Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

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Why Is CLEAR Supporting Lord Monson In His Campaign Against So-Called ‘Skunk’?

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Lord Nicholas Monson

Lord Nicholas Monson

CLEAR’s first and overriding objective is to end the prohibition of cannabis.  The tragedies that have struck the Monson family demonstrate all too clearly that prohibition of cannabis is futile.  Not only does it not protect people from harm, it actually maximises the harms and dangers of the cannabis market.

Nicholas Monson’s eldest son, Alexander, was arrested in Kenya in 2012. allegedly for smoking cannabis.  Toxicology reports found no evidence of cannabis in his system. According to both a government and an independent pathologist he died from a fatal blow to the back of his head while in police custody.  Clearly, it was the law against cannabis that led directly to Alexander’s death.

Nicholas Monson with his son Rupert

Just three months ago, Rupert, Nicholas Monson’s younger son, took his own life after a descent into depression and psychosis in which the excessive consumption of so-called ‘skunk’ was clearly a significant factor.  Rupert himself said that he was addicted and there is good evidence to show that cannabis without CBD is more addictive.  It is well established from research as far back as the early 1990s that approx 9% of regular users develop dependence which produces real physical withdrawal symptoms: insomnia, lack of appetite and irritability, sometimes a headache.  For most people these are easily overcome within a week or so but not for everyone.  Most importantly though, cannabis in the early 1990s contained, on average, half to a third as much THC as it does now and always a healthy buffer of CBD.  The addictiveness of so-called ‘skunk’ with zero or very little CBD, is several times greater than the cannabis available 20 to 30 years ago.

It’s important to add that Rupert was also very badly failed by the dire state of mental health services. Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, a specialist provider of mental health and drug treatment services said that he needed to be admitted but a bed was not available.  It was just a few days later that he committed suicide.

Nicholas Monson has called for so-called ‘skunk’ to be made a class A drug but also for lower potency cannabis, with a maximum THC:CBD ratio of 3:1 to be made legally available through a regulated system.  Theresa May wrote to him after reading coverage of the story in the press.  She expressed her sympathy and said how she shared his concerns.  Importantly, she suggested that Lord Monson prepare a paper and a presentation to the Home Office on his proposals.  This is a tremendous opportunity towards introducing measures that will better protect vulnerable people like Rupert and also for wider reform of the cannabis laws that will reduce all the harms presently caused by prohibition.  Cannabis would be purchased from government licensed outlets just like alcohol and the aim would be to collapse the criminal market just like the market in dangerous, ‘moonshine’ whisky.

CLEAR does not agree that raising so-called ‘skunk’ to class A would be an effective measure.  It would be virtually impossible to enforce, requiring a massive increase in laboratory testing of cannabis and the supply of high potency varieties would simply be pushed underground. The price will go up and all the harms of a criminal market will be increased.  All the evidence is that drug classification or penalties have absolutely no effect whatsoever on consumption.  However, Lord Monson suggests that all personal cannabis possession should be decriminalised and police would focus only on dealers in so-called ‘skunk’.  There is a very strong argument that with high quality cannabis available legally, people would turn away from the black market.

Of course, we support the idea of legally available cannabis with a maximum THC:CBD ratio of 3:1.  This could be the basis of a system that could work very successfully. The product would be available only through a limited number of licensed outlets to adults only.  It would be supplied in appropriate packaging with detailed labelling of contents.  Possession of any cannabis not in this packaging would be reasonable grounds for it to be seized and tested.

Lord Nicholas Monson, Peter Reynolds

This will, of course, provoke outrage amongst many cannabis consumers, particularly those who grow their own but it would be fantastic progress.  It would usher in a far more rational, sensible regime where we could establish real data about harms and risks.  If appropriate, this could lead to the regulation of higher potency varieties.  Of course, we recognise that for medical use, a completely different approach to cannabinoid content is required and much higher potency may be necessary in some instances.

