Posts Tagged ‘cannabis’
Would that we were in spring looking forward to a splendid summer. Instead, in mid-July we are heading into autumn towards what looks like a stern, drab and ominous future. Theresa May is prime minister, perhaps the worst nightmare for those who seek cannabis law reform.
You have to admire her first few days though. What you see is what you get. She is smart, calculated and very, very certain about the nature of the government she will lead. I have no doubt she has a softer, caring side and there is testimony to that effect from those who support her. She is a strong woman, she will be sympathetic to people and causes that she chooses but ruthless and absolute against those she opposes. Our problem is that, as confirmed by both the National Audit Office and Public Accounts Committee, evidence has nothing to do with it. Theresa May’s drugs policy is based on her personal opinions and even the plight of those in chronic pain and disability is unlikely to change her mind even on the medicinal use of cannabis. I remember Norman Baker told me that she simply does not comprehend that cannabis can be a legitimate medicine. The very idea is anathema to her. It is beyond her comprehension. The daughter of a vicar, who attended a convent then a grammar school, she has a lot about her that suggests piety, reserve, self-discipline and control. Admirable qualities but lacking perhaps in empathy with modern lifestyles and values.
But this is a fresh start. Amber Rudd, the new Home Secretary, is cast from the same mould as Ms May. My MP, Oliver Letwin, himself disposed of in the new cabinet, has already written to Ms Rudd and asked her to see me. As of today, CLEAR represents nearly 700,000 registered supporters, equivalent to the electorate in more than eight parliamentary constituencies, so I think she has a good reason to give me a few minutes. I will continue to press for a meeting until she or one of her junior ministers agrees to see me.
It can only help that I am now a fully paid-up member of the Conservative Party. I made this decision shortly after the EU referendum and I have also joined the Conservative Policy Forum which works to influence Conservative Party policy from the grassroots. I will be advancing the cause of medicinal cannabis and wider drugs policy reform as quickly and effectively as I can through the party’s established channels. Whether it is a short or long game, it has to get started now.
I do believe this is the best way forward for the cannabis campaign. I will work from within the party of government to try and influence change. It is more than likely that the Tories will be in power for the next 10 years, if not more. Now is the time to get involved, face our opposition, engage with those who have power. Every other UK political party is in disarray.
When we relaunched the Legalise Cannabis Alliance as CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform in 2011, we brought a totally new, professional approach to the campaign. Others have followed and there is now a significant group that understands how to use professional lobbying techniques. The greatest achievement of this has been to get the Liberal Democrats involved and although there remains great resistance amongst party members in the shires, the leadership is very much onside. Sadly, the party itself is as far away from power as it has ever been and, in my view, has swung widely off course in a futile and misguided effort to reverse the referendum result. Such whimsical strategies have always been the LibDems’ problem. Unless a political revolution suddenly makes Corbyn a serious contender then there will be no other party in power but the Tories. This is where we must invest time, effort and all our resources. We must understand how to turn Tory aims, ambitions and viewpoints to our advantage. Which arguments will work and how do we get them across?
Although we now have a more professional campaign and several individuals with real ability, now is not the time to revert to talking amongst ourselves. Conferences, meetings, documentary films and events are all very well but they almost exclusively preach to the choir. Just like the demos and protests that have at last ebbed away, they make those involved feel good and they ramp up morale but they do little to create change. This is no way to make progress. I will ensure that CLEAR is on the front line. It is those who oppose us that we need to be talking to, not those who already agree with us.
At the same time, specifically on medicinal cannabis, our focus must be on the medical profession. We published ‘Medicinal Cannabis:The Evidence’ just over a year ago and it has added real credibility to the campaign. In a few weeks when the APPG for Drug Policy Reform publishes its report on medicinal cannabis, Professor Mike Barnes will release his own review of current evidence and it will become the definitive work on the subject. CLEAR will be taking this to GPs all over the country, to the Royal Colleges and particularly to those working in pain management. We already know that thousands of doctors endorse their patients’ use of cannabis for chronic pain, it is time to bring this out of the closet. Doctors and nurses have literally been terrorised into keeping quiet about cannabis. We have first hand knowledge of Home Office officials warning off doctors who have tried to assist their patients by prescribing Sativex off label or recommending Bedrocan. This must stop. We must equip the medical profession with the evidence it needs to be able to do the best by its patients.
