Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘reform

A Significant Day For Cannabis Law Reform In The UK.

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This Thursday past, 25th May 2017, was the inaugural general meeting of the Cannabis Trades Association UK (CTAUK).

While this may not excite your average cannabis consumer too much, it represents a very important, even momentous occasion in our progress towards a regulated cannabis market.  Anyone spotting our meeting room would have seen it as just another group of business people in a day long meeting with Powerpoint presentations, flipcharts and gallons of coffee and mineral water.  GSK were just down the corridor, an insurance company was next door, it all looked very corporate and pretty boring.

This is exactly the point.  We are bringing cannabis into the mainstream, overcoming the stigma, making it respectable.  The idea that the Holiday Inn at Gatwick would have signs pointing to a ‘cannabis’ meeting would have been unthinkable until very recently.

Of course, CTAUK is concerned only with the legal cannabis trade so, in the main, that means CBD products but membership has started to expand rapidly.  In the coming weeks we anticipate we will be joined by UK hemp growers and a very important new medical cannabis research consortium.  Within the next few months we expect almost every significant player in all aspects of the UK cannabis market to be part of the association.

So, although at first glance, this boring business meeting may not excite CLEAR members and followers, it heralds the dawn of a new age.  Cannabis is coming out of the shadows. Reform is just round the corner.

Twenty years ago similar meetings took place in California, fifteen years ago similar meetings were held in Canada, Israel, the Netherlands and other US states.  Just three or four years ago they were happening in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, etc.  The UK’s time has come. Not a joint was rolled, not a bong was lit, there wasn’t a vapouriser or a hash cookie to be seen.  No longer are we playing at this, it’s now become serious.

Written by Peter Reynolds

May 27, 2017 at 4:20 pm

Horrible Pictures From Hyde Park Cause Dreadful Damage To Cannabis Campaign.

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Yesterday, the annual Hyde Park 420 event took place.  420 is an American term for cannabis and these events take place all over the world on 20th April.  Why?  For very obscure and esoteric reasons! They are variously described as celebrations of cannabis or protests for legalisation.  Yesterday in Hyde Park was a disaster.

Violent arrests, open dealing of cannabis, hash cookies decorated to appeal to children – these are terrible images that will cause immense harm to the way that cannabis and cannabis users are seen.  CLEAR will not be publishing any of these pictures.

It matters not that these arrests were fundamentally unjust.  The police officers concerned were only doing their job.  The Daily Telegraph and other media are ramping up hysteria over two deaths in Colorado associated with ‘edibles’; so cannabis cookies in kids style was a spectacular own goal. Close-ups of bags of weed being sold alongside the names of the organisers is not just stupid, it is crazy.

We will never win the support of the public by behaving this way.  Inevitably, of the hundreds there, many seemed barely out of their teens.  The images and messages this sends through the media and to our political leaders are destructive of all the positive work that is being done towards reform. These demos, protests,  ‘smoke ups’ and ‘smoke outs’ have never had any positive effect so what makes anyone think they will now?

I know that many involved with the organisers are sincere but if I wanted to plan how to subvert and undermine the campaign, yesterday in Hyde Park would be a good model.

We have MPs, opinion leaders and powerful people on our side but unsurprisingly they will not be associated with such events.  Let’s move on and put this as far behind us as we can. The key to winning this war is to demonstrate that we can behave responsibily, to win hearts and minds which have been subject to propaganda for nearly a century.  Reform in the US has been achieved despite, not because of such events.

So what can you do? Write to your MP, arrange to meet your MP, ask your MP to arrange a meeting with a minister. This is what works. This is what is actually making progress. Let’s not mess it up.

Back To The Future Of The NHS

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I have grave concerns about the government’s NHS reforms.  I feel like it’s Groundhog  Day.

I was deeply involved in the last major health service reforms back in the 1990s.  I am hearing exactly the same ideas, phrases and promises as we heard then.  Haven’t we done this all before?

When the “internal market” was introduced and the first NHS Trusts were “founded”, the idea of  marketing was introduced to the NHS for the first time.  I saw the opportunity, organised a conference at the QEII conference centre and built a nice business, thank you very much, for several years as an expert in the field.    I was an advisor to several health authorities and a number of the new NHS trusts.  I undertook marketing and communications audits, ran training courses and I made something of a specialty of designing, writing and producing annual reports.   I learned a lot and I felt I contributed a lot.  Why is it all being done again?

Marketing is a perfect description of the way the health service should work.  It is the management process responsible for anticipating, identifying and satisfying customer needs efficiently.  The 1990s NHS model was that  “purchasers”, health authorities and GP fundholders, would buy services from “providers”, hospitals and community health services.  “Purchasing” was later renamed “commissioning” to reflect how complex the task is. It’s about understanding what services are required and making complex choices as well as actually contracting for them.

Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs) were always a redundant tier of bureaucracy in my view.  District Health Authorities (DHAs) were to be the principal commissioners but the plan was that GP fundholders would eventually take over most of it with DHAs becoming centres of expertise rather than administration.  Then there was a rather messy fudge between GPs and community health services and we ended up with Primary Care Trusts (PCTs).

There is a huge amount of expertise required in commissioning.  The complexity of the tasks involved – understanding, assessing, testing, planning, choosing, contracting and much more, is enormous.  GPs will have to buy in that expertise which will build a bureaucracy which we will call – what?  We will have gone round in a circle.

One of the biggest mistakes made about the NHS is the endless stream of attacks on managers.  Almost all the problems that the NHS has and that people complain about are management problems.  NHS managers have a hugely demanding and thankless task for which they are regularly pilloried and censured.  They are, actually, crucial to an effective NHS, just as much as the clinicians.

So now we are to have “Foundation Trusts” and GP commissioning.  It is the same thing, yet again, under a slightly different name.  The NHS is not broken. It is, in fact, greatly improved.  It doesn’t need fixing.

We do not need more reform.  We need some adjustments.  There have been great achievements on waiting times.   Now, we need to shift the emphasis towards outcomes.  We need targets on quality rather than quantity.  It’s a tweak rather than a revolution.

Reform. Regulate. Realise.

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REFORM the law and end prohibition.

REGULATE production and supply based on facts and evidence.

REALISE the huge benefits as medicine and as a new source of £billions in tax revenue.

Written by Peter Reynolds

January 15, 2011 at 9:11 pm

The Cannabis Campaign In 2011

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I believe that we can make real progress this year towards ending the prohibition of cannabis.

What we have to do, each and every one of us, individually, is take responsibility.

We have to stop complaining and start campaigning.

However just our cause, however unjust our opposition, no one is going to give us the right to cannabis.  We are going to have to take it.  Take it back from those who took it away from us.

Many of us can point to years and years of fighting for the cause but it is never enough!  We have to keep on. We have to welcome new campaigners and encourage them, not take the view that we’ve seen it all before, done it ourselves and why aren’t we getting the credit?   We have to welcome our fellow citizens to the war against prohibition, support them, bolster their confidence, build them up, not knock them down.

If the millions of people in Britain who use cannabis were to join together and be counted, we could make change happen!  I don’t know whether there are two million of us or ten million.  That’s how widely the estimates vary.  The Home Office used to say six millon use cannabis regularly.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that it is an outrage to democracy and justice that we are denied legal and properly regulated access to cannabis, whether we use it for medicine, relaxation or spiritual fulfilment.

We don’t all have to be campaigners but we do all have to be counted.  If we want change, we have to be prepared, at least, to sign petitions, to write the occasional letter, to put our heads above the parapet.  It’s so easy nowadays.  It can all be done online in the blink of an eye but more of us need to do it and keep doing it until politicians understand that they can bully us into silence no longer.

One of the problems of the online world, of Facebook, the forums and blogs, is that we’re just preaching to the converted all the time.  We may feel that we’re getting our message across but it’s to the same people over and over again.  When you see the disgusting response that Bob Ainsworth had to his brave initiative just before Christmas, when you see James Brokenshire smugly trotting out his prohibitionist agenda, when you see Cameron and his poodle backtracking on all their enlightened and liberal ideas, then you realise that the forces of darkness are set against us.   The war on drugs, which Brokenshire fights so enthusiastically,  is another Vietnam. It can never be won because it is, in fact, a war on democracy but there will be many casualties along the way.  Brokenshire counts the high level of adulteration of drugs on the street as a measure of success.  This is the sort of thinking that we are up against.  It is perverted.  It is evil.  It denies truth and science and justice.

It denies people in constant pain and suffering access to the medicine that they need.  Even if a doctor has prescribed cannabis, ignorant, professional political oiks who have never done a day’s real work in in their lives, think they know best.  Instead they force people towards expensive pharmaceutical products with horrendous side effects but huge profits for their co-conspirators in the corrupt world of Big Pharma and its self-important regulators.   As was seen so clearly in America in the last century, prohibition is fundamentally immoral and self-defeating yet our cowardly politicians hide behind it, preferring inaction, oppression and lies to the truth.

So I have asked myself, what can we do to break this stranglehold that politicians have on the truth?  How can we counter the crass and appalling propaganda that the Daily Mail puts out?  Why does the media love the story of Debra Bell, the mother who blames cannabis for her delinquent and dishonest son?  Why is the truth about cannabis so rarely told?  Where is the voice of the millions who know the truth?

