In a letter dated 15th August 2016, Amber Rudd, the new Home Secretary, has invited CLEAR to raise “any queries and concerns” about present UK policy on cannabis. This is the first time since 2006, with Charles Clarke, that the UK cannabis campaign has had any direct contact with a serving Home Secretary. It reflects the reality, now recognised in government, that changes in cannabis policy are imminent.
In recent months, there has been a manifest and significant change in attitudes within the Home Office. We have seen this through the process of obtaining a low THC cultivation licence for our partnership with GroGlo Research and Development. The response from the drugs licensing department has been enthusiastic. There has been no difficulty with our declared purpose of producing CBD oil for sale as a food supplement and we are now in detailed discussions on our application for a high THC licence, looking towards clinical trials for a medical product for chronic pain.
As soon as Theresa May announced that Amber Rudd would be heading up the Home Office, I contacted my MP, now Sir Oliver Letwin, thanks to Cameron’s resignation honours list. Although he will not openly support our campaign, in the past year or so he has been very helpful indeed, meeting with me on roughly a monthly basis and helping me navigate through the Conservative government. He has now put me in direct contact with Ms Rudd and I will be preparing a written submission as a preliminary to a face-to-face meeting.
In accordance with CLEAR policy, our first concern is how we can enable UK residents to gain access to medicinal cannabis on a doctor’s prescription. In practice that means Bedrocan products as there is presently no other source of prescribable, consistent, high-quality, herbal cannabis. I would expect that to change very soon though. Both Canada and Israel look like potential near-future sources. GW Pharmaceuticals is undoubtedly considering entering the market and our venture with GroGlo could shift gear depending on how quickly UK policy changes.
We will also be addressing the need for wider reform and a legally regulated market for adult consumers. Although medicinal access remains the top priority, there is no doubt that more overall harm is caused by prohibition of the recreational market. It is this that creates the £6 billon per annum criminal market which is the cause of all the social harms around cannabis. This will need to be handled much more carefully as, due to nearly a century of misinformation and media scaremongering, many people still retain great fear as to what legal cannabis will mean.
The one thing that has been very lacking in the cannabis campaign is pragmatism. Most campaigners for recreational use continue to be lost in a swirl of ‘free the weed’, teenage angst, outrage, revolution and delight in being a rebellious outlaw. That was until 2011 when CLEAR introduced a new approach which has led to more engagement with government than ever before. The emergence of the United Patients Alliance and now the End Our Pain campaign has helped this but these campaigns are focused only on medicinal use
The fact is that we need to work with Theresa May’s government and the anti-Tory tribalism that many still adopt is nothing but an obstacle to reform.
In addressing Ms Rudd, our overall strategy for wider reform will be:
1. A final separation from the ridiculous ‘free the weed’ movement and ‘stoner’ groups which are incapable of understanding how they are seen and despised by wider society.
2. Differentiation between medicinal use and the more controversial legalisation for adult, recreational use.
3. Shift public attention onto scientific and medical evidence rather than the very poor standard of media reporting.
4. End the fake policy that says ‘cannabis is dangerous therefore it must be regulated’. Educate that nearly all the harms around cannabis are caused by its prohibition, not by cannabis itself.
5. Emphasise the importance of harm reduction information, education about excessive use and essential investment in treatment for those who do suffer health harms.
6. Clarify that decriminalisation is no solution and is a dangerous option that would probably increase harm. The product needs to be sold within a properly regulated environment, careful that over-regulation would support a continuing criminal market.
Every single day of the year, BBC news crews do exactly what Jeremy Corbyn’s video crew did on his train journey the other day. They ‘set up’ a shot to make the point or illustrate the story they want to communicate. When the interviewer nods thoughtfully in response to an interviewee’s wise words, it’s all acting. On a single camera shoot you do the cutaways after the interview and edit them in afterwards. If you can’t get the shot you need at the time you’re there, you set it up for the camera.
There’s nothing new, clever or dishonest about this. What is dishonest is the BBC’s use of it to smear and abuse a man who was just doing his job in exactly the same way as a BBC journalist. Of course the anti-Corbyn Fleet Street Mafia has leapt on it with alacrity, a lot more dishonesty, abuse, exaggeration and bile – but what would you expect from the British press?
