CLEAR is re-launching its Medicinal Cannabis Users Panel. If you use cannabis as medicine, joining the panel is the most effective thing you can do both to advance the campaign and, in some instances, gain legitimate access to prescribed Bedrocan medicinal cannabis.
The panel has proved itself to be the most effective campaigning method ever used in the UK. As a direct result of the efforts of panel members, in the last two years there have been more meetings with government minsters, officials and senior MPs than the whole campaign has managed in the last 50 years.
You must be a member of CLEAR to join the panel, then you complete a detailed questionnaire providing information on your condition(s) and how cannabis helps. Each applicant is then interviewed by telephone to develop an individual plan. This will depend on a number of factors, such as your relationship with your doctor, your MP, how much time you have available and whether you are prepared to tell your story to the media.
If your doctor is prepared to help, there is now an established route to getting medicinal cannabis prescribed and legally imported into the UK. CLEAR has developed this process through experience working with doctors, MPs, the Home Office and the Border Force. We also have crucial support from the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Drug Policy Reform and a number of members of the House of Lords. This is on a private prescription basis only. The prescription has to be very carefully written, using exactly the correct wording and, to begin with, you will have to travel to Holland in person to have the prescription dispensed at a pharmacy. Thereafter it may be possible to have repeat prescriptions sent through the post.
Bedrocan is the Dutch government’s official producer of medicinal cannabis. Five different varieties are available at a cost of approximately seven to eight euros per gram. See full details of the different products here.
All panel members are guided in how to approach their doctor and MP. Initial contact should be made by letter or email but then it is important to meet your doctor and MP face to face and provide them with high quality scientific evidence to support your case. CLEAR will offer guidance and help at every stage. If you wish then a member of our executive committee will accompany you to meetings to help you present your case. Whether or not your doctor is prepared to write a prescription for you, we aim to continue leading delegations of medicinal users to meet ministers. We have seen again and again what an impact this can have. When senior politicians who have no experience of medicinal cannabis meet genuine, decent, ordinary people with families and careers who tell their story with sincerity and conviction, it has an enormous impact.
If you live in the UK and are interested in joining the panel, please email a brief explanation of your interest to: email@example.com
Please do not go into great detail at this stage. Applications should be no more than 200 words. We will respond to you with a questionnaire within seven to 10 days.
Today, Baroness Molly Meacher asked a question about cannabis in the House of Lords .
There is a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding about what happened, so I shall do my best to explain.
This was not a full debate. There never was any prospect of any law being changed. It was simply a question, which would be answered by the government spokesman and Lady Meacher would then have the opportunity to ask a further, supplementary question. In the process, other members of the House would be able to interject and make their own comments.
The question was whether cannabis could be re-scheduled, out of schedule one, which determines that it has no medicinal value, to schedule two or three which would allow doctors to prescribe it and also enable researchers to access and use cannabis more easily in studies and clinical trials.
The government behaved exactly as expected. The most generous interpretation is that the spokesman, Lord Bates, was misinformed. His first response to Lady Meacher’s question was to parrot the Home Office’s usual line on cannabis about it being a harmful drug.
This of course, is nothing to do with medicinal use. Most medicines are far more harmful than cannabis and any potential harms are traded off against therapeutic benefit.
I know some people are already accusing Lord Bates of being a ‘liar’ but this is not true. He simply has no idea what he is talking about and his briefing from Home Office officials is designed not to inform but to deflect, confuse and retain control within the bureaucracy. The claim that the Advisory Council recommends against medicinal cannabis is factually incorrect. The ACMD is not constituted to advise on the medicinal benefits of any drug.
So ignore what the government said. It is largely irrelevant to the process of informing and changing minds amongst those in power. They will instruct officials and spokespeople as necessary once they understand a more successful path forwards.
The rest of the debate was almost all positive. Lord Dubs succumbed to the ‘skunk’ myth but who can blame him. given the level of propaganda and hysteria promoted even by ‘public service broadcasters’ such as Channel 4 and and some of our so-called eminent ‘scientists’. Lord Howarth of Newport hit the nail on the head and referred to the terrible difficulty of those who need access to Bedrocan. He is a stalwart ally of a few, fortunate CLEAR members whose doctors have had the courage to prescribe.
This mini debate was good news. It was another brick in the wall. Clearly, attitudes are changing and the facts are beginning to overtake the myths. Many Lords and MPs are on our side.
As ever, the way forward is relentless, individual, lobbying and informing. We must keep telling truth to power, challenging misinformation and providing knowledge.
Today, in the House of Lords, progress was made.
Sometime after 3.00pm, tomorrow, Wednesday, 17th June 2015, Baroness Molly Meacher will ask a question in the House of Lords on the re-scheduling of cannabis to permit it to be prescribed by doctors for medicinal use. Watch it here on Parliament TV.
Behind this is a report ‘Regulating Cannabis for Medical Use in the UK’, authored by Professor Val Curran of UCL and Frank Warburton of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform (APPG). This sets out an argument for moving cannabis from schedule one to schedule two or three, enabling doctors to prescribe it and facilitating further research on its therapeutic properties. It also endorses the central theme of CLEAR’s medicinal cannabis campaign – that UK doctors should be permitted to prescribe products from Bedrocan, the medicinal cannabis producer regulated by the Dutch government.
