Advertisements

Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘Your Freedom

Obama And The Poodle Share A Problem

with 19 comments

Top Rated Questions For The President

I believe there was a “Your Freedom” type online initiative by Obama, even before he took office.  The highest rating idea was that inconvenient question of legalising marijuana.  So many people in America seem to be concerned about it, however hard the righteous and religious try to persuade them otherwise.  Why won’t America think as it is told to?

Then back in the heady summer of 2010, when coalition seemed hip and LibDem was cool, Dave’s poodle came unstuck with the same problem.  He said he’d “repeal unjust and illiberal laws” but he didn’t mean cannabis.  That was the top suggestion on his website too.  No, no, no – such nonsense won’t be considered.  Let’s hush it up, forget it happened.  What?  Your freedom?  Whose freedom?

Now Obama is there again.  His online town hall meeting on YouTube tomorrow night is dominated by calls to legalise the weed.  It happens every time.  YouTube cooperates of course and last time deemed such ideas “inappropriate”.  By the time you read this you will probably know the latest excuse.

See here for the latest update on the top questions for the President.

Obama and the poodle.  Two of the same.  Both once claimed more liberal attitudes.  Indeed, both have inhaled.  What useless, insincere, inadequate, weak and pathetic politicians we end up with.

Both of them are out of time.

Advertisements

Written by Peter Reynolds

January 26, 2011 at 10:04 pm

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

The Bean Counter And The Ponce. A Pair Of Hypocrites.

with 23 comments

There is no more integrity.

This government is even more corrupt than the last.  Not just widespread financial corruption amongst MPs, now ministers have abandoned all pretence at listening or consulting.   Britain has become an oligarchy and both politicians and the media are complicit.

I and many other Tories were prepared to accept and defend the financial squeeze but I can no longer support this government.  I could not vote Tory again given the level of betrayal and arrogance from David Cameron.  As for the LibDems,  they have sacrificed their integrity completely.  I see nothing unfair with the present proposals for tuition fees but deplore and condemn the LibDem’s broken promises.  They are ruined.  Clegg is beyond, in fact, beneath redemption.

Ministers in this government have become more remote than ever before.  They sit in their feather-bedded ivory towers and just ignore correspondence.  This is now par for the course in the respect and courtesy that our government pays us.  One can write again and again, send email reminders and never get even an acknowledgement.  This is disregard so serious that it is corruption.

Clegg’s “Your Freedom” website was canned as quickly as it started.  No, no, no, that gave the people far too loud a voice.

And the press are involved too.  They protect and serve only their own comfort in the politics bubble.  The editors of the national newspapers follow their own agenda with no regard for their readers.  Normal rules of supply and demand do not apply.  They have so much power that most only know what they are given.   They distort the truth as it suits them.  Only what serves them gets published.

We have some recourse with the BBC.  It is obliged to provide balance but the complaints system is worse than useless and the director-general receives a ludicrous bribe of £838,000 per annum.

Over just the last 12 months there have been massive demonstrations in London where tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets but we do not hear of  them.  It is entirely true that were it not for the violence we would never have heard of the 52,000 students that marched on Millbank earlier this month.  The blood spilled and the damage caused is on the hands of the media.  They are a corrupt and pernicious influence on our society.  Much as I believe in smaller government, the media now have too much power.  Effective regulation is needed.

The Tory promise never to allow more power to slip to Brussels has also been broken and Cameron is exposed as nothing more than a procedural clerk.  All his bold, inspirational philosophy of freedom and fairness is gone.  I have never seen such hostility from those who were previously firm Tory supporters.

This corrupt and self-serving government is going down the pan.

Home Office Drugs Strategy Consultation – My Response

with 14 comments

The Home Office has called for responses to its Drugs Strategy Consultation document.  See here on the Home Office website.

It is almost universally accepted that “consultation” is a euphemism for “your opinion will be ignored but we want it to look like we listened to you”.  This is a classic example of that sort of thinking.  Judge for yourself  by reading the introduction.  It is clear that ministers and civil servants have already made their mind up on many issues just by the way that the questions are phrased.

Nevertheless, this is what passes for democracy in Britain and it is vital that as many people as possible respond.  You can do so by post, email or online form. It is all set out on the website.  I offer my response here as raw material.  Please feel free to copy and use all or part of it as you wish.  Just make sure that you do make a submission.

