Ms May’s performance on the Andrew Marr Show today was a triumph.
She delivered common sense, wit, an inclusive vision and very broad appeal. In a “country that works for everyone” she is undermining the incoherent left. She is showing true leadership in excellent style.
Now all we have to do is get her properly informed about cannabis and drugs policy. I cannot believe that someone who is so rational and considered can fail to understand. I think the truth is that prejudice and years of propaganda is so entrenched, even in sophisticated, intelligent people, that some politicians, including Theresa, have not had the evidence properly presented to them.
We must do better to get our message across and somehow we have to get Theresa May properly to consider our arguments.
‘This House Would Legalise Cannabis’. Reynolds v Hitchens. University Of Southampton, 29th September 2016.
A vote was taken before the debate started: For the proposition: 49 Against the proposition: 18 Abstain/undecided: 17
John Pritchard, studying economics. For the proposition.
Jacob Power, studying philosophy. Against the proposition.
Peter Reynolds, CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform. For the proposition.
Peter Hitchens, Mail on Sunday. Against the proposition.
A vote was taken after the debate finished: For the proposition: 57 Against the proposition: 26 Abstain/undecided: 8
I start with an assertion that I think we can all agree on – the only purpose of any drugs policy is to reduce harm.
I argue that British drugs policy, specifically on cannabis, causes far more harm than it prevents and that the solution is to legalise. But by legalise, I do not mean a free for all. In fact, I mean a system of regulation which minimises harm.
Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, cannabis is called a “controlled drug” but nothing could be further from the truth. What every government since 1971 has done is abandon all control. They have abandoned our communities. they have abandoned our young people and they have abandoned those who need cannabis as medicine. All of them, Conservative, Labour and the coalition, they have abandoned us all to criminals.
The results are street dealing, dangerous hidden cannabis farms that cause fires, theft of electricity, destruction of rental properties, gangs that exploit children, both by selling them cannabis and getting them involved in dealing, human trafficking, modern slavery, most often Vietnamese children, smuggled into Britain and locked up in cannabis farms to look after the plants. And as for the product itself, it is frequently poor quality and often contaminated with toxic residues.
These are the harms that the Misuse of Drugs Act is supposed to prevent but, in fact, it creates them, promotes them and maximises them.
Now, it may surprise you to know that the law is not about protecting people from health harms. The exact words of the Act are that it is about the misuse of drugs “having harmful effects sufficient to constitute a social problem”. It is social harm that the Act seeks to prevent.
Which is just as well because the “harmful effects” of cannabis are very difficult to identify. Most of what you hear is either wild exaggeration or completely false. Even the Institute of Psychiatry, the source of many scare stories, admitted last year that its press office was misrepresenting and exaggerating its own research.
Now t’other Peter will tell you that cannabis is a dangerous drug which can cause serious, irreversible mental illness. In a debate like this it is impossible to compare all the various scientific studies that form the body of evidence on which cannabis policy should be based. I can certainly answer specific questions later on but for now, let’s rely, not on evidence, but on cold, hard facts.
The populist myth is that thousands of young people are afflicted by this terrible condition called ‘cannabis psychosis’. The facts are that in the last five years there has been an average of just 28 finished admission episodes in hospitals each year for people under 18 for cannabis psychosis.
Of course these are 28 tragedies and I don’t overlook that but in public health terms it is an insignificant figure. For instance, there are more than 3,000 finished admission episodes each year for peanut allergy but we don’t spend £500 million each year on a futile attempt to ban peanuts, do we? Yes, that’s how much we spend every year on police, courts, probation and prison services to try and stop people using cannabis.
However, it’s not as simple as that. Apart from hospitals, thousands of people each year receive what’s called ‘treatment’ for cannabis use disorder from community health services. Nearly 16,000 young people for the year 2014/15.