I return to the divisions there are within our cause.  Just as in California, where the growers sabotaged Proposition 19, so we have our own subversive and destructive elements. We have a breakaway group here, an independent campaigner there.  We have medicinal users who are eloquent and persuasive on their own account but will not work with others.  We have hugely courageous individuals who have campaigned and put their freedom on the line but will not reconcile themselves to co-operation.  We have to cut through this.  We have to unite, to generate a momentum that means we cannot be ignored.

That is why, just before Christmas, I decided to join the Legalise Cannabis Alliance.  I was a member of the original Legalise Cannabis Campaign and I saw how the LCA made strenuous efforts, particularly around the 2005 general election. I believe it was right and effective to put forward our views on the political stage.  This is what we must do again.

The LCA is to re-register as a political party and, in due course, I hope to stand as a parliamentary candidate.  Realistically, I don’t expect to be elected but I do expect to make our voice heard. I expect our opinions and our views to be respected and given proper consideration.  When the Daily Mail or the BBC turns to Debra Bell for comment, I expect them to turn to us as well.  When Mrs Bell is on the TV sofa, I want to be alongside her.  I want the opportunity to speak the truth in the face of propaganda.  If they want to put up eminent professors and doctors as well then I encourage it.  Science and independent reason is on our side.  The intellectual and scientific debate has been won many times over.  Now we must win the political battle and the truth is our strongest weapon.  All we have to do is shine the light on it so that the scare stories, the hysteria and the propaganda shrink back into the shadows.

We will be a single issue party with a commitment to de-register once we have achieved our aims.  I urge you all to join the LCA.  I’m going to do everything I can to make it easier to join. Possibly we need to make it cheaper.  Certainly we need to do everything we can to encourage as many people as possible to stand up and be counted.  We need to be able to accept card payments, operate direct debits.  We need as many as possible to join whether or not they use cannabis. We need to reform the law, regulate supply and distribution and realise the huge benefits as a medicine, as a gentle pleasure and as a new source of billions in tax revenue.  That’s the way forward.  Reform, regulate and realise.

One of the most repulsive images I saw last year was the fat, conceited Simon Heffer chortling into his glass of wine and saying that we need to “get nasty” in the war on drugs.  Well I’ve got news for the pompous, hypocritical boozer and for James Brokenshire and his cronies, nobody’s going to be getting nasty from this side.  We’re just going to tell the truth.  And we’re going to keep on telling the truth until it drowns out their lies.  We’re going to tell the truth again and again and again until we get the right to our drug of choice, to the plant that creates peace not violence, to the plant that heals that doesn’t kill, to the plant that we have a right to use and enjoy as we please.

Home Office Backtracks On Cannabis

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A fortnight ago Sir Ian Gilmore, the outgoing president of the Royal College of Physicians, famously denounced drugs prohibition as a failed policy.   He said “”Everyone who has looked at this in a serious and sustained way concludes that the present policy of prohibition is not a success.”  He then went on to advocate decriminalisation and regulation.

The Home Office immediately issued a statement saying “‘Drugs such as heroin, cocaine and cannabis are extremely harmful and can cause misery to communities across the country.”   This statement was reproduced on the Home Office website and has sat there for the last two weeks in direct contradiction to the governments own scientific advisers.  Anyone who has even the smallest knowledge of the subject knows that the idea that cannabis is “extremely harmful” is absurd and a lie.

Within the last day or two the Home Office website has been quietly edited to remove the word cannabis from the statement.  See here.

Charades, Fibs And Porkies

This correction is very welcome.   However it calls into question the honesty, competence and intelligence of the Home Office and the government’s drugs policy.  James Brokenshire, the Minister for Crime Prevention has been looking increasingly ridiculous in the last few weeks, contradicting his advisers, spouting pre-Reagan “war on drugs” propaganda and conflicting terribly with the wise words of both David Cameron and Nick Clegg, both of whom have called for drug policy reform consistently over the last 10 years.   Young James has made himself very unpopular with the country’s six million regular cannabis users and embarrassed the government and the Tory party with his antics.

Whoever was responsible for this smart and very discreet editing, let’s hope they get to have a look at James’ Drugs Strategy consultation document too.  It needs some intelligent correction and adjustment as well.  See here for more information on what’s really a very silly game of charades, fibs and porkies.

“Outrageous Scaremongering” Over Cannabis

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Last October,  36-year old Julie Ryan was found dead in bed by her three children, now aged 14, 13 and 8.  At a coroner’s inquest in Oldham last week, pathologist Dr Sami Titi said “The direct cause of her death was cardiac arrest because of a history of smoking cannabis”.

Dr Sami Titi

Julie’s family claims that this is not true, that Julie’s cannabis use has been blamed because the Royal Oldham hospital failed to treat her properly. In Britain, there has only been one previous occasion when a death has been attributed to cannabis. In 2004, Lee Maisey, 36 of Pembrokeshire, who smoked half a dozen “joints” a day, was found dead on his living room floor after complaining of a headache.

