissal of the expert report.  It seems that, at least in the short term, the UK government is sticking by a policy that is discredited, ridiculous and deeply cruel.

It fell to Sarah Newton MP, minister of state at the Home Office, to respond to a parliamentary question from Roger Godsiff, Labour MP for Birmingham, Hall Green.

Roger Godsiff MP

Roger Godsiff MP

“To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, if she will respond to the recommendations of the report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform Accessing Medicinal Cannabis: Meeting Patients’ Needs, published in September 2016.”

 

Sarah Newton MP

Sarah Newton MP

“The Prime Minister responded to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform’s report ‘Accessing Medicinal Cannabis: Meeting Patients’ Needs’ on the 27 October.

Cannabis is controlled as a Class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and, in its raw form, currently has no recognised medicinal benefits in the UK. It is therefore listed as a Schedule 1 drug under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001.

It is important that all medicines containing controlled drugs are thoroughly trialled to ensure they meet rigorous standards so that doctors and patients are sure of their efficacy and safety. To do otherwise for cannabis would amount to a circumvention of the clearly established and necessary regime for approving medicines in the UK.”

In other words, this is nothing more than a re-statement of the same position that the UK government has held since 1971 when legal access to medicinal cannabis was halted.  Quite clearly the government has given no consideration at all to the vast amount of scientific evidence and international experience that has accumulated over the last 45 years.  The latest report which took nine months to produce, took evidence from over 600 witnesses and included a review of over 20,000 scientific studies is simply cast aside.  To be honest, I doubt whether it has even been read by Ms May or anyone in the Home Office or Department of Health. This is the standard that now prevails in the UK – government of the people by an unaccountable, out-of-touch, unresponsive cabal of individuals elected by a deeply flawed system that gives democracy a bad name.

On the face of it, the claim that all medicines must be thoroughly trialled seems plausible – but it is not.  It is a misleading half-truth clearly intended to squash the call for access to medicinal cannabis by painting a false picture.

Doctors are allowed to prescribe any medicine, licensed or unlicensed, as they see fit, based on their own judgement. But prescribing of cannabis is specifically prohibited by Statutory Instrument despite the scientific consensus that it is far less dangerous than many, probably most commonly prescribed medicines.

So it’s not a level playing field.  It’s a policy that is based on prejudice and scaremongering about recreational use of cannabis.  Ms Newton’s answer is at best disingenuous but then she probably doesn’t even realise that herself.  For many years Home Office policy has been systematically to mislead and misinform on cannabis and evidently under Ms May’s successor, Amber Rudd MP, such dishonesty continues.

Theresa May MP

Theresa May MP

Something will eventually force the government’s hand to change its absurd position on cannabis. Sadly the very last consideration will be scientific evidence or the will of the people. Such factors hold no sway with  UK governments. Only when enough of the political elite open their eyes and examine their conscience, or some key individuals or their family members, experience the need for medicinal cannabis will change become possible.  Alternatively, political upheaval may present an opportunity. The Liberal Democrats were too cowardly, weak and concerned with building their personal careers when in coalition to advance the cause they now so bravely advocate.  Perhaps the SNP, with 56 MPs, all in favour of medicinal cannabis may be our best hope.

Sarah Newton is merely a puppet of the Home Office bureaucracy.  Theresa May’s mendacious position on all aspects of drugs policy is well established and she is as stubborn and bigoted as they come on such matters.  Only when she, in person, is subject to sufficient pressure will this cruel, ignorant and hateful policy change.

Why I Have Joined The Conservative Party.

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I would vote against Theresa May. She would be a disaster for Britain and for the Tory Party. Sadly, I will not have been a member long enough to vote in the leadership election.

Now, more than ever, we need to walk towards the enemy, not run away.  The entrenched, bigoted, old-fashioned, anti-evidence faction of the Conservative Party, of which Theresa May is part, is the enemy of Britain and the enemy of a progressive, enlightened society. I will work from within the Tory Party to campaign for more rational, reasonable and responsible policies.  We need to tackle the future head on and only from within the Conservative Party is there any realistic possibility of having meaningful influence.

