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Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘licence

Home Office Denies FOI Request In Cover-Up Of All Information On Cannabis Production Licences

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On 6th March 2018 CLEAR submitted a Freedom of Information Request to the Home Office asking for full details of the licences accounting for the legal production of cannabis in the UK.  This arose from the story which we broke on 4th March revealing that the UK is the world’s largest producer and exporter of legal cannabis, this according to data provided to the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) by the government.

The Home Office has refused the request.  Its grounds for refusal are that disclosure “would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any person or would be likely to prejudice the prevention or detection of crime“.

Presumably this means that the commercial interest of GW Pharmaceuticals and whoever else has been granted such licences would be prejudiced and that they would risk robbery or other crime at their places of business.

INCB Production of Cannabis 2015-2016

We consider this to be false and without any merit whatsoever. How would it prejudice anyone’s commercial interest?  We would not expect any detail that goes behind the licence holder’s normal commercial confidence and it must be right that the identity of those companies or individuals licenced to produce cannabis should be on the public record together with outline information about the terms of the licence – what is it for, for what period, in what quantities.  Furthermore, with the security precautions required for such a licence, any attempt at crime would be foolhardy and utterly stupid.  It would be much easier either to import or produce your own cannabis.  The sort of criminal enterprise that would be required to raid, for instance, one of GW’s grows would be on a grand scale, incredibly risky and with sentences probably higher than for production of cannabis.

Clearly, disclosure of the information around these licences could, in any case, be limited to redact any specific information which should be kept confidential

It’s quite clear that this refusal is simply an excuse, probably to cover-up not only the extent of the licences but also the basis on which they have been issued.

Of course, the Home Office has pre-empted the next step in a FOI request and states that “the public interest falls in favour” of not providing this information.  We consider this to be nonsense.  It is clear that the public interest (not just the interest of the public) is very much that the issue of such licences should be a matter of public record.  It is outrageous that this information is being kept secret.

The answer to the second part of our FOI Request provides further insight into how little trust can be placed in the Home Office and demonstrates that its answers are dishonest.  In answer to a written question in Parliament on 1st March 2018, Home Office minster Nick Hurd MP said “No licences for pharmaceutical companies to grow and process medicinal cannabis for exportation to other countries have been issued.”  However the INCB report, which information can only have come from the Home Office, shows that in 2015/16 the UK exported 2.1 tons of medical cannabis.  We asked for an explanation of how Mr Hurd’s answer is consistent with the facts reported.

Nick Hurd MP, Home Office Minister

The Home Office’s answer is that “these figures could include any plant material exported for pharmaceutical purposes or pharmaceutical products containing cannabinoids that are manufactured in the UK and exported, such as Sativex.” and that it takes ‘medicinal cannabis’ to mean “substances produced to be consumed, be that smoked or ingested in any way.”

It is clear therefore that the Home Office has given two different answers to the same question and that the answer given to the INCB is correct whereas the answer given by Mr Hurd is without doubt intended to mislead Parliament.  It also seeks falsely to create a distinction between Sativex and other forms of cannabis which is manifestly and beyond doubt another deception, based on information published by GW Pharmaceuticals which CLEAR revealed in 2016.

In summary therefore, the Home Office has refused to answer the FOI Request in relation to licensing on grounds which are entirely spurious and has demonstrated that it is actively engaged in deceiving both Parliament and the public on the export of medicinal cannabis from the UK.

Following the required procedure, we have now requested an internal review of the Home Office’s handling of the FOI Request.  We argue that: “It goes directly to the question of the massive public demand for legal access to cannabis for medical use and the total denial of this by government. This policy is itself irrational and against the public interest and the refusal to disclose the information requested is a political cover-up.”

We anticipate this will be a whitewash and further attempt at a cover-up. Thereafter we have a right to complain to the Infomation Commissioner.  At this stage we would also seek to mobilise support from MPs with an interest in this area.  Ultimately, we may be able to apply to the High Court for judical review of the Home Office’s decision and we will consider mounting a crowdfunding campaign to enable this.

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The UK’s First Licensed Cannabis Dispensary.

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Mike Dobson

Mike Dobson

When Mike Dobson first called me a few months ago and told me he had an idea for gaining legal access to cannabis in the UK, I was, of course, sceptical. CLEAR has frequently been approached with hare-brained and convoluted plans for avoiding the law that prohibits cannabis.  Without exception they have all been bonkers.

Within a few minutes though, I could see this one was different.  In the past, most of these ideas have been around sidestepping the law by claiming ‘freeman’ status, the suggestion being that statutes, laws made by Parliament, are only enforceable if you have consented to them in the first place.  Some claim to have succeeded in using this to defeat charges for growing cannabis, even having their harvest returned to them by police.  I can’t verify any of these stories but I’m quite sure the courts are littered with the broken dreams and delusions of those who have tried to go down this path.