The UK is now a very long way behind the rest of the western world on enabling access to cannabis as medicine. The UK is second only to places like Indonesia, China and Singapore in ignoring evidence and basing drugs policy on prejudice and scaremongering. The only significant difference is that we don’t execute people for possession of drugs.
In Europe more than 250 million people now have legal access to medicinal cannabis, 210 million in the USA, 35 million in Canada and 8 million in Israel. A few CLEAR members, with the support of their doctors and the APPG have managed to obtain legal access to Bedrocan medicinal cannabis from pharmacies in Holland. The struggle involved though is horrendous. It means travelling to Holland, declaring the medicine to customs on return and legality depends on exactly how the prescription is phrased. Get it wrong and both doctor and patient could face criminal charges. It also depends on the mood and knowledge of the Border Force officer on duty at customs. If he or she has had a bad day, as one CLEAR member discovered, that’s £500 of medicine plus travelling expenses, that will never be seen again.
Just a few days ago, Lord Winston, the British public’s favourite doctor, also endorsed medicinal cannabis, saying:
“When I was chairman of the Science and Technology Select Committee some years ago, we looked intensively at the medicinal uses of cannabis. One of the pieces of evidence was very compelling and enabled us to think about rather permissive legislation. It was that a number of people who had medical conditions, such as glaucoma and multiple sclerosis, took cannabis, which was not prescribed, to relieve their symptoms.” Source
This reform is long overdue. UK policy on medicinal cannabis is deeply cruel, evidence-free and based on the views of the tabloid press rather than medical experts, although even that is changing with today’s story in The Sun ‘Cannabis: Is it a curse or cure? Three readers reveal how controversial herb has saved their lives’
CLEAR produced its own report earlier this year ‘Medicinal Cannabis:The Evidence’, a comprehensive and up to date review of the peer-reviewed, published evidence.
Unique amongst western democracies, the UK is reinforcing its ‘war on drugs’ with the most inane blanket ban on anything that has a psychoactive effect.
In the face of all the evidence, even of Ireland which has seen a similar policy result in increased heroin use and a crimewave, the buffoons at the Home Office and No.10 are pressing ahead.
The result will be more criminal markets, more misery, more death, more crime, more harms. It is madness on a grand scale – but it’s actually more sinister than that.
Prohibition is a fundamentally immoral policy because it turns the forces of law enforcement against the people they are supposed to protect. It is cancerous to any society. Banning things never works. It only makes the problem worse.
It is bound to fail and we have seen it do so again and again. Nevertheless, weak politicians return to it in
the delusional belief that this time it will work. What encourages them is that it allows them to appease
vested interests. That starts with the tabloid press but it’s really all about the alcohol industry and its
monopoly of legal recreational drugs.
When the brewers, distillers and bankers say bend over, Cameron drops his trousers and says ‘how would you like me?’. Look at the deliberate suppression of the evidence on minimum unit pricing. Cameron’s hypocrissy about corruption at the G7 is astonishing. UK drugs policy is run for the benefit of vested interests and has nothing to do with reducing harm.
It is ludicrous that the most dangerous, addictive and harmful drug of all is the only one that is legal.
The rise of NPS is entirely the product of our lunatic and futile policy of banning safe substances such as
cannabis and MDMA.
Make no mistake, compared to booze, aspirin, paracetamol, ibuprofen, hay fever remedies – weed and E are safe. Check the facts of usage, deaths and hospital admissions.
This new bill is a pathetic concept by illiberal, repressive, rather stupid and weak policymakers. It disgraces Britain. In terms of humane, rational, evidence-based drugs policy it puts us second only to Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia. The only thing that distinguishes us from these medieval regimes is that we don’t execute people for drug possession.
This must be indicative of the attitude that we can expect from the new Conservative government. It would seem that this is a hardening of drugs policy as being a criminal justice issue rather than something to do with health.
Ironically, Penning is MP for a constituency that takes its name from the long history of cannabis cultivation in the UK. Hemel Hempstead means Hemel’s cannabis farm. Cannabis hemp was, of course, one of the most widely grown agricultural crops prior to the 20th century for its tremendous value as fibre for rope and textiles. Its history as a source of medicine has been largely forgotten but it was widely used and as many as half of all medicines in the British pharmacopoeia once contained cannabis. Without doubt cannabis was used as a recreational drug as well but the experiment of prohibition which began in 1928 has obscured all this history.
Penning is on record as a hardliner on drugs policy. In February 2015, he publicly rebuked Mike Barton, chief constable of Durham, saying:
“I do not agree at all with the chief constable of Durham. I have told him so and I will continue to tell him. Drugs are a scourge in our society and we must do everything we can to crack down on them.”
He has also twice submitted written questions asking how many deaths there have been from cannabis. Of course, on both occasions the answer has been none but it reveals a worrying lack of knowledge and suggests a readiness to listen to or even promote evidence-free scaremongering. He has also been responsible for the dreadful drug driving legislation, widely criticised by all informed parties and a classic example of bad lawmaking driven by the tabloid press rather than by evidence.