I resigned from the Liberal Democrats shortly before the EU referendum because I believe its support for the remain campaign was a betrayal of fundamental values of liberalism and democracy. Support for the unelected, unaccountable oligarchs of the EU is the nemesis of the Liberal Democrats and Tim Farron’s subsequent hate speech, branding all who voted leave as  ‘intolerant, closed-hearted, pessimistic and inward looking’ has moved his party’s talent beyond self-harm to political suicide.

Clearly, in my special interest area of drugs policy and particularly medicinal cannabis, the Conservatives, and particularly Ms May, have not been our allies. Yet another reason why I, and others, must now grit our teeth and get involved with the Tories. We will make no progress unless we do.  We have to appeal to the libertarians, to those who value personal liberty and who believe in evidence-based policy, not prejudice.

The response of both remainers and the left to the Brexit vote has been appalling.  Aside from Tim Farron’s conduct, the chattering classes, particularly the soft left which dominates the drugs policy debate, has been defeatist, bitter and negative.  It will spend its time, as it always does, in endless circular discussions talking amongst itself, the same old faces, the same old ideas.  Someone needs to take the fight to where the real battle is.

I recognise that my decision to join the Tories will be difficult for many to understand. It will not be an easy path but the drugs policy and cannabis campaign needs someone to lead it into battle, to take on the establishment, to engage with and change minds.

The Labour Party is unelectable and if it survives at all, it will never see power again for many years.  All other parties are irrelevant. There is no other route to power in the UK except through the Conservative Party.

Written by Peter Reynolds

June 30, 2016 at 9:37 am

Vote For Independence On 23rd June. Vote For The Broad, Sunlit Uplands.

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broad sunlit uplands

The stitch-up between big business, politicians, civil servants and bankers should be crystal clear to anyone with eyes and ears. It is vital to the future of our children and grandchildren that we vote to leave the EU in a month’s time. The alternative is that we subsume ourselves forever under the yoke of transnational business, self-serving, corrupt governments intent on widening the divide between ‘us’ and ‘them’.

Intelligent people, including, to my amazement, fellow members of the Liberal Democrats, are intent on relinquishing all principles of liberalism and democracy – and for what?

All the Project Fear scaremongering, the ganging-up of the CBI, the Bank of England and all the rest of the establishment flunkies, reveals exactly what is going on.  Just as we were lied to and deceived over the need for war in Iraq, we are being led by deception and falsehood into an ever-closer union that will fill the pockets and enhance the power of corporate political interests.

This referendum is not about the economy.  It is about much bigger and more important principles of self-determination, democracy and freedom.  I believe that such principles will also, in the end, bring us more prosperity.

Leaving the EU is most important for our children.  Young people themselves must vote for opportunity.  Be for Europe but not the EU.  Be for co-operation but without a straightjacket. Be ourselves

The political elite wants it. The parasite outsourcing companies that suck up billions in taxpayers’ money want it. The civil servants in 28 countries want it. When you see David Cameron, Harriet Harman, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, George Osborne, Michael Heseltine all want it, ask yourself why?

It’s a stitch-up!  You’re being lied to, intimidated and deceived.  Independence Day is 23rd June.  Make sure you make the right choice.

The CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform Campaign.

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CLEAR home page regulation slider

In five years, CLEAR has transformed the UK cannabis campaign from a ragtag group of protestors into a coherent, science and evidence-based strategy. New groups pursuing similar, responsible advocacy have emerged such as the United Patients Alliance (UPA) and most recently End Our Pain (#EndOurPain).  In the last three years, in government and Parliament, there has been more liaison between the campaign, ministers and senior politicians than in the last 50 years.  The Liberal Democrats have formally adopted policies which are almost identical to those enshrined in CLEAR’s aims and objectives.

Fundamental to CLEAR’s work has been the publication of evidence and the development of plans based on consultation with consumers, patients, doctors, scientists, academics and other experts.