The big difference with Mike’s plan, his ‘scheme’ as I like to call it, is that instead of evading, avoiding or dodging the law, it actually uses the law itself to provide legal rights to grow and possess cannabis.

Preston Cannabis Club Website.  Click To Enter.

Preston Cannabis Club Website. Click To Enter.

The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 empowers the Home Secretary to issue licences in respect of cannabis. These could be for cultivation, production, possession, supply or any other activity such as import or export.

This scheme involves setting up a company to cultivate cannabis and produce cannabis products under licence from the Home Office – the ‘Licensed Supplier’. Providing the various licence conditions are complied with, the Home Office cannot unreasonably refuse such a licence.  If it does then it will be subject to judicial review.  The licence conditions that need to be met are security and the prevention of ‘diversion’ of the cannabis into illicit or unlicensed hands.

The next step is to set up another company where it and its shareholders, guarantors and/or members are licensed to possess cannabis – the ‘Membership Company’.  Again, providing the licence conditions are complied with, the Home Office must issue a licence and if it refuses judicial review proceedings can be brought.  Sensible and responsible rules must be put in place so that members only consume cannabis in private with necessary security precautions.

The genius of Mike’s scheme, now coming to reality with the first Membership Company, the Preston Cannabis Club, is that it uses the law exactly as it is intended, to ensure that the only people cultivating, producing, supplying or possessing cannabis are licensed to do so.

I have consulted informally with several lawyers and there is no doubt that this scheme holds promise. Whether it works out remains to be seen.  CLEAR is putting its weight and support right behind the scheme as a responsible and lawful way to enable legal access to cannabis.  I would expect initial resistance from the authorities but if we are right, it would mean Parliament would have to pass a new law to prevent this happening.  In my judgement that is unlikely and, in fact, the demonstration of such a legitimate route to cannabis would get the government off the hook of its present, unsustainable policy.

Watch this space.  CLEAR is now actively involved in supporting this venture and we will keep you fully informed.

Legal Opportunities For Medicinal Cannabis Users

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Recent developments mean that there are new opportunities to challenge the prohibition of cannabis as medicine.    Now I am not a lawyer, so these ideas should be carefully discussed with your legal advisors before you even consider pursuing any of them.  I may be wrong about the correct procedure, process or terminology.   I am highlighting opportunities that I have identified, based on my personal experience and knowledge.  Qualified legal advice is essential.

Disingenuous

The British government’s current position on medicinal cannabis is absurd and irrational.  As I understand it, those are exactly the criteria for which the process of judicial review is intended.  That is one route.  Another, more risky opportunity arises if you are facing prosecution or have been convicted of an offence of possession, cultivation or production.  There are ideas here which you may want to consider as a defence or an appeal.  However, please be very careful.  If things go wrong, advancing such arguments might result in a heavier sentence, such is the cruel, oppressive and iniquitous intent of current government policy.

Dishonest

The Home Office is simply dishonest in its current stance saying that there “are no medicinal benefits” from cannabis.  James Brokenshire, the drugs minister, cannot hide behind a lack of knowledge so he looks either more stupid or dishonest every day.  David Cameron made the most dreadful, disingenuous comment about medicinal use in his Al Jazeera World View YouTube interview last week.  See here.  He said “That is a matter for the science and medical authorities to determine and they are free to make independent determinations about that.” That, of course, is absolute rot and Cameron should be ashamed of himself for such misinformation.

Obtain A Doctor’s Prescription For Medicinal Cannabis

There is nothing to prevent your British doctor from prescribing medicinal cannabis for you if he/she believes it is appropriate.  Bedrocan BV is the official contractor to the Dutch government for the production of medicinal cannabis.  Go to its website here and you will discover it has a range of products offering different proportions of cannabinoids and terpenoids for different conditions.  Prescribing information is available for your doctor in exactly the same way as any other drug.  All he/she has to do is select the product and write out a prescription in the normal way.  Your doctor can’t get in trouble for this.  There is nothing improper or unethical about it, but it is, of course, your doctor’s decision whether to do so or not.

If your doctor isn’t prepared to help, the next best thing is to go to a doctor in Holland, Belgium, Germany, Spain or Italy, all countries where medicinal cannabis is regularly prescribed.  In theory, you should be able to see a doctor in another EU country under reciprocal healthcare arrangements but if you can afford it, it may be simpler to go privately.

Another option is to go to one of the 15 US states that permit medical marijuana and obtain a doctor’s recommendation.

Once you have your prescription, you need to apply to the Home Office for a personal import licence to bring your medicine in from Holland.  The licensing section on the Home Office website is here.  If you obtain a licence you will also need to go through a similar process with the Dutch Bureau voor Medicinale Cannabis to obtain an export licence.  The correct section of its website is here.

