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Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘medicinal

Mr Cameron, It’s You Who Needs Education About Cannabis!

with 56 comments

See the interview here.  The relevant part starts at 10:45.

Al Jazeera: This was incidentally, the second most popular question because viewers would submit questions and then members of the public would vote.

Why is marijuana illegal when alcohol and tobacco are more addictive and dangerous to our health, but we manage to control them?  Wouldn’t education about drugs from a younger age be better?

Cameron: Well there’s one bit of that question I agree with which I think education about drugs is vital and we should make sure that education programmes are there in our schools and we should make sure that they work. But I don’t really accept the rest of the question. I think if you actually look at the sort of marijuana that is on sale today, it is actually incredibly damaging, very, very toxic and leads to, in many cases, huge mental health problems.  But I think the more fundamental reason for not making these drugs legal is that to make them legal would make them even more prevalent and would increase use levels even more than they are now. So I don’t think it is the right answer.  I think a combination of education, also treatment programmes for drug addicts, I think those are the two most important planks of a proper anti-drug policy.

Al Jazeera: What about the argument that it could be used as medicinal properties?  That was another question we actually had, a person saying it’s got proven medicinal properties.  If used properly and regulated properly it could actually be quite helpful.

Cameron: That is a matter for the science and medical authorities to determine and they are free to make independent determinations about that.  But the question here about whether illegal drugs should be made legal, my answer is no.

Dear Mr Cameron,

I am writing about your answer to the question about marijuana during the recent Al Jazeera World View YouTube interview.

I am the recently elected leader of the LCA.  I represent the interests of at least two million regular users of cannabis and perhaps as many as 10 million occasional users in Britain.  This is a huge proportion of the population and on their behalf I am requesting a meeting with you.

We were dismayed, shocked even, at your answer to the question.  With respect, clearly it is you who are in great need of education about cannabis. The information you gave was inaccurate and false.  While we must all respect different opinions, your answer was factually wrong and you must correct it.

Cannabis is not “incredibly damaging”, nor “very, very toxic”. It is a myth that there is anything significantly different about the cannabis on sale today and the idea that it causes “in many cases, huge mental health problems” has been comprehensively disproved many times over by scientists all over the world.

I can provide you with scientific information which proves that these ideas are false.  Recently we have been pursuing various newspapers through the Press Complaints Commission for publishing the same inaccuracies. I am seriously alarmed when I see the prime minster of my country distributing such untruths.

Two key facts:

The Therapeutic Ratio of cannabis (ED50:LD50) is 1:40000  (Alcohol = 1:10, Paracetamol = 1:30). Even potatoes are more toxic than cannabis.

Professor Glyn Lewis of the University of Bristol reviewed all published research on cannabis and psychosis in 2009 and concluded that 96% of people have no risk whatsoever and in the remaining 4% the risk is “statistically tiny”.

Your suggestion that legalising drugs increases use is also not supported by the evidence.  In both Holland and Portugal where cannabis use is not prosecuted, consumption is much lower than in Britain.

Finally, on medicinal use it is simply not true that the scientific and medical authorities are free to make independent determinations.  The Home Office stamps on any medicinal cannabis use even when prescribed by a doctor.  People from other European countries can bring medicinal cannabis to Britain and use it legally under the Schengen agreement but you can’t if you’re British.  Here, sick and disabled people are being prosecuted every day for use of a medicine which is scientifically and medically proven. Surely you cannot be unaware of this?  It is a cruel and evil policy which shames our nation.

So please, Mr Cameron, will you meet with me in order that I may show you the evidence and the facts about cannabis?   Remember, this was the second most popular question you were asked on Friday and I represent the interests of millions of British citizens.  Please make time for me in your diary.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

 

Peter Reynolds

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New LCA

with 35 comments

I take on the leadership of the LCA as a serious responsibility.  I shall do my best to represent the interests of the six million regular users of cannabis in Britain.  The government should now move urgently to permit the medicinal use of cannabis. It is not only unjust to deny such relief to those in suffering, it is deeply cruel.  Ministers should be ashamed at their treatment of the sick and disabled. I shall also be campaigning to bring the multi-billion pound cannabis market into a system of proper regulation where children and the vulnerable can be protected and quality and safety are assured.  Prohibition is a failed policy which causes far more harm than cannabis ever has.  It also deprives the nation of billions in tax revenue and in wasted law enforcement costs.

The LCA Leadership Election

with 15 comments

The ballot papers have been mailed to members today.  The candidates are Stuart Warwick and myself.  Voting closes a week today.  The result will be announced shortly afterwards.

Peter Reynolds

Dear LCA member,

I am seeking election as leader of the Legalise Cannabis Alliance.

I have been campaigning for an end to the prohibition of cannabis for more than 30 years.

If elected, I can promise you radical change in the way that LCA goes about its business. We will launch a new campaign based around the theme: REFORM, REGULATE and REALISE.