Now the only ‘treatment’ for cannabis is counselling but that’s not what this is really about. It’s actually about trying to force people to stop using cannabis regardless of whether it’s causing any harm. Public Health England, which records these figures, shows that 89% of all those in treatment have been referred from the courts, educational institutions or some other authority. In other words this is coercive treatment. You have no option. If you don’t agree the courts will impose a tougher penalty or you might get expelled from school. Only 11% of those receiving this treatment actually decide they need it themselves.
Don’t get me wrong now, I’m neither suggesting cannabis is harmless nor that it can’t be a real problem for some people. But I ask you this, if it has the potential for harm, is it better that we leave the entire market, now worth £6 billion per year, in the hands of criminals, or would it be better and safer for everyone if it was properly regulated and controlled? Wouldn’t any health harms be reduced, better treated, if we had quality control, age limits, proper labelling of what you’re buying? Isn’t this obvious, common sense?
We will continue to put most of our effort into the medical campaign because that is what morality and compassion demands But actually, there is far more harm caused by the prohibition of recreational use. As well as all the social harms I mentioned earlier, do you know there are one million people in the UK with a conviction for cannabis? People whose careers, ability to travel, even their credit score can be damaged because they got caught smoking a joint.
In all jurisdictions where cannabis is legally available, the benefits are dramatic and very easy to see. In Holland, far fewer children use cannabis than in the UK. Underage use is declining in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska where cannabis is legal for all adults and in the other 30 US states where medical cannabis is legal. Crime is down, fatal traffic accidents are down, alcohol consumption is down, overdoses and deaths from dangerous opioid painkillers are down.
The prohibition of cannabis is a great force for evil in our society. It promotes crime, it maximises the health harms of cannabis, it ruins lives, it denies people medicine that science proves will help them, it blights communities, endangers children, fritters away precious law enforcement resources.
Indeed, prohibition is a fundamentally immoral policy. It sets the police and the courts against the communities they are supposed to protect. After all, the demand comes from us and it is not going away. We are adults, free human beings who are entitled to act as we wish provided it doesn’t harm others. Our government and our police should serve us. It is an affront to justice, to the rule of law, to morality and to each one of us that this oppressive, ridiculous, evidence-free policy persists.
Legalise cannabis now! Please vote in favour of the motion.
On the other hand Facebook says that recommending a responsible, reputable supplier of verified, lab-tested, legal CBD food supplements does violate its standards.
At a guess (because you can’t get a straight answer from Facebook about anything), the issue is “We prohibit any attempts by unauthorised dealers to purchase, sell or trade prescription drugs, marijuana, firearms or ammunition.”
Now CBD food supplements are fully legal products. They are not prescription drugs. True, CBD is present in cannabis but it is also found in many other plants. So it’s difficult to understand what the problem is – but not as difficult as getting a coherent answer from Mr Zuckerberg and his disciples.
For the ‘offence’ of recommending a CBD supplier your page gets a seriously heavy warning to all page admins, a threat of permanent deletion and I, as the author of the post sharing a link to CBD Oils UK, was banned from Facebook for 30 days. Such is the reality of living under the diktat of the unaccountable, overbearing, bureaucratic monolith that Facebook has become.
However, when some vile American Trumpoid leaves a comment on the CLEAR page calling a black man a baboon, that’s just fine and dandy.
It is time that Facebook was placed under serious regulation for its unfair and oppressive trading practices. It has become so ubiquitous that it now has a responsibility that goes beyond any independent business. It is virtually impossible for individuals and small businesses to operate without a Facebook account. It should be subject to strict standards and forced to comply with fair practices.
I’m all for free enterprise but it’s time to slam Facebook hard for its tax dodging, its failure to take responsibility for publishing abuse and its unfair treatment of users and advertisers.
I was asked this question just the other day.
My ex-wife was a marriage guidance counsellor but when I asked she refused to go to counselling with me!
She did agree eventually and we went to two or three sessions until she stormed out saying the counsellor was biased in my favour!
We are now divorced but I understand her career in marriage guidance counselling has gone from strength to strength.
Make of that what you will.
I apologise for the technical jargon but there is only one way accurately to describe this product.
In 36 years of buying and using personal computer technology, I have never suffered such frustration, inconvenience and real consequential losses because of an unreliable product.