I have answered all the questions where I feel I have something useful to say.  It dosn’t matter if you only answer one or two.  Please don’t let the Home Office get away with a whitewash.  With sufficient responses and future Feedom Of Information requests we will be able to advance the cause of rational and progressive drugs policy.

Question A1: Are there other key aspects of reducing drug use that you feel should be addressed?

* Yes

Please outline any suggestions below

The entire basis of this question is flawed. Prohibition of drug use is a failed strategy as now acknowledged by experts and leaders all over the world. So much of the subject is mired in semantics and prejudice rather than being addressed in a logical and responsible manner with fact and evidence-based policies.

Drug use can never be eliminated.  In fact, use of alcohol and tobacco, two of the most dangerous drugs, is legally promoted.  Drug misuse is, by definition, to be deplored but unless there is an acceptance of responsible drug use, then corresponding guidance or regulation to prevent misuse cannot work.

The key question, as established by parliament with the Misuse Of Drugs Act 1971 (MODA), is to how to reduce the harms of drug use.  This is the basis of the Act and of the drug classification system which is supposd to indicate the relative harms of drugs based on the advice of the Advisory Council on the Misuse Of Drugs (ACMD).

Regrettably the classification system is now entirely discredited for two principle reasons:

1. Failure to include the two most widely used drugs, alcohol and tobacco

2. Failure to classify drugs on a scientific basis, instead allowing political considerations and opinion to intrude where only facts and evidence should apply

The result is that government messages on drugs are widely regarded as incredible and as propaganda rather than good sense.  Young people in particular see the evidence of their  own eyes and experience as more useful and credible than government messages, especially in the case of drugs such as cannabis and ecstasy where their relative harmlessness is self-evident.  Government campaigns such as Frank are widely ridiculed and both counterproductive and a complete waste of money.

Question A2: Which areas would you like to see prioritised?

Please select as many as apply

* Greater ambition for individual recovery whilst ensuring the crime reduction impact of treatment.
* Actions to tackle drugs should be part of building the “Big Society”.
* A more holistic approach, with drugs issues being assessed and tackled alongside other issues such as alcohol abuse, child protection, mental health, employment and housing.
* Budgets and responsibility devolved wherever possible, with commissioning of services at a local level.
* Budgets and funding streams simplified and outcome based.
* The financial costs of drug misuse reduced.
* None of them.

This is an astonishingly meaningless question, a little like asking “do you approve of motherhood and apple pie?”

It would be foolish to disagree with any of these ideas.

The main area I would like to see prioritised is that drugs strategy, policy, information and education should be fact and evidence based.  The National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee have both criticised government for failing to implement an evidence-based drugs policy and instead giving more weight to opinion.  This is a dreadful indictment of how successive governments have, in fact, contributed to and increased drug harms.  It is now a well established and proven truism that drug laws cause more harm than drugs themselves.

I would propose a five point drugs strategy aimed at reducing harms as follows:

1. An end to oppression of drug users (at least six million citizens)
2. Removal from the criminal law of any offence for possession and/or social supply
3. Fact and evidence-based policy, information and regulation
4. Re-direction of law enforcement resources against real criminals
5. Treat problematic drug use as a health issue

I would also propose that the overwhelming response on drug laws to the Your Freedom website should be included in this consultation. Top priority should be given to the massive outcry from the public for the removal of drugs from the criminal law and the more rational, fact and evidence-based regulation.

The question of cannabis needs urgent attention.  All experts agree that the harms from its illegality are greater than from the drug itself. According to Home Office figures, there are six million regular users in the UK. Recent research shows that more than 70% of the public want to see some form of legalisation.  The laws against cannabis no longer have public support, particularly in the case of medicinal use, yet the cost of unsuccessfully attempting to enforce them amounts to many billions in wasted public expenditure.  This is a national scandal of monstrous proportions which must be ended.

Question A3: What do you think has worked well in previous approaches to tackling drug misuse?

There is almost nothing that the government has done that has worked well in tackling drug misuse.  On the contrary, almost all government policy has increased the harms caused.

There have been some pilot projects in providing clean, safe environments where opiate addicts have access to a regulated supply and clean needles that have reduced harms.

Question A4: What do you think has NOT worked so well in previous approaches to tackling drug misuse?