CLEAR is in the business of reform and this is the most likely path to reform that has ever emerged in the UK.  We are not in the business of promoting a cannabis market which enthusiasts and connoisseurs would regard as some sort of utopia.  The only purpose of any drugs policy must be to reduce harm and this proposal, if implemented, would massively reduce all the social harms caused by prohibition and reduce the risk of health harms.

Finally, it has to be said that, in typical fashion, a substantial part of the cannabis community has reacted in almost hysterical anger to Lord Monson’s proposals.  The only effect of such behaviour is to hold back reform.  We have been horrified and disgusted at the abuse directed at the Monson family.  It has shown cannabis consumers in the very worst light and demonstrated that some are so stupid that they damage the very cause they seek to advocate.  Nicholas Monson is a grieving father who, despite his agony, has seen the rational way forward and lent his energy and commitment towards reform that will benefit everyone.  We stand alongside him and we urge all cannabis consumers to consider these ideas carefully – and please, lend us your support!

Lord Nicholas Monson adds:

“The motivation for my campaign is to protect the young and vulnerable in particular from ingesting any substance whose contents can have a deleterious short or long term effect on their minds. To watch one’s son spiral into psychosis from a heavy usage of skunk is distressing to behold. Rupert’s psychiatric team put his psychosis down to skunk. This is unequivocal. Yes there are other psychoactive drugs around but skunk is what did for Rupert. It so happens that the remedy for skunk is a legalised and regulated market in cannabis where clear information is available. This should be applauded by the recreational cannabis community. Separately I have long supported the medical community’s initiatives to prescribe variants of cannabis with high CBD for people suffering from a wide variety of conditions.”

Written by Peter Reynolds

June 7, 2017 at 7:10 pm

A Significant Day For Cannabis Law Reform In The UK.

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This Thursday past, 25th May 2017, was the inaugural general meeting of the Cannabis Trades Association UK (CTAUK).

While this may not excite your average cannabis consumer too much, it represents a very important, even momentous occasion in our progress towards a regulated cannabis market.  Anyone spotting our meeting room would have seen it as just another group of business people in a day long meeting with Powerpoint presentations, flipcharts and gallons of coffee and mineral water.  GSK were just down the corridor, an insurance company was next door, it all looked very corporate and pretty boring.

This is exactly the point.  We are bringing cannabis into the mainstream, overcoming the stigma, making it respectable.  The idea that the Holiday Inn at Gatwick would have signs pointing to a ‘cannabis’ meeting would have been unthinkable until very recently.

Of course, CTAUK is concerned only with the legal cannabis trade so, in the main, that means CBD products but membership has started to expand rapidly.  In the coming weeks we anticipate we will be joined by UK hemp growers and a very important new medical cannabis research consortium.  Within the next few months we expect almost every significant player in all aspects of the UK cannabis market to be part of the association.

So, although at first glance, this boring business meeting may not excite CLEAR members and followers, it heralds the dawn of a new age.  Cannabis is coming out of the shadows. Reform is just round the corner.

Twenty years ago similar meetings took place in California, fifteen years ago similar meetings were held in Canada, Israel, the Netherlands and other US states.  Just three or four years ago they were happening in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, etc.  The UK’s time has come. Not a joint was rolled, not a bong was lit, there wasn’t a vapouriser or a hash cookie to be seen.  No longer are we playing at this, it’s now become serious.

Written by Peter Reynolds

May 27, 2017 at 4:20 pm

The Best Election Outcome Is A Tory Government With A Weakened Theresa May.

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I cannot vote to support Theresa May.  I could vote for my local Conservative candidate but Mrs May has made this election all about herself and she is not a true Tory.

Although I shall remain a member of the Conservative Party, I shall not vote for it.  If voting tactically was relevant in my constituency I would have no difficulty in voting Labour or Liberal Democrat in order to weaken Mrs May but it would make no difference, so I shall abstain by spoiling my ballot paper.

