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Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘Professor Les Iversen

Another Pack Of Lies On Cannabis From The UK Government.

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bedrocan2

Yet another cannabis petition amongst hundreds of similar pleas was filed earlier this autumn.  This one though is more tightly focused on removing cannabis from schedule 1, which defines it as having no medicinal value.  The petition is also commendably concise but characterises itself as a ‘demand‘ that cannabis be rescheduled, an unfortunate choice of words.

resched petition graphicNevertheless, congratulations are due in that it has exceeded the threshold of 10,000 signatures which means the government must respond.  That response is now in and it is predictably dishonest, dismissive and authoritarian in its tone.  The Home Office has responsibility for drugs policy so it has drafted the response but it surely must have consulted with the Department of Health.

In fact, I was told only this week by a senior minister that “… the search into the medicinal use of cannabis is something that falls within the jurisdiction of the Department of Health.”  That may be a subtle shift in policy from which we can draw some hope.  But I fear that the response to this petition offers no hope at all.  It is stubborn, obstinate, inaccurate and in denial of evidence and experience.

To be clear, the Home Office has been systematically lying and misleading the British people about cannabis for at least 50 years.  The Department of Health is timid on the issue, leaves the public statements to the Home Office heavies and seems more interested in generating fee income for the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), than in actually treating patients effectively.

I analyse the response paragraph by paragraph.

“Herbal cannabis is listed in Schedule 1 as a drug with no recognised medicinal uses outside research. A substantial body of scientific evidence shows it is harmful and can damage human health.”

By far the majority of scientists and doctors now recognise that cannabis has real and significant medicinal uses.  Of course it is possible that cannabis can cause harm, as can any substance.  However, there is no scientific evidence that shows cannabis as being any more harmful than over-the-counter medicines or many common foods.  Professor Les Iversen, chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, is on the record saying: “cannabis is a safer drug than aspirin and can be used long term without serious side effects”.

“The Government will not encourage the use of a Schedule 1 controlled drug based on anecdotal evidence. It is important that a medicine is very thoroughly trialled to ensure it meets rigorous standards before being licensed and placed on the market so that doctors and patients are sure of its efficacy and safety. “

It is not the government’s role to encourage the use of any drug as medicine, that is the role of a doctor.  Only by removing cannabis from schedule 1 can that decision be placed in doctors’ hands.  There is a vast quantity of peer-reviewed, published scientific evidence on the  medicinal use of cannabis including human clinical trials. It is false to suggest that only anecdotal evidence is available.  See ‘Medicinal Cannabis: The Evidence’.  Thousands of doctors and millions of patients are sure of the efficacy and safety of cannabis based on existing research, trials and experience.  Many commonly prescribed medicines have nowhere near as much evidence behind them as cannabis.

“Cannabis in its raw form (herbal cannabis) is not recognised as having any medicinal purposes in the UK. There is already a clear regime in place to enable medicines (including those containing controlled drugs) to be developed and subsequently prescribed and supplied to patients via healthcare professionals. This regime is administered by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which issues Marketing Authorisations for drugs that have been tried and tested for their safety and efficacy as medicines in the UK.”

The lack of recognition for the medicinal purposes of cannabis is a grave error with no evidence that supports it.  Cannabis is a traditional medicine which recorded history shows has been used safely and effectively for at least 5,000 years. The only thing that stands in the way of cannabis being prescribed by doctors is its schedule 1 status.  The MHRA is a diversion and is irrelevant.  It exists to trial and regulate new medicines and requires a £100,000 application fee before very costly clinical trials take place. This is an unnecessary obstacle to a traditional medicine which contains more than 400 compounds.  The MHRA process is designed for potentially dangerous, single molecule drugs and is not applicable to cannabis.

“It is up to organisations to apply for Marketing Authorisation for products that they believe have potential medicinal purposes so that these can be subject to the same stringent regime and requirements that all medicines in the UK are subjected to.”

Many substances and drugs which have medicinal purposes are regulated either as Traditional Herbal Products or food supplements.  It is the schedule 1 status of cannabis which prevents it being regulated and controlled in this way which is far more appropriate given its very low potential for harm and the very wide range of conditions for which it can be useful.