These three publications form the basis for all our work.  Please download them, read them, share them and use them as widely as you can.  Together they defeat all the arguments for the continuing ban on cannabis.

ttukcm thumbnailTaxing the UK Cannabis Market

The most authoritative, independent, expert research on the UK cannabis market by the Independent Drug Monitoring Unit, commissioned by CLEAR in 2011.

 

 

 

 

 

htrcb thumbnailHow To Regulate Cannabis In Britain

This is the second version of a plan for the regulation of the cannabis supply chain in Britain. This version was published on 18th October 2013

 

 

 

 

 

mcte thumbnail fcMedicinal Cannabis: The Evidence

The most up-to-date, comprehensive analysis of the evidence on the safety and efficacy of cannabis as medicine. Focuses on Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, chronic pain, Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Published April 2015.

LibDems: Correct On Cannabis Policy, Wrong On Scaremongering.

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The Liberal Democrats are doing great work on advancing the cause of cannabis law reform.  Their policy proposals are sensible and their arguments for change are irrefutable but they are wrong to buy into and sustain the myths and scaremongering that have dominated the cannabis debate for so long.

Cannabis does not cause psychosis.  Stronger strains do not present serious health risks.  Memory loss is not a significant issue and no issue at all in comparison to the health harms of alcohol or tobacco. Cannabis cannot be described as dangerous unless you also apply that word to hay fever remedies, over-the-counter painkillers  and energy drinks.  There is not and never has been any scientific evidence to support these myths.

Of course, we must be sensitive to people’s fears and concerns.  For more than 50 years the British people have been fed a stream of lies and exaggeration by the tabloid media.  The Home Office, right up to today, is engaged in a systematic and deliberate policy to mislead and misinform on cannabis.  Shocking though that fact is, this policy transcends successive governments and continues irrespective of ministers’ views.  It clearly emanates from dishonest and corrupt officials who are determined to pursue their own agenda, irrespective of truth or concern for the massive harms and cost of cannabis prohibition.

lamb 10 min stillNorman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat MP and health spokesperson, who is leading the party’s campaign, is a brave, sincere and conscientious politician. One of the few in Westminster that matches up to the high standards of probity and wisdom that we should be able to expect from all MPs.  Similarly, Nick Clegg, former leader, and Tim Farron, current leader, have spoken out strongly on the need to reform the law. Now is the time for them also to start telling the truth about cannabis, about how its dangers have been vastly exaggerated, how for adults, in moderation, it can actually be very beneficial and far preferable as a choice of relaxant to alcohol. Indeed, if people substituted cannabis for some of their alcohol consumption, it would be a public health revolution.  It would save the NHS billions and transform the health of our society.

The cannabis campaign will not succeed unless we tell the truth. We cannot compromise facts and evidence for the illusory belief that buying into the scare stories will somehow advance the cause.  We need to push back at the scaremongering, acknowledge there are risks but that they are extremely small.  They really only apply to use by children or to behaviour that is analogous to a ‘white cider drinker’.  Consume anything to excess, regularly, without a break, without regard to other aspects of life and it will cause harm but even then, cannabis will cause less harm than any other substance.

As for children, one of the main aims of reform must be to minimise underage use.  Even then, the scare story that cannabis is causing significant mental health problems amongst young people is untrue.  The Department of Health’s own data shows that in the last five years, there has been an average of just 28 episodes per year of care for ‘cannabis psychosis’ in young people.  28 individual tragedies but an insignificant problem in public health terms.

The misuse of the term ‘skunk’ is also unhelpful. The Channel 4 ‘Drugs Live’ debacle last year was  based on reckless, irresponsible overdosing of inexperienced users by a scientist who should know better.  All the time calling the cannabis was called ‘skunk’ when it is a matter of fact that it was silver haze as grown by Bedrocan, the Netherlands’ government producer of medicinal cannabis. Skunk is actually the name of one particular cannabis strain and not an especially strong one.  Cannabis is available in Britain that is twice, sometimes three times as potent as skunk but the word has been selected and promoted by the tabloid press because of its obvious, sensationalist, negative connotations.