That is REFORM the law to end prohibition, REGULATE production and supply based on facts and evidence and REALISE the huge benefits of the plant both as medicine and as a £10 billion net contribution to the economy.

This will be a tightly focused campaign aiming for the urgent availability of cannabis for those who need it as medicine and a properly regulated supply chain for the millions of British citizens who use it recreationally. That means we will take the business out of the hands of criminals, allow commercial growers to produce the plant under properly regulated conditions and permit small scale personal cultivation of up to six plants.

We will advocate sales of cannabis through licensed outlets such as tobacconists and/or coffee shops to adults only. It would remain a criminal offence to supply cannabis to under 18s. We accept that cannabis should be taxed, partly to cover the costs of the regulatory system and a health advisory service but also so that the entire country will benefit from bringing this huge market out of the black economy. Based on research by the Independent Drug Monitoring Unit and the Transform Drug Policy Foundation we estimate that with reductions in law enforcement costs and new tax revenue, there will be a net contribution of approx £10 billion to the UK exchequer.

We will not be diverted by peripheral issues such as the many uses for industrial hemp, although we will be glad to see progress in that area. We will run a campaign focused on achieving practical change, not promoting a philosophy. That means that our main concern will be to educate and influence MPs and get our message across in the media. MPs are the only people who can change the law and it is through the media that we can influence voter opinion so we will deal with them on their terms, in Westminster, in newspapers and television studios. We will bring a new professionalism to this issue and demand the attention and respect that our proposals deserve.

The prohibition of cannabis is unjust, undemocratic and immoral. Most cannabis users are reasonable, responsible and respectable people and I will demand our right to be heard and treated fairly.

I shall stand for parliament in every by-election and in the next general election on this single issue. Being realistic, we do not expect to win a seat but we will put cannabis back on the political agenda and we will be taken seriously. No longer will we allow the Daily Mail or other media to publish lies and propaganda uinchallenged. No longer will we allow prohibitionists like Debra Bell and Peter Hitchens to misinform and promote scare stories without any balance.

I want to transform the LCA into a professional, effective campaign that will achieve results. I believe that I am the right man for this job. Please vote for me. Vote to REFORM, REGULATE and REALISE.

My website at http://www.peter-reynolds.co.uk contains a wealth of information about cannabis and many articles that I have written on the subject. If you want more detailed information about me and what I stand for, that is the place to look.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Peter Reynolds

Stuart Warwick

Dear Member,

As one of the candidates seeking election for leadership of the LCA, I’ve been asked to write a short letter outlining my plans for the direction and actions I’d like to see the LCA take.

As Leader I would not seek to limit our campaign to the medical and recreational issues only (although I believe this should be our focus) but use the plethora of other applications that cannabis has in industry to gain support from as wide a demographic as possible.

I intend to campaign for legalisation, regulation & taxation.

Legalisation, done properly would remove the cannabis market from the hands of criminals and terrorists and open it up to legitimate businesses & entrepreneurs, giving the substantial profit back to society.

Regulation will help prevent dangerous contamination, ensure good quality and be more effective at keeping it out of the hands of children.

Taxation to put some of the profit back into the country – everyone benefits.

I think licensed outlets and growers is what we should be aiming to achieve. Licensing should cover not only the supply of cannabis but should also cover growing set-ups to ensure electrical and fire safety as this is a known hazard with some badly fitted installations. This would allow local growers to provide more variety in outlets, allowing users to clearly identify the strain that suits their needs the best.

Licenses should be available to cover a wide range of grow sizes to encourage both local and national business opportunities.

I think fact-based policy is a must, with genuinely unbiased research. To base policy purely on knee jerk emotional and moral arguments while ignoring scientific research is unjust and unproductive.

We know there are people in power who understand this but are forced to repeat the same prohibition mantra.

We need to let people know that if they decide to make a stand against prohibition we will be there to back them up. They will not want to make a move unless they know that when they do, they are not left hanging, We just have to give them the nod and be ready when they do.

By standing for elections, I hope to challenge not only my local MP’s and the other candidates but also policy on a national level. As leader of the LCA I hope to unite all of the voices in our community to achieve just that.

I have 2 sites that I have used to promote my ideas so far. Feel free to visit them, although there are some very early attempts on there, so quality isn’t always great, sorry.

http://www.youtube.com/user/NovictimNocrime08

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hunar-for-Prime-Minister/238421977309

Thanks for your time – , this wasn’t as easy to write as I thought it would be!

Regards

Stuart Warwick.

Cannabis And Cannabinoids: Pharmacology, Medicalization And Recreational Use

with 5 comments

Reproduced from Pharmacology Matters,
the Newsletter of the British Pharmacological Society
Volume 3 Issue 2, December 2010

By Professor Roger Pertwee

Discovery of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol

Cannabis has been used as a medicine, for religious ceremonies and recreationally for over 5000 years. Indeed, an alcohol-containing tincture of cannabis (Figure 1) was a licensed medicine in the UK until its withdrawal in the early 1970’s.

