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Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘Schengen Agreement

An Appeal To Andrew Lansley

with 32 comments

Dear Mr Lansley,

Medicinal Cannabis

I am writing to you about the urgent necessity to permit the prescribing of medicinal cannabis by doctors.

Please do not refer me to the Home Office. Its intransigent position on the subject amounts to a scandalous denial of science and cruel mistreatment of hundreds of thousands of British citizens.  This is a health issue which requires your attention and care for those in pain and suffering.

There is now an overwhelming body of peer reviewed, published research that proves beyond doubt the efficacy of medicinal cannabis for the treatment of many conditions.  Britain is becoming increasingly isolated as a place where patients are denied access to the medicine they need.  Utterly absurd is that patients from the EU can bring medicinal cannabis into Britain under the protection of the Schengen Agreement but British residents risk prison for using exactly the same substance.

Every country in Europe except France and Britain now has some form of medicinal cannabis provision.  15 US states now permit medical marijuana on a doctor’s recommendation and Israel has a fast expanding programme. There are huge cost savings and benefits to be gained and enormous reductions in harm from side effects of poisonous pharmaceutical products.

There are already many instances in Britain where MS patients have been refused Sativex on cost grounds and so have been forced into illegal purchase or cultivation and have then been prosecuted as criminals. This is a shame and disgrace on our nation and I appeal to you to take steps to end it.

Perhaps you do not realise the transformational effect that medicinal cannabis can have on some people’s lives?  Almost miraculous results are being achieved, particularly with MS, Crohn’s and fibromyalgia. People who would otherwise be trapped by pain and disability are able to lead productive lives with the help of medicinal cannabis.

Please Mr Lansley, will you arrange to meet me and a delegation of people whose lives are literally saved by the use of medicinal cannabis?  This cruel and demeaning policy cannot be allowed to continue in the face of overwhelming evidence.  Safe, high quality, standardised dose cannabis is now available from Bedrocan in Holland, the Dutch government’s supplier and is exported all over Europe to fill doctors’ prescriptions.  How much longer must British citizens wait?

Co-ordinated action is already underway for dozens of patients to take the Home Office to judicial review for its refusal to grant import licenses for Bedrocan.  This is at huge cost in public money and people’s lives. You could take steps to end this suffering now.  You could enable the NHS to start making huge cost savings immediately.  This issue is not going away.

CLEAR is a new team of committed professionals that is determined to bring this issue to the top of the political agenda.  Please arrange to meet me and learn at first hand how much good you could do by a change of policy that is, in any case, inevitable. Don’t make those people in pain and suffering wait any longer.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Reynolds

Send a copy of this letter to your MP.  Download and print here.

 

 

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Home Office Drug Strategy Blog – Brokenshire The Buffoon

with 52 comments

James Brokenshire introduces the new Home Office drug strategy blog here.

It is difficult to contain the contempt in which I hold this odious and dishonest little man.  His brazen cheek in believing that he has anything of honour or relevance to publish on the internet is astounding.  Is he really so isolated in his ivory tower that he doen’t realise how much he and his polices are despised and reviled?  Does he not know that he is subject to intense ridicule and disrespect at his absurd ideas and propaganda?  Doesn’t he know that he is universally regarded as a complete prat – by all his colleagues, doctors, scientists, members of the ACMD, everyone who comes into contact with him?

This is my comment.  I did my best to restrain myself and stay polite.  I wonder whether it will be published?

There are many, many things wrong with Britain’s drug strategy. We now have one of the most regressive, authoritarian and oppressive drug policies anywhere in the world.  Only in places where they execute people for drug possession such as Malaysia or China are there more backwards, unjust and outdated ideas being implemented.

No omission or error is more heinous though than the failure even to mention the medicinal use of cannabis.  With the new understanding of the endocannabinoid system and its vital importance to all aspects of human physiology, the power of cannabis as medicine is self-evident.  Throughout Europe, doctors are able to prescribe medicinal cannabis to patients.  Extraordinary results are achieved in multiple sclerosis, neuropathic pain, Crohn’s, cancer, ADHD and many other conditions. Meanwhile the British government continues with what can only be described as its inane response that “there are no medicinal benefits in cannabis”.  It is not just a stupid policy. It is cruel.  Hundreds of thousands of British citizens are denied access to the medicine that could relieve their pain and suffering. Meanwhile, in virtually every other country in Europe except France, in Israel and in 15 US states, cannabis is being used as medicine and achieving wonderful results.

