Across social media, it’s ‘on message’ to despise Big Pharma and to promote the idea that government and pharmaceutical companies are engaged in the business of making people ill and feeding them with drugs in the pursuit of profit.
In the cannabis campaign, it’s virtually compulsory to abuse, defame and promote conspiracy theories about GW Pharmaceuticals, the world’s leading developer of cannabis-based medicines.
Now GW Pharma is hardly ‘Big Pharma’. It’s annual revenues for 2014 were £30 million. By contrast, Pfizer’s 2014 revenue was $50 billion. But such trifling facts are of no concern to the keyboard warriors and trolls that plague the cannabis campaign and bring it into disrepute every day.
In any case, I’m not sure whose message this is and why anyone buys into this hate-filled invective and unjust condemnation of an industry that has saved so many lives. Antibiotics, vaccines and, yes, chemotherapy products have saved or extended millions of lives. The most profitable pharmaceutical product of all time, Zantac (ranitidine), cures or prevents stomach ulcers and has prevented millions from having to undergo major surgery. Certainly, as in any industry, there have been mistakes, things have gone wrong and much could be improved but overall, the pharmaceutical industry is a huge force for good in our world.
Those engaged in these bitter, vindictive, online campaigns are largely sheep, ignorant of the facts and simply jumping on another hysterical bandwagon that they understand nothing about. They complain about the pursuit of profit and that money is being made from medicines and healthcare. It’s a strangely socialist and anti-business attitude, particularly as so much of it comes from America, supposedly the home of free enterprise where the maverick and outsider who triumphs against all the odds is usually revered.
Dr Geoffrey Guy, who founded GW Pharmaceuticals in 1998, is such a man. He has broken the UK government’s prohibition of cannabis by outwitting a regulatory process run by the Home Office and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) that is corrupt, dishonest and denies scientific evidence. In my view, he deserves great admiration and should be seen as a hero by cannabis campaigners, not as the villain that he is often portrayed.
Now, both GW’s lead products, Sativex and Epidiolex, look set to gain FDA approval in the US. This will be a fantastic achievement for Dr Guy and all his colleagues. It’s also something that we Britons should be immensely proud about. Even though America is a very long way ahead of us in understanding and using cannabis as medicine, it is British science and expertise that is breaking down US federal prohibition. Soon most Americans will have state sanctioned access to medical marijuana but also the option for doctor-prescribed cannabinoid medicine of unparalleled quality and consistency.
Of course, for now GW Pharma stands against the use of raw herbal cannabis and at present that’s a rational business decision but I won’t be at all surprised if in future it moves into that market too. There are already unconfirmed rumours that GW is considering entering the CBD market.
This is a story of enormous courage, innovation and triumph against all the odds. It is in the finest tradition of British ingenuity and business skill. Since the Middle Ages we have led the world in engineering, science and technology. Geoffrey Guy is another world leader from Britain, this small island that has given birth to so many. Surely, at least a knighthood, possibly a Nobel prize must be coming his way soon. Even if the curmudgeonly, loud mouthed critics of today attack him, in future years he will be seen as a great pioneer of medicine and he will deserve his place in history.
Where are the front page headlines, the hysterical editorials, the hand wringing, bleating and scaremongering from the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail? They seem to be very quiet on this one. To be fair the Mail has covered it but the leaders in anti-cannabis propaganda at the Telegraph have ignored it and so have the BBC. What a surprise! Even Jon ‘Skunk’ Snow, the latest journalist to sacrifice his integrity on the altar of reefer madness, is completely silent. No grandstanding opportunities on this one.
This is a huge study of 408 males tracked from adolescence into their mid-30s. The results have been published in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors and comprehensively demolish the many, much smaller, ‘snapshot’ studies that the Mail, the Telegraph and the BBC have given massive prominence to in the past.
Even more important than the study itself is the insight this provides into the blatant dishonesty, misrepresentation and falsehood which UK newspapers and TV routinely engage in when reporting on cannabis. The usual bigots and deceivers such as Kathy Gyngell, Dr Max Pemberton, Simon Heffer and Melanie Phillips are notable only for their absence. This is the way the debate on cannabis is conducted in the UK. The media misrepresent the evidence, report only what supports their editorial position and our weak, cowardly political leaders dutifully follow what Fleet Street tells them to do.
What is particularly important is that this is a longitudinal study, following real people in real life over a long period of time. It’s a large number of people and its accuracy and reliability eclipses virtually all the research that the prohibition supporters report on at great length.