“Since 2010 UK patients can use the cannabis-based medicine ‘Sativex’ for the treatment of spasticity due to multiple sclerosis. ‘Sativex’ can also be prescribed for other conditions at the prescribing doctor’s risk. ‘Sativex’ was rigorously tested for its safety and efficacy before receiving approval, and is distinguished from cannabis in its raw form. It is a spray which is standardised in composition, formulation and dose and developed to provide medicinal benefits without a psychoactive effect. Due to its low psychoactive profile ‘Sativex’ was rescheduled from Schedule 1 and placed in Schedule 4 Part 1 to enable its availability for use in healthcare in the UK.”

Sativex is a massively expensive form of cannabis oil which is not prescribed because of its cost.  It is at least 10 times the price of Bedrocan medicinal cannabis as regulated by the Netherlands government which could be immediately made available in the UK.   It is a deliberate falsehood to claim that Sativex does not have a psychoactive effect.  The statutory document ‘Summary of Product Characteristics’ describes “euphoric mood” as a “common”  side effect.  The scheduling of Sativex in schedule 4 is a deception requiring 75 words falsely to distinguish it from other forms of cannabis whereas every other drug in every other schedule requires just one word.

“The MHRA is open to considering marketing approval applications for other medicinal cannabis products should a product be developed. As happened in the case of ‘Sativex’, the Home Office will also consider issuing a licence to enable trials of new medicines to take place under the appropriate ethical approvals. “

Cannabis, which contains 400 + compounds is not suitable for MHRA regulation which is designed for single molecule drugs which are potentially dangerous. There is no significant danger from the use of cannabis when prescribed by a doctor.  This is already well established in scientific evidence and the referral to the MHRA is a diversion and an excuse for failing simply to put the decision in doctors’ hands.

“In view of the potential harms associated with the use of cannabis in its raw form and the availability of avenues for medicinal development, the Government does not consider it appropriate to make changes to the control status of raw or herbal cannabis. “

The government has offered no evidence of the potential harms to which it gives such weight.  No “development” of cannabis is required.  It is a traditional medicine consisting of the dried flowers of the cannabis plant.

“The Government’s view is that the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and regulations made under the Act continue to facilitate the development of medicines which are made from Schedule 1 controlled drugs. The legislation is aimed at protecting the public from the potential harms of drugs and is not an impediment to research into these drugs or development of medicines.”

The government’s view is intransigent and as demonstrated by this response is ignorant of the available evidence.  This response reinforces the government’s clear intention not to consider the evidence and simply to deny it.  The evidence shows that the potential harms of cannabis as medicine are trivial and inconsequential.  If its schedule 1 status was not an impediment to research, there would already be a great deal more research into cannabis as medicine.

“In 2013 the Home Office undertook a scoping exercise targeted at a cross-section of the scientific community, including the main research bodies, in response to concerns from a limited number of research professionals that Schedule 1 status was generally impeding research into new drugs.

Our analysis of the responses confirmed a high level of interest, both generally and at institution level, in Schedule 1 research. However, the responses did not support the view that Schedule 1 controlled drug status impedes research in this area. While the responses confirmed Home Office licensing costs and requirements form part of a number of issues which influence decisions to undertake research in this area, ethics approval was identified as the key consideration, while the next most important consideration was the availability of funding.”

The Home Office is entirely untrustworthy and dishonest on anything to do with cannabis.  Researchers, scientists, doctors and those already using cannabis as medicine simply do not trust anything it says on the subject based on long experience of its calculated dishonesty and misinformation.

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The Fleet Street Mafia Needs To Wake Up To The Fact That We Won’t Be Misled On Cannabis Any More.

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Rebecca Smith, The Daily Telegraph

Rebecca Smith, The Daily Telegraph

Rebecca Smith, health editor and Martha Gill, blogger, both of the Daily Telegraph have been getting a hard time in the comment threads of the pieces they published on cannabis yesterday and deservedly so.

Even casual use of cannabis alters brain, warn scientists. By Rebecca Smith.

Smoking cannabis will change you. That’s not a ‘risk’, it’s a certainty. By Martha Gill.

Rebecca Smith is by far the worst offender, publishing such gross distortions of the study she was reporting on that I have submitted a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission.  It’s dreadful that someone granted the title of health editor can be so casually ignorant of science, evidence and ready to mix up her opinion and wild speculation with just a smidgin of fact here and there.  Incidentally, I expect no satisfaction from the PCC.  Three years and nearly 100 complaints show that it is a deeply corrupt organisation that acts only in the interests of the press to find excuses for breaches of the Editors’ Code.  Its nothing to do with protecting readers from inaccurate, misleading and distorted reporting.