When and if the power works properly it’s fine but it is so unpredictable that it is a nightmare. I can never rely on it to power up when I need it, irrespective of its state of charge and it has caused me a real problem on several occasions.
On paper and the display shelf of PC World Currys in Weymouth it looked good. I paid just over £150 for a small, neat laptop with Windows 10. The screen can be detached to form a tablet but that’s not what I bought it for and I have never used it that way. Obviously, at its price and size, it has a lot of compromises which I was happy to accept. It has just 2GB RAM, 30GB of disk space, one conventional USB port and no possibility of expansion. That’s OK, I knew what I was buying.
The first one went back to PC World within a week. They were great about it and didn’t quibble at all – but the replacement machine was exactly the same.
Of course, there is nothing in the pathetic paper manual provided, nor online at the ASUS website. Only when you call the support line does it become obvious this is a well known problem. The solution I am given is ridiculous and nearly six months on it doesn’t work consistently either. The ‘fix’ is to take the power cable out, hold the power key down for 30 seconds, replace the power cable and press the power key once. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it sorts of half boots up but then hangs. Sometimes you can’t even shut it down. To use another technical expression, it is a pain in the arse.
On several occasions I have needed to fire it up urgently to post something or deal with a problem while I’m travelling and it just hasn’t happened, whether it’s just been charged or not. I’ve had to find a power socket and then mess around for up to a half and hour before it will finally work.
I’m told by my friends who have been suckered into buying Apple iPhones that they don’t work without an initial charge. Apparently, if the battery’s flat you have give it 15 minutes before it will switch on. That’s what you get for buying technology for fashion rather than function. I’ve never had a phone that won’t run straight off the power supply. My Sony Xperia Z3 does so perfectly.
We all know that the real cost of buying technology is not the initial capital purchase cost but the time you have to invest to get it working. On that basis I have put thousands into this machine and it keeps letting me down. One day, some technology company is going to get sued for the consequential losses its faulty or badly designed product has caused. Perhaps then these companies will get serious about serving customers instead of using us, at our expense, for their new product development and testing.
I’ve invested too much in this now and I just have to adapt to its shortcomings. If it worked as it should it would be a great product – but it doesn’t, so don’t buy one!
I was honoured to be invited to speak at Trinity College this week in a debate chaired by the Irish TD Brid Smith. In July, Ms Smith introduced legislation in the Dáil to allow the use of cannabis and cannabis-related products for medicinal purposes. However, the debate itself was much broader than medicinal cannabis. As I said in my own speech, it was a pleasure to get away from the earnest discussion of science and evidence for a while.
This was my speech.
I get high every day.
This morning, as is my daily routine, I walked to the top of the hill behind my house. Looking south-east, about 15 miles away, I can see the Isle of Portland. Then Chesil Beach sweeps towards me into Lyme Bay. As it curves round in front of me I’m about two miles back from the Jurassic Coast and then it runs off to the west past Bridport, Lyme Regis and, on a clear day you can see right over towards Torquay.
So you can tell I’m pretty high, just because of the amazing view I have. And the view itself makes me high. It inspires me, however many times I see it.
But I’m also pretty high because it’s a steep hill, I’m out of breath by the time I get to the top and my body is pumping out endorphins, endocannabinoids and there’s a surge in dopamine, serotonin and other neurotransmitters, hormones, all of which give me a buzz. They make me high!
Being high is a natural state of mind. It’s something we all aspire to and achieve, every day. So my argument to you is certainly that this house would get high but also that it does get high and must get high, regularly, for good health.
I got even higher this afternoon when I drove to Bristol Airport and then Aer Lingus flew me to Dublin at 16,000 feet. I’m also planning on getting a little high after this debate is finished, as I’m reliably informed there will be a “lavish, themed reception” in the Conversation Room, presumably including a drink or two.