Of course, the reality is that the Home Office is not going to grant you a licence.  You can then pursue the matter through your MP who should make representations to the minister on your behalf.  You are then at the point to make an application for judical review of the Home Office’s decision.

Challenge The Government’s Interpretation Of The Schengen Agreement

The Schengen Agreement provides protection for travellers to carry their medicine with them within the EU.  The crucial factor is your country of residence.  See here for detailed information. Although there is no precise definition of residency, if you are resident in an EU country where medicinal cannabis is permitted, then you may bring your medicine into Britain and, believe it or not, there is no restriction on your use of it.  You would be perfectly entitled to sit on the steps of Scotland Yard or even the Home Office’s Marsham Street HQ and smoke a spliff.  However, if you are a UK resident, even if you have obtained your medicine on prescription abroad, you are not protected.  This is clearly discriminatory under EU law and could be challenged in court.  I’m not certain whether you would apply to a British court or to the European court but your solicitor would advise you on this.

Defence Or Appeal On The Grounds Of Medical Necessity

The Appeal Court disallowed a defence of medical necessity back in 2005.  A petition to the House Of Lords Judicial Committee and to the  European Court Of Human Rights was dismissed without any reasons given.  I understand that the Appeal Court’s reasoning was that there were no proven medicinal benefits of cannabis.  However, things have changed enormously since then.  The MHRA approval of Sativex and the Home Office’s issue of a general licence for it are conclusive proof of medicinal value.  Whatever misinformation the Home Office may promote, expert evidence would prove that Sativex is pharmacologically identical to, for instance, one of the Bedrocan products.  There is also now a vast resource of peer-reviewed clinical evidence of medicinal benefits.

There is an horrendously improper judgement (R -v- David King,  St Albans Crown Court), where a medicinal user was not allowed even to mention medicinal reasons to a jury on pain of imprisonment for contempt.  Your lawyers would need to study this carefully.  However, it is so clearly unjust that I do not believe it could be sustained.

Re-Scheduling  Of Sativex

Sativex is currently a schedule 1 controlled drug which means it has no medicinal value. As mentioned earlier, the Home Office has dealt with this temporarily by issuing a general licence for it.  However, it needs to be re-scheduled and the Advisory Council On the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) has recommended that it be placed in schedule 4.  See here for the full story.

Sativex cannot be re-scheduled under its brand name and the only pharmacologically accurate way of describing it is cannabis.  The ACMD left a possible escape route for the Home Office by saying that its “active” ingredients  would have to be specified. GW Pharma, the makers of Sativex would say that this means an extract of THC and CBD.  However, this is dishonest.  Sativex contains all the 60-odd cannabinoids that occur naturally in the plant.  There is no other way of describing it accurately than to call it cannabis. If Brokenshire and his cronies try to prolong this deception then they can be challenged by judicial review.  The aim here is to ensure that the re-scheduling is accurate and so cannabis becomes a schedule 4 drug.  This would then open up all opportunities for cannabis as medicine.

I have no doubt now that medicinal cannabis will be permitted in some form or another in Britain within the near future.   We may need to force the government’s hand through litigation or, perhaps Brokenshire will be moved to another department and then the Home Office can “adjust” its position.

At present, it is a monstrous injustice, an evil and obscene scandal, that those who need cannabis as medicine are denied it.  The way of politics is that a few years from now it may well all have changed and Brokenshire will be at the Ministry of Silly Walks or somewhere better suited to his talents. However it works out, what I care about is that those in pain and suffering get the relief they need.  One day soon, Brokenshire will have to answer to his constituents and later to an even higher power.  How he will justify his cruelty and negilgence I don’t really care but I know I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes on judgement day.


Thug Smellie Gets Away With It

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Fugitive From Justice

Another miserable day for British justice.  Another scandalous triumph for police brutality.  Another incompetent, unforgiveable failure by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.  “Independent” my ****.   Weak, corrupt and pointless more like!

Sergeant Delroy Smellie, who should be languishing in jail for several years, in segregation for his own safety, has got away with his brutal assault on Nicola Fisher at the G20 protest.  See the full story here.

This is a licence for British police officers to use violence and brutality whenever they wish, even when they are being filmed.  Whatever the evidence they will get away with it.

It took the Metropolitan Police 30 years to admit they murdered Blair Peach.  Somehow, in the face of the crystal clear facts they have been able to get Smellie off the hook.  This failure of the Courts and the IPCC to call him to account can only be corrupt.  There can be no other explanation.

What about the assault on Ian Tomlinson?  He died after another Metropolitan Police thug assaulted him at the G20 protest.  More than a year later we are still waiting for the officer concerned to be charged.  What hope is there for justice for him?