Martha Gill, The Daily Telegraph

Martha Gill, The Daily Telegraph

Martha Gill does a bit better because she points out what a vacuous and meaningless piece of research Rebecca Smith has made such a fuss about.  But Martha, apparently, writes for the New Statesman on ‘neuroscience and politics’.  She’s entitled to her political views, which are self-evident given the publication concerned but on neuroscience, the clue is in the third and fourth syllables.  It’s science, not opinion and Martha is woefully out touch with the evidence.  If she’s not careful she”ll grow up into a mumsy moraliser like Libby Purves or Lowri Turner.  She should try reading Professor Gary Wenk, Professor David Nutt, Professor Les Iversen, Professor Peter Jones, Professor Terrie Moffitt or Professor Roger Pertwee.  They and many others could give her a grounding in the neuroscience of cannabis: it’s almost undetectable toxicity, its powerful antioxidant and neuroprotective qualities, its anxiolytic and antipsychotic effects.  Her sweeping statement that “cannabis bad for you” is simply wrong.  For most adults, in moderation, it’s beneficial.

Martha is also detached from reality and distant from the evidence, as is all of Fleet Street, when it comes to the risks of cannabis.  The endless screeds that are written about the risks of cannabis use correlating with schizophrenia or psychosis are ridiculous when you consider the evidence.  Hickman et al, 2009, a review of all published research so, by definition­, not cherry picked,  shows  the risk of lifetime cannabis use correlatin­g with a single diagnosis is at worst 0.013% and probably less than 0.003%.  By contrast, correlation between cigarette smoking and schizophrenia is 80% – 90% (Zammit et al, 2003) but when  do you ever read that in a newspaper?

I’m sorry you’re getting a hard time Rebecca and Martha but you and the ‘capos’ of the Fleet Street Mafia need to realise that people have had enough of your bad science, sensationalism and scaremongering about cannabis. The internet means we can’t be bullied and misinformed by newspapers anymore which is why your circulation is plummeting and journalists are held in ever lower esteem.  We know you’ve spent years supporting Big Booze with its £800 million pa advertising budget.  Obviously it’s desperate to hang on to its monopoly of recreational drugs but if you want to stay in business you’re going to have to start treating readers with respect and with facts and evidence, not baloney.

The Daily Telegraph has become a broadsheet-sized tabloid since it broke the MPs expenses scandal and it is genuinely difficult to distinguish its headlines, writing and content from The Daily Mail these days.

Of course, there’s a lot of rubbish in comment threads but there’s also a lot that’s better informed and considered than in the articles themselves.

People like cannabis, they find it effective, they know it’s safe. 5% of the population uses it regularly. That’s three times as many people as go to Catholic Church regularly.

Expect to be pulled to bits if you try to go back to bad science and reefer madness hysteria.  The world has moved on.

Bringing Cannabis Back Into The Medicine Cabinet

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Professor Les Iversen delivers the Inaugural President’s Public Lecture during the BPS Winter Meeting, London 2010.

Prof. Iversen is the current chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs and a founder council member of the British Medicinal Cannabis Register.  He is also the author of many publications and books on cannabis.  He is famous for his article in The Times headlined “Cannabis.  Why It’s Safe” and for saying that cannabis is “one of the safer recreational drugs”.

He walks a courageous and tricky tightrope between science and his ACMD role.  He is the government’s chief drug adviser so at least we know they are getting good advice even if they don’t act on it.

You can watch the lecture here.

Professor Iversen has also provided me with a copy of his Powerpoint presentation from the lecture which you can download here.

“My Son Played Russian Roulette With Cannabis – And Lost” – More Sensationalist Misinformation From The Mail

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Does Peter Wright, editor of the Mail On Sunday, have any interest in the truth, or is he just trying to squeeze the last drop of sensation, hyperbole and panic from anything to do with cannabis?

Last week, Peter Hitchens penned a disgusting diatribe of untruths which has already been sent to the Press Complaints Commission.  This Sunday’s paper will be the subject of a second complaint.  It is truly appalling, crass and cheap nonsense.  See here for the full story.

