Peter Reynolds

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“The Settled View Of Ministers Is That The Medicinal Campaign Is Just An Excuse To Take Cannabis”.

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These are the words of Sir Oliver Letwin, my MP, during a meeting with him just a few days ago.

To some this may be an astonishing revelation, to others it will be depressing confirmation that this bigoted and out-of-date view still persists.  Anyone with even a modicum of knowledge will agree that it is deeply ignorant and in defiance of a vast quantity of scientific evidence.

This is the end point of my two and half years of discussion with Sir Oliver.  He’s not currently a cabinet minster but through his 20 year parliamentary career he’s always been at the top of the Conservative Party: Shadow Home Secretary, Shadow Chancellor and then in government in 2010 elevated to the status of right hand man to David Cameron.  As Minister for Government Policy and then Chancellor of The Duchy of Lancaster, he was been described as ‘the intellectual powerhouse of the Tory Party’ and as ‘number three in the government after Cameron and Osborne’.

So what goes through Oliver’s mind is a pretty good indication of how the Tory Party establishment thinks.  I’m absolutely certain that what he has told me is exactly the present mindset of ministers from Theresa May down.

Back in 2015 Oliver wrote to George Freeman MP on my behalf, then the minister with responsibility for medicines.  He’s also written to Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary and Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary.  None of this correspondence has resulted in anything but the usual, anodyne words that are nothing but a brush off.  I did think I was getting somewhere though when he told me he would establish with the Department of Health what its position was on the scientific evidence. Back came the answer that all the evidence had been considered, expert advice had been taken and the conclusion was that the risks of  legalising for medicinal use would outweigh the benefits.

Now this didn’t make sense to me. I wanted to know what evidence and what experts.  After half a dozen requests for this information and no response I submitted a Freedom of Information Request to the Department of Health.  Eventually it was returned stating quite clearly that it had neither requested, received nor considered any evidence on medicinal cannabis. Coincidentally, just a few days later, Paul Flynn MP asked almost exactly the same question in Parliament and received the same answer. So I wrote to Oliver and said that either he had been misled or he was misleading me, which was it? It was at this point that he stopped replying to my emails.

After several months of repeated requests and no response I went direct to his parliamentary secretary and booked a surgery appointment to see him as a constituent.  I was quite prepared to confront him face to face.  I was amused to receive an email from Oliver the very same day in which he said that would reluctantly agree to see me on the subject “one last time”.  So at the meeting his explanation was that it had all been a huge misunderstanding, he didn’t mean to suggest that any evidence had been examined, it was simply “the settled view of ministers is that the medicinal campaign is just an excuse to take cannabis”.

Such is the state of our so-called democracy and so-called evidence-based policy.

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Written by Peter Reynolds

October 18, 2017 at 4:26 pm

A Cannabis ‘Protest’ That Was Well Judged.

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This was the best ‘protest’ I have seen. The characterisation of it as a ‘cannabis tea party’ was clever and combining it with Paul Flynn’s 10 minute rule bill was a smart move.

It was good that three MPs actually attended and the press coverage was extensive and largely positive. This is a welcome change from the disastrous demos and protests of the past which have undoubtedly hindered progress.

So while I’m not exactly eating it, I take my hat off to the organisers for a good job, well done.

The most promising news is that Andrea Leadsom, Conservative Leader of the House, has personally endorsed Paul Flynn’s bill which is real chink of light. This government, desperate to recover some credibility with younger and progressive voters, if it had any sense, would see this as a big opportunity. If the government was to choose to support the bill it would gain huge credit without having to lose its ‘tough on drugs’ stance.

We can only hope.

Written by Peter Reynolds

October 16, 2017 at 9:01 am

Royal College Of General Practitioners. Draft Council Paper – Cannabis For Specified Medical Indications.

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This is the document presented to the Council of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) on 22nd September 2017.  The proposal was approved.