Government drugs policy has been a disaster in almost every way, consuming more and more resources to less and less good effect.  It has been almost entirely counterproductive and has led to complete distrust of government information, alienation of users from society in general  and brought the law into disrepute.

Prohibition has not worked.

Misinformation and propaganda that distributes lies and untruths about the relative harms of drugs has not worked.  In fact, it has led to more harms and more deaths.

Criminalising huge numbers of citizens has not worked and has created disaffection and seriously damaged democracy.

Question B1: What are the most effective ways of preventing drug or alcohol misuse?

The only effective way of preventing drug or alcohol misuse is education.  This should be accompanied by a system of regulation and controls which is fact and evidence based and has widespread public support.

Question B2: Who (which agencies, organisations and individuals) are best able to prevent drug or alcohol misuse?

The government is entirely discredited when it comes to offering any sort of advice on these subjects because it has a long history of mistakes, misinformation and propaganda.  Everyone knows that you can’t trust what the government says about such matters because it almost always places political expediency above the truth.

Schools, teachers, ex-addicts and parents are best able to prevent drug and alcohol misuse.  They need fact and evidence-based support and information.  The last thing they need is government direction or interference as this is widely seen as unbelieveable and incredible.

Question B3: Which groups (in terms of age, location or vulnerability) should prevention programmes particularly focus on?

There should be no such thing as a “prevention programme”.  The most vulnerable group is clearly young people.  Tell them not to do something and you immediately increase its appeal.  This question demonstrates how utterly out of touch, insensitive and hamstrung is current Home Office thinking.

Education programmes should focus particularly on young people.

Question B4: Which drugs (including alcohol) should prevention programmes focus on?

* Those that cause the most harm
* Those that are most widely used
* All drugs

Please explain your view below

There should be no such thing as a “prevention programme”.  Education programmes should cover all drugs but focus on those that cause most harm.

Question B5: How can parents best be supported to prevent young people from misusing drugs or alcohol?

The best way of supporting parents is by creating an environment in which drugs policy is accepted as being rational, sensible and based on facts and evidence rather than propaganda.  It is vital that fact and evidence-based information is widely available.

Question B6: How can communities play a more effective role in preventing drug or alcohol misuse?

Communities will naturally come together to prevent drug misuse if we create an environment in which drugs policy is accepted as being rational, sensible and based on facts and evidence rather than propaganda.  At present, drug laws and policies create an “us and them” culture where injustice and hypocrisy brings the law into disrepute and alienates people who do not comply.

Question B7: Are there any particular examples of prevention activity that you would like to see used more widely?

There is nothing being done in terms of”prevention activity” that should be continued.  Education, based on fact and evidence-based information is the key.

Question B8: What barriers are there to improving drug and alcohol prevention?

The biggest barrier to improving prevention of drug misuse is government policy which is widely understood not to be based on facts and evidence but on political expediency and propaganda.  The lack of fact and evidence-based information and education is also a major barrier.

Question C1: When does drug use become problematic?

Drug use becomes problematic when it interferes with people conducting their everyday lives and reaching their full potential or the ability of others to do the same.

Question C2: Do you think the Criminal Justice System should do anything differently when dealing with drug-misusing offenders

The Criminal Justice System should not be involved in dealing with drug misuse at all.  This should be a matter for healthcare. Drug misuse in itself should not be a criminal offence.

Where offences are committed while under the influence of drugs, or in order to feed a drug addiction, providing appropriate healthcare has been offered, then drug use should not be a mitigating factor. In such instances, the offender should always be referred for healthcare alongside any sentence.

Question C3: Do you have a view on what factors the Government should take into consideration when deciding to invoke a temporary ban on a new substance?

* Yes

Please explain your views below

The most important factors would be those of scientific fact and evidence to be determined by a strengthened, properly funded and independent Advisory Council On the Misuse Of Drugs or equivalent.

It is most important to consider the “glamourising effect” of banning a substance.

I congratulate the Home Office on its statement that  “Possession of a temporarily banned substance for personal use would not be a criminal offence to prevent the unnecessary criminalisation of young people”.  This demonstrates a new depth of thinking and intelligence that is very encouraging.

Question C4: What forms of community based accommodation do you think should be considered to rehabilitate drug offenders?