Those denied their medicine in Britain are humiliated that European patients can bring medicinal cannabis into Britain and use it under the protection of the Schengen Agreement.  This is a cruel and unusual punishment for the crime of being resident in Britain.

The British drug strategy is a joke throughout the world except amongst those agencies and drug workers that depend upon it for their living.  It is a shame on our great nation and an extreme indictment of our political system which allows such discredited, cruel and self-defeating policies to persist.

The prohibition of medicinal cannabis is perhaps the best example of how utterly useless, out of date and hopeless is current government drugs policy.

Legal Opportunities For Medicinal Cannabis Users

with 28 comments

Recent developments mean that there are new opportunities to challenge the prohibition of cannabis as medicine.    Now I am not a lawyer, so these ideas should be carefully discussed with your legal advisors before you even consider pursuing any of them.  I may be wrong about the correct procedure, process or terminology.   I am highlighting opportunities that I have identified, based on my personal experience and knowledge.  Qualified legal advice is essential.

Disingenuous

The British government’s current position on medicinal cannabis is absurd and irrational.  As I understand it, those are exactly the criteria for which the process of judicial review is intended.  That is one route.  Another, more risky opportunity arises if you are facing prosecution or have been convicted of an offence of possession, cultivation or production.  There are ideas here which you may want to consider as a defence or an appeal.  However, please be very careful.  If things go wrong, advancing such arguments might result in a heavier sentence, such is the cruel, oppressive and iniquitous intent of current government policy.

Dishonest

The Home Office is simply dishonest in its current stance saying that there “are no medicinal benefits” from cannabis.  James Brokenshire, the drugs minister, cannot hide behind a lack of knowledge so he looks either more stupid or dishonest every day.  David Cameron made the most dreadful, disingenuous comment about medicinal use in his Al Jazeera World View YouTube interview last week.  See here.  He said “That is a matter for the science and medical authorities to determine and they are free to make independent determinations about that.” That, of course, is absolute rot and Cameron should be ashamed of himself for such misinformation.

Obtain A Doctor’s Prescription For Medicinal Cannabis

There is nothing to prevent your British doctor from prescribing medicinal cannabis for you if he/she believes it is appropriate.  Bedrocan BV is the official contractor to the Dutch government for the production of medicinal cannabis.  Go to its website here and you will discover it has a range of products offering different proportions of cannabinoids and terpenoids for different conditions.  Prescribing information is available for your doctor in exactly the same way as any other drug.  All he/she has to do is select the product and write out a prescription in the normal way.  Your doctor can’t get in trouble for this.  There is nothing improper or unethical about it, but it is, of course, your doctor’s decision whether to do so or not.

If your doctor isn’t prepared to help, the next best thing is to go to a doctor in Holland, Belgium, Germany, Spain or Italy, all countries where medicinal cannabis is regularly prescribed.  In theory, you should be able to see a doctor in another EU country under reciprocal healthcare arrangements but if you can afford it, it may be simpler to go privately.

Another option is to go to one of the 15 US states that permit medical marijuana and obtain a doctor’s recommendation.

Once you have your prescription, you need to apply to the Home Office for a personal import licence to bring your medicine in from Holland.  The licensing section on the Home Office website is here.  If you obtain a licence you will also need to go through a similar process with the Dutch Bureau voor Medicinale Cannabis to obtain an export licence.  The correct section of its website is here.

Of course, the reality is that the Home Office is not going to grant you a licence.  You can then pursue the matter through your MP who should make representations to the minister on your behalf.  You are then at the point to make an application for judical review of the Home Office’s decision.

