Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘licensed

“Cannabis Should Be Sold In Shops Alongside Beer And Cigarettes, Doctors’ Journal Says” – The Daily Telegraph, 11th October 2010

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Yes, this is The Daily Telegraph here.  Yes, this concerns an article published in the BMJ here.

There are distinct signs of sanity on the horizon.   Is it money driving this new reality because we waste £19 billion per annum on the “war on drugs”?  Or is it that Proposition 19 in California and the clash between UK and European law over medicinal cannabis is revealing the absurdity of prohibition?

Cannabis should be sold in shops alongside beer and cigarettes, doctors’ journal says

An editorial in the British Medical Journal suggested that the sale of cannabis should be licensed like alcohol because banning it had not worked.

Banning cannabis had increased drug-related violence because enforcement made “the illicit market a richer prize for criminal groups to fight over”.

An 18-fold increase in the anti-drugs budget in the US to $18billion between 1981 and 2002 had failed to stem the market for the drug.

In fact cannabis related drugs arrests in the US increased from 350,000 in 1990 to more than 800,000 a year by 2006, with seizures quintupling to 1.1million kilogrammes.

The editorial, written by Professor Robin Room of Melbourne University, said: “In some places, state controlled instruments – such as licensing regimes, inspectors, and sales outlets run by the Government – are still in place for alcohol and these could be extended to cover cannabis.”

Prof Room suggested that state-run off licences from Canada and some Nordic countries could provide “workable and well controlled retail outlets for cannabis”.

Prof Room suggested the current ban on cannabis could come to alcohol prohibition, which was adopted by 11 countries between 1914 and 1920.

Eventually it was replaced with “restrictive regulatory regimes, which restrained alcohol consumption and problems related to alcohol until these constraints were eroded by the neo-liberal free market ideologies of recent decades”.

The editorial concluded: “The challenge for researchers and policy analysts now is to flesh out the details of effective regulatory regimes, as was done at the brink of repeal of US alcohol prohibition.”

Campaigners criticised the editorial. Mary Brett, a retired biology teacher, said: “The whole truth about the damaging effects of cannabis, especially to our children with their still-developing brains, has never been properly publicised.

“The message received by children were it to be legalised would be, ‘It can’t be too bad or the Government wouldn’t have done this’.

“I know – I taught biology to teenage boys for 30 years. So usage will inevitably go up – it always does when laws are relaxed.

“Why add to the misery caused by our existing two legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco?”

Earlier this year, Fiona Godlee, an editor of the Journal, which is run by the British Medical Association, endorsed an article by Steve Rolles, head of research at Transform, the drugs foundation, which called for an end to the war on drugs and its replacement by a legal system of regulation.

Dr Godlee said: “Rolles calls on us to envisage an alternative to the hopelessly failed war on drugs. He says, and I agree, that we must regulate drug use, not criminalise it.”

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.