Theresa May is not a true Tory.  the most important, fundamental Conservative principles are individual liberty, individual responsibility and small government.  Mrs May is in opposition to these values, she is an Authoritarian Bureaucrat.  All her polices are about a bigger state, interfering more and more with our freedoms, micro-managing every aspect of our lives, just as she did at the Home Office.  Yet every single one of her policies has been a failure.

Immigration has been a disaster.  Since 2010 she has failed entirely to control this most divisive of issues.  It is at the root of Brexit and behind a large part of the conflict in our society.  Mrs May has simultaneously allowed us to be ‘swamped’ by economic migrants and implemented some of the most horrific human rights violations against genuine refugees.  Her failure to provide sanctuary for those fleeing Syria brings everlasting shame on Britain.

Policing is such a disaster that it is impossible to get any attention to a burglary, car theft, online fraud or harassment. Almost any crime short of being stabbed in the street is ignored.  Meanwhile the division between police and the community grows ever wider. We never see policemen except speeding by in a car.  The police canteen culture and a corrupt complaints system has encouraged terrible negligence, failing to protect children against grooming, failing to create a safe environment where young people do not feel they have to carry knives.

Drugs policy is a scandal with the highest ever rate of deaths by overdoses, stupid legislation like the Psychoactive Substances Act which has massively increased the harm of Spice.  The ban on khat promoting crime and racial division for a policy that has nothing to do with evidence.  The deeply cruel and anti-science policy of denying access to medicinal cannabis and the idiocy of gifting the wider £6 billion cannabis market to organised crime.

Remember the Passport Office chaos? Remember the racist billboard vans telling migrants to go home? Remember the deal advising Saudi Arabia, a brutal, oppressive, medieval regime, on policing? Remember Mrs May banning the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women from visiting Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre? The appalling rejection of asylum claims from Afghan heroes who had acted as interpreters for British troops? The proliferation of CCTV, making us the most snooped-on people in a so-called democracy in the world?  The repeated, insistent bullying and intolerant imposition of the Snooper’s Charter despite opposition from all sections of our society?  The exclusion of controversial speakers from entering the UK on no grounds except that Mrs May disagrees with them? The total, unmitigated, inexcusable disaster that is everything to do with the Border Force?

The triggering of Article 5o is the only successful policy that Theresa May has had anything to do with.  It made best use of her talents: we needed someone stubborn, obstinate, pig-headed, intransigent and incapable of listening to get that job done in the face of the anti-democratic Remainers.

If the Liberal Democrats didn’t have this stupid, illiberal, anti-democratic policy on Brexit I’d be voting for them on 8th June.  However, there is no party other than the Conservatives with a credible set of policies to govern Britain – but Mrs May is the weakest link.  She needs to step aside after the election and make way for a real leader, someone who actually believes in Brexit, in Britain as a world leader in liberty, justice and freedom.

Lord Monson and CLEAR to Campaign for a Regulated Cannabis Market.

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Lord Nicholas Monson, Peter Reynolds

Lord Nicholas Monson, whose son Rupert committed suicide after he had become psychotic from ‘skunk’, has teamed up with CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform to campaign for a safer, regulated cannabis market.

‘Skunk’ is a form of cannabis with zero or very little CBD that can be harmful to young people and the vulnerable. The criminal market has driven the production of ‘skunk’ with high levels of THC, the psychoactive compound and low levels of CBD, the protective, anti-psychotic compound. The absence of regulation and control has also led to sales of highly dangerous products such as ‘Spice’ which contain an extremely potent, synthetic form of THC without any balancing CBD.

Lord Monson says:

“It is urgent that the government takes the historic step of legalising and regulating more traditional forms of cannabis and puts severe penalties in place for those dealing in skunk.”  

CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform is the UK’s largest and longest established drugs policy reform group.  It campaigns for medicinal cannabis on prescription by doctors and a regulated market for adults.

Peter Reynolds, president of CLEAR, says:

“We are honoured to work alongside Lord Monson towards a safer cannabis market that will reduce harm instead of the present policy that maximises all harms.  Just like the policy that President Trudeau is introducing in Canada and already exists across much of the USA, we must rigorously restrict access by children and those with developing brains and ensure that safe, properly regulated cannabis with a good proportion of CBD is available for adults.”