Challenge The Government’s Interpretation Of The Schengen Agreement

The Schengen Agreement provides protection for travellers to carry their medicine with them within the EU.  The crucial factor is your country of residence.  See here for detailed information. Although there is no precise definition of residency, if you are resident in an EU country where medicinal cannabis is permitted, then you may bring your medicine into Britain and, believe it or not, there is no restriction on your use of it.  You would be perfectly entitled to sit on the steps of Scotland Yard or even the Home Office’s Marsham Street HQ and smoke a spliff.  However, if you are a UK resident, even if you have obtained your medicine on prescription abroad, you are not protected.  This is clearly discriminatory under EU law and could be challenged in court.  I’m not certain whether you would apply to a British court or to the European court but your solicitor would advise you on this.

Defence Or Appeal On The Grounds Of Medical Necessity

The Appeal Court disallowed a defence of medical necessity back in 2005.  A petition to the House Of Lords Judicial Committee and to the  European Court Of Human Rights was dismissed without any reasons given.  I understand that the Appeal Court’s reasoning was that there were no proven medicinal benefits of cannabis.  However, things have changed enormously since then.  The MHRA approval of Sativex and the Home Office’s issue of a general licence for it are conclusive proof of medicinal value.  Whatever misinformation the Home Office may promote, expert evidence would prove that Sativex is pharmacologically identical to, for instance, one of the Bedrocan products.  There is also now a vast resource of peer-reviewed clinical evidence of medicinal benefits.

There is an horrendously improper judgement (R -v- David King,  St Albans Crown Court), where a medicinal user was not allowed even to mention medicinal reasons to a jury on pain of imprisonment for contempt.  Your lawyers would need to study this carefully.  However, it is so clearly unjust that I do not believe it could be sustained.

Re-Scheduling  Of Sativex

Sativex is currently a schedule 1 controlled drug which means it has no medicinal value. As mentioned earlier, the Home Office has dealt with this temporarily by issuing a general licence for it.  However, it needs to be re-scheduled and the Advisory Council On the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) has recommended that it be placed in schedule 4.  See here for the full story.

Sativex cannot be re-scheduled under its brand name and the only pharmacologically accurate way of describing it is cannabis.  The ACMD left a possible escape route for the Home Office by saying that its “active” ingredients  would have to be specified. GW Pharma, the makers of Sativex would say that this means an extract of THC and CBD.  However, this is dishonest.  Sativex contains all the 60-odd cannabinoids that occur naturally in the plant.  There is no other way of describing it accurately than to call it cannabis. If Brokenshire and his cronies try to prolong this deception then they can be challenged by judicial review.  The aim here is to ensure that the re-scheduling is accurate and so cannabis becomes a schedule 4 drug.  This would then open up all opportunities for cannabis as medicine.

I have no doubt now that medicinal cannabis will be permitted in some form or another in Britain within the near future.   We may need to force the government’s hand through litigation or, perhaps Brokenshire will be moved to another department and then the Home Office can “adjust” its position.

At present, it is a monstrous injustice, an evil and obscene scandal, that those who need cannabis as medicine are denied it.  The way of politics is that a few years from now it may well all have changed and Brokenshire will be at the Ministry of Silly Walks or somewhere better suited to his talents. However it works out, what I care about is that those in pain and suffering get the relief they need.  One day soon, Brokenshire will have to answer to his constituents and later to an even higher power.  How he will justify his cruelty and negilgence I don’t really care but I know I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes on judgement day.


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

European Parliament – Public Hearing On Cannabis Regulation

with 7 comments

The European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies (ENCOD) has organised a public hearing on cannabis regulation at the European Parliament on 8th December 2010.  See here for full details.

In March 2009, the European Commission published the “Report on Global Illicit Drug Markets 1998 – 2007” .  This concludes that current policies of prohibition are failing in their main objective to reduce the demand and supply of illicit drugs.  Current policies may also be a crucial factor in generating and increasing harm to individual drug users, their direct surroundings and society at large.

According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) in its 2010 annual report, Europe faces new challenges posed by changes in drug supply and use.  The report also highlights the increased usage of cocaine, heroin and of a record number of new synthetic drugs.