I know many will be downhearted by this new government but change is always a good thing. It offers us the opportunity to renew our campaign. Most important, we must walk towards the enemy, not hide in our bunkers, fearful of their response. All over the world, mainstream opinion is turning in favour of cannabis as medicine and wider drugs policy reform. Now is the time to step forward, to do all we can to educate and inform those who are still in the dark. I have set out above what CLEAR’s new strategy will be. Please join us. Become a member. Sign up here. Your first duty? Make an appointment to see your MP. This is the most effective thing you can do. We will publish new guidance in the next few days on how to prepare for and conduct these meetings.
I would vote against Theresa May. She would be a disaster for Britain and for the Tory Party. Sadly, I will not have been a member long enough to vote in the leadership election.
Now, more than ever, we need to walk towards the enemy, not run away. The entrenched, bigoted, old-fashioned, anti-evidence faction of the Conservative Party, of which Theresa May is part, is the enemy of Britain and the enemy of a progressive, enlightened society. I will work from within the Tory Party to campaign for more rational, reasonable and responsible policies. We need to tackle the future head on and only from within the Conservative Party is there any realistic possibility of having meaningful influence.
I resigned from the Liberal Democrats shortly before the EU referendum because I believe its support for the remain campaign was a betrayal of fundamental values of liberalism and democracy. Support for the unelected, unaccountable oligarchs of the EU is the nemesis of the Liberal Democrats and Tim Farron’s subsequent hate speech, branding all who voted leave as ‘intolerant, closed-hearted, pessimistic and inward looking’ has moved his party’s talent beyond self-harm to political suicide.
Clearly, in my special interest area of drugs policy and particularly medicinal cannabis, the Conservatives, and particularly Ms May, have not been our allies. Yet another reason why I, and others, must now grit our teeth and get involved with the Tories. We will make no progress unless we do. We have to appeal to the libertarians, to those who value personal liberty and who believe in evidence-based policy, not prejudice.
The response of both remainers and the left to the Brexit vote has been appalling. Aside from Tim Farron’s conduct, the chattering classes, particularly the soft left which dominates the drugs policy debate, has been defeatist, bitter and negative. It will spend its time, as it always does, in endless circular discussions talking amongst itself, the same old faces, the same old ideas. Someone needs to take the fight to where the real battle is.
I recognise that my decision to join the Tories will be difficult for many to understand. It will not be an easy path but the drugs policy and cannabis campaign needs someone to lead it into battle, to take on the establishment, to engage with and change minds.
The Labour Party is unelectable and if it survives at all, it will never see power again for many years. All other parties are irrelevant. There is no other route to power in the UK except through the Conservative Party.
In the last couple of years, even the Daily Mail has shifted its stance on cannabis as it sees opportunities to sensationalise ‘miracle cures’ from medicinal use – the epileptic child now smiling, the cancer patient whose tumour has disappeared. Truth and balance are irrelevant when a dramatic headline is all you’re after.
The Daily Telegraph has become the new home of ‘reefer madness’ with bad science, nasty prejudice and booze-fuelled fear of a safer recreational drug threatening the massive profits of the alcohol industry.
Now, even the Guardian jumps on the ‘skunk scaremongering’ bandwagon with the exaggerated claim that “the risks of heavy teenage cannabis consumption should frighten all of us”. In a backhanded editorial it suggests legalisation because cannabis is dangerous. It claims the consequences of cannabis “abuse are devastating. Psychotic breakdowns smash up lives and can lead to full-blown schizophrenia.” There is little evidence to support such hysteria. In reality, such effects are so rare as to be virtually unheard of and it’s impossible to prove they are caused by cannabis.
