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Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘Norman Baker

CLEAR Member Lara Smith To Be ‘Star Patient’ In Parliamentary Report On Medicinal Cannabis.

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Vicky Hodgson, Norman Baker, Lara Smith, Peter Reynolds, Nick Ellis. CLEAR meeting at Home Office, July 2014.

Vicky Hodgson, Norman Baker, Lara Smith, Peter Reynolds, Nick Ellis. CLEAR meeting at Home Office, July 2014.

The launch of the APPG report on its inquiry into medicinal cannabis is a public event which anyone can attend.  It takes place at the House of Lords committee room 2 on 13th September 2016 at 11.00am.

Baroness Molly Meacher and Caroline Lucas MP, are co-chairs of the APPG.  The guest speakers will be:

Frank Field MP
Ron Hogg, Police and Crime Commissioner for County Durham
Professor Mike Barnes, Neurologist, CLEAR Scientific and Medical Advisor
Lara Smith, Medicinal Cannabis Patient, Life Fellow of CLEAR

Lara Smith

Lara Smith

Lara was awarded a Life Fellowship of CLEAR in August 2014 in recognition of her enormous contribution to our campaign.  She suffers from a terrible chronic pain condition which is only relieved by cannabis.  Her consultant is one of those few courageous doctors in the UK who have supported their patient by prescribing access to Bedrocan medicinal cannabis products. Using the protocol which CLEAR pioneered, which exploits loopholes in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, Lara now gains legal access to Bedrocan products on a regular basis. She has to travel to the Netherlands in person to collect her medicine every three months and it has to be paid for on a private basis.  The important thing is she gets the medicine she needs and she is within the law.

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Promoting ‘Growing Your Own’ Has No Place In The Campaign For Medicinal Cannabis.

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cannabis scum

“I’s my rights innit?  I can grow me own medicine carn’I?  I’m too sick to work. I can save the NHS millions. Le’s have anuvver spliff.”

Face it, this is exactly how too many people in Britain see medicinal cannabis users. It’s not true. It’s not fair. It’s unjust. Almost everything about it is wrong. The one thing that’s right – is that it’s a stereotype some people keep on reinforcing.

So we have to educate and inform those who have the power to change the law. We also have to adjust our aims and our expectations to be realistic in the eyes of those we need to persuade. It’s a big enough leap to convince people that cannabis can be a safe and effective medicine. In 2015, in the UK, the idea that we are going to convince politicians and medical policymakers that we “grow our own medicine” is fantasy. It is not going to happen.

Of course, many people have to grow their own at present because they have no choice.  Particularly now that NICE have recommended against Sativex there is, for most people, no other option.

Effective campaigning is about focus, ruthless focus on a precise target. For medicinal cannabis, wider issues of human rights, individuality, ecology, lifestyle,  – these are irrelevant. Do those some other time. Real and effective campaigning is like a job interview. You behave and dress in a way you believe will win you credit with your your prospective employer. That’s what we must do if we want to persuade people and change minds.

So the image of medicinal cannabis users we present is crucial. When government ministers see that we are ordinary, decent, hardworking people with families, careers, homes, pets, elderly relatives that we care about  – and all we are trying to do is improve our health – that’s what makes the difference.

Norman Baker and Lara Smith.

Norman Baker and Lara Smith.

Believe me, I have seen it with my own eyes. When we first met Norman Baker last year, he was far from convinced about medicinal cannabis. He was pretty dubious about it in fact, as are many. He said initially there was only “limited evidence”. Only when he met some people and listened to their stories did he become open to considering the evidence that we offered. I swear, I actually watched his mind changing, particularly as he listened to Lara Smith explain how she copes with constant pain and bringing up three young children.

Later, Norman told me that when he spoke to Theresa May about it, she simply didn’t understand.  She couldn’t conceive that these scumbag potheads and druggies have anything to do with the consumption of a therapeutic and beneficial plant.