As for Richard Branson, I used to be fan like most of the rest of the country but in the last five years I’ve realised that he is an entirely self-serving, selfish and self-centred individual. Nothing the matter with that either, except that he presents himself as a pious, altruistic and groovy guy who’s down with the common people and on their side. There’s as much truth in that as there is Branson in Branston pickle. It’s rubbish. On drugs policy Branson is grandstanding and nothing else. His loose change from yesterday’s jeans would transform the British cannabis campaign but he’s too mean to come up even with a tenner. Seeing him wade in with the mob beating up Corbyn and kick him two or three times while he’s down is truly sickening.
The far more serious matter though is the BBC’s hypocrisy and dishonesty which must be a breach of its Royal Charter obligations. The BBC is composed of soft-left Blairites with a powerful built-in default to the status quo. While I don’t support any of the multiple, confused versions of the Labour Party, I’m in even less support of corrupt, dishonest conduct by our national broadcaster.
It’s a bit like when Russell Brand came out in favour. He’s right, just as Corbyn is but it doesn’t do us any good. It just gives our opponents ammunition to portray the campaign as the preserve of losers and eccentrics.
I quite like Jeremy Corbyn, even if many of his policies are, in my opinion, bonkers. I certainly think he’s a very healthy influence on British politics but his support is not going to help us gain legal access to medicinal cannabis. If anything it’ll get in the way. With at least 10 years of Tory government in front of us, probably 20, allying ourselves with Corbyn is going to alienate those whose minds we need to change.
Again, like Russell Brand, whose intellect is beyond doubt, so is Corbyn’s sincerity – although his statements on wider drugs policy at last night’s leadership hustings are as confused as any politician on the illiberal wing of the Conservative Party or the authoritarian wing of Labour. It seems Mr Corbyn is just as much in favour of prohibition and supporting criminal drugs markets as any alcohol-sponsored Tory MP.
It’s not Jeremy Corbyn we want onside. It’s politicians that now or in the future will hold the reins of power. I admire the way he has seen off the despicable rump of New Labour, Blairite ponces. Their spiritual leader, Peter Mandelson, and his up and coming disciples like Chuka Umunna are the last people we want anywhere near government. The record of science-deniers like Jack Straw, Jacqui Smith and Alan Johnson is best forgotten. If Corbyn can keep that nasty bunch occupied and distracted he will deserve huge credit. I wouldn’t quite, yet, place him in the same category as Tony Benn, a man who I disagreed with profoundly yet respected enormously but he’s cast from the same mould. He is a man of integrity but sadly, not a man cut out for success in terms of gaining political power.
If I’m wrong about Corbyn and his support does positively influence the campaign for medicinal cannabis, I’ll gladly eat my hat – or present Match of the Day in my underpants or whatever forfeit is deemed appropriate. In the meantime though, CLEAR will continue to focus on and work with politicians who can actually make a difference.
Whining remainers never have and never will get it. It’s about something much bigger and more profound than immigration or the economy. Britain is a great nation. Through history we have led the world and we continue to do so, punching far above our weight, achieving results that no other country on our planet is capable of.
The pages of the Guardian and the Independent are still littered with complaining remainers. Social media is full of abuse for those of us who made the right choice. We are told we are “dumb”, “stupid”, “ignorant”, “racist” and every other insult that sore losers can summon.
It’s the small-minded nature of the complaining remainers, their focus on the mundane when it was our independence and self-determination that was at stake. Vision and ambition is what makes us who we are, not cynicism and fear.
Yet the evidence is clear. Not just in sport but in every field of human endeavour, Britain is great, disproportionately so for our population and our natural resources -except for the most vital resource of all – the unique courage, determination and spirit of our people.
Many remainers still refuse to accept the referendum result. Their bitterness, their enthusiasm for every negative economic indicator and their faux ‘I told you so’ complaints will soon wither. These spiteful, negative ideas will fade into obscurity as our natural qualities of leadership and success take over.
Britain is great. What our athletes have achieved in Rio is what we should all aspire to and is our proper place in the world.
Order of Service
15th January 2016
So go and run free with the angels
Dance around the golden clouds
For the lord has chosen you to be with him
And we should feel nothing but proud
Although he has taken you from us
And our pain a lifetime will last
Your memory will never escape us
But make us glad for the time we did have
Your face will always be hidden
Deep inside our hearts
Each precious moment you gave us
Shall never, ever depart
So go and run free with the angels
As they sing so tenderly
And please be sure to tell them
To take good care of you for me
When I stood right here a year ago today to speak about my father, my mother sat right there.