This is the real cannabis psychosis. A pathological dishonesty affecting editors, journalists, civil servants and politicians. Nothing demonstrates the seriousness of this widespread illness than the lack of coverage given to this remarkable research.
Remember this next time you see some ridiculous newspaper column misinforming about cannabis or some pompous fool of an MP bellowing their ignorant views in the House of Commons.
On 24th June 2015, a Daily Mail headline screamed:
“Medicinal cannabis DOESN’T ease pain, nausea, vomiting,
MS muscle contractions, sleep disorders or Tourette’s”
In fact the study reported on, from the University of Bristol, found exactly the opposite. It showed that medicinal cannabis DOES ease pain, nausea, vomiting and the other conditions referred to.
The exact words of the study’s conclusion were:
“There was moderate-quality evidence to support the use of cannabinoids for the treatment of chronic pain and spasticity. There was low-quality evidence suggesting that cannabinoids were associated with improvements in nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, weight gain in HIV infection, sleep disorders, and Tourette syndrome.”
Not a terribly positive endorsement of medicinal cannabis but the Daily Mail had published another bare faced lie. CLEAR made a formal complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) and, as a result, the headline has been changed. It now reads:
“Weak evidence that medicinal cannabis eases pain, nausea,
vomiting, MS muscle contractions, sleep disorders or Tourette’s”
In other words, a complete climbdown. Of course the damage has already been done and such deliberate dishonesty about evidence on cannabis is an everyday occurrence from the Daily Mail. See the revised article here.
Another small victory, another small chink in the Berlin wall of prohibition. We will bring it tumbling down very soon.
We also complained that all but two of the 79 papers reviewed in the study referred to synthetic cannabinoids and not to cannabis. As a result, the article has been amended to include these words at the end:
“Medical cannabis refers to the use of cannabis or cannabinoids as medical therapy to treat disease or alleviate symptoms. Cannabinoids are any compound, natural or synthetic, that can mimic the actions of plant-derived cannabinoids”
Nearly 200,000 people have signed a petition to legalise cannabis. It’s not just a simple click of a mouse button, it requires email verification. It is an enormous event. It is only the tip of the iceberg of the millions in the UK that want to see our archaic and harmful laws on cannabis changed.
A lot of MPs are going to be very unhappy about this. They have successfully prevented any real debate on the issue since the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 was introduced. This despite the fact that UK drugs policy must be one of our most failed and disastrous polices of all time. One indicator – in 1971, we had around 3,000 problematic drug users. We now have 350,000. Another – in 1971 virtually all the cannabis available was well balanced with both THC and CBD content, now it’s all low-CBD ‘moonshine’ weed.
The government and MPs who support prohibition will fight tooth and nail to brush this aside. They will do anything they can to stop it. They will say that it has ‘only’ been achieved because of campaigning – guess what they’re right, it’s called democracy, something we have very little of in the UK these days. Undoubtedly the claim will be made that the vote has been rigged.
I’m just waiting for some bumptious, baying donkey on the Tory backbenches to make the accusation. But it would be untrue. This is the will of the people and it must prevail.
MPs of all parties are so far out of touch that they don’t even begin to realise what is going on. Conservative MP Philip Davies, who is on the Justice Select Committee, said that Ron Hogg, the Durham PCC is “abusing his position” by saying that cannabis is a low priority. This is typical hypocrisy and bluster from a pompous fool who doesn’t really believe in democracy. That was the idea of PCCs wasn’t it, to bring policing in line with what local people want?
Fellow Tory ignoramus, MP Andrew Percy said: “We’ve got to start debunking the liberal elite view that cannabis is some sort of benign drug”. Which, of course, is exactly what it is.
It’s not just Tory MPs, it’s on all sides. They are ignorant, poorly informed, more driven by prejudice than evidence. Take the baby-faced Blairite John Woodcock. About a year ago he came out with the fantasy theory that the cannabis policy in Holland led to more hard drug use. In fact, exactly the opposite is the case. In Holland, where adults may purchase up to five grams of cannabis without fear of prosecution, rates of heroin use and addiction are very much lower than the UK.
The EMCDDA reports problem opioid use (rate/1000)as follows:
UK: 7.9 – 8.3
Netherlands: 0.8 – 1.0
So, in fact problematic opioid use in Holland is about one-sixth of what it is in the UK. This is just typical of how useless the majority of our MPs are. They have no idea. They get their so-called ‘facts’ from the Daily Mail or the Daily Telegraph, both of which have descended to become nothing but dishonest propaganda and crass scaremongering.