In contrast, the discovery that cannabis contains (–)-trans-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) and that many of the effects experienced when cannabis is taken recreationally are caused by this ‘phytocannabinoid’ was made less than 100 years ago (Pertwee, 2006). These effects include altered mood (usually euphoria); altered perception such that colours seem brighter, music more pleasant and ‘felt time’ appears to pass more slowly than ‘clock time’; an increased desire for sweet food (the ‘munchies’); changes in thought processes; impaired memory…and eventual drowsiness. They can also include increased heart rate, a lowering of blood pressure resulting in dizziness and, at high doses, hallucinations and feelings of paranoia. There is good evidence too that Δ9-THC targets the reward centres of the brain in a manner that can lead to psychological dependence, and that abrupt termination of repeated use of cannabis or Δ9-THC can trigger a transient physical withdrawal syndrome that in abstaining recreational cannabis users most commonly includes disturbed sleep, reduced appetite, restlessness, irritability, sweating, chills, a feverish feeling and nausea.

Some Cannabinoid Pharmacology

The discovery of Δ9-THC was followed by the development of synthetic compounds capable of inducing Δ9-THC-like effects. Results obtained from pharmacological research with some of these compounds culminated in the discovery that they produce many of their central effects by activating specific sites on nerve terminals called cannabinoid CB1 receptors in a manner that influences the normal functioning of the brain (Pertwee, 2006). This finding prompted a search for molecules within our own bodies that can activate these receptors and, in 1992, led to a second major discovery – that we do indeed produce and release such molecules. The first of these ‘endocannabinoids’ to be identified was an ethanolamide of the omega-6 unsaturated fatty acid, arachidonic acid. It was named
‘anandamide’, ananda being the Sanskrit word for internal bliss. It has subsequently emerged that there is at least one other cannabinoid receptor (CB2), that there are other endocannabinoids, and that this ‘endocannabinoid system’ of receptors and endogenous receptor activators plays major roles in the control of our health and in ameliorating unwanted symptoms such as pain.

The search is now on for additional cannabinoid receptors and endocannabinoids. Indeed, we have obtained evidence that ethanolamides, which are converted in our bodies from omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids that are found, for example, in fish oil, can both activate cannabinoid receptors and attack cancer cells (Brown et al., 2010).

The Medicalization Of Cannabinoids

Fig. 1. Tincture Of Cannabis

Individual cannabinoids first entered the clinic in the 1980’s (Crowther et al., 2010). The first of these was Nabilone (Cesamet), a synthetic Δ9-THC-like compound that is used to suppress nausea and vomiting produced by cancer chemotherapy. Synthetic Δ9-THC (Marinol) was licensed soon after Nabilone for the same purpose, and subsequently as an appetite stimulant, particularly for AIDS patients. Nabilone
and Marinol were recently joined in the clinic by Sativex: in Canada (2005) for the relief of multiple sclerosis and cancer pain and in the UK (2010) to treat spasticity due to multiple sclerosis. Sativex has also received regulatory authorisation in Spain. Its main constituents are two phytocannabinoids, Δ9-THC and cannabidiol, both extracted from cannabis.

Importantly, whereas exogenously administered cannabis and individual cannabinoids such as Δ9-THC and Nabilone target all cannabinoid receptors in the body and so ‘flood’ the whole endocannabinoid system, endocannabinoids released endogenously are somewhat more selective since they seem to be released in a manner that only targets subpopulations of their receptors. Although such release is often ‘autoprotective’ it can sometimes be ‘autoimpairing’, leading for example to CB1 receptor-mediated obesity. There is, however, currently little interest in developing medicines from compounds that block CB1 receptors, as such a blockade could well also suppress CB1 receptor-mediated autoprotection. Indeed, the CB1 receptor blocking drug, Rimonabant, was recently withdrawn from the clinic because of an increased incidence of depression and suicidality in patients taking it as an anti-obesity agent.

The fact that Cesamet, Marinol and Sativex are all in the clinic is of course an indication that, as prescribed, these medicines do significantly more good than harm. Even so, there is considerable interest in developing a second generation of cannabinoid medicines that display even greater ‘benefit-torisk ratios’ (Pertwee, 2009). Possibilities include compounds that avoid the production of unwanted cannabinoid CB1 receptor-mediated effects by:

(1) Only activating cannabinoid receptors that are located outside the brain and spinal cord.

(2) Only activating cannabinoid receptors in particular tissues such as skin or spinal cord by being administered directly into these tissues.

(3) Activating cannabinoid CB2 but not cannabinoid CB1 receptors.

(4) Being administered at low doses that produce a cannabinoid receptor-mediated enhancement of the sought after effects of  non-cannabinoid medicines but are insufficient to produce significant cannabinoid receptor-mediated unwanted side effects.

(5) Boosting the levels of endocannabinoids when these are being released in an ‘autoprotective’ manner, for example to relieve pain.