Thank you to the Liberal Democrats for the fantastic work they are doing.  All we need now is a little adjustment and focus on truth rather than scare stories.

Written by Peter Reynolds

March 23, 2016 at 6:37 pm

A CLEAR Response To the Liberal Democrats’ Proposals For Cannabis Regulation.

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libdem Framework_for_cannabis thumbnail

CLEAR welcomes the Liberal Democrats’ proposals which can be seen here. We set out below a few comments which we intend to be constructive.

We represent more than 600,000 people who support cannabis law reform. Our own publication, ‘How to Regulate Cannabis in Britain’ is now in its second edition.

It is based on independent, expert research which we commissioned from the Independent Drug Monitoring Unit, published as ‘Taxing the UK Cannabis Market’.

Comments on ‘A framework for a regulated market for cannabis in the UK’

1. We support a cautious approach and agree that it is better to start with stricter regulation that could, based on experience, be relaxed at a later date if appropriate.

Spectrum of Cannabis Policy

Spectrum of Cannabis Policy

We reject the diagram ‘Exploring a spectrum of options for regulating cannabis’ which paints an inaccurate picture of the effects of a legal market. Evidence from all jurisdictions that have implemented reform does not support the equivalence of ‘social and health harms’ with ‘ultra prohibition’ and ‘commercial production’. It is absolutely clear that legally regulated commercial production is far less harmful than prohibition.

Essentially, instead of a ‘U’ shaped curve, we consider an ‘L’ shaped curve is more accurate.

2. The diagram indicates a fundamental objection to the commercial model implemented in Colorado, Washington and Oregon and the report explicitly rejects the Colorado model in favour of the Uruguay model.

We disagree with this. The Colorado model is a proven success with virtually no downsides. The Uruguay model is still a theory which is yet to be proven in practice. This conclusion in the report is therefore not evidence-based. This suggests that wider political or philosophical considerations have been allowed to trump existing evidence.

3. We are concerned about the undue weight given to restricting commercial enterprise. The UK is not a socialist economy and there is a danger of a ‘nanny-state’ attitude which we cannot support. We repeat the point that it seems wider political or philosophical considerations have been allowed to prevail over actual evidence. There needs to be a balance between a ‘cautious approach’ as in 1. above and over-regulation which will only result in a continuing criminal market. The UK is a market economy and if the legal market is too strict and rigid, the illegal market will flourish.

4. We have very grave concerns about the cannabis social club (CSC) model which provides significant opportunity for the corruption of those involved into major criminal enterprises with exploitation of both workers and customers. The establishment of such ‘clubs’ is entirely unnecessary given the other more controllable methods of supply and will only lead to diversion and perhaps active marketing of excessive production through criminal networks. In other words, CSCs are a golden opportunity for the emergence of ‘drug pushers’ and they undermine the whole purpose of cautious regulation.

5. We regard the recommendation not to permit the production and marketing of ‘edibles’ as an error. If the other recommendations making raw herbal cannabis legally available are implemented then this will inevitably lead to the production and marketing of unregulated ‘edibles’, undermining the whole purpose of regulation. Far better to learn from the mistakes already made in excessively potent ‘edible’ products and introduce appropriate regulations with reduced dosages.

If anything, ‘edibles’ need regulation far more urgently than the raw product because of the potential for very unpleasant overdosing. To abrogate responsibility for this is an extremely unwise proposal and inconsistent with the whole basis for a regulated market.

6. We would encourage a more positive and supportive approach to enable producer countries such as Morocco, the Lebanon, Pakistan and Afghanistan to supply varieties of cannabis resin and hashish. Encouraging such trade under strict regulation will further undermine criminal activity and offers great potential for better relations and positive ‘soft power’ influence on these countries. We recognise the difficulties involved in this with regard to the UN conventions but consider it is a prize worth working towards.

7. For the same reasons set out above we consider that a refusal to regulate concentrates and vapouriser products undermines the whole purpose of a regulated market. Vapouriser products are almost certainly going to be an important component of the medical cannabis market. These nettles must be grasped. To avoid them is irresponsible.