 

 

 

APPG: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0c_8hkDJu0DRnBfdGRDRXBROUU/view
Barnes: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0c_8hkDJu0DUDZMUzhoY1RqMG8/view
MS Society (2017) Cannabis and MS: The Role of Cannabis in Treating MS Symptoms

Cannabis for Specified Medical Indications

Introduction

In the past year, there has been significant interest in the issue of legalisation of cannabis for medical purposes. The All Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform made a recommendation in October 2016 that cannabis should be legalised for specific medical indications (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0c_8hkDJu0DRnBfdGRDRXBROUU/view). An accompanying report (the Barnes report:  https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0c_8hkDJu0DUDZMUzhoY1RqMG8/view) summarised the current evidence for medicinal use and outlined the known side effects. This proposal now has all party support with over 100 MPs backing the plan.

Other countries have recently legalised, or are about to legalise, medical cannabis, including over half of the US states, Germany, Canada, Australia and Ireland, amongst several others. It has been estimated that over 1 million people use cannabis for medical reasons in the UK on a regular basis. A recent poll showed 68% of the public supported medical usage and only 12% were actively against (REF). A similar number of GPs also supported the concept in a poll published alongside the APPG report.

Some forms of cannabis are legally available, including Sativex for MS-associated spasticity. An important component of natural cannabis, Cannabidiol (CBD), is also legally available without prescription through health food outlets.

It is likely that GPs will be asked, by those with a variety of chronic conditions, for advice on the use of cannabis and related products. It is proposed that the RCGP works with a number of other organisations (including the MS Society) to produce a GP information booklet which offers balanced and reasonable advice on the appropriate use of cannabis, bearing in mind of course, that natural cannabis and the main psychoactive component, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), remain generally illegal.

The MS Society has recently reviewed its position on cannabis use as a medicinal treatment for people with MS (MS Society, 2017). The society believes that there is now enough evidence to assert that cannabis for medicinal use, if managed properly, could benefit around 10,000 people who suffer from pain and spasticity as a result of multiple sclerosis.

They want to see all licensed treatments derived from cannabis made available to people who need them. But until that happens they are calling on the UK government to legalise cannabis for medicinal use to treat pain and spasticity in MS, when other treatments have not worked. They believe that people should be able to access objective information about the potential benefits and side effects of using cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Furthermore, they believe it’s both unfair and against the public interest to prosecute people with MS for using cannabis to treat pain and spasticity, when other treatments have not worked for them (MS Society, 2017).

The Proposal

It is proposed that the RCGP works with a number of other organisations (e.g. MS Society, Newcastle University) to produce a GP information booklet which offers balanced and reasonable advice on the appropriate use of cannabis, bearing in mind of course, that natural cannabis and the main psychoactive component, THC, remain generally illegal.

The aim of the GP information booklet would be to offer balanced and reasonable advice on the appropriate use of cannabis.

The booklet would be short and concise (about 4 pages of A4). It will briefly cover the history of cannabis and outline the natural endocannabinoid system found in all humans. The different forms of cannabis and means of ingestion/inhalation would be outlined. It will also outline the current legal status as a Schedule 1 drug but also highlight the legally available varieties of cannabis (Sativex, Nabilone and CBD).

The medical evidence for different conditions will be given in a balanced way with a reasonable appraisal of existing evidence for those conditions with a good evidence base and for those conditions currently lacking in evidence.

It is important that the side effects will be carefully outlined. This would include the known short-term effects of the psychoactive component as well as a discussion of the potential and actual longer-term effects. This would clearly include the concern around triggering schizophrenia-like syndromes and the risks associated with cognitive problems, driving, dependency.

It will be important that the evidence is presented in a reasoned and reasonable, balanced way without any bias either for or against the legalisation argument.

NM, MB, PR
August 2017

BBC Executive Complaints Unit, Stage 3 Complaint Re: Interview Claiming ‘Cannabis More Harmful Than Heroin’.