Drug use should not be an offence in itself.  Clearly as part of healthcare, community-based accommodation should be available for those suffering from problematic drug use.

Question C5: Where do you think we most need to target enforcement efforts to reduce the supply of drugs?

Enforcement efforts to reduce the supply of drugs are futile unless a legitimate, regulated source of supply is available.

Once a regulated source of supply is available, illicit sources will become less of a problem.  Enforcement efforts could then be targeted in a similar way to current policies against illicit supply of alcohol, tobacco and prescription only medicines.

Question C6: What else do you think we can do to keep one step ahead of the changing drugs markets?

The most important thing do do is to end the failed and demonstrably ludicrous policy of prohibition.  The solution is a system of fact and evidence-based regulation including a a strengthened, properly funded and independent Advisory Council On the Misuse Of Drugs or equivalent.

Question C7: Which partners – in the public, voluntary and community sectors – would you like to see work together to reduce drug related reoffending in your local area?

What does “drug related reoffending” mean?

Drug use in itself should not be an offence.

Offences related to drugs should be dealt with by healthcare intervention as well as the criminal justice system.  If appropriate healthcare has been offered then drugs should not be a mitigating factor in sentencing.

Question C8: What results should be paid for or funded?

No comment

Question C9: What measures do you think should be taken to reduce drug supply in prison?

Those prisoners with a drug addiction should have access to healthcare and regulated supply just as any other citizen.   Just as in society in general a regulated supply would greatly reduce if not eliminate the problem of illicit supply.

Recreational use of drugs in prison should be strictly controlled.  Tobacco is presently allowed but not alcohol.

As an observation, it is tragic to note how existing policies have promoted the use of heroin in prison.  Under the drug testing regimes, cannabis can be detected in urine for up to 28 days and so its use has been largely eliminated.  However, heroin flushes through the system in less than 48 hours so its use has increased.  This is a vivid demonstration of the idiocy of present policies which have led to replacement of a relatively harmless substance with one that has potential to cause great harm.

Question C10 (if applicable): What impact would the measures suggested have on:

* a) offenders?
* b) your local community?

No comment

Question D1: Thinking about the current treatment system, what works well and should be retained?

No comment

Question D2: Thinking about the current treatment system, what is in need of improvement and how might it need to change to promote recovery?

I have no specific expertise in this area but I understand that treatment for problematic cocaine use is extremely limited and in desperate need of investment.  While not physically addictive, cocaine and particularly crack cocaine is overwhelmingly compulsive and can lead to violent behaviour.  Comparatively, treatment for opiate addicton is well established and understood.  More resources need to be put into developing treatments for problematic cocaine use.

Question D3: Are there situations in which drug and alcohol services might be more usefully brought together or are there situations where it is more useful for them to be operated separately?

Services need to be client-centered. Lumping together alcohol, opiate and cocaine services for the convenience of the providers is counterproductive. Someone who drinks too much wine in the evening at home may be deterred from attending a centre where opiate addicts are injecting. Similarly, a high-earning cocaine user may not want to associate with street drinkers.

Question D4: Should there be a greater focus on treating people who use substances other than heroin or crack cocaine, such as powder cocaine and so called legal highs?

* Yes
* No

Please explain your response below

The only rational response to any problematic drug use is to treat it as a health issue, therefore treatment should be available for all substances.  The question betrays a worrying naivety as cocaine use can be problematic as powder, crack or both.  “Legal highs” is a completely meaningless term which may range from something as harmful as heroin to something as benign as cannabis.

Question D5: Should treating addiction to legal substances, such as prescribed and over-the-counter medicines, be a higher priority?

* Yes
* No
* Don’t know

Please explain your response below

No.  The drugs strategy should be about minimising harms not making some moral judgment on people based on one point of view.  This is a dreadful suggestion.

Question D6: What role should the Public Health Service have in preventing people using drugs in the first place and how can this link in to other preventative work?

Fact and evidence-based information and education.

Question D7: We want to ensure that we continue to build the skills of the drug treatment and rehabilitation sector to ensure that they are able to meet the needs of those seeking treatment. What more can we do to support this?

Stop wasting money on futile attempts at enforcement of out of date, counterproductive laws. Prohibition is an entirely failed policy and, according to Baroness Meacher in the House Of Lords on 15th June 2010 is costing Britain £19 billion per annum.