This is my response.  Whether the Mail publishes it is up to them but I and the millions of other cannabis users in Britain have had enough.  From now on, no such instance of lies and propaganda will be allowed to pass without being called to account.

My Response To The Mail On Sunday

This is a tragic story but blaming it on cannabis is not justified, nor is it helpful.

Whatever Henry’s story, the data simply does not support the idea that cannabis can cause schizophrenia.  In fact, it more strongly suggests that people who have mental illness may use cannabis to self-medicate.  It is instructive to note that Henry’s crisis arose when he had deliberately stopped using cannabis. Indeed, there is existing and continuing scientific research into cannabinoids as an anti-psychotic therapy.

This is similar to the recent story about Jared Loughner who shot Congresswoman Giffords in Arizona.  He was said to be a cannabis user but, in fact, his friends said that he had stopped using it to self-medicate and since doing so had become more unstable and strange in his behaviour.

The article mentions “Sir William Paton, professor of pharmacology at Oxford University and one of the world’s greatest experts on cannabis” but I am personally acquainted with Professor Les Iversen, a current professor of pharmacology at Oxford University, the current chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs and author of many books on the subject of cannabis. Prof Iversen was also the author of an article in The Times entitled “Cannabis. Why It’s Safe” and he delivered a lecture last month entitled “Bringing Cannabis Back Into The Medicine Cabinet”.

The demonisation of cannabis is a grave mistake and a disservice to young people and their parents.  It looks almost certain that cannabis will be legalised in at least one state in the USA either this year or next.  Progress will then roll out across the world.  It’s about time that the  British media caught up to fact that, as Professor Iversen says, cannabis is “one of the safer recreational drugs”, much safer than alcohol.  It also has tremendous actual and potential benefit as medicine and Britain is way, way behind in the world in recognising this.

The Mail On Sunday’s scare stories about cannabis should be replaced with facts and information about this valuable and relatively harmless substance.

Professor Glyn Lewis of the University of Bristol said in 2009 that even on the most extreme interpretation of the data on cannabis and psychosis (a review of all published evidence) that 96% of people could use cannabis with no risk whatsoever of developing psychosis.

Six million people in Britain use cannabis regularly.  We are sick and tired of the lies that are told about us.

Broken Promises. Broken Britain. Brokenshire.

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Mad? Bad? Or both?

The most important principle espoused by David Cameron and Nick Clegg in the election campaign was fairness.  They promised us that their government would be fair and by extension that the policies it pursued would be based on facts and evidence, not on prejudice, misinformation or distortion by vested interests.

This promise is broken and in the most crass, blatant and disgraceful fashion by the attempt to remove scientists from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD).  Never has a more corrupt intent been revealed by a British government.  Never has a minister, James Brokenshire, demonstrated his intent to misinform, deceive and lie more clearly.  Dr Evan Harris, the former LibDem shadow science and health minister, explains the intricacies of this attempt to subvert the law here.

The Misuse Of Drugs Act 1971 was progressive legislation in that it created the ACMD and required government to seek its expert scientific advice before criminalising the use of drugs.  Because, increasingly, the government does not like the ACMD’s advice, it is now seeking to remove the Act’s requirement that there must be scientists on the council.  Is it possible to conceive of a more ridiculous or corrupt idea?

In fact, the government takes no notice of the ACMD anyway.  When ministers wanted to ban mephedrone earlier in the year they ordered the council to provide the advice that they wanted and banned it despite there being almost no evidence at all.  More members of the  ACMD then resigned and the Home Office is now trying to recruit replacements.   That may be the truth of what is happening here.  The government simply can’t find scientists prepared to sit on the council.  I wonder why?

James Brokenshire says: “Scientific advice is absolutely critical to the government’s approach to drugs and any suggestion that we are moving away from it is absolutely not true.

This is simply a bald faced lie and self-evidently so.  If scientific advice is critical, why does he wish to remove the obligation to have it available?