8. We would argue for far more emphasis on harm reduction information, particularly about smoking and avoiding mixing cannabis with tobacco. As in 7. above, we would actively promote the choice of vapouriser products.

9. In principle we agree with the proposal for three levels of THC content and for minimum CBD content. However, there is no evidence to support the necessity for CBD content as high as 4%. The evidence suggests that levels of 1% or 2% adequately meet the desirable ‘entourage’ effects of CBD. Furthermore, at these levels, existing strains are available. Little consideration has been given to the practicalities of developing three new strains to meet the THC:CBD ratios proposed. To develop such strains and ensure they are stable and consistent is the work of several years, requiring significant investment and so undermines the ability to implement these proposals in timely fashion.

10. We consider that the ‘plain packaging’ proposal is unnecessarily restrictive in the UK’s market economy. We agree with child proof containers but would recommend that far more emphasis is given to content and harm reduction labelling. There is nothing to be gained from restricting the marketing and commercial enterprise of companies wishing to develop brands and packaging styles within strict regulations.

11. For reasons already set out we consider that the restrictions on exterior and interior retailer environments are oppressive and will be self-defeating. The UK is not accustomed to such overbearing and anti-business regulation. Existing pharmacies do not operate under such heavy restrictions and they make significant use of point-of-sale and merchandising techniques.

Overall, we welcome this document and the proposals it contains. One final point that is of significance is that clearly there was no ‘consumer’ representation on the panel and this is obvious in some of the tone and detail of the report. We recommend that account should be taken of consumer opinion in any future development of the proposals.

Tim Farron. Another Politician Displays Total Ignorance About Cannabis.

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Tim Farron on BBC's Victoria Derbyshire show

Tim Farron on BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show

It is truly pathetic to see.  Farron clearly understands the huge harm caused by cannabis prohibition but doesn’t have the knowledge, the courage or the integrity to speak the truth.  Instead he panders to to the scaremongers and says:

“Cannabis causes psychosis”

“Cannabis is dangerous”

“People who use cannabis have a health problem”

“Cannabis is a bad thing”

The Liberal Democrat’s report ‘A framework for a regulated market for cannabis in the UK: Recommendations from an expert panel’ is a re-hash of Transform’s ‘Blueprint’ and its work on a socialist model of cannabis regulation in Uruguay.  It denigrates the highly successful commercial model introduced in Colorado and follows Transform’s evidence-free exaggeration of the harms of cannabis and its determination to impose anti-business controls on a legal cannabis market.

There is no evidence that cannabis causes psychosis.  The most that can be said is that in a very small number of genetically-vulnerable people, it may be one of many ‘component causes’.

There is no evidence that cannabis is dangerous.  The most that can be said is that it does have the potential for harm if used by children, to excess, irresponsibly or by a tiny group of people who may have an allergic reaction.  If you describe cannabis as dangerous then you have to describe peanuts, aspirin and hay fever remedies as more dangerous.  That’s without even considering comparison with the two most dangerous drugs of all: tobacco and alcohol.

Some people who use cannabis have a health problem and they use cannabis for its remarkable properties to relieve pain and other symptoms.  For most people, in moderation, cannabis is actually beneficial, helping to protect against autoimmune conditions, cancer, dementia and other diseases of aging.

For at least 95% of people who use cannabis they do so safely, without any negative consequences and it is a very good thing for their health and wellbeing.

Written by Peter Reynolds

March 8, 2016 at 11:21 am

The UK Drugs Stategy Is In Limbo.

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Norman Baker.  The Man Who Broke The Mould Of UK Drugs Policy.

Norman Baker. The Man Who Broke The Mould Of UK Drugs Policy.

Who is to be the new drugs minister?

No word yet from David Cameron. I have been calling the Home Office every day since the election and the answer is always the same – ‘no appointment has been made, it is expected within the coming days’.