Problematic drug use should be dealt with as a health problem.  With billions saved from wasted law enforcement costs and additional tax revenue from a regulated supply system, there will be a bonanza of funds available for drug treatment and rehabilitation services.

Question D8: Treatment is only one aspect contributing to abstinence and recovery. What actions can be taken to better link treatment services in to wider support such as housing, employment and supporting offenders?

Stop criminalising drug users, imprisoning them and treating them as offenders.  They are not.  They are people who choose to use a drug that has arbitrarily been deemed illegal usually for unscientific reasons.

Question D9: How do you believe that commissioners should be held to account for ensuring that outcomes of community-based treatments, for the promotion of reintegration and recovery, as well as reduced health harms, are delivered?

No comment.

Question E1: What interventions can be provided to better support the recovery and reintegration of drug and alcohol dependent offenders returning to communities from prison?

No comment.

Question E2: What interventions could be provided to address any issues commonly facing people dependent on drugs or alcohol in relation to housing?

No comment.

Question E3: How might drug, alcohol and mental health services be more effective in working together to meet the needs of drug or alcohol dependent service users with mental health conditions?

No comment.

Question E4: Do appropriate opportunities exist for the acquisition of skills and training for this group?

No comment

Question E5 Should we be making more of the potential to use the benefit system to offer claimants a choice between:

a) some form of financial benefit sanction, if they do not take action to address their drug or alcohol dependency; or

b) additional support to take such steps, by tailoring the requirements placed upon them as a condition of benefit receipt to assist their recovery (for example temporarily removing the need to seek employment whilst undergoing treatment).

There needs to be a combination of carrot and stick adjusted to individual requirements based on healthcare needs.  Those with problematic drug use must not be allowed to fall outside society as that leads to even greater harms.  This is why it is crucial that drug use be removed from the criminal law.

Question E6: What if anything could Jobcentre Plus do differently in engaging with this client group to better support recovery?

No comment

Question E7: In your experience, what interventions are most effective in helping this group find employment?

No comment.

Question E8: What particular barriers do this group face when working or looking for employment, and what could be done to address these?

No comment.

Question E9: Based on your experience, how effective are whole family interventions as a way of tackling the harms of substance misuse?

No comment

Question E10: Is enough done to harness the recovery capital of families, partners and friends of people addicted to drugs or alcohol?

Probably not. Once prohibition is ended, with billions saved from wasted law enforcement costs and additional tax revenue from a regulated supply system, there will be a bonanza of funds available for drug treatment and rehabilitation services.

Question E11: Do drug and alcohol services adequately take into account the needs of those clients who have children?

No comment

Question E12: What problems do agencies working with drug or alcohol dependent parents face in trying to protect their children from harm, and what might be done to address any such issues?

No comment

Gender: Male
Age: 45-54
Region: South West
Occupation: Writer

My MP, Richard Drax, To Write To David Cameron On Drugs Policy

with 21 comments

The Honourable Member For Dorset South

Today I met with my MP, Richard Drax.  He was just as sickeningly handsome and charming as I expected him to be!   So I showed him no mercy and bombarded him with my opinions for a good half an hour.

I realised afterwards that my favourite maxim “less is more” would have been a better strategy.  Nevertheless,  he did offer to write to David Cameron on my behalf on drugs policy and seemed genuinely sympathetic to some of the points I made.

I have just sent him a lengthy email in confirmation which I reproduce below.  If anyone wishes to use this as a template for a letter or email to their own MP, please feel free to do so.

******

Dear Richard,

Thank you so much for your time today.  I very much enjoyed meeting you.  As I said, I came with opinions not problems.  I am grateful to you for listening to me.

I realise that I made the classic mistake of bombarding you with far too much information and not giving you time to absorb any.  I hope I may correct that error by summarising here what we talked about.

1. Gary McKinnon. Thank heavens that progress seems to have been made on this. The idea of an “extradition” treaty that provides for someone to be sent to the USA for trial on an alleged crime committed here is iniquitous.  It’s particularly unfair in McKinnon’s case as he suffers from Asperger’s syndrome.  You pointed out to me that similar dangers exist with the new European arrest warrant.

I would urge you to do everything possible to ensure that if Gary McKinnon is to be tried, it should take place in the UK.

