Peter Reynolds

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Posts Tagged ‘Lord Howarth

What Happened In The House Of Lords About Cannabis?

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Baroness Molly Meacher

Baroness Molly Meacher

Today, Baroness Molly Meacher asked a question about cannabis in the House of Lords .

There is a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding about what happened, so I shall do my best to explain.

A video of the eight minute debate is available here.  A full transcript is here.

This was not a full debate.  There never was any prospect of any law being changed.  It was simply a question, which would be answered by the government spokesman and Lady Meacher would then have the opportunity to ask a further, supplementary question.  In the process, other members of the House would be able to interject and make their own comments.

The question was whether cannabis could be re-scheduled, out of schedule one, which determines that it has no medicinal value, to schedule two or three which would allow doctors to prescribe it and also enable researchers to access and use cannabis more easily in studies and clinical trials.

Lord Bates

Lord Bates

The government behaved exactly as expected.  The most generous interpretation is that the spokesman, Lord Bates, was misinformed. His first response to Lady Meacher’s question was to parrot the Home Office’s usual line on cannabis about it being a harmful drug.

This of course, is nothing to do with medicinal use.  Most medicines are far more harmful than cannabis and any potential harms are traded off against therapeutic benefit.

I know some people are already accusing Lord Bates of being a ‘liar’ but this is not true.  He simply has no idea what he is talking about and his briefing from Home Office officials is designed not to inform but to deflect, confuse and retain control within the bureaucracy. The claim that the Advisory Council recommends against medicinal cannabis is factually incorrect. The ACMD is not constituted to advise on the medicinal benefits of any drug.

So ignore what the government said.  It is largely irrelevant to the process of informing and changing minds amongst those in power.  They will instruct officials and spokespeople as necessary once they understand a more successful path forwards.

Lord Howarth

Lord Howarth

The rest of the debate was almost all positive.  Lord Dubs succumbed to the ‘skunk’ myth but who can blame him. given the level of propaganda and hysteria promoted even by ‘public service broadcasters’ such as Channel 4 and and some of our so-called eminent ‘scientists’. Lord Howarth of Newport hit the nail on the head and referred to the terrible difficulty of those who need access to Bedrocan.  He is a stalwart ally of a few, fortunate CLEAR members whose doctors have had the courage to prescribe.

This mini debate was good news.  It was another brick in the wall.  Clearly, attitudes are changing and the facts are beginning to overtake the myths.  Many Lords and MPs are on our side.

As ever, the way forward is relentless, individual, lobbying and informing. We must keep telling truth to power, challenging misinformation and providing knowledge.

Today, in the House of Lords, progress was made.

CLEAR Medicinal Users Panel. Fourth Delegation To Parliament.

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Freeman meet 1There is real momentum building in Parliament on the issue of medicinal cannabis. The first thing George Freeman said this week when he welcomed us to the Department of Health was: “There is a lot of discussion going on in government about this subject”.

This is extraordinary progress, unimaginable as recently as 2012. Undoubtedly, developments in the US have raised cannabis up the political agenda. Through 2014, CLEAR has been well received by the Home Affairs Select Committee, the Home Office, the Department of Health, the Health Select Committee and just before Christmas I met with Baroness Meacher and Lord Howarth in the House of Lords.  They are chair and treasurer, respectively, of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform. They are determined to push reform through to make medicinal cannabis available and have briefed one of the UK’s leading psychopharmacologists to prepare a review of existing evidence on the subject.  Armed with this they have a plan to meet with key individuals in both Houses of Parliament and I have no doubt that they will succeed in changing minds.

Also this week, I met with advisors to Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, in the very heart of government at the Cabinet Office.  The Liberal Democrats are planning towards another coalition after the General Election and determined to see drugs policy form part of a new coalition agreement.  Right at the front of their priorities is medicinal cannabis for which there is strong support from existing ministers, Lynne Featherstone at the Home Office and Norman Lamb at the Department of Health.  Expect announcements in the run up to the election.

George Freeman is the Life Sciences Minister, responsible for medicines, NHS innovation, research, development, the MHRA and NICE.  His role is as important as any other minister in achieving the reform we seek.  He is another ally and has asked me to submit a paper setting out our proposals.  Of particular importance is how medicinal cannabis could be regulated, either with a full Marketing Authorisation from the MHRA or possibly registration as a Tradional Herbal Medicine.  The very fact that we are now discussing such detail is a measure of how far we have come.

So there is great cause for optimism at the start of 2015.  We are closer than we have ever been before and this has been achieved by moving away from the old ‘protests’ and outdated campaigning ideas.  I am confident that early in the new parliament we will see substantial progress.