ENCOD says that prohibitionist policies have failed to tackle the issues of drugs and drug use effectively and it is time to investigate alternative approaches.  European authorities must produce a thorough impact assessment of the costs of the current policy of prohibition and the economic benefits of decriminalisation and, as a start, the regulation of the cannabis market.

Victor Hamilton

It has been calculated that cannabis regulation would save billions in law enforcement costs, foster harm reduction, weaken the illegal cartels, and provide the opportunity to generate considerable income from taxes. The examples of California, Spain, The Netherlands and Portugal lead the way.

Victor Hamilton, the well known cannabis campaigner and former Legalise Cannabis Alliance (LCA) parliamentary candidate, liaises as a UK representative with ENCOD.   He has submitted the following letter to ENCOD in advance of the public hearing on the current state of cannabis in Britain.

Dear Joep,
Thank you for the invitation to attend the hearing on 8th December 2010.  I am afraid that both my health and the expense involved prevent me from attending.

However, as you know, ending the prohibition of cannabis and encouraging more and better use of the plant in all its forms is my main concern.  Cannabis offers many benefits medicinally, recreationally, spiritually and, as hemp, in ecologically sound fuel, construction materials, paper and plastics alternatives.  Prohibition of cannabis is a far greater crime than any perpetrated by those who use it.  It is a scandal and a sad litany of wasted opportunity and resources.

In the UK, based on research I have done and confirmed by the Independent Drug Monitoring Unit (IDMU), a legalise, regulate and tax regime could produce between £4 – 6 billion pa in new tax revenue.

For the benefit of the hearing, please allow me to update you on the present situation in Britain.

Calls For Decriminalisation

There have been calls for a relaxation of cannabis laws from a number of sources:  The Bar Council, the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Physicians, The Lancet, Professor Roger Pertwee, Professor David Nutt and the Association of Chief Police Officers.  The new coalition government’s “Your Freedom” website was swamped with calls for legalisation.

Reaction To Propositon 19

The cannabis community was eager with anticipation for the Proposition 19 vote in California, despite a dearth of media attention.  Even the BBC, obliged under its charter to provide balanced coverage, found very little time for an issue that affects at least six million Britons.  Strangely, the best of the lot was The Daily Telegraph, formerly known as the most conservative paper, it told us more about what was happening than any of the others.

The result was a disappointment and reminded us how our own campaigning has suffered from internal divisions and a lack of focus.  Nevertheless. legalisation seems inevitable in the US, even if only at state level, within the next few years.

Formation of British Medicinal Cannabis Register

This exciting initiative to create a database of medicinal users in Britain was announced only in November.  I was honoured to be invited to sit on the BMCR council as a medicinal user representative.  Other members of the council include very eminent individuals such as Baroness Meacher, the MP Paul Flynn, Matthew Atha of IDMU and Dr Malcolm Vandenburg, the pre-eminent expert witness on drugs.

The real coup though was the announcement of Professor Leslie Iversen as a council member.  Professor Iversen is the government’s chief scientific advisor on drugs.  Yes that’s the British government which continues to state that cannabis has “no medicinal benefits”.

Subversion of Schengen Agreement

Several British medicinal users travelled to Holland for prescriptions from a doctor believing that their medicine was then protected by the Schengen Agreement.  At first the Home Office agreed but then changed its position to say that British residents are not covered.  The ridiculous situation now is that any non-UK resident can bring prescribed medicinal cannabis into Britain and use it without restriction. A UK resident cannot.

Increasing Evidence Of Medicinal Benefits

There is a never ending flow of information from all around the world on the extraordinary power of cannabis as a medicine.  Facebook groups, blogs and organisations such as the LCA and UKCIA keep spreading the news.  Particularly strong evidence has been revealed for cannabinoids as a treatment for Alzheimer’s, head, neck, breast and prostate cancer, fibromyalgia, ADHD and migraine.  The mainstream media seem only interested in scandal and scare stories. They publish news about vastly expensive new pharmaceutical products but not about cannabis cures.

Confusion At The Home Office

Understandably, the British government’s position looks increasingly absurd.  The Home Office veers between describing cannabis as very harmful, harmful, dangerous, extremely dangerous and changes its story every time it is challenged.