(6) Targeting ‘allosteric’ sites that we have discovered to be present on cannabinoid CB1 receptors in a manner that will boost the ability of autoprotectively released endocannabinoids to activate these receptors.

Cannabis: A Complex Scenario

Δ9-THC is synthesized in the cannabis plant from a nonpsychoactive precursor, Δ9-THC acid. This process can be greatly accelerated by heat which is why cannabis is usually smoked, often with tobacco, consumed in preheated food or inhaled from ‘volcano’ vaporizers that create fumes by heating cannabis without burning it or producing smoke. Other pharmacologically active phytocannabinoids can also be
formed from their acids by heating cannabis. These include the non-psychoactive yet pharmacologically active compounds, cannabidiol (CBD), Δ9-tetrahydrocannabivarin (Δ9-THCV) and cannabigerol (CBG), each of which has actual (CBD) or potential medical applications. Some of these phytocannabinoids are really ‘fighto’ cannabinoids, their presence in cannabis making it a pharmacological ‘battlefield’. Thus
we have discovered that although CB1 receptors are activated by Δ9-THC, they can be blocked by Δ9-THCV. It has also been found that CBD can oppose certain effects produced by cannabis or Δ9-THC. Indeed, whilst there is evidence that the presence of Δ9-THC in cannabis increases the risk of developing schizophrenia for certain individuals, there is also strong evidence that cannabidiol is a potential medicine for the treatment of schizophrenia. A further complication is that the relative concentrations of different phytocannabinoids are not the same in all strains of cannabis, in all parts of the same cannabis plant or in male and femalecannabis plants, the female flowering heads of sinsemilla (‘without seeds’) being particularly rich in Δ9-THC. This may have important consequences for those who take cannabis either recreationally or for the quite different purpose of self-medication, as high CBD:THC or THCV:THC ratios may lessen the risk from cannabis of developing schizophrenia or cannabis dependence…although probably also alter the perceived nature of a cannabis-induced ‘high’.

Spice

One notable recent event has been the arrival in the recreational cannabis world of herbal mixtures laced with synthetic cannabinoids (‘designer drugs’) such as JWH-018 (e.g. Spice or K2, named after the second highest mountain on earth). These little-investigated synthetic cannabinoids share the ability of Δ9-THC to activate cannabinoid CB1 receptors and hence to produce a ‘high’. Moreover, any of them that
activate these receptors more strongly than Δ9-THC will most likely produce a more intense ‘high’ and perhaps also more serious unwanted effects than usually experienced by recreational cannabis users. They probably also differ from THC in other ways. Thus, although Δ9-THC shares its ability to target cannabinoid receptors with many synthetic compounds, the additional pharmacological actions it possesses provide it  with a unique ‘pharmacological fingerprint’ that distinguishes it from many of these other compounds.

Harm Minimization For Recreational Cannabis

One important challenge for the International Narcotics Control Board that monitors and implements United Nations drug control conventions is to select an optimal but workable strategy for minimizing the harm that is now being caused both to themselves and to Society by some of the many  millions of people world-wide who currently take cannabis (or Spice) recreationally and also, indeed, by some of those who self-medicate with ‘street’ cannabis. For the UK, options include leaving the present law unchanged and increasing or
decreasing current penalties for the supply and/or possession of ‘street’ cannabis. It would also be advisable to develop strategies directed (i) at discouraging cannabis from being taken by adolescents or other individuals who are thought to be at particular risk from cannabis-induced harm and (ii) at providing advice (a) about combinations and levels of cannabinoids in cannabis that are thought to be the least
harmful and (b) about how to take cannabis as an inhaled unburnt vapour or in other ways that avoid the lung damage caused by smoked cannabis. It will be important that policy makers have discussions with cannabinoid pharmacologists whilst considering these and any other potential strategies for minimizing the harm caused by recreational cannabis.