James Brokenshire regularly speaks untruths or dissembles on behalf of the government.  The facts prove that beyond doubt and his reputation is well established.  For instance,  the Home Office claims that there are no medicinal benefits in herbal cannabis and that this is based on advice from the ACMD.  No such advice has ever been given.   Furthermore, Professor Les Iversen, present chair of the ACMD is also a founder council member of the British Medicinal Cannabis Register (BMCR) and next week lectures on the subject “Bringing Cannabis Back into the Medicine Cabinet”

James Brokenshire is in the vanguard of this contemptible and corrupt behaviour.   He may be put forward as cannon fodder by more senior ministers because the nonsense he speaks and the positions he takes are so manifestly ridiculous.  When the truth is out and his shame is revealed he will easily be dismissed by Theresa May.  If, as Minister for Crime Prevention, he had any real interest in preventing crime he would be resisiting this attempt to subvert the law.

Alan Johnson – An Absence Of Integrity

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Shadow

I used to be an admirer.  Even as a rabid Tory, in fact, very much as a Tory, I thought the story of postman to Minister of the Crown was Boy’s Own stuff.

He has a sharp intellect and an easy charm with nothing of the snide trade union whinger that he might have been.   Then came Professor Nutt and, almost as never before, a politician’s true colours were revealed.  Not the gentle pink blush of embarrassment but a black deception and dishonour.  It was an astonishing position to take.  As David Nutt recalls, “Alan Johnson famously said in the House that he was “big enough, strong enough, bold enough” to sack me for saying cannabis was less harmful than alcohol.”  And he did.  See here.

Even worse, as a replacement he appointed Professor Les Iversen, author of  “Cannabis, Why It Is Safe” and  countless other publications extolling the innocuous nature of the plant.  He is on the record as saying that “cannabis should be legalised, not just decriminalized”.  The complete absurdity of Alan Johnson’s actions were astonishing.  He was stating boldly and without apology that whatever the science said he wouldn’t listen to it.  Even more than that, he would try to silence the truth.

This is a politician without a shred of integrity.  A man of great achievement and intelligence who has shamed himself and destroyed his own career.  He is not fit to be in the shadow cabinet.  That he has been appointed shadow chancellor is a hollow and sickening joke.

Is Prof Pertwee A Home Office Plant?

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Is He A Plant?

As they say, with friends like these, who needs enemies?

Is It A Professor?

Seriously, or not so seriously, who is this bumbling old duffer wheeled out by the BBC for some terribly weak story that cannabis sales should be licensed?  See here.  If the BBC wants to cover this story there are at least a dozen far more expert, more eloquent, more telegenic, better informed, more sensible commentators.

Frankly, I’d rather have someone who can put a coherent argument against instead of this pathetic performance by Prof Pertwee.  Seldom have I seen any argument for any idea advanced so weakly.  I mean, who starts off talking about their proposal by saying “I don’t think it would work”!

It does raise the suspicion that the only people that want the cannabis argument put so badly is the Home Office.  There is, quite literally, no other organisation, connected with a democratic government anywhere in the civilised world that is so backwards, regressive and out of touch with the facts than the UK Home Office.  A cannabis plant would have been a more exciting interviewee than Prof Pertwee.  He must surely be a plant for what Prof. Les Iversen, the government’s most senior official drugs adviser calls “the anti-cannabis brigade”.

Maybe this is a sign that common sense has got the Home Office on the run. Its tired, inaccurate, unscientific, prejudiced  and short sighted attitude is on its very last legs.  This is either an embarrassingly bad effort by Prof Pertwee (thanks for trying) or a desperate attempt to discredit the truth.

The fact is that the argument has already been won.  I’d like to know what the “harms” are that the Professor was talking about in his interview.   There’s the tired old chitchat about mental health problems.   It’s just propaganda.  In Israel, cannabis is now recommended by doctors to help veterans deal with PTSD.  This is fact, reality, what’s actually happening, not what James Brokenshire and his cronies dream up in some bunker in Marsham Street.

I see that the story is also running in the Daily Mail.  It’s remarkable how even it, the home of hysteria, has changed its attitude on cannabis in the last year or so.  This is perhaps a better barometer of  public opinion than anything else.  When the Daily Mail starts talking common sense it must be very obvious indeed!

Even the FT is running the story.  Who knows maybe it will develop into something a bit more sensible.  The BBC just did a particularly bad job of covering it!

I do like Prof Pertwee’s recommendation of the Volcano vapouriser though.  I concur with the Professor on this.  I can tell you that after extensive personal testing I have concluded that it works very well indeed!