2. Ian Tomlinson. In my view the failure to prosecute the policeman who assaulted him is an outrage and Keir Starmer’s reasons entirely inadequate.  Now that the credibility of the pathologist in the case has been destroyed by a GMC panel, Starmer should at least reconsider and hopefully reverse his decision.

References here:


http://pjroldblog.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/killer-cop-harwood-must-be-charged/

http://pjroldblog.wordpress.com/2010/07/24/keir-starmer-the-next-lord-widgery/

I would urge you to press for a re-consideration of the decision not to bring charges.  If no criminal charges are brought, at the very least the disciplinary hearing should be held in public as the rules allow.  The Tomlinson family are entitled to justice.

3. Drugs policy. You very kindly agreed to write to David Cameron on my behalf.  I am very concerned at the conduct of the Home Office at present and particularly James Brokenshire, the Minister for Crime Prevention who is causing great damage to both the coalition governemnt and the Tory party by promoting ideas and policies that contradict virtually all expert opinion, including the government’s own scientific advisers.  He also seems to be completely at odds with the calls for drug law reform which both David Cameron and Nick Clegg have made consistently over the last 10 years.

This is not a peripheral or secondary issue.  According to Baroness Meacher in the House of Lords on 15th June 2010, “There is no more obvious waste than the £19 billion annual cost of the UK’s war on drugs”.

There is a huge amount of reference material on this subject on my blog:

http://pjroldblog.wordpress.com/?s=drugs

I would also refer you to the Transform Drug Policy Foundation which has highly detailed and almost universally acclaimed proposals for drug regulation:

http://www.tdpf.org.uk

Virtually all experts agree that the “war on drugs” has failed. In exactly the same way as alcohol prohibition in the US led to a massive increase in crime and violence, so drug prohibition has created an illegal market said to be worth £350 billion per year. It has also financed civil war in Latin America for 25 years and is the principal source of finance for Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Our soldiers are dying every day because of the illegal trade in opiates.  Why don’t we just buy up the whole crop for the next 10 years?  It would be much cheaper in both cash and lives than the Afghan war.

Virtually all experts agree that regulation would be a better solution.  I have distilled the following five point plan from everything that I have read and learned over more than 30 years:

1. An end to oppression of drug users (at least 10 million UK citizens)
2. Removal from the criminal law of any offence for possession and/or social supply
3. Fact and evidence-based policy, information and regulation
4. Re-direction of law enforcement resources against real criminals
5. Treat problematic drug use as a health issue

Five years ago, while campaigning for the Tory party leadership, David Cameron called for “fresh thinking and a new approach” towards drugs policy and said that it would be “disappointing if radical options on the law on cannabis were not looked at”. Nick Clegg has promised to repeal “illiberal, intrusive and unnecessary” laws and to stop “making ordinary people criminals”. There can be no better example of this than the laws against personal use and cultivation of cannabis, particularly for medicinal reasons. The coalition government’s new Your Freedom website has been inundated with proposals to legalise cannabis and to end the futile war on drugs.   In July a poll carried out for the LibDems showed 70% of people in favour of legalising cannabis.

The Home Office and James Brokenshire are completely out of touch with expert and public opinion as well as the declared views of both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister.

In my view, regulation means tighter control on the most dangerous drugs such as heroin, cocaine and alcohol and lighter regulation on relatively harmless substances like cannabis and ecstasy.

There is also the very important question of medicinal cannabis.  The discovery of the endocannabinoid system in 1998 has led to an ever-escalating volume of evidence of the medicinal value of cannabis.  In June the MHRA approved Sativex as an MS medicine in the UK.  It is a whole plant extract yet presently, the Home Office refuses to consider a regulated system of the plant itself for medicinal purposes.  This is completely irrational and absurd.  The House Of Lords scientific committee recommended such a system should be introduced 12 years ago.  Medicinal cannabis is available and regulated throughout almost all of Europe, Israel and 14 states in the USA (with 12 more in the planning stage).  The UK stands almost alone in its obstinate refusal even to consider such a system.

Already this is leading to quite obscene injustices where patients have been prescribed Sativex by their doctor but their health authority has refused to fund it and patients are then facing criminal prosecution for cultivating their own plants.  There is a case of exactly this going on in the Dorchester Crown Court at present and the CPS insists it is in the public interest to prosecute!