References
Brown I, Cascio MG, Wahle KWJ, Smoum R, Mechoulam R, Ross RA, Pertwee RG and Heys SD. Cannabinoid receptor dependent and independent anti-proliferative effects of omega-3 ethanolamides in androgen receptor positive and negative prostate cancer cell lines.
Carcinogenesis 2010; 31: 1584-1591.
Crowther, SM, Reynolds, LA and Tansey, EM (eds). The Medicalization of Cannabis. Witness Seminar Transcript. Volume 40. The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, at UCL. 2010; http://www.ucl.ac.uk/histmed/downloads/c20th_group
Pertwee RG. Cannabinoid pharmacology: the first 66 years. Br J Pharmacol 2006; 147: S163-S171.
Pertwee RG. Emerging strategies for exploiting cannabinoid receptor agonists as medicines. Br J Pharmacol 2009; 156: 397-411.
Professor Roger Pertwee has three degrees from the University of Oxford: MA (in biochemistry), D.Phil. (in pharmacology) and D.Sc. (in physiological sciences). He is Professor of Neuropharmacology at the University of Aberdeen, Director of Pharmacology for GW Pharmaceuticals, co-chairman of the International Union of Pharmacology (IUPHAR) Subcommittee on Cannabinoid Receptors, a co-ordinator of the British Pharmacological Society’s Special Interest Group on Cannabinoids and visiting Professor at the University of Hertfordshire. He has also served as chairman of the International Association for Cannabis as Medicine (IACM; 2005-2007) and as President of the International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS; 2007-2008; 1997-1998) and is currently ICRS International Secretary and a member of the IACM board of directors. He was the recipient of the 2002 Mechoulam Award “for his outstanding contributions to cannabinoid research” and in 2005 was recognized to be an “ISI Highly Cited Researcher” and hence among “the world’s most cited and influential researchers” (see Pertwee at http://isihighlycited.com/). His research has focused mainly on the pharmacology of  cannabinoids. This he began in 1968 at Oxford University and continued when he moved to Aberdeen in 1974. His research has played major roles in:
• the discovery of endocannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system;
• the recent discovery that ethanolamides formed from omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids seem to be endocannabinoids;
• the gathering of evidence supporting cannabinoids for the management of multiple sclerosis;
• the discovery that tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) is a phytocannabinoid;
• the pharmacological characterization of certain phytocannabinoids and of novel synthetic cannabinoids, e.g. the phytocannabinoids THCV, cannabidiol and cannabigerol, the first water-soluble cannabinoid (O-1057), the first CB1 receptorselective agonists (e.g. methanandamide), and a widely-used CB2 receptor antagonist (AM630);
• the discovery of a cannabinoid CB1 receptor allosteric site;
• the development of cannabinoid bioassays, some widely used (e.g. the “ring test”).
See also www.abdn.ac.uk/ims/staff/details.php?id=rgp

Home Office Drugs Strategy Consultation – My Response

with 14 comments

The Home Office has called for responses to its Drugs Strategy Consultation document.  See here on the Home Office website.

It is almost universally accepted that “consultation” is a euphemism for “your opinion will be ignored but we want it to look like we listened to you”.  This is a classic example of that sort of thinking.  Judge for yourself  by reading the introduction.  It is clear that ministers and civil servants have already made their mind up on many issues just by the way that the questions are phrased.

Nevertheless, this is what passes for democracy in Britain and it is vital that as many people as possible respond.  You can do so by post, email or online form. It is all set out on the website.  I offer my response here as raw material.  Please feel free to copy and use all or part of it as you wish.  Just make sure that you do make a submission.

I have answered all the questions where I feel I have something useful to say.  It dosn’t matter if you only answer one or two.  Please don’t let the Home Office get away with a whitewash.  With sufficient responses and future Feedom Of Information requests we will be able to advance the cause of rational and progressive drugs policy.

Question A1: Are there other key aspects of reducing drug use that you feel should be addressed?

* Yes

Please outline any suggestions below

The entire basis of this question is flawed. Prohibition of drug use is a failed strategy as now acknowledged by experts and leaders all over the world. So much of the subject is mired in semantics and prejudice rather than being addressed in a logical and responsible manner with fact and evidence-based policies.

Drug use can never be eliminated.  In fact, use of alcohol and tobacco, two of the most dangerous drugs, is legally promoted.  Drug misuse is, by definition, to be deplored but unless there is an acceptance of responsible drug use, then corresponding guidance or regulation to prevent misuse cannot work.

The key question, as established by parliament with the Misuse Of Drugs Act 1971 (MODA), is to how to reduce the harms of drug use.  This is the basis of the Act and of the drug classification system which is supposd to indicate the relative harms of drugs based on the advice of the Advisory Council on the Misuse Of Drugs (ACMD).

Regrettably the classification system is now entirely discredited for two principle reasons:

1. Failure to include the two most widely used drugs, alcohol and tobacco

2. Failure to classify drugs on a scientific basis, instead allowing political considerations and opinion to intrude where only facts and evidence should apply

The result is that government messages on drugs are widely regarded as incredible and as propaganda rather than good sense.  Young people in particular see the evidence of their  own eyes and experience as more useful and credible than government messages, especially in the case of drugs such as cannabis and ecstasy where their relative harmlessness is self-evident.  Government campaigns such as Frank are widely ridiculed and both counterproductive and a complete waste of money.

Question A2: Which areas would you like to see prioritised?

Please select as many as apply

* Greater ambition for individual recovery whilst ensuring the crime reduction impact of treatment.
* Actions to tackle drugs should be part of building the “Big Society”.
* A more holistic approach, with drugs issues being assessed and tackled alongside other issues such as alcohol abuse, child protection, mental health, employment and housing.
* Budgets and responsibility devolved wherever possible, with commissioning of services at a local level.
* Budgets and funding streams simplified and outcome based.
* The financial costs of drug misuse reduced.
* None of them.

This is an astonishingly meaningless question, a little like asking “do you approve of motherhood and apple pie?”

It would be foolish to disagree with any of these ideas.