If you showed the average MP the reality of legal cannabis in Colorado, Washington, Oregon or Alsaka they would think they were dreaming. It’s a roaring success: crime is down, traffic accidents are down, painkiller overdoses are down, millions in cannabis tax revenue is being pumped into schools and hospitals.
I’ve explained to several ministers that in Israel and Canada cannabis vapourisers are provided on trollies in hospital wards. I don’t think they believed me. They couldn’t take it in.
The UK Parliament exists in a state of denial and delusion about cannabis. Only in the House of Lords do we see any lawmakers with a grip on reality but even they are mostly victims of the ‘killer skunk’ myth, asserting that this moderately potent strain is somehow different and ‘dangerous’.
It’s unlikely that the petition and the debate which surely must follow will succeed in changing the law. But MPs, however arrogant they are, cannot ignore the will of the people for ever. Too many are ignorant about the scientific and medical evidence on cannabis. Most are too cowardly to address the issue even if they are beginning to realise the truth. However, this is a battle of attrition and we are quite clearly winning.
How the Code has been breached
2. Para 2 first sentence: “Many ministers admit having used illegal substances; so this policy of allowing the nation to rot its brains and become a danger to everyone else has yet to be countermanded.”
This is factually inaccurate. There is no evidence that cannabis ‘rots the brain’. In fact, precisely the opposite is true. Many studies demonstrate that cannabis is neuroprotective and helps to protect the brain against external injury, concussion and stroke. There is also no evidence that cannabis use causes anyone to “become a danger to everyone else”.
How the Code has been breached
1. Subhead: “Police laxity has led to more young pot-heads and rising levels of psychosis and addiction” This is factually incorrect. There are now fewer people of all ages using cannabis.
2. Para 3 “Far from a harsh approach, it is laxity that has boosted the number of young pot-heads. This is bad for multiple reasons. Cannabis itself is extremely dangerous. It impairs memory, cripples judgment and the ability to learn. In high doses it can cause addiction, paranoia and psychosis and provoke schizophrenia.”
Factually incorrect. The “number of young pot-heads” has declined not been “boosted”. There is no evidence that cannabis is “extremely dangerous”. There is no evidence that cannabis causes psychosis.
3. Para 7 “Then they claimed Portugalâ’s drug liberalisation had caused drug use to tumble. This was untrue; the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction showed that drug use there had increased.”
Factually incorrect, the EMCDDA and all sources show that drug use has declined in Portugal since decriminalisation
4. Para 10 “Although there is no scientific evidence for definitive benefit from medicinal cannabis, the US has now legalised this in 23 states”
Factually incorrect, there is a vast quantity of peer-reviewed, published scientific evidence demonstrating the efficacy and safety of medicinal cannabis.
These are very serious inaccuracies which Ms Phillips publishes on a regular basis in the full knowledge that they are untrue. Any newspaper which knowingly publishes lies and falsehoods to deceive its readers should be subject to the strongest possible sanctions including a financial penalty. Such dishonest publications must be dealt with firmly, sufficient to deter repetition.
At a meeting of the CLEAR Executive Committee held over the weekend of 18th/19th July 2015, Peter Reynolds tendered his resignation as leader. He was first elected as leader in February 2011, won a confidence vote in April 2012 and was re-elected unopposed in February 2014.
Roland-Gyallay-Pap has been appointed acting leader and preparations will now begin for a leadership election.
Roland Gyallay-Pap said:
“I would like to extend a big thank you to Peter for the tireless work he has put in over the past four years. It is through his professionalism and tenacity that CLEAR is where it is now.
“I will seek to capitalise on our achievements so far, extending membership, and further building on the success of our Medicinal Users Panel. Never have we been so close to achieving our goals and I look forward to working with those who share our views on how change can be brought about in the most effective manner.”
Peter Reynolds’ letter of resignation reads:
This is my resignation from the office of leader of CLEAR, effective immediately.
I will remain a member of the leadership team as president of the executive committee. However, it is time for a new leader to take charge and drive our campaign forward.
I want to thank all members of CLEAR for the opportunity to serve as leader since February 2011. I am immensely proud of what we have achieved. We have built a follower base that exceeds all other UK drugs policy groups combined. We have developed a set of policies and tactics that are more effectively challenging cannabis prohibition than ever before. We have made more progress with government in the last two years than the whole campaign has in the last 50.
I will now concentrate on managing the Medicinal Users Panel. This is at the core of our strategy for practical, achievable law reform. It is, I believe, how I can now make the most effective contribution. CLEAR needs a new face to take the next steps in our campaign and I shall give my full support to our new leader.