It is a step too far to try and include GYO in the campaign for medicinal cannabis. We are simply laughed at. No one suggests growing opium poppies or willow trees or deadly nightshade to use as medicine. It undermines all the effort to provide good scientific evidence and a responsible, coherent argument. GYO cannot provide the standards of quality, consistency, safety (free from mould, fertiliser and pesticide residues, etc) that other medicines have to comply with.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m all for GYO but I’m a weirdo, one of those eccentrics who also grows his own tomatoes, potatoes and other vegetables.  Most people prefer to buy them in Sainsbury’s and that’s exactly how it will be when cannabis is finally legalised.  Most people will prefer it in a nice plastic tray with a film wrapper and a label telling them exactly what they are getting.

GYO must wait for wider decriminalisation or legalisation.  Bringing it into the argument for permitting medicinal use is the cannabis campaign shooting itself in the foot – yet again!

Written by Peter Reynolds

July 5, 2015 at 2:01 pm

The UK Drugs Stategy Is In Limbo.

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Norman Baker.  The Man Who Broke The Mould Of UK Drugs Policy.

Norman Baker. The Man Who Broke The Mould Of UK Drugs Policy.

Who is to be the new drugs minister?

No word yet from David Cameron. I have been calling the Home Office every day since the election and the answer is always the same – ‘no appointment has been made, it is expected within the coming days’.

Responsibility for the drugs strategy rests with the Minister of State for Crime Prevention.  At least it did throughout the last Parliament. That gave us the horror of arch-prohibitionist James Brokenshire, followed by Baroness Browning, then the Liberal Democrat Jeremy Browne, followed by Norman Baker, the man who broke the mould and resigned because of Theresa May’s opposition to evidence and common sense. Lynne Featherstone succeeded him and continued to support reform. The Liberal Democrat’s intelligent and progressive drugs policy was incorporated into its election manifesto, sadly defeated by an electorate terrorised by the prospect of a Labour/SNP victory.

Why is this vital role still not decided? Perhaps responsibility for drugs is to be allocated elsewhere?  Probably too much to hope that it will go the Department of Health but there were encouraging noises from the civil service just before the election, suggesting that the costs of enforcing drug possession charges were too high and decriminalisation should be considered.

This decision, when it comes, will speak volumes about the new government.  The signs are not good with Cameron launching the most horrendous attacks on liberty and British values, threatening to crack down on the freedom of speech and thought for which thousands of British heroes have fought and died over many years.

So this is a crucial decision.  On it will depend the development of CLEAR’s future strategy. What is certain is that we must re-adjust to communicate effectively with Tory ministers.  We are well placed to do that, more so than any other UK drugs policy reform group because our strategy is already one of engagement, not protest.  We need to be talking about public expenditure savings, new tax revenues, individual liberty. Now more than ever the failed politics of protest and human rights will not work.

Immediately after the election came calls from the stoner groups for protests and direct action. A ridiculous and futile demo has been arranged for 30th May “FUCK YOUR DRUG WAR – PROTEST“.  Make no mistake, these ideas are idiotic, misguided, counterproductive, offensive, exactly what the campaign does not need.

The choice of which minister gets to look after the drugs strategy is hugely important. Watch this space.

Written by Peter Reynolds

May 14, 2015 at 6:02 pm

I Have Had The Most Terrible Post-Election Nightmare.

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Libdem leaders

Julian Huppert, Norman Baker, Lynne Featherstone

Our principal allies on the Liberal Democrat benches have all lost their seats.

Quickly now, the government will be formed.  No surprise that Theresa May has already been reappointed Home Secretary but who will the junior Home Office ministers be?

Brokenshire may leave for another department.  He’s probably due for a promotion.  It would be very good to see the back of him.  Who will the Crime Prevention Minister be?  Within that portfolio rests responsibility for drugs.

This is when the nightmare struck.  Key candidates for Home Office ministers will be backbenchers who have sat on the Home Affairs Select Committee.  I hardly dare write his name in case it puts ideas in Cameron’s mind – Michael Ellis.