The main area I would like to see prioritised is that drugs strategy, policy, information and education should be fact and evidence based.  The National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee have both criticised government for failing to implement an evidence-based drugs policy and instead giving more weight to opinion.  This is a dreadful indictment of how successive governments have, in fact, contributed to and increased drug harms.  It is now a well established and proven truism that drug laws cause more harm than drugs themselves.

I would propose a five point drugs strategy aimed at reducing harms as follows:

1. An end to oppression of drug users (at least six million citizens)
2. Removal from the criminal law of any offence for possession and/or social supply
3. Fact and evidence-based policy, information and regulation
4. Re-direction of law enforcement resources against real criminals
5. Treat problematic drug use as a health issue

I would also propose that the overwhelming response on drug laws to the Your Freedom website should be included in this consultation. Top priority should be given to the massive outcry from the public for the removal of drugs from the criminal law and the more rational, fact and evidence-based regulation.

The question of cannabis needs urgent attention.  All experts agree that the harms from its illegality are greater than from the drug itself. According to Home Office figures, there are six million regular users in the UK. Recent research shows that more than 70% of the public want to see some form of legalisation.  The laws against cannabis no longer have public support, particularly in the case of medicinal use, yet the cost of unsuccessfully attempting to enforce them amounts to many billions in wasted public expenditure.  This is a national scandal of monstrous proportions which must be ended.

Question A3: What do you think has worked well in previous approaches to tackling drug misuse?

There is almost nothing that the government has done that has worked well in tackling drug misuse.  On the contrary, almost all government policy has increased the harms caused.

There have been some pilot projects in providing clean, safe environments where opiate addicts have access to a regulated supply and clean needles that have reduced harms.

Question A4: What do you think has NOT worked so well in previous approaches to tackling drug misuse?

Government drugs policy has been a disaster in almost every way, consuming more and more resources to less and less good effect.  It has been almost entirely counterproductive and has led to complete distrust of government information, alienation of users from society in general  and brought the law into disrepute.

Prohibition has not worked.

Misinformation and propaganda that distributes lies and untruths about the relative harms of drugs has not worked.  In fact, it has led to more harms and more deaths.

Criminalising huge numbers of citizens has not worked and has created disaffection and seriously damaged democracy.

Question B1: What are the most effective ways of preventing drug or alcohol misuse?

The only effective way of preventing drug or alcohol misuse is education.  This should be accompanied by a system of regulation and controls which is fact and evidence based and has widespread public support.

Question B2: Who (which agencies, organisations and individuals) are best able to prevent drug or alcohol misuse?

The government is entirely discredited when it comes to offering any sort of advice on these subjects because it has a long history of mistakes, misinformation and propaganda.  Everyone knows that you can’t trust what the government says about such matters because it almost always places political expediency above the truth.

Schools, teachers, ex-addicts and parents are best able to prevent drug and alcohol misuse.  They need fact and evidence-based support and information.  The last thing they need is government direction or interference as this is widely seen as unbelieveable and incredible.

Question B3: Which groups (in terms of age, location or vulnerability) should prevention programmes particularly focus on?

There should be no such thing as a “prevention programme”.  The most vulnerable group is clearly young people.  Tell them not to do something and you immediately increase its appeal.  This question demonstrates how utterly out of touch, insensitive and hamstrung is current Home Office thinking.

Education programmes should focus particularly on young people.

Question B4: Which drugs (including alcohol) should prevention programmes focus on?

* Those that cause the most harm
* Those that are most widely used
* All drugs

Please explain your view below

There should be no such thing as a “prevention programme”.  Education programmes should cover all drugs but focus on those that cause most harm.

Question B5: How can parents best be supported to prevent young people from misusing drugs or alcohol?

The best way of supporting parents is by creating an environment in which drugs policy is accepted as being rational, sensible and based on facts and evidence rather than propaganda.  It is vital that fact and evidence-based information is widely available.

Question B6: How can communities play a more effective role in preventing drug or alcohol misuse?

Communities will naturally come together to prevent drug misuse if we create an environment in which drugs policy is accepted as being rational, sensible and based on facts and evidence rather than propaganda.  At present, drug laws and policies create an “us and them” culture where injustice and hypocrisy brings the law into disrepute and alienates people who do not comply.

Question B7: Are there any particular examples of prevention activity that you would like to see used more widely?

There is nothing being done in terms of”prevention activity” that should be continued.  Education, based on fact and evidence-based information is the key.

Question B8: What barriers are there to improving drug and alcohol prevention?

The biggest barrier to improving prevention of drug misuse is government policy which is widely understood not to be based on facts and evidence but on political expediency and propaganda.  The lack of fact and evidence-based information and education is also a major barrier.

Question C1: When does drug use become problematic?

Drug use becomes problematic when it interferes with people conducting their everyday lives and reaching their full potential or the ability of others to do the same.