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Louisa Philips Kulukundis

CLEAR has submitted a formal complaint to the BBC concerning its broadcast of the interview with Lousia Kulukundis in which she claimed that using heroin was safer than using cannabis.

BBC complaints are outsourced to Capita and are not actually considered by the BBC itself until they reach Stage 3, the ‘Executive Complaints Unit’.

From: Peter Reynolds
Sent: 22 September 2017 17:05
To: ‘ecu@bbc.co.uk’ <ecu@bbc.co.uk>
Subject: Request to review complaint CAS-4563673-ZNGCG0

Dear Sirs,

1. Please review the decision made in respect of this complaint.  The correspondence including complaints and responses at stages 1a and 1b are attached to this email.

2. The complaint concerns an interview with Louisa Kulukundis, a psychotherapist, a member of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP).  The interview was broadcast as part of ‘Newsbeat Documentary Cannabis:Time for a Change’ which was repeated frequently on the BBC News channel and is available online.  It was also included within the ‘Newsbeat Debate: Cannabis’ also broadcast on the BBC News channel and also available online.

A formal complaint about Ms Kulukundis’ conduct has also been made to the BACP.

During the interview Ms Kulukundis made the statement:

“I would say give me a room full of heroin addicts than skunk addicts. I remember saying to my older son I would prefer you to take heroin than to smoke skunk. There will be generations of kids with severe mental health issues.”

1.The points of complaint raised at 1b that need reconsideration are:

a. In broadcasting these comments which are dangerous, irresponsible and directly contradicted by all scientific and medical evidence, the BBC has acted negligently and endangered the lives of vulnerable, easily-influenced young people at whom this programme was targeted.

b. The relative danger and/or harms of heroin and cannabis cannot be justified as a matter of opinion or of ‘balance’ because they are clearly established scientific fact.

c. It is essential that the BBC should broadcast a correction with equal prominence and repeated as many times as the original programme. The BBC owes a duty of care to its viewers, particularly in the case of programmes for the young.  It must make clear that Ms Kulukundis’ words were incorrect, that heroin is hundreds of times more dangerous than cannabis to both physical and mental health and can lead to death.

Broadcasting this interview breaches the BBC Editorial Guidelines as follows:

a. “…we must give our audiences content made to the highest editorial and ethical standards.  Their trust depends on it.” 1.1

b. “ We must therefore balance our presumption of freedom of expression with our responsibilities…to provide appropriate protection for our audiences from harm.” 1.1

c. “Accuracy  is  not  simply  a  matter  of getting facts right; when necessary, we will weigh relevant facts and information to get at the truth.” 1.2.2

d. “…we  balance  our  right  to broadcast  innovative  and  challenging  content  with  our  responsibility  to  protect the vulnerable from harm…particularly  in  relation  to  the  protection of children.” 1.2.5

e. “We will be rigorous in establishing the truth of the story and well informed when explaining it.” 1.2.6

f. “We will always seek to safeguard the welfare of children and young people…while ensuring their dignity and  their  physical  and  emotional  welfare  is  protected  during  the  making  and broadcast of our output.  Content which might be unsuitable for children will be scheduled appropriately.” 1.2.9

g. “…accuracy  must  be  adequate  and  appropriate  to the  output,  taking  account  of  the  subject  and  nature  of  the  content,  the  likely audience expectation and any signposting that may influence that expectation.” 3.1

h. “Accuracy   is   not   simply   a   matter   of   getting   facts   right… we should check and cross check facts…corroborate claims and allegations made by contributors.” 3.1

i. “The  BBC  must  not  knowingly  and  materially  mislead  its  audiences.    We should  not  distort  known  facts,  present  invented  material  as  fact  or  otherwise undermine our audiences’ trust in our content.” 3.2.3

j. “We should normally acknowledge serious factual errors and correct them quickly, clearly and appropriately.” 3.2.4

