European Parliament – Public Hearing On Cannabis Regulation
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.
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.
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.
Written by Peter Reynolds
November 27, 2010 at 2:48 pm
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