Advisory Council On The Misuse of Drugs Meeting, 18th November 2010
I attended this meeting last Thursday at Church House, just around the corner from the Houses of Parliament.
There were approximately 35 members of the council in attendance, sitting around a huge U shaped table with perhaps 20 people in the public seats. Inevitably, such a huge meeting could only touch on adminstrative matters and formalities. Clearly, most of the ACMD’s work is done in much smaller working groups. However, there was an interesting Q&A session and I was pleased to experience a council meeting. I wouldn’t recommend it for light entertainment though!
Professor Leslie Iversen was in the chair for the last time. His post and those of eight other members have been advertised and their replacements will be appointed as from 1st January 2011. These are voluntary positions with members receiving only expenses and subsistence payments for their work. They undertake an onerous and important responsibility and I commend them for their public service.
Full minutes should be available on the Home Office website here within a few weeks. However the main items of interest were:
- the ACMD’s response to the Home Office’s drug strategy consultation
- a report on anabolic steroids
- a report on the issuing of foil by drug clinics as an alternative to injection
- a report on 2-DPMP, marketed as the “Ivory Wave ” legal high
- a request to report on khat, the herbal product from East Africa that contains cathinone, the same active ingredient as mephedrone
- a request to report on cocaine use after a recent report placed Britain at the top of the European league table
Then we came to the Q&A session and, of course, yours truly had a question prepared. First though there was a large contingent of the Somalian community present appealing for the prohibition of khat.
I have to say that nothing I have heard about either mephedrone or khat has interested me or persuaded me to experiment. There were a number of emotional and passionate speeches rather than questions; one from an ex-khat addict, one from a Somalian psychiatrist and others from community members. It’s clear that khat does cause harm but it saddened me that the only solution being suggested was prohibition. I understand this as a knee jerk reaction but it won’t work. All it will do is drive use undergroud and make the problem worse. Professor Iversen himself commented that the price of khat where it has been banned is 20 times that of where it is legal. If prohibition is enacted in Britain all we will be doing is playing straight into the hands of criminal gangs yet again.
I asked the council whether there wasn’t an urgent need for it to update its advice to the government on the medicinal benefits of cannabis. I cited the recent MHRA approval of Sativex which is, of course, nothing more than a tincture of herbal cannabis. I also mentioned that Arizona had just become the 15th state in America to introduce a medical marijuana programme and that Israel has recently announced a massive increase in growing facilities and dispensaries.
I am paraphrasing here, of course, but Professor Iversen threw up his hands in horror at being asked to review cannabis again when he has already done so three times. The general view from the council seemed to be that whatever was said to government on this subject, no notice would be taken. I shall be following up my oral question with a letter to Profesor Iversen. We have to expose this Home Office lie that there are no medicinal benefits from herbal cannabis and that this is based on advice from the ACMD. It isn’t. It’s a government deception.
For me the most important part of the day was the opportunity to introduce myself in person to Professor Iversen. I thanked him for agreeing to become a founder council member of the British Medicinal Cannabis Register. He said how enthusiastic he was about the register and that he has been an advocate of medicinal cannabis since the 1990s.