Written by Peter Reynolds

May 18, 2017 at 2:18 pm

VIDEO. Peter Reynolds Speaks At The Oxford Union On Drugs Policy.

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UK Department of Health Has Neither Requested Nor Received Any Advice On Medicinal Cannabis.

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“I know nothing. I ask nothing. I understand nothing.”

This is the astonishing reality of the way the UK government is responding to the national outcry for access to cannabis as medicine. They are doing absolutely nothing.

Across the world a revolution is taking place as more and more jurisdictions are introducing legal access to medical cannabis. Medical professionals and patients alike are realising the huge benefits to be gained from re-opening access to this most valuable of medicines. Scientific research is proving beyond doubt that cannabis is a safe and effective medicine for a wide range of conditions. Many pharmaceutical companies are investigating different cannabinoids, extracts and therapies. Most of all, citizens are demanding access to a medicine that has been denied to them for no good reason and that can improve, even save the lives of people of all ages, from the baby with severe epilepsy to the grandparent suffering the effects of aging, even dementia. Cannabis can help improve and maintain good health in all of us.

Yet the UK government is not considering the evidence. Despite even a year long Parliamentary inquiry which recommended permitting access, the Department of Health has not considered nor even asked for any expert advice. My Freedom of Information request has established this beyond doubt. See here: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/395319/response/965315/attach/html/2/1078680%20Reynolds.pdf.html

I have been pressing my MP, Sir Oliver Letwin, on this issue ever since I became his constituent two years ago. Early on he was an extremely powerful cabinet minster, generally recognised as number three in the government after David Cameron and George Osborne but he was swiftly sacked when Theresa May became prime minister.  He has already announced he will not stand for re-election to the next Parliament.

Meeting with Sir Oliver Letwin MP

To be fair, Oliver has always listened to me politely and attentively.  We have met on about half a dozen occasions and we frequently exchange emails.  He has been more responsive to me than I had hoped and to begin with he told me he was investigating what was happening in government about the subject.  His answer was that the evidence has been considered, expert advisors have been consulted and ministers have concluded that there is not a good case for reform.

I have pressed him again and again, shown him reams of evidence, shared stories with him from across the world, both of scientific research and patient testimonies.  While always courteous towards me he has remained resolutely opposed.  I could have given up long ago.  Indeed, when I asked him why can’t we simply leave it to the professional judgement of doctors whether to prescribe it or not, he gave me an answer straight out of a ‘Yes Minster’ script.  He said: “But then they would prescribe it.”

At the beginning of this year I asked him once again for assistance in putting me before a minister to advance my case.  He replied:

“We have discussed this issue before, but I am happy to set out the reason why I will not support your proposals. The Department of Health have, as you know, considered this issue, have taken advice on it from their professional public health advisors, and have concluded that the gains in healthcare arising from the legalisation of medicinal cannabis (as opposed to cannabinoids) would not be sufficiently great to outweigh the risk of abuse.”

It seems that, at best, Sir Oliver is mistaken.  I have written to him again asking for comments on the FOI response.

Whatever reply I now receive, I urge everyone to get on to their MP about this.  It is a scandal.  There can be no doubt that it is irresponsible and negligent that the Department of Health is so clearly failing in its duty to the country.  That’s not to say how very cruel and inhumane this failure is or how much money legal medical cannabis could save the NHS.  Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health, must be called to account for this.

How To Campaign For Cannabis Law Reform Under A Theresa May Government.

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  • Lobbying Parliament

  • If the Government Won’t Regulate Cannabis Then We’ll Do It For Them

  • The CBD Market

  • Medical Cannabis

  • Educating And Influencing Researchers

For cannabis and drugs policy reform, out of 650 MPs, there could not have been a worse person to seize power than Theresa May.  There are a few who come close on both Tory and Labour benches but no one who has such a long record of bigotry, denial of evidence and refusal even to consider the subject.