At the inquest in Oldham, the coroner, Simon Nelson, was said to be surprised at the pathologist’s story and questioned him closely. Dr Titi insisted that “smoking of cannabis is well known to have a negative impact on the heart and can cause heart attacks in young people”. The coroner said that in 15 years he had never heard a pathologist so confident that cannabis could be fatal. He recorded a narrative verdict of “death from cardiovascular complications induced by cannabis smoking”.

Coroner Simon Nelson

Julie’s brother, Kevin Ryan, says that the pathologist’s remarks are “outrageous scaremongering”. Her mother, Linda, is bewildered by events. As planned, Julie’s children had stayed with her while the inquest was taking place. Now they have returned home to the furore of this extraordinary verdict and are extremely distressed.

Julie had visited the Royal Oldham hospital several times complaining of chest pains but been sent away with a diagnosis of heartburn. The post mortem examination revealed she had a severely enlarged heart and had suffered a previous heart attack which had not been diagnosed. Family sources said “It’s a cover up. Cannabis doesn’t kill. They made a big mistake.” Mary Burrows, Julie’s cousin, who was very close to her, said she preferred to smoke cannabis rather than have a drink and that “she was a wonderful mother and her kids miss her so much”.

Dr Mark Eckersley, a local Manchester doctor, said “More and more pressure is being piled on medical professionals to propagate this type of untruth by the powers that be.” He said doctors need to maintain credibility with the community and that “this type of nonsense makes my blood boil”.

A spokesman for the Royal Oldham hospital said “Miss Ryan died from a heart attack and cardiovascular problems. Our thoughts and sympathy go to her family.”

On 2nd November in California, Proposition 19 is expected to permit the personal use of cannabis for the state’s 28 million adults. As a result, new tax revenues of $1.4 billion are anticipated, up to 110,000 new jobs and a boost of up to $18 billion to the state’s economy from spin-offs such as coffee shops and tourism.

In America, any health concerns about the plant are far outweighed by health benefits. Medical cannabis is already regulated in 14 states with another 12 in the planning stage. In Britain, Sativex, a whole plant extract of cannabis, was recently authorised as a treatment for MS. It costs about eight times what medical cannabis costs in America, Holland, Spain, Israel and very shortly Germany, where there is a fully regulated supply chain. In Britain, despite a House Of Lords Scientific Committee recommendation, the government refuses to consider such a move. Many patients whose doctors have prescribed Sativex have been denied funding from their health authority. In some of these cases, criminal prosecutions have been brought against them for cultivating their own plants.

A spokesman for GW Pharmaceuticals, developers of Sativex, said “The therapeutic ratio for cannabis is so high that it is virtually impossible to ingest a fatal dose”.

Prof. David Nutt

Professor David Nutt was sacked as chairman of the Home Office’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs last year after claiming that cannabis was less harmful than alcohol and tobacco. His successor, Professor Les Iversen, also maintains that cannabis has been “incorrectly” called dangerous and says it is one of the “safer recreational drugs”.

On Friday, Professor Nutt said cannabis “seems to cause much less harm than alcohol and that banning the plant is “unjust and therefore undemocratic”. He added: “The previous government’s policy to deter cannabis use by forceful policing increased convictions for cannabis possession from 88,000 in 2004 to 160,000 in 2008. As well as ruining many lives through getting a criminal record, this added massive costs to taxpayers in extra policing and prison costs.”

Prof. Les Iversen

Dr Sami Titi, the pathologist, was unavailable for comment and did not respond to emails. It has not been possible to identify any scientific support for his conclusions.

Julie Ryan’s family is left bemused and uncertain by this verdict. Three children are without a mother and confused about contradictory messages. The 13 year old has been posting on websites about her concerns. Meanwhile, the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office have criticised the government for basing drugs policy on opinion rather than evidence. James Brokenshire, the Home Office Minister, in direct contradiction to his own advisers, continues with the story that cannabis is “extremely harmful”.

James Brokenshire

Both David Cameron and Nick Clegg are on record over the last 10 years as consistently calling for reform in drug policy. The Your Freedom website has been overwhelmed with requests for evidence based regulation of drugs and the legalisation of cannabis but the government is riding roughshod over this public outcry. A consultation document on a new drugs strategy was issued just over a week ago but it seems meaningless and dishonest as all the big decisions have already been taken. Cannabis campaigners, working on behalf of six million regular users in the UK, are outraged at what they see as hypocrisy, misinformation and regressive government action.

Dr Mark Eckersley, exasperated and concerned at the pathologist’s evidence said “This is simply not true. Hearing this story is more likely to cause a heart attack than the ingestion of any cannabinoid”.

Written by Peter Reynolds

August 31, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Posted in Health, Politics

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