Responsibility for the drugs strategy rests with the Minister of State for Crime Prevention.  At least it did throughout the last Parliament. That gave us the horror of arch-prohibitionist James Brokenshire, followed by Baroness Browning, then the Liberal Democrat Jeremy Browne, followed by Norman Baker, the man who broke the mould and resigned because of Theresa May’s opposition to evidence and common sense. Lynne Featherstone succeeded him and continued to support reform. The Liberal Democrat’s intelligent and progressive drugs policy was incorporated into its election manifesto, sadly defeated by an electorate terrorised by the prospect of a Labour/SNP victory.

Why is this vital role still not decided? Perhaps responsibility for drugs is to be allocated elsewhere?  Probably too much to hope that it will go the Department of Health but there were encouraging noises from the civil service just before the election, suggesting that the costs of enforcing drug possession charges were too high and decriminalisation should be considered.

This decision, when it comes, will speak volumes about the new government.  The signs are not good with Cameron launching the most horrendous attacks on liberty and British values, threatening to crack down on the freedom of speech and thought for which thousands of British heroes have fought and died over many years.

So this is a crucial decision.  On it will depend the development of CLEAR’s future strategy. What is certain is that we must re-adjust to communicate effectively with Tory ministers.  We are well placed to do that, more so than any other UK drugs policy reform group because our strategy is already one of engagement, not protest.  We need to be talking about public expenditure savings, new tax revenues, individual liberty. Now more than ever the failed politics of protest and human rights will not work.

Immediately after the election came calls from the stoner groups for protests and direct action. A ridiculous and futile demo has been arranged for 30th May “FUCK YOUR DRUG WAR – PROTEST“.  Make no mistake, these ideas are idiotic, misguided, counterproductive, offensive, exactly what the campaign does not need.

The choice of which minister gets to look after the drugs strategy is hugely important. Watch this space.

Written by Peter Reynolds

May 14, 2015 at 6:02 pm

A Day In Cambridge On Drugs.

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Homerton College, Cambridge.

Homerton College, Cambridge.

George and Dean were where I expected them to be.  In the car park, ‘medicating’ in order to get them through a long afternoon.

The Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) Drugs Conference took place in the delightful surroundings of Homerton College, Cambridge.  I know there were several others there who were only able to make it because they committed criminal offences in order to maintain their health.  I attended with George Hutchings and Dean Price, leading members of the CLEAR Medicinal Cannabis Users Panel.

Almost everybody who is anybody in UK drugs policy was there and while there were no groundbreaking new revelations or ideas, it was an important occasion.  It marked the current position of the debate on drugs policy in Britain at the end of the first coalition government since 1945. As Keith Vaz, chair of the HASC, said, the conference will influence the drugs policy agenda in the next government.

I know I wasn’t the only person who lobbied in advance for medicinal cannabis to be included in the conference programme.  It wasn’t but what was of enormous significance was that it was probably the single issue mentioned most often, time and time again in fact, throughout the day. I trust that the committee will take this on board and ensure that in any future event, it is given proper attention.

Dr Julian Huppert MP; Lynne Featherstone MP, Minister;Keith Vaz MP, Dr Roberto Dondisch, Danny Kushlick

Dr Julian Huppert MP, Lynne Featherstone MP, Keith Vaz MP, Dr Roberto Dondisch, Baroness Molly Meacher, Danny Kushlick

It’s no good saying it’s a health issue because until the Home Office releases its stranglehold on the throats of the thousands who need medicinal cannabis, it’s the HASC that needs to hold the government to account. CLEAR estimates that around one million people already use cannabis for medicinal reasons in the UK.  This equates closely to the proportion of medicinal users in jurisdictions where there is some degree of legal access.

Julian Huppert mentioned medicinal cannabis in his review of the HASC’s work, confirming that the Liberal Democrats have adopted the policy advanced by CLEAR almost word for word.

Baroness Molly Meacher made an impassioned plea for medicinal cannabis access in her address, expressing her anger and outrage that people are denied the medicine they need.

Jonathan Liebling, of United Patients Alliance, and I also raised the issue independently in questions from the floor. I also dealt with Professor Neil McKeganey’s attempt to dismiss the issue.  He claimed that there are perfectly satisfactory procedures for licensing medicines.  I explained how cannabis cannot be regulated like single-molecule pharmaceutical products and gave a brief description of research on the ‘entourage effect’.