Michael Ellis

Michael Ellis

Ellis is a hard line prohibitionist, anti-drugs, anti-liberty, anti-science, criminal barrister with a particular record of boorish behaviour during PMQs.  He’s a junior barrister working out of chambers in Northampton and he thinks that his experience with a few scumbag dealers qualifies him to know all about drugs policy.

The idea is a nightmare.  Cameron will see his increased number of seats as vindication of all past policies so he may well go further to the right.  I hope I’m wrong. Perhaps we will get some young MP with a brain in his head and an eye for the free market economy that is blossoming in Colorado and elsewhere.  Let’s hope so.

There’s also the new members of the Home Affairs Select Committee.  Who will they be?  We need to get to know them and present our case.

We must re-design, re-target, re-focus and refine our campaign for our new audience – Tory ministers are our most important targets.

Our messages must be developed for Tory eyes. More focus on the free market, profit opportunities, public expenditure savings.  And our tactics must work with Tories as well.  There is even less room now for the self-defeating tactics of protest, civil disobedience and flaunting alternative lifestyles in a way that distracts from our very powerful arguments.  Such tactics might cause a right-wing backlash now.

Instead of being self-obsessed, as so much of the cannabis campaign is, if we want to be effective we must see things through the eyes of our target audiences, look outward not in, recognise that preaching to the choir achieves little.  It is people who don’t agree with our cause that we must talk to and it is to their standards that we must dress and behave if we want to influence them.

Now, more than ever before, we need to be smart about the way we campaign for cannabis law reform.  We do have allies in the Tory party and the worldwide momentum continues to build.

A few adjustments on the tiller are necessary but we remain on course.  Let’s just be sure we adjust our sails and our technique for the new weather.

Why I Have Joined the Liberal Democrats.

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Coalition first 100 days

In my view the only rational choice for the next UK government is another Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition.

The Labour Party is simply a joke.  Miliband is an out-of-touch, Hampstead-socialist buffoon who was part of the team whose reckless borrowing meant that the banking crisis destroyed this country’s economy.  It is ludicrous that we should even consider giving the same people another chance.

Cameron is an oily, two-faced oaf who has transformed the Conservative Party into the Bullingdon Club Party, dominated by out-of-touch posh boys with quasi-fascists like Theresa May, Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling as their attack dogs.

The only redeeming factor about the Tories is a basic competence in managing the economy. Osborne knows what he is doing but left unrestrained he would devastate our society: trashing the benefits system, care for the disabled and access to justice.

We must have the decent, fair, rational and conscientious Liberal Democrats in government with the Tories. Crucially they must hold out for a much tougher coalition agreement which will see the disgusting policies of Duncan Smith and Grayling reversed.  I think it’s too much to hope that we will see the back of Theresa May but definitely, in my area of special interest, the Liberal Democrats will insist on drugs policy reform.  The evidence-free, prejudice-based, self-defeating and cruel drugs policies of the past must be overturned. They have caused too much harm, suffering and promoted the interests of organised crime and the alcohol industry over common sense and the national interest.

So, in February I joined the Liberal Democrats. I was free to do so because that month the CLEAR Executive Committee resolved that we would no longer be a political party. An explanation of that decision is here.

My decision had a lot to do with drugs policy but, as I have explained above, was considered across the wider issues.  I think it reflects the fact that the LibDems are less ideologically-driven, more rational, evidence-based and fair in their policies.  All my life I have been a Tory voter for the crucial values of individual liberty, regulated free markets and opposed to the cloying, repressive ideas of socialism and the overbearing state – but the Tories have lost their way, their moral compass and their integrity.  I will never, ever vote Tory again.

CLEAR has worked closely with the LibDems since I first led a delegation of medicinal cannabis users to meet Norman Baker, then drugs minister, in July 2014.  Just a few weeks later he publicly called for a change in policy on medicinal cannabis, the most significant breakthrough in the UK cannabis campaign for nearly 50 years.  This year we have worked closely with Nick Clegg’s team and the LibDem manifesto incorporated CLEAR’s policy on medicinal cannabis word for word.  I had the privilege of personally briefing him on medicinal cannabis just a few weeks ago.  Julian Huppert, Norman Lamb and Lynne Featherstone, also LibDems, have been of great help to the CLEAR campaign and demonstrated outstanding sincerity, honesty and commitment, uncommon qualities amongst politicians.  Personally, I also greatly admire the courage of LibDem David Ward in standing against Israeli war crimes and in support of Palestine.