Approval of Sativex

Sativex won welcome approval from the medicines regulator as a treatment for spasticity in MS. Despite the fact that Sativex is nothing more than a tincture of herbal cannabis, the government now maintains that “cannabis has no medicinal benefits in herbal form”.  Sativex is approximately eight times the cost of herbal medicinal cannabis and many health authorities are refusing to fund it.

New UK Drug Strategy

The government is to announce a new drugs strategy in December.  There is expected to be a shift in emphasis towards healthcare interventions rather than criminal sanctions but no move away from prohibition.  The more liberal views expressed by both David Cameron and Nick Clegg over the last 10 years seem to have changed now they have come to power.

Joep, I hope this is helpful and informative for the hearing and for you and your colleagues.

Victor Hamilton

UPDATE On Legal Medicinal Cannabis In Britain

with 35 comments

My article on Jim Starr and his medicine has been bouncing around the internet for nearly two weeks now.  It was offered to every quality national newspaper and The Daily Mail but none have seen fit even to cover the story.  The Daily Telegraph, to its credit,  covered the BMJ article about how cannabis prohibition in the US is counterproductive.  Other than that all the press can be bothered with is trivia about celebrities and cannabis.  The truly important news that tens of thousands of people now have legal access to the medicine they need is of no interest to the erudite editors of Fleet Street.  I wonder what their readers would think?

The feedback I have received has been overwhelming.  I know of hundreds of people who have written to the Home Office asking for confirmation that they may follow in Jim’s footsteps.  Many have telephoned and it seems a different story or excuse has been given to each one.  What is certain is that the prohibitionists and legislators who care not one jot for others’ pain and suffering are in disarray.

I can now add further clarification and evidence in support of the rights of those who need medicinal cannabis.    Surely now those cruel politicians and civil servants who are depriving so many British citizens of the medicine they need must relent.  The truth is out!

1. Under the United Nations Single Convention On Narcotic Drugs, the UN International Narcotics Control Board determines the documentation required for the transport of such medicines across international borders  as, simply, “a valid medical prescription”.

2. Under article 23 of the Geneva Convention (which specifically applies to all parties even outside time of war), protection is provided for the transport of medicines across borders.

3.  Article 75 of the Schengen Agreement also provides protection for persons to carry their medicine throughout the EU.  The UK has been bound by this since 1st January 2005. In support of this, I refer to the proceedings in the European Parliament on 1st December 2009 on the Right To Freedom Of Movement In The EU, in which the European Commission Advocate stated unequivocally that article 75 of Schengen is “binding” on the UK.  I also refer to the  letter from the Home Office dated 14th December 2009  to Mr Noel McCullagh concerning Bedrocan medicinal herbal cannabis.

UPDATE 9th November 2010

Noel McCullagh has asked me to remove the reproduction of the letter to him from the Home Office.  He originally published the letter on this site himself but now for reasons only known to him he wants it removed.  Suffice to say that in it the Home Office confirmed he was entitled to import Bedrocan herbal medicinal cannabis under the protection of a Schengen certificate.

Cannabis Law Breakthrough

with 14 comments

Celebration

Yesterday I revealed how Jim “Pinky” Starr has managed to obtain legal medicinal cannabis in Britain.  See here. I’ve been asked to clarify whether the method set out in my article applies throughout Europe.

I’m not a lawyer.  I believe that this information is correct but don’t blame me if James Brokenshire decides he’s going to ride roughshod over justice and European law!

All I know is that (with due respect to my friends with genuine illness), if I could develop the right aches and pains, I’d be straight over to Holland!

As I understand it, Ireland is now the only EU country where this wouldn’t work. However, that won’t last long. The reason that the procedure set out works is because of this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schengen_Area#EU_member_states_with_opt-outs

So, the only remaining problem is actually enabling UK doctors to prescribe medicinal herbal cannabis and developing a local supply chain. It seems to me that as we’re all part of the EU this is going to be impossible to stop.

I think that the breakthrough I’ve been campaigning for since the late 1970s has finally happened!