The Home Office minister, Lynne Featherstone, gave the keynote speech and I was delighted that she chose to mention her meeting ten days ago with a CLEAR medicinal users delegation.

David Nutt was as wise and authoritative as ever . Then Neil McKeganey launched into an entertaining rant about how the conference programme, the speakers and delegates were massively biased in favour of reform.  He claimed that this was not a proper reflection of the evidence or nationwide opinion.

I like Neil, even though we are on opposite sides of the debate. In fact, at events like this I prefer to engage with the opposition rather than back-slapping and self-affirming chats with those on the side of reform. I also had good informal discusions with David Raynes of the National Drug Prevention Alliance and Sarah Graham, the magnet-wielding addiction therapist.

Tom Lloyd’s speech was inspiring.  He also made a powerful case for medicinal cannabis and as ex-chief constable of Cambridge, it was extraordinary to see him lambast the new drug driving law as “…outrageous…unjust…will criminalise people who are in no way impaired…”

The final speech was given by Mike Trace, chair of the International Drug Policy Consortium, who is deeply involved in preparing for the UN General Assembly Special Session in 2016 on drugs policy.

So, a fascinating and worthwhile day.  All we need to do now is get through the General Election.  In about two months we will know where we are and unless we have the disaster of a Tory or Labour majority government, then drug policy reform should be high on the agenda.

CLEAR Medicinal Users Panel. Fifth Delegation To Parliament.

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Vicky Hodgson, Kate Stenberg, Roland Gyallay-Pap, Lynee Featherstone MP, Peter Reynolds, Penny Fitzlyon, Richard Tong, Jonathan Liebling

Vicky Hodgson, Kate Stenberg, Roland Gyallay-Pap, Lynne Featherstone MP, Peter Reynolds, Penny Fitzlyon, Richard Tong, Jonathan Liebling

Today a further delegation from CLEAR met with Lynne Featherstone, the new Home Office minister with responsibility for drugs policy. She is the Liberal Democrat MP for Hornsey and Wood Green and was appointed to replace Norman Baker after he resigned in November 2014.

We invited Jonathan Liebling, Political Director of the United Patients Alliance (UPA) to accompany us and he gave eloquent testimony about his own use of medicinal cannabis.  UPA has been doing excellent work in running a series of meetings up and down the country bringing medicinal users together.  We hope there will be further co-operation between UPA and CLEAR.

Jonathan spoke about using cannabis to help with anxiety and depression, as did Kate Stenberg who has also used cannabis to deal with a chronic pain condition.  Vicky Hodgson spoke about treating her scoliosis, COPD and cluster headaches. Roland Gyallay-Pap, related how he produced cannabis oil when his mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and the great help it gave her with sleeping and eating in the final months of her life. Penny Fitzlyon talked about treating her MS with cannabis and how she has now been refused Sativex.  It was obvious this had a big impact on the minister.

She listened to each of us very attentively and we all felt that she had taken genuine interest and understood our arguments, particularly about enabling UK patients to import Bedrocan medicinal cannabis.

We also presented Ms Featherstone with a pre-publication copy of the paper ‘Medicinal Cannabis: The Evidence’, which we have produced at the request of George Freeman MP, the Life Sciences minister.  This is a literature review of the existing evidence on medicinal cannabis.  It makes a powerful argument for the transfer of cannabis from schedule I to schedule II so that it may be prescribed by a doctor. Currently the paper is being peer-reviewed and we hope that it may itself be published in a scientific/medical journal shortly.

CLEAR has also recently delivered a briefing on medicinal cannabis to Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats.  We shared this with Ms Featherstone as well.

With the General Election fast approaching, all MPs, including minsters, are about to go into campaign mode. Nick Clegg is to cover drugs policy in a speech a Chatham House later this week. There may yet be further developments, specifically on medicinal cannabis as the election campaign unfolds.  What is certain is that the new Parliament will represent a real opportunity for change and we have high hopes of real progress.