On the narrow issue of drugs policy, once again, Labour is a joke.  It doesn’t have one.  With a few honourable exceptions, such as Paul Flynn, David Winnick and Bob Ainsworth, the party is stuck in reefer madness, terrorised by tabloid editors and prefers prejudice and scare stories to science and evidence.  The Tories have more individuals who support reform but the party as a whole is in a corrupt relationship with the alcohol industry and also terrorised by the tabloid press.

As far as the Greens are concerned, yes they have a sensible drugs policy (originally drafted, in fact, by Derek Williams, my colleague on the CLEAR Executive Committee) but they have no chance of any influence in the new government.  Caroline Lucas did a good job on getting the drugs debate in Parliament last year but I cannot support her party’s bizarre behaviour in the illiberal ‘No More Page 3’ censorship and fracking campaigns.  The Green’s attitude to fracking is as evidence-free and based on prejudice as is Labour’s attitude to cannabis.  Also, CLEAR gave the Greens an opportunity to present their drugs policy to our supporters but despite repeated efforts they couldn’t get it together.  By contrast, the LibDems welcomed us enthusiastically and at the highest level.

I am a Eurosceptic LibDem, which is unusual.  In fact, I voted for UKIP in the last European elections and although the party itself is confused on the issue, I have talked with Nigel Farage in person at length on drugs policy and he is progressive, intelligent and pragmatic on the subject.

CISTA, the Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol party?  Well, I know a number of the candidates personally and I would recommend voting for them in constituencies where the LibDems stand no chance. Overall though the party is a waste of Paul Birch’s money and I can say that with the experience of CLEAR’s 16 years as a political party.  It’s great that they are bringing some attention to the campaign but it’s a futile strategy and Birch has spurned all efforts at support and assistance from CLEAR.  Had he even returned our calls we would have endorsed and promoted CISTA candidates in some constituencies.

So in conclusion, for drugs policy reform, particularly for access to medicinal cannabis, but also for a fairer society where policy is based on evidence and compassion rather than prejudice and vested interests, vote Liberal Democrat!

Snooper’s Charter. This Is Why Americans Keep Their Guns.

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 “You can have my guns when you take them from my cold, dead hands.”

“You can have my guns when you take them from my cold, dead hands.”

Nick Clegg has caved in again.  Norman Baker sat next to the most monstrous woman in British politics as she sneaked her snide subversion of our freedom through parliament. These people are ‘Liberal Democrats’?

It is all decided.  There is nothing we can do.  Parliament adjourns in less than a fortnight.  There’s little your MP could do for you anyway, even if he or she had the balls to stand up against this railroading of fundamental changes to our rights.  The leadership of the main parties have conspired to pervert our democracy to their own ends. In America they would be put on trial for treason.  This is why Americans keep their guns. It is some protection against an overbearing state.

Meanwhile, in London, Boris Johnson’s water cannons have arrived. Julian Assange is still holed up in the Ecuador embassy. Edward Snowden, the great American hero is running for his life in Russia.

Bring the Guillotines To Parliament Square!

Bring the Guillotines To Parliament Square!

At least America has a constitution. British democracy is a sick joke. We have no control over our government.  Elections are meaningless.  Politicians are a self-serving, incestuous elite, part of the tripartite oligarchy with the Fleet Street Mafia and the bankers.  We are the servants of the state.  We can’t even determine the issues that the media and parliament consider.  Their agenda and priorities are imposed on us.  We can’t enact local medicinal cannabis laws as 23 states have in the US, where the people have instructed the government what to do.  We can’t define the debate on education, the health service or foreign policy.  We must just do what we’re told.

We let these people take our guns away from us – and we were foolish to do so.  After the water cannons, what comes next?