Of course we must protect young people, particularly from the high-THC/low-CBD ‘moonshine’ varieties that are a direct result of government policy. However, we cannot compromise facts and evidence for the illusory belief that buying into scare stories will somehow reduce harm. The only way to protect children is by legal regulation with mandatory age limits.
The Guardian makes much of Public Health England’s (PHE) figure that “there are more than 13,000 under-18s in treatment for the consequences of heavy cannabis use in England”. It neglects to mention that PHE also publishes more than 69% are referred by the criminal justice, education and social care systems while only 17% are referred from healthcare and just 11% by themselves or their family. Thus, more than two-thirds are receiving coercive treatment and only 11% actually consider they have a problem.
It is government propaganda that thousands of young people are suffering from mental health problems due to cannabis. Why is The Guardian promoting this myth? Last year, in answer to a Parliamentary question, Jane Ellison MP, minister of state at the Department of Health, revealed there have been average of just over 28 ‘finished admission episodes’ (FAE) for ‘cannabis-induced psychosis’ in young people for each of the past five years.
Of course, each of these 28 cases is a tragedy for the people involved and nothing must distract from that but it clearly shows that in public health terms, ‘cannabis psychosis’ is of negligible significance. To put it into perspective, there are an estimated 3,000 FAEs for peanut allergy each year but we don’t waste £500 million pa on futile law enforcement efforts to ban peanuts!
For 50 years, the Home Office has systematically misled and misinformed the British people about cannabis. Successive generations of young people know they have been lied to. Such dishonest health information is counterproductive. As a result, many children may think that heroin or crack are not as harmful as they have been told.
Cannabis is not harmless but neither is it ‘dangerous’. If you apply that description to it you also have to apply it to energy drinks, over-the-counter painkillers and hay fever remedies. Similarly, whatever scaremongering there is about ‘addiction’, the scientific evidence is that dependency amongst regular cannabis users is slightly less than caffeine dependency amongst regular coffee drinkers – and withdrawal symptoms are similar in nature and intensity.
What we need is evidence-based policy. Government needs to take responsibility for the £6 billion pa cannabis market instead of abandoning our young people and communities to street dealers and criminal gangs. The benefits to be gained from cannabis law reform are reduced health and social harms, massive public expenditure savings, increased tax revenue and proper protection for the vulnerable, including children.
Young people’s statistics from the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS), Public Health England, December 2015
Drugs: Young People. Department of Health written question – answered on 20th March 2015.
Relative Addictiveness of Drugs, Dr. Jack E. Henningfield, NIDA and Dr. Neal L. Benowitz, UCLA, 1994
CLEAR has formed a partnership with the research arm of GroGlo, a UK-based manufacturer of high power, LED, horticultural grow lighting.
The plan is to grow cannabis under a Home Office licence for the production of cannabis oil, both as a dietary supplement and for the development of medical products. To begin with, a low-THC crop of industrial hemp will be planted. We will be using the finola strain, originally developed in Finland and known for its short stature and early flowering. Unlike hemp grown for fibre, finola is usually grown for seed and only reaches a height of 160 – 180 cm but we will be removing male plants before they produce pollen and cultivating the female plants to produce the maximum yield of oil from their flowering tops.
The low-THC oil will be marketed as a dietary supplement, commonly known as CBD oil. There is already a burgeoning market in the UK for CBD products, all of which is currently imported from Europe or the USA. In the USA, the CBD products market was said to be worth $85 million in 2015 so there is huge potential here at home. Aside from the benefit of being UK grown and processed, we anticipate achieving a CBD concentration of about 40%, which is higher than most products already on the market.
Cultivation will be in glasshouses supplemented with LED lighting. GroGlo already has an established glasshouse facility in the east of England. Initial trials will experiment with adjusting the LED technology to provide a changing blend of light wavelengths at different stages of plant growth. This is GroGlo’s area of expertise -combining LED lighting and plant sciences, including existing relationships with some of Europe’s top universities. Professor Mick Fuller, GroGlo’s director of plant science, will lead this research and development process.