Thank you once again for listening to me Richard. I hope these notes are useful in composing your letter to David Cameron and I look forward to hearing from you in due course.

Kind regards,

Peter Reynolds

“The Only Thing Drug Gangs Fear Is Legalisation”. The Independent 26th August 2010

with 2 comments

Superb piece in The Independent today

Superbly argued!  Thank you to Johann Hari.  Thank you to The Independent for giving the space for this to be heard.

Violence Breeds Violence.  The Only Thing Drug Gangs Fear Is Legalisation.

28,000 deaths in Mexico in four years because of drug laws!

It could be the same in the UK.   Our new drug strategy is in preparation but the only people applauding the disgraceful sham that is our drug strategy consultation are drug dealers and criminals.  James Brokenshire of the Home Office, the man intent on breaking British society,  is so backward in his thinking that he makes Alan Johnson look progressive.   He is blind to the evidence and the facts, to what is happening in Mexico and elsewhere

There is blood on the hands of cowardly politicians in the UK too.  They have shirked this issue, avoided grasping this nettle for too long.  Brokenshire can only have been offered as a lamb for sacrifice here – surely?  His arguments are too ridiculous, his distortion of science too crass. He is bound to fail if he persists but he will cause death, misery and degradation for thousands.  He personally will be responsible for a massive increase in street crime – inevitable if he tightens prohibition.  He will not have committed the crimes himself but he will have negligently and recklessly ignored proven current best practice.  His attitudes fly in the face of all logic, research and science.

The government is riding roughshod over the massive outcry for drug law reform on the Your Freedom website.  Surely, even if public opinion, morality, logic, science, history or common sense won’t convince them, Baroness Meacher’s claim of £19 billion per annum of waste will stir them to action!

Surely, if nothing else, the cash will make the government see sense!

Home Office Drug Strategy Consultation

with 3 comments

All over the BBC this morning is the story that addicts may have their benefits withdrawn if they refuse treatment.  This, apparently,  is a proposal included in the Home Office’s new Drug Strategy consultation document.

Where is this document?  It’s not on the Home Office website.  That’s a bit strange for something that purports to be about consulting with the public isn’t it?

I had to phone the Home Office press office to get a copy.  I shouldn’t have to be doing this for the government but you can download it here:

Home Office Drug Strategy Consultation Document

Theresa May and James Brokenshire, the ministers responsible for this, should remember that they are not in office to preserve the status quo or cook up policies between themselves based on the misinformation that the Home Office currently promotes.  Their first responsiblity after their duty to the Queen is to the public.  Consultation is not something they should pay lip service to, nor is it something they can pick or choose.   It should determine  their actions.

As part of this consultation, the Home Office should take into account the tens of thousands of people who have used the Your Freedom website to call for relaxation in the drug laws and particularly the legalisation of cannabis.

I urge everybody with any interest in the drugs issue to download, complete and return the consultation document.  It’s presented as a Q&A form.  I also suggest that you keep a copy and send a copy to your MP.  Regrettably the Home Office doesn’t have a good record on keeping track of what the public says to it.  It loses a lot of things.

On the face of it, I support the idea that if you’re a heroin, cocaine, alcohol or prescription drug addict and you’re offered treatment but refuse it then you shouldn’t be able to live on benefits.   That seems entirely just.   The danger is that just as current drug laws drive addicts to crime and prostitution so will this.  This is progress though.  There has to be personal responsibility but also some flexibility to ensure this doesn’t become another self-defeating policy.   Most important of all, possession of drugs for personal use and/or social supply must be taken out of the criminal law.

The other headline grabbing proposal is that the government should be able to impose a temporary 12 month ban on “new substances”.  This is designed to tackle the danger of “legal highs” – a danger mainly of the government’s own making because of its policy of prohibition.   There is a real glimmer of hope and intelligence here though because “Possession of a temporarily banned substance for personal use would not be a criminal offence to prevent the unnecessary criminalisation of young people”.  I applaud this.  It shows that it is possible to get common sense  from the Home Office.  There is hope yet!

***UPDATE***

As I go to press  (oh, alright, as my finger hovers over the “publish” button), the consultation document has become available on the Home Office website.  A little tardy but better late than never.

You can respond to this consultation until 30th September 2010.  Make sure you do.