The dignity and grace with which she conducted herself that day are the qualities that have characterised her whole life. In an extraordinary note that she wrote to her children just a few weeks ago, which seemed prescient of her death, she instructed us not to be sad but to celebrate her life.
Thank you for coming here today to do just that. She would want you all to come to the King’s Arms afterwards, so please make sure you do.
In the last six or seven years, as my father’s health deteriorated, I was taking him to hospitals and doctors, sometimes more than once a week. As a result I became closer to Mum than at any time in my life, certainly since primary school age. I am grateful that for these last few years, we shared our lives on a daily basis. I would call every evening between six-thirty and seven. Sometimes we would talk for two minutes, sometimes for half an hour, sometimes about trivia and gossip and sometimes we would set the world to rights. It was a great pleasure and a privilege, as an adult, to get to know this wonderful woman. My mum became my best friend.
And what a remarkable woman she was. It is no exaggeration to say that she was a polymath or a rennaissance woman, someone whose knowledge and experience stretches across many different subjects and is not trivial but deep and profound.
Her father, Jack, was an extraordinary man who blagged his way into the Royal College of Physiotherapy on a promise to produce his non-existent school certificate at a later date. He cleaned buses at night to support himself and was the gold medal student of his year. He became a legend in sports medicine in Wales with Cardiff City, Glamorgan County Cricket and the national teams in football and rugby. Similarly, her mother, Milly, was a formidable woman and woe betide anyone who crossed her. No surprise then that Mum went on to build on these qualities in her own life.
But what must have been a huge surprise to everyone was that one of her first acts as an adult was to defy her parents.
She had met and fallen in love with this rather short, ginger bloke who was going prematurely bald. Mum was a beauty; hour glass figure, absolutely stunning. Dad must have thought he had won the lottery – and he had.
Jack and Milly forbade the wedding. Malcolm wasn’t good enough for Barbara. But the wedding went ahead without the parents of the bride and never, ever has one couple been proved so wrong and the other so right. My parents’ marriage defines love and partnership. It was a triumph.
Mum had an intellect sharper than a cut throat razor and a heart bigger than the world. I have never seen so much joy as in the eyes of my parents at a baby, their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, nephews and nieces. Family mattered more than anything and any that have sought to divide our family will answer when they meet Mum and Dad at the pearly gates.
Mum collected stamps, thimbles, pill boxes, china, elephants – models, not real ones. She was interested in literature, poetry, art, cooking, embroidery, tennis, rugby, science, politics. I know the ladies of her Thursday discussion group appreciated her diligence and I teased her every week “Was it just gossip or did you do any work?”
She raised four small boys through the 1960s until the minor scandal of becoming pregnant with Vicky at what was then regarded as the grand old age of 35. Ooh! It was a minor scandal in Chorleywood.
At one time she was secretary of the Church of England Children’s Society. At another of the National Housewives Register, a term which the politically correct would despise but this was my mother standing up for women’s rights in a way today’s feminazis couldn’t begin even to comprehend.
Indeed, she had an open mind, transcending the generations. No one was a bigger supporter of my campaign for medicinal cannabis, controversial though it is but of course she was a scientist, a degree in biology, another in psychology, a trained healthcare professional, a speech therapist. She followed the evidence. She was always rational, considered and she rejected all forms of bigotry and prejudice. She used to joke about wanting a little black baby. I’m not sure Dad was OK about that!
Recently, she had joined the University of the Third Age and was revelling in new friends and opportunities. The courage and determination she showed moving out of the family home after Dad died and building a new life in Chorleywood was extraordinary, a lesson to us all.
So for us, her children, her extended family and all those who loved her, the very worst has happened.
I have lost my mum and my best friend. But I, we, could not be better prepared. We have been guided in life by a paragon, a diamond which will persist in our hearts and memories forever; untarnished, undiminished, permanent.
Thank you Mum, thank you for all you have given me, all you have given us and all you have given to the world.
Would that we were in spring looking forward to a splendid summer. Instead, in mid-July we are heading into autumn towards what looks like a stern, drab and ominous future. Theresa May is prime minister, perhaps the worst nightmare for those who seek cannabis law reform.