k. “ In  all  our  content  we  must  check  and  verify  information,  facts  and documents,  where  required  to  achieve  due accuracy.” 3.4.2

l. “We should not   automatically   assume   that   the   material   is   accurate   and   should   take reasonable  steps,  depending  on  how  it  is  to  be  used  and  if  necessary  to achieve due accuracy, to seek verification.” 3.4.3

m. “We  must  not  knowingly  and  materially  mislead  our  audiences  with  our content.” 3.4.11

n. “We should consider the emotional impact pictures and personal testimony can have on perceptions of risk when not supported by the balance of argument.  If a  contributor’s  view  is  contrary  to  majority  opinion,  the  demands  of  due accuracy and due impartiality may require us to make this clear.” 3.4.21

o. “We should normally acknowledge serious factual errors and correct such mistakes quickly, clearly and appropriately.  Inaccuracy may lead to a complaint of  unfairness.    An  effective  way  of  correcting  a  mistake  is  saying  what  was wrong as well as putting it right.” 3.4.26

p. “When dealing with ‘controversial subjects’…Opinion   should   be   clearly distinguished from fact.” 4.4.7

q. “…when   personal   view   programmes…cover  ‘controversial  subjects’…we should:…retain a respect for factual accuracy.” 4.4.30

r. “The  BBC  must  apply  generally  accepted  standards  so  as  to  provide adequate  protection  for  members  of  the  public  from the  inclusion  of  offensive and harmful material.” 5.2.1

s. “We  must  not  broadcast  material  that  might  seriously  impair  the  physical, mental or moral development of children and young people.” 5.2.2

t. “…deal  with  all  aspects  of  illegal  drug  use…with due accuracy.” 5.4.42

I am happy to provide further information, evidence or detail on any aspect of this complaint.

Yours faithfully,

Peter Reynolds

Written by Peter Reynolds

September 25, 2017 at 12:22 pm

Probably The Biggest Breakthrough Yet For Medicinal Cannabis In The UK.

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Peter Reynolds, President, CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform

Since the beginning of 2017, Peter Reynolds and Professor Mike Barnes of CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform have been working on a project that is about to come to fruition.  The Council of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) meets tomorrow, 22nd September 2017, to consider our proposal to issue guidelines to doctors on the use of medicinal cannabis.

Professor Mike Barnes, Scientific & Medical Advisor, CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform

As ever, the UK’s stubborn, anti-evidence government remains intransigent on permitting legal access to cannabis, even for medicinal use.  This despite an overwhelming tide of reform across the world and the reality that perhaps one million people in the UK are criminalised and persecuted for using a medicine that has been known to be safe and effective for many centuries, facts which modern science now proves beyond doubt.

However irresponsible and pig-headed government ministers may be, doctors have a responsibility to their patients, an ethical duty that transcends the grubby and corrupt politics that ministers subscribe to. Professor Nigel Mathers, Honorary Secretary of the RCGP with responsibility for its governance, has championed CLEAR’s proposal.  He recognises that while doctors cannot be advising their patients to use an illegal drug, the reality is many people already are.

Professor Nigel Mathers, Honorary Secretary, Royal College of GPs

So this is not just another report or a conference.  This is practical action at the point of delivery of healthcare.  If the proposal is approved by the RCGP Council, the guidelines will be drafted by Professor Mike Barnes, assisted by Peter Reynolds, with additional input from the MS Society and Newcastle University.

In due course, probably by the end of the year, a booklet will be available for download by all GPs from the RCGP website.  It will set out balanced and reasonable advice on the appropriate use of cannabis for specific medical indications. The guidelines will also cover harm reduction advice and provide a basic grounding in the scientific evidence and the endocannabinoid system.

If our government refuses to take such sensible steps to improve healthcare and protect patients, then we, campaigners and medical professionals, must do it for them.

 

This Time What’s On The Side Of The Bus Is True.