Question C2: Do you think the Criminal Justice System should do anything differently when dealing with drug-misusing offenders

The Criminal Justice System should not be involved in dealing with drug misuse at all.  This should be a matter for healthcare. Drug misuse in itself should not be a criminal offence.

Where offences are committed while under the influence of drugs, or in order to feed a drug addiction, providing appropriate healthcare has been offered, then drug use should not be a mitigating factor. In such instances, the offender should always be referred for healthcare alongside any sentence.

Question C3: Do you have a view on what factors the Government should take into consideration when deciding to invoke a temporary ban on a new substance?

* Yes

Please explain your views below

The most important factors would be those of scientific fact and evidence to be determined by a strengthened, properly funded and independent Advisory Council On the Misuse Of Drugs or equivalent.

It is most important to consider the “glamourising effect” of banning a substance.

I congratulate the Home Office on its statement that  “Possession of a temporarily banned substance for personal use would not be a criminal offence to prevent the unnecessary criminalisation of young people”.  This demonstrates a new depth of thinking and intelligence that is very encouraging.

Question C4: What forms of community based accommodation do you think should be considered to rehabilitate drug offenders?

Drug use should not be an offence in itself.  Clearly as part of healthcare, community-based accommodation should be available for those suffering from problematic drug use.

Question C5: Where do you think we most need to target enforcement efforts to reduce the supply of drugs?

Enforcement efforts to reduce the supply of drugs are futile unless a legitimate, regulated source of supply is available.

Once a regulated source of supply is available, illicit sources will become less of a problem.  Enforcement efforts could then be targeted in a similar way to current policies against illicit supply of alcohol, tobacco and prescription only medicines.

Question C6: What else do you think we can do to keep one step ahead of the changing drugs markets?

The most important thing do do is to end the failed and demonstrably ludicrous policy of prohibition.  The solution is a system of fact and evidence-based regulation including a a strengthened, properly funded and independent Advisory Council On the Misuse Of Drugs or equivalent.

Question C7: Which partners – in the public, voluntary and community sectors – would you like to see work together to reduce drug related reoffending in your local area?

What does “drug related reoffending” mean?

Drug use in itself should not be an offence.

Offences related to drugs should be dealt with by healthcare intervention as well as the criminal justice system.  If appropriate healthcare has been offered then drugs should not be a mitigating factor in sentencing.

Question C8: What results should be paid for or funded?

No comment

Question C9: What measures do you think should be taken to reduce drug supply in prison?

Those prisoners with a drug addiction should have access to healthcare and regulated supply just as any other citizen.   Just as in society in general a regulated supply would greatly reduce if not eliminate the problem of illicit supply.

Recreational use of drugs in prison should be strictly controlled.  Tobacco is presently allowed but not alcohol.

As an observation, it is tragic to note how existing policies have promoted the use of heroin in prison.  Under the drug testing regimes, cannabis can be detected in urine for up to 28 days and so its use has been largely eliminated.  However, heroin flushes through the system in less than 48 hours so its use has increased.  This is a vivid demonstration of the idiocy of present policies which have led to replacement of a relatively harmless substance with one that has potential to cause great harm.

Question C10 (if applicable): What impact would the measures suggested have on:

* a) offenders?
* b) your local community?

No comment

Question D1: Thinking about the current treatment system, what works well and should be retained?

No comment

Question D2: Thinking about the current treatment system, what is in need of improvement and how might it need to change to promote recovery?

I have no specific expertise in this area but I understand that treatment for problematic cocaine use is extremely limited and in desperate need of investment.  While not physically addictive, cocaine and particularly crack cocaine is overwhelmingly compulsive and can lead to violent behaviour.  Comparatively, treatment for opiate addicton is well established and understood.  More resources need to be put into developing treatments for problematic cocaine use.

Question D3: Are there situations in which drug and alcohol services might be more usefully brought together or are there situations where it is more useful for them to be operated separately?

Services need to be client-centered. Lumping together alcohol, opiate and cocaine services for the convenience of the providers is counterproductive. Someone who drinks too much wine in the evening at home may be deterred from attending a centre where opiate addicts are injecting. Similarly, a high-earning cocaine user may not want to associate with street drinkers.

Question D4: Should there be a greater focus on treating people who use substances other than heroin or crack cocaine, such as powder cocaine and so called legal highs?

* Yes
* No

Please explain your response below

The only rational response to any problematic drug use is to treat it as a health issue, therefore treatment should be available for all substances.  The question betrays a worrying naivety as cocaine use can be problematic as powder, crack or both.  “Legal highs” is a completely meaningless term which may range from something as harmful as heroin to something as benign as cannabis.

Question D5: Should treating addiction to legal substances, such as prescribed and over-the-counter medicines, be a higher priority?

* Yes
* No
* Don’t know

Please explain your response below

No.  The drugs strategy should be about minimising harms not making some moral judgment on people based on one point of view.  This is a dreadful suggestion.

Question D6: What role should the Public Health Service have in preventing people using drugs in the first place and how can this link in to other preventative work?