Senior Tory MPs For Cannabis Law Reform

To be fair, I am a member of the Conservative Party, which to many people involved in the cannabis campaign is a mortal sin but my advocacy is based on science and evidence, not tribalism or wider politics.  In any case, though many find this fact hard to accept, there has always been more support from Tory MPs than Labour. Highly influential and senior Tory MPs such as Crispin Blunt, Peter Lilley and Dr Dan Poulter are powerful advocates for reform. I firmly believe that the only sustainable route to legalisation is commercialisation and the left wing, nanny state, anti-business types are already pushing the ‘Big Cannabis’ scare stories.

So what can we do and what are we doing to advance our cause in these dark days?  Theresa May always has been secretive, inaccessible, unresponsive and entirely disinterested in any opinion except her own.  How can we possibly make any progress with a PM who has already shown she is prepared to cover up or falsify evidence and defines herself by her belief in a supernatural power?

There is more support for cannabis law reform in Parliament than ever before.  It is now official policy of both the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party. The support from Scotland is far more valuable than that from the discredited LibDems.  With the added factors of Brexit and Scottish Independence, the SNP is in a powerful position to advance its policies.  Also, in Ireland, both north and south, public support for medical cannabis reform is exploding.  Michelle O’Neill, SinnFein’s new leader, has pledged medical cannabis reform if she is re-elected (though she has no power to do so!).  Her negotiating position is immensely strong now that the problems at Stormont, the rise of Sinn Fein and the Brexit factor all combine to make a united Ireland a real possibility.

During the coalition government from 2010 to 2015, few doors were closed to us.  Over that period, CLEAR conducted more meetings with ministers and senior politicians than the entire UK campaign had achieved in 50 years.  Because we had support from the LibDems, and introductions from the Deputy Prime Minister, even Tory ministers were ready to see us, even if they were merely paying lip service.  That all stopped with the election of a majority Conservative government and after Cameron stepped down the doors were slammed in our faces, bolted and double-locked.  The campaign has been in the doldrums ever since. Or has it?

The last major achievement of the last few year’s campaigning was the release of the APPG report on medical cannabis in September 2016.  Alongside it, Professor Mike Barnes, CLEAR advisory board member, published his review ‘Cannabis: The Evidence for Medical Use‘.  To all impartial and reasonable observers, these documents should have initiated positive government action towards reform, even if it was only very limited in scope.  But no, Theresa May didn’t leave it to Amber Rudd, her successor as home secretary, she stepped straight in herself on the day of publication, before she could even have read it and dismissed the report out of hand.  This echoes the apocryphal story of James Callaghan, then PM, throwing the 1969 Wooton Report in the bin without even opening it.  Such is the inertia and prejudice that has not softened at all amongst the bigots despite 45 years of science and research proving that there are better, safer, more beneficial options available on cannabis.

Lobbying Parliament

For now, individual lobbying of MPs is our only route to power. Over the years we have refined our approach to this and we know what works.  Getting into ping pong correspondence with an MP is a waste of time.  An initial letter or email needs to be followed up with a face-to-face meeting and a determined focus on getting a tangible result. What sort of result you should look for depends on your circumstances but getting your MP to arrange a meeting with a government minister should be your goal.

If you’re a medical user then you’ll want to meet a health minister, preferably the Secretary of State, if not a junior minister or perhaps an advisor to the Department of Health.  Work with your MP to achieve the best result you can.  Your MP doesn’t necessarily have to agree with you about cannabis but they should facilitate your communication with government, that’s their job. If you’re more interested in the economic or social benefits to be gained from reform, you could ask for an introduction to the Chancellor, a treasury or business minister, or someone at the Cabinet Office who is involved in policy development.  CLEAR can usually provide someone to accompany you on meetings but this must be arranged in advance and agreed with your MP or whoever your appointment is with.  Alternatively, we can provide advice over the telephone on how to approach the meeting, what to ask for and what evidence or supporting material to take with you.