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And can be backed up with solid facts and evidence.

 

 

Written by Peter Reynolds

September 14, 2017 at 11:14 am

Posted in Business, Consumerism, Health, Politics

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The Daily Telegraph Misrepresents ‘Skunk’ Cannabis Mental Health Cases With Figure of 82,000. True Figure is 1,600.

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Martina Lees

Two almost identical articles were published in The Daily Telegraph on 11th and 12th August 2017

Does smoking skunk trigger psychosis? And if so… why aren’t we doing more about it?

The secrets of skunk

In both articles, journalist Martina Lees wrote that:

“…hospital admissions with a primary or secondary diagnosis of drug-related mental and behavioural disorders have more than doubled over the past decade, to almost 82,000 a year. Most are believed to be cannabis-related.”

This is a combination of wildly misleading manipulation of data and brazen falsehood.

Hospital Episode Statistics are maintained in great detail by the NHS using a system of coding called ICD10 – a medical classification list by the World Health Organization (WHO). containing codes for diseases, signs and symptoms, abnormal findings, complaints, social circumstances, and external causes of injury or diseases.

The specific code for ‘mental and behavioural disorders due to use of cannabinoids’ is F12.  For the past 11 years, ‘finished admission episodes’ (FAE) for F12 have averaged 973, so the claim that most of the 82,000 are cannabis-related is simply false. (Unless of course, Ms Lees is going to claim she made a mistake.)

So where does the extraordinary figure of 82,000 come from (the exact figure is 81,904)?

Firstly, it is for all illicit drugs or ‘drug misuse’ including the following ICD10 codes:

F11 Mental and behavioural disorders due to use of opioids
F12 Mental and behavioural disorders due to use of cannabinoids
F13 Mental and behavioural disorders due to use of sedatives or hypnotics
F14 Mental and behavioural disorders due to use of cocaine
F15 Mental and behavioural disorders due to use of other stimulants, including caffeine
F16 Mental and behavioural disorders due to use of hallucinogens
F18 Mental and behavioural disorders due to use of volatile solvents
F19 Mental and behavioural disorders due to multiple drug use and use of other psychoactive substances

Secondly, the figure is not just for primary diagnosis but for secondary diagnosis.  So the primary reason for one of these cases might be a broken leg or any other medical condition. The secondary diagnosis might be that the person was high on speed or any of the drugs mentioned.  The primary diagnoses for all these codes adds up to about 8,000 FAEs but the figure is inflated ten-fold by the inclusion of secondary diagnoses.  Why do this?  Why have the figures been presented in this way?  With what purpose?

If the whole premise of her article is about the mental health effects of cannabis, why does Martina Lees use this massively larger figure for all illicit drugs when the specific figure for cannabinoids is easily available?  And if the purpose of the article is to investigate the effect of cannabis on mental health, why look at secondary diagnoses – except that it handily inflates the figure ten-fold?

Three other important points about this data:

1. ‘Finished admission episodes’ is not the same as people, its caseload, so those 1606 cases in 2015-16 almost certainly includes cases where the same person has been admitted more than once.

2. ‘Cannabinoids’ includes synthetic cannabinoids such as Spice and anyone with any knowledge of current affairs will know how problems with Spice have exploded in recent years.  It is a fact that Spice is much more harmful to mental health than cannabis so the increase in F12 FAEs in recent years is almost certainly explained by this.

3.  I’m not a believer in always comparing any data about cannabis with equivalent data for alcohol but it is worth noting, to put these figures into perspective, in 2015-16 the number of FAEs for mental and behavioural disorders due to use of alcohol was 44,491.   As there about 10 times more people use alcohol regularly than cannabis, that means anyone is nearly three times as likely to be admitted for ‘alcohol psychosis’ as ‘cannabis psychosis’.

I have written to Martina Lees asking her to comment on this data and explain why she has used it in such misleading fashion.