Fact and evidence-based information and education.

Question D7: We want to ensure that we continue to build the skills of the drug treatment and rehabilitation sector to ensure that they are able to meet the needs of those seeking treatment. What more can we do to support this?

Stop wasting money on futile attempts at enforcement of out of date, counterproductive laws. Prohibition is an entirely failed policy and, according to Baroness Meacher in the House Of Lords on 15th June 2010 is costing Britain £19 billion per annum.

Problematic drug use should be dealt with as a health problem.  With billions saved from wasted law enforcement costs and additional tax revenue from a regulated supply system, there will be a bonanza of funds available for drug treatment and rehabilitation services.

Question D8: Treatment is only one aspect contributing to abstinence and recovery. What actions can be taken to better link treatment services in to wider support such as housing, employment and supporting offenders?

Stop criminalising drug users, imprisoning them and treating them as offenders.  They are not.  They are people who choose to use a drug that has arbitrarily been deemed illegal usually for unscientific reasons.

Question D9: How do you believe that commissioners should be held to account for ensuring that outcomes of community-based treatments, for the promotion of reintegration and recovery, as well as reduced health harms, are delivered?

No comment.

Question E1: What interventions can be provided to better support the recovery and reintegration of drug and alcohol dependent offenders returning to communities from prison?

No comment.

Question E2: What interventions could be provided to address any issues commonly facing people dependent on drugs or alcohol in relation to housing?

No comment.

Question E3: How might drug, alcohol and mental health services be more effective in working together to meet the needs of drug or alcohol dependent service users with mental health conditions?

No comment.

Question E4: Do appropriate opportunities exist for the acquisition of skills and training for this group?

No comment

Question E5 Should we be making more of the potential to use the benefit system to offer claimants a choice between:

a) some form of financial benefit sanction, if they do not take action to address their drug or alcohol dependency; or

b) additional support to take such steps, by tailoring the requirements placed upon them as a condition of benefit receipt to assist their recovery (for example temporarily removing the need to seek employment whilst undergoing treatment).

There needs to be a combination of carrot and stick adjusted to individual requirements based on healthcare needs.  Those with problematic drug use must not be allowed to fall outside society as that leads to even greater harms.  This is why it is crucial that drug use be removed from the criminal law.

Question E6: What if anything could Jobcentre Plus do differently in engaging with this client group to better support recovery?

No comment

Question E7: In your experience, what interventions are most effective in helping this group find employment?

No comment.

Question E8: What particular barriers do this group face when working or looking for employment, and what could be done to address these?

No comment.

Question E9: Based on your experience, how effective are whole family interventions as a way of tackling the harms of substance misuse?

No comment

Question E10: Is enough done to harness the recovery capital of families, partners and friends of people addicted to drugs or alcohol?

Probably not. Once prohibition is ended, with billions saved from wasted law enforcement costs and additional tax revenue from a regulated supply system, there will be a bonanza of funds available for drug treatment and rehabilitation services.

Question E11: Do drug and alcohol services adequately take into account the needs of those clients who have children?

No comment

Question E12: What problems do agencies working with drug or alcohol dependent parents face in trying to protect their children from harm, and what might be done to address any such issues?

No comment

Gender: Male
Age: 45-54
Region: South West
Occupation: Writer

“No More Obvious Waste” Than UK’s £19 Billion War On Drugs

with 6 comments

A Wise Lady

In the House of Lords on 15th June 2010, Baroness Meacher announced a “radical shift of policy” from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.  The UN’s “war on drugs” has been an abject failure creating an illegal trade worth £320 billion and financing civil war in South America for the last 25 years.  British soldiers die almost every day in Afghanistan fighting an enemy financed by the illegal opium trade.

The UK spends £19 billion annually on the costs of drug law enforcement.

According to Baroness Meacher there is “no more obvious waste” of public money.  When will our leaders have the courage to grasp this nettle, to liberalise our pointless, self-defeating laws and free up billions of pounds of our money for more sensible purposes?

Video here.  Text here.

In addition, expert research indicates that a legalise, regulate and tax regime could contribute at least £6 billion annually in additional tax revenue. How can we afford to ignore these huge sums of money which we could make available to the country at little more than the stroke of a pen and with only a beneficial effect on the health of the nation?

Dying For A Stupid Law

Five years ago, while campaigning for the Tory party leadership, David Cameron called for “fresh thinking and a new approach” towards drugs policy and said that it would be “disappointing if radical options on the law on cannabis were not looked at”. Nick Clegg has promised to repeal “illiberal, intrusive and unnecessary” laws and to stop “making ordinary people criminals”. There can be no better example of this than the laws against personal use and cultivation of cannabis, particularly for medicinal reasons.

The coalition government’s new Your Freedom website launched only this morning is already inundated with proposals to legalise cannabis and to end the futile war on drugs. The site is crashing under the strain of a massive outcry from British people for the state to back off and give us back our freedoms.

We don’t just want our freedom back.  We want our money back too.