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Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘The Lancet

European Parliament – Public Hearing On Cannabis Regulation

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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

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The Drugs Debate

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It won’t go away will it?  It seems like at least once a month now some new high profile figure comes out against prohibition.  The latest, Sir Ian Gilmore, outgoing president of the Royal College of Physicians, is hot on the heels of  Nicholas Green QC, chairman of the Bar Council in July and three eminent co-authors in The Lancet in May.  The National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee have also criticised government for failing to implement an evidence-based drugs policy and instead giving more weight to opinion.

Meanwhile the Humpty Dumpties at the Home Office keep on building their big walls, refusing to listen, refusing to think, refusing to care.  Their response is no, no, no, out of the question, no and no again.  In fact, I don’t think the ministers even think about it at all.   They just replay the same old no, no and no again as written by some civil servant, probably in the days of the golf ball typewriter.  Remember those?

It won’t go away though.  I first submitted a report to the Home Affairs Committee on the cannabis laws in 1978.  It was called “An Unaffordable Prejudice”.  I’ve been giving them the facts and the evidence ever since and so have hundreds of other individuals and organisations.  I’m in direct correspondence with the Home Office at the moment.  I’ve received one three page response and replied with four.  That’s how long it takes to get a dialogue going with our “responsive” government.   I started in May, immediately after my new MP was elected, and it takes a good three months to get anywhere – or perhaps I mean nowhere.  Still, I expect it was worse in the USSR.

It won’t go away.   Aside from the Home Office the only people in favour of our current drugs policy are the drug dealers and the Taliban.  They certainly don’t want things to change.

The Home Office can’t even get its story straight.  Today its latest pearls are: “Drugs such as heroin, cocaine and cannabis are extremely harmful and can cause misery to communities across the country.”  This is nothing short of crass stupidity and irresponsible misinformation.  Lumping in cannabis with heroin and cocaine is simply ridiculous.  Describing cannabis as “extremely harmful” is in direct contradiction to every one of the Home Office’s own scientific experts.  These are the people who are supposed to be protecting our children, the vulnerable and the uneducated.   They should be ashamed of themselves.

When Proposition 19 passes on 2nd November (see here), the world will sit up and take notice.   Even Humpty Dumpty will have to engage his brain then because when 37 million Californians get the right to enjoy God’s herb without interference, well it ain’t gonna stop there.  If for no other reason than that our avaricious politicians will soon put aside their “principles” when they realise the oodles of cash and brownie points they’re missing out on.  California reckons it will create up to 110,000 new jobs, £1.4 billion in new tax revenue and a saving of $200 million in law enforcement costs.  When Humpty Dumpty takes off his blindfold of prejudice, ignorance and propaganda he’ll soon be gagging for the cash.

There are a million quotes from world leaders, politicians, doctors, scientists and “experts” of all sorts stating how ridiculous and self-defeating current drugs policy is.    It never seems to make any difference though.  David Cameron and Nick Clegg have both called for change many times but once they get into power what happens?  However, just to get right up the nose of Humpty Dumpty (that’s right, snort it up there), here’s what one very, very senior civil servant said just two years ago:

“I think what was truly depressing about my time in UKADCU was that the overwhelming majority of professionals I met, including those from the police, the health service, the government and voluntary sectors held the same view: the illegality of drugs causes far more problems for society and the individual than it solves. Yet publicly, all those intelligent, knowledgeable people were forced to repeat the nonsensical mantra that the government would be ‘tough on drugs’, even though they all knew the government’s policy was actually causing harm.”

Julian Critchley, Director, Cabinet Office UK Anti-Drug Coordination Unit. 13-08-08

It won’t go away.  Just Say No has become Just Say Now and the slimy dissembling oiks who insist on running our lives (and ruining many) will soon be in retreat.  It won’t go away.