Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘Mike Penning

The Duplicity And Deceit Of UK Drugs Policy.

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Mike Penning MP

Mike Penning MP

On 12th October, after more than 220,000 people had signed a government e-petition, Mike Penning MP, the drugs minister, responded to the debate.  He said:

“I have every sympathy for my friends and members of my family who have had MS and the terrible pain and anguish that they go through because of an incurable disease. So I start from the premise of having sympathy. Let us see what we can do in the 21st century to take people out of that environment…we could look carefully… at the research. We need to look at why the research is not taking place and at the effects of certain parts of the legislation…We have cross-party agreement that we will look at research and see how we can help people. I am committed to that…It is crucial that we do not set ourselves in one position but that instead, we ask what research could help take things forward. That is what I have committed to doing and it is very important.”

Source: Hansard

Then, on 26th October, in response to a written question, he said:

“The government’s position on the medicinal value of cannabis remains unchanged and no discussions are planned.”

Source: Hansard

This is dishonest and a subversion of our democratic process.  However, in the UK, despite its historical role as the mother of parliamentary democracy, government ministers are now entirely unaccountable. Even in their individual role as MPs they answer to the electorate only once every five years, a level of accountability which is ridiculous in the 21st century.  Between elections they only need consider their party whips or the more senior ministers who hold power over their careers.

In any other context, in business or in personal affairs, reneging on a promise as Mike Penning has done would have serious consequences.  In some instances it might even bring him before the criminal courts.  But Penning doesn’t give a damn, faces no consequences and he continues with impunity as any robber baron might have in the Middle Ages or any cowboy outlaw in the Wild West.

I have written to Mike Penning asking for an explanation and I have also written to my MP asking him to obtain an official explanation from the government.  I ask you to do the same.

Written by Peter Reynolds

November 1, 2015 at 11:00 am

Drugs Policy Goes To Police Minister.

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Mike Penning, MP. Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice

Mike Penning MP

The Home Office has confirmed that responsibility for the UK drugs strategy goes to Mike Penning, MP for Hemel Hempstead, the Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice.

This must be indicative of the attitude that we can expect from the new Conservative government.  It would seem that this is a hardening of drugs policy as being a criminal justice issue rather than something to do with health.

Ironically, Penning is MP for a constituency that takes its name from the long history of cannabis cultivation in the UK.  Hemel Hempstead means Hemel’s cannabis farm.  Cannabis hemp was, of course, one of the most widely grown agricultural crops prior to the 20th century for its tremendous value as fibre for rope and textiles. Its history as a source of medicine has been largely forgotten but it was widely used and as many as half of all medicines in the British pharmacopoeia once contained cannabis. Without doubt cannabis was used as a recreational drug as well but the experiment of prohibition which began in 1928 has obscured all this history.

Penning is on record as a hardliner on drugs policy. In February 2015, he publicly rebuked Mike Barton, chief constable of Durham, saying:

“I do not agree at all with the chief constable of Durham. I have told him so and I will continue to tell him. Drugs are a scourge in our society and we must do everything we can to crack down on them.”

He has also twice submitted written questions asking how many deaths there have been from cannabis.  Of course, on both occasions the answer has been none but it reveals a worrying lack of knowledge and suggests a readiness to listen to or even promote evidence-free scaremongering.  He has also been responsible for the dreadful drug driving legislation, widely criticised by all informed parties and a classic example of bad lawmaking driven by the tabloid press rather than by evidence.

So this is very worrying and depressing news for those interested in drugs policy reform.  CLEAR will be reaching out to Mr Penning through our network of supportive Tory MPs and we will be seeking a meeting as soon as possible to present our case.  Most urgently we will seek his support for allowing the prescription of medicinal cannabis by doctors.

This reinforces my view that CLEAR’s strategy of engagement and persuasion is the correct way forward. Protests and making demands never have worked and never will, particularly with ministers like Penning.

Sometimes it seems that some UK politicians are oblivious to what is happening in the US, Uruguay, Israel and across Europe, not just on access to medicinal cannabis but on wider drugs policy reform.  That will be another objective; to educate and inform him of policies that more enlightened jurisdictions are pursuing and the great benefits for public expenditure savings, new tax revenue, health, crime and Tory values of individual liberty and free enterprise.

Written by Peter Reynolds

May 16, 2015 at 12:25 pm