So now we come to the nub of the issue. We all get high, through many routes. Even young children, as soon as they can crawl, start to experiment with altering their consciousness. Soon they are hanging upside down off swings, deliberately making themselves dizzy on roundabouts. As they grow up they graduate to their first sips of alcohol. I hope, as I did, they miss out the dreadful experiment with sniffing glue – and so we arrive at the joint, the dried flowers of the cannabis plant, smoked with the single-minded intention of getting high.
What are these arbitrary distinctions our society makes between acceptable forms of getting high and others that are so condemned that we are threatened with incarceration, in some countries, even worse?
What difference does it make how we get high, if being high is a natural state of mind?
We can smoke a little weed, drop an ‘E’, sniff a few lines of coke, down a few large Jamiesons. Or we can just listen to some amazing music, walk to the top of my hill, go to the gym – or, any combination of these paths to getting high.
Our governments seek to determine how we may get high. Their pretext is that they are protecting us, either from individual health harms or from wider, social harms, such as those caused by street dealing, criminality caused by addiction.
But even a cursory examination of this shows that it is false, it is mythology. Our means of getting high are controlled not by any concern for harm but by the imposition of someone else’s moral standards. This is usually a government minister and his or her personal opinion, often heavily influenced, either by the media, where editors also seek to impose their moral standards or, more sinister, by a vested interest, ‘Big Booze’, that wishes to preserve its one way street, no stopping, no U- turns on its path to getting high.
There’s also the legitimisation of sugary drinks, snacks, sweets, cakes and goodies. I wanted nothing more as a child than to get high off sugar. “And a cake please Grandad?” was my childhood refrain that I am still teased with today. But sugar causes tremendous harm and apart from pious, preachy health warnings, it’s all OK because our government says so.
It’s also OK to get high as a medical therapy. When it’s an SSRI anti-depressant, it’s objective is to make you feel better, to alter your brain chemistry to get you high, in fact by flooding your synapses with serotonin.
More of these happy pills are prescribed than any other form of medication. In fact, we don’t really understand how they work, how in some people they have the opposite effect and make them suicidal. But it’s all OK because this is government-sanctioned happiness – or unhappiness – but it’s OK because some privileged middle aged person, who couldn’t tell a synapse from a hockey stick says so , and she or he knows best.
But any suggestion that cannabis might be medicine has to be forcefully caveated with denials that it’s about getting high. Did you know, Sativex, the one legal form of medicinal cannabis, both here and in the UK, gets you high?
No? Yes I know all the doctors say it doesn’t and the nanny-state do-gooders tell you the bit that gets you high has been taken out. But take a look at the statutory documentation and what does it say? Oh! Something called “euphoric mood” is described as a “common” side effect
It’s actually a real pleasure to talk about getting high. I spend all my time engaged in earnest discussions about science, evidence, therapeutic and side effects. I forget that a lot of it is about getting high, however you choose to do it.
So, this house would get high. Indeed this house is high and I predict most of you will be a little higher in the next half hour or so.
Getting high is nothing to be ashamed of. Go for a run, climb a hill, eat a space cake ( but mind the sugar).
Getting high is a human right, a necessity and a great way to live. Get high and stay high.
After an entertaining and fascinating debate with contributions from other guest speakers and students, Bridie summed up by reading an extract from Tom Paxton’s song ‘Talking Vietnam Pot Luck Blues”. I’d never heard it before but it carries a wonderful message about how getting high brings people together.
The moment came as it comes to all,
When I had to answer nature’s call.
I was stumbling around in a beautiful haze
When I met a little cat in black P.J.’s,
Rifle, ammo-belt, B.F. Goodrich sandals.
He looked up at me and said,
“Whatsa’ matta wit-choo, baby?”
He said, “We’re campin’ down the pass
And smelled you people blowin’ grass,
And since by the smell you’re smokin’ trash
I brought you a taste of a special stash
Straight from Uncle Ho’s victory garden.
We call it Hanoi gold.”
So his squad and my squad settled down
And passed some lovely stuff around.
All too soon it was time to go.
The captain got on the radio. . .
“Hello, headquarters. We have met the enemy
And they have been smashed!”