You have to admire her first few days though. What you see is what you get. She is smart, calculated and very, very certain about the nature of the government she will lead. I have no doubt she has a softer, caring side and there is testimony to that effect from those who support her. She is a strong woman, she will be sympathetic to people and causes that she chooses but ruthless and absolute against those she opposes. Our problem is that, as confirmed by both the National Audit Office and Public Accounts Committee, evidence has nothing to do with it. Theresa May’s drugs policy is based on her personal opinions and even the plight of those in chronic pain and disability is unlikely to change her mind even on the medicinal use of cannabis. I remember Norman Baker told me that she simply does not comprehend that cannabis can be a legitimate medicine. The very idea is anathema to her. It is beyond her comprehension. The daughter of a vicar, who attended a convent then a grammar school, she has a lot about her that suggests piety, reserve, self-discipline and control. Admirable qualities but lacking perhaps in empathy with modern lifestyles and values.
But this is a fresh start. Amber Rudd, the new Home Secretary, is cast from the same mould as Ms May. My MP, Oliver Letwin, himself disposed of in the new cabinet, has already written to Ms Rudd and asked her to see me. As of today, CLEAR represents nearly 700,000 registered supporters, equivalent to the electorate in more than eight parliamentary constituencies, so I think she has a good reason to give me a few minutes. I will continue to press for a meeting until she or one of her junior ministers agrees to see me.
It can only help that I am now a fully paid-up member of the Conservative Party. I made this decision shortly after the EU referendum and I have also joined the Conservative Policy Forum which works to influence Conservative Party policy from the grassroots. I will be advancing the cause of medicinal cannabis and wider drugs policy reform as quickly and effectively as I can through the party’s established channels. Whether it is a short or long game, it has to get started now.
I do believe this is the best way forward for the cannabis campaign. I will work from within the party of government to try and influence change. It is more than likely that the Tories will be in power for the next 10 years, if not more. Now is the time to get involved, face our opposition, engage with those who have power. Every other UK political party is in disarray.
When we relaunched the Legalise Cannabis Alliance as CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform in 2011, we brought a totally new, professional approach to the campaign. Others have followed and there is now a significant group that understands how to use professional lobbying techniques. The greatest achievement of this has been to get the Liberal Democrats involved and although there remains great resistance amongst party members in the shires, the leadership is very much onside. Sadly, the party itself is as far away from power as it has ever been and, in my view, has swung widely off course in a futile and misguided effort to reverse the referendum result. Such whimsical strategies have always been the LibDems’ problem. Unless a political revolution suddenly makes Corbyn a serious contender then there will be no other party in power but the Tories. This is where we must invest time, effort and all our resources. We must understand how to turn Tory aims, ambitions and viewpoints to our advantage. Which arguments will work and how do we get them across?
Although we now have a more professional campaign and several individuals with real ability, now is not the time to revert to talking amongst ourselves. Conferences, meetings, documentary films and events are all very well but they almost exclusively preach to the choir. Just like the demos and protests that have at last ebbed away, they make those involved feel good and they ramp up morale but they do little to create change. This is no way to make progress. I will ensure that CLEAR is on the front line. It is those who oppose us that we need to be talking to, not those who already agree with us.
At the same time, specifically on medicinal cannabis, our focus must be on the medical profession. We published ‘Medicinal Cannabis:The Evidence’ just over a year ago and it has added real credibility to the campaign. In a few weeks when the APPG for Drug Policy Reform publishes its report on medicinal cannabis, Professor Mike Barnes will release his own review of current evidence and it will become the definitive work on the subject. CLEAR will be taking this to GPs all over the country, to the Royal Colleges and particularly to those working in pain management. We already know that thousands of doctors endorse their patients’ use of cannabis for chronic pain, it is time to bring this out of the closet. Doctors and nurses have literally been terrorised into keeping quiet about cannabis. We have first hand knowledge of Home Office officials warning off doctors who have tried to assist their patients by prescribing Sativex off label or recommending Bedrocan. This must stop. We must equip the medical profession with the evidence it needs to be able to do the best by its patients.
I know many will be downhearted by this new government but change is always a good thing. It offers us the opportunity to renew our campaign. Most important, we must walk towards the enemy, not hide in our bunkers, fearful of their response. All over the world, mainstream opinion is turning in favour of cannabis as medicine and wider drugs policy reform. Now is the time to step forward, to do all we can to educate and inform those who are still in the dark. I have set out above what CLEAR’s new strategy will be. Please join us. Become a member. Sign up here. Your first duty? Make an appointment to see your MP. This is the most effective thing you can do. We will publish new guidance in the next few days on how to prepare for and conduct these meetings.