If the Government Won’t Regulate Cannabis Then We’ll Do It For Them

With an intransigent government that does it all it can to evade engagement on this issue, there is more that CLEAR is already doing.  If the government won’t take responsibility and regulate cannabis, then step by step we are going to do it for them.  Someone has to, there is far too much harm and suffering caused by present policy.

The CBD Market

Through 2016 the CBD market in the UK really began to take off.  These are products derived from industrial hemp, grown legally under licence that offer many of the therapeutic benefits of cannabis.  They should, in fact, be more accurately termed low-THC cannabis as apart from crystals and a few, rare examples of isolated CBD, they are whole plant extracts and contain all the cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and other compounds found in the plants from which they are made.  Therefore they offer many of the ‘entourage effect’ benefits but with very low levels of THC.  It was obvious though that this market was heading for problems.  More and more dubious suppliers were starting up, many making brazen claims for the medical effects and benefits of their products and many without any product testing, quality assurance or honest customer service.  The law was then and always has been crystal clear, you cannot make medical claims for a product without it being properly licensed or regulated.  Inevitably, in June 2016 the MHRA stepped in and sent threatening letters to a number of CBD suppliers.

CLEAR took the initiative.  We wrote to the MHRA requesting a meeting.  We engaged with the leading CBD suppliers and our advisory board members Professor Mike Barnes and Crispin Blunt MP were quickly on the case.  The story has already been extensively reported but now, nearly a year on, our efforts are coming to fruition. We led the approach to the MHRA and in the process created what is now the Cannabis Trades Association UK (CTAUK).  It is now recognised by the MHRA, it has established a code of conduct and it is now the gold standard of quality, ethics and legality that can give anyone buying CBD products real peace of mind.  There are still cowboys out there, making false claims, selling products that offer no real benefit and even endangering their customers with products that are illegal under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 or the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016.  Now though, customers can go to the CTAUK website and choose a supplier that is operating legally, ethically and within the regulations that the industry itself has established.  We expect the MHRA very shortly formally to endorse CTAUK members as legitimate suppliers of CBD products as food supplements.

Medical Cannabis

Professor Nigel Mathers, Honorary Secretary, Royal College of GPs

Neither can we accept the government’s irresponsible and cruel policy towards people who need cannabis as medicine. So CLEAR has taken a further initiative. After Theresa May’s dismissal of the APPG report, we approached the Royal Colleges of medicine.  We pointed out that whatever the government might say, around one million people are using cannabis as medicine.  Doctors have a duty and an ethical responsibility to educate themselves on the subject and be able to provide properly informed care to their patients.  Our efforts have borne fruit.  Professor Mike Barnes and I have worked with Professor Nigel Mathers of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP).  We will be producing a draft set of guidelines on medicinal cannabis for GPs which will go the next meeting of the RCGP Council and is planned for publication in June 2017.  If the government won’t do it, we will and the medical profession agrees with us.  This will be the greatest practical advance ever made in medical cannabis in the UK.

Educating And Influencing Researchers

Dr Musa Sami, Peter Reynolds

The UK is the most prolific source of research into the harms of cannabis, particularly the tenuous links between cannabis and psychosis.  Despite dozens of studies, mainly from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College Hospital, this has never been shown to be any more than statistical correlation.  Most of these studies are confounded by tobacco use but the latest work from Professor Sir Robin Murray and his team shows an even stronger correlation between tobacco and psychosis than cannabis.

Across the world, UK scientists have become notorious for this scaremongering which seems little different from the ‘reefer madness’ hysteria.  To be fair, much of this is down to the UK media which has barely advanced since the 1930s in its reporting.  It provides the environment in which researchers are able to gain funding for research into cannabis harms but hardly ever for cannabis benefits.

CLEAR is now working with the Institute of Psychiatry to develop a new and more balanced way of surveying the effects of cannabis.  Dr Musa Sami has asked us to advise on the construction of a questionnaire on which the Institute will base its future work.