So this is very worrying and depressing news for those interested in drugs policy reform. CLEAR will be reaching out to Mr Penning through our network of supportive Tory MPs and we will be seeking a meeting as soon as possible to present our case. Most urgently we will seek his support for allowing the prescription of medicinal cannabis by doctors.
This reinforces my view that CLEAR’s strategy of engagement and persuasion is the correct way forward. Protests and making demands never have worked and never will, particularly with ministers like Penning.
Sometimes it seems that some UK politicians are oblivious to what is happening in the US, Uruguay, Israel and across Europe, not just on access to medicinal cannabis but on wider drugs policy reform. That will be another objective; to educate and inform him of policies that more enlightened jurisdictions are pursuing and the great benefits for public expenditure savings, new tax revenue, health, crime and Tory values of individual liberty and free enterprise.
Who is to be the new drugs minister?
No word yet from David Cameron. I have been calling the Home Office every day since the election and the answer is always the same – ‘no appointment has been made, it is expected within the coming days’.
Responsibility for the drugs strategy rests with the Minister of State for Crime Prevention. At least it did throughout the last Parliament. That gave us the horror of arch-prohibitionist James Brokenshire, followed by Baroness Browning, then the Liberal Democrat Jeremy Browne, followed by Norman Baker, the man who broke the mould and resigned because of Theresa May’s opposition to evidence and common sense. Lynne Featherstone succeeded him and continued to support reform. The Liberal Democrat’s intelligent and progressive drugs policy was incorporated into its election manifesto, sadly defeated by an electorate terrorised by the prospect of a Labour/SNP victory.
Why is this vital role still not decided? Perhaps responsibility for drugs is to be allocated elsewhere? Probably too much to hope that it will go the Department of Health but there were encouraging noises from the civil service just before the election, suggesting that the costs of enforcing drug possession charges were too high and decriminalisation should be considered.
This decision, when it comes, will speak volumes about the new government. The signs are not good with Cameron launching the most horrendous attacks on liberty and British values, threatening to crack down on the freedom of speech and thought for which thousands of British heroes have fought and died over many years.
So this is a crucial decision. On it will depend the development of CLEAR’s future strategy. What is certain is that we must re-adjust to communicate effectively with Tory ministers. We are well placed to do that, more so than any other UK drugs policy reform group because our strategy is already one of engagement, not protest. We need to be talking about public expenditure savings, new tax revenues, individual liberty. Now more than ever the failed politics of protest and human rights will not work.
Immediately after the election came calls from the stoner groups for protests and direct action. A ridiculous and futile demo has been arranged for 30th May “FUCK YOUR DRUG WAR – PROTEST“. Make no mistake, these ideas are idiotic, misguided, counterproductive, offensive, exactly what the campaign does not need.
The choice of which minister gets to look after the drugs strategy is hugely important. Watch this space.
Our principal allies on the Liberal Democrat benches have all lost their seats.
Quickly now, the government will be formed. No surprise that Theresa May has already been reappointed Home Secretary but who will the junior Home Office ministers be?
Brokenshire may leave for another department. He’s probably due for a promotion. It would be very good to see the back of him. Who will the Crime Prevention Minister be? Within that portfolio rests responsibility for drugs.
This is when the nightmare struck. Key candidates for Home Office ministers will be backbenchers who have sat on the Home Affairs Select Committee. I hardly dare write his name in case it puts ideas in Cameron’s mind – Michael Ellis.
Ellis is a hard line prohibitionist, anti-drugs, anti-liberty, anti-science, criminal barrister with a particular record of boorish behaviour during PMQs. He’s a junior barrister working out of chambers in Northampton and he thinks that his experience with a few scumbag dealers qualifies him to know all about drugs policy.
The idea is a nightmare. Cameron will see his increased number of seats as vindication of all past policies so he may well go further to the right. I hope I’m wrong. Perhaps we will get some young MP with a brain in his head and an eye for the free market economy that is blossoming in Colorado and elsewhere. Let’s hope so.
There’s also the new members of the Home Affairs Select Committee. Who will they be? We need to get to know them and present our case.
We must re-design, re-target, re-focus and refine our campaign for our new audience – Tory ministers are our most important targets.
Our messages must be developed for Tory eyes. More focus on the free market, profit opportunities, public expenditure savings. And our tactics must work with Tories as well. There is even less room now for the self-defeating tactics of protest, civil disobedience and flaunting alternative lifestyles in a way that distracts from our very powerful arguments. Such tactics might cause a right-wing backlash now.
Instead of being self-obsessed, as so much of the cannabis campaign is, if we want to be effective we must see things through the eyes of our target audiences, look outward not in, recognise that preaching to the choir achieves little. It is people who don’t agree with our cause that we must talk to and it is to their standards that we must dress and behave if we want to influence them.
Now, more than ever before, we need to be smart about the way we campaign for cannabis law reform. We do have allies in the Tory party and the worldwide momentum continues to build.
A few adjustments on the tiller are necessary but we remain on course. Let’s just be sure we adjust our sails and our technique for the new weather.