During the R&D phase, CO2 extraction of oil will be carried out under laboratory conditions at universities in York and Nottingham which already have extensive experience of the process. Each crop will be measured for yield, cannabinoid and terpene content using high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC). Safety testing will also look for the presence of heavy metals and other contaminants. The results of testing will be fed back into cultivation and extraction processes to maximise yield and quality.
It is anticipated that the first batches of low-THC oil will be ready for market in six months. We are already in discussions with potential distributors and wholesalers. The CBD market in the UK is ripe for an effective marketing campaign which could build a very substantial business for whoever gets it right.
Once we are successfully achieving our production goals with low-THC cannabis, the same testing and development process will begin with high-THC varieties of cannabis. The aim will be to produce a range of oils extracted from single strains, selectively bred and stabilised for different THC:CBD ratios.
Professor Fuller says that GroGlo lighting products “are in use worldwide to grow a range of crops, but some 60% of sales currently come from overseas users growing cannabis for legitimate medical use.” He explains that there is an emerging market for all sorts of nutritional and medicinal plant products but cannabis shows particular promise. GW Pharmaceuticals is the only UK company to enter this market and it has become a world leader, despite the current restrictive legislation. He says: “Together with CLEAR we believe we can help bring a range of safe, high quality UK-produced cannabis products to market within a matter of two to three years.”
A key issue in the development of a successful medicinal cannabis product is the method of delivery. Smoking is not an acceptable solution as inhaling the products of combustion is an unhealthy practice but one of the great benefits of cannabis smoked as medicine is very accurate self-titration. That is the effects of inhaled cannabis are felt almost instantly and so the patient knows when they have taken enough or when they need more to achieve the required analgesic effect.
The oral mucosal spray developed for Sativex is unpopular with patients, many complain of mouth sores from its use and it was developed at least as much with the objective of deterring ‘recreational’ use of the product as with delivering the medicine effectively. It strangles the therapeutic benefits of the cannabis oil of which Sativex is composed in order to comply with the concerns of the medicines regulators about ‘diversion’ of the product into what they would term ‘misuse’. Absorption of the oil is quicker through the mucous membranes of the inside of the mouth than through the gastrointestinal system but, inevitably, some of the oil is swallowed and the pharmacology of cannabis when processed through the gut and the liver is very different.
We believe the best option is a vapouriser device and our intention is to source a ‘vape pen’ of sufficient quality to operate within clinical standards of consistency and safety. Vapourising cannabis oil avoids inhaling the products of combustion but still enables accurate self-titration of dose. A vape pen would provide a handy, convenient and very effective method of consuming medicinal cannabis. However, aside from the technology itself, initial research shows that vapour is more effectively produced when the oil is blended with either vegetable glycerin (VG) or propylene glycol (PG). Establishing the correct ratio of VG or PG to the oil is another important task.
We anticipate that clinical trials for the use of cannabis oil in treating chronic pain could start within two years. We want to compare different oils, ranging from high-CBD to equal ratios of THC:CBD and high-THC content. Prior to that we have to overcome the challenges of cultivation, oil extraction, vapouriser development and assemble the necessary research team and gain ethical approval for the trials. Recruitment for the trials will start in about 18 months time. If you wish to be considered please email ‘email@example.com’ with brief details of your condition (no more than 100 words). Do not expect to hear anything for at least 12 months but your details will be passed to the research team as a potential candidate.
CLEAR is promoting this venture simply because someone needs to do something to make this happen. For all the campaigning and lobbying of MPs and ministers, at the end of the day, the plants have to be grown and the various legislative hoops have to be jumped through. We cannot wait any longer for a radical change in the law. We have to progress through the government’s regulatory regime if we want to bring real therapeutic benfit to patients.
This opportunity arises because of the vision of GroGlo’s managing director, Mike Harlington and the team of experts he has built around him. There is huge demand for legitimate medicinal cannabis products in the UK which is only going to increase with the inevitable progress towards law reform and increasing awareness of the benefits of cannabis. Together, CLEAR and GroGlo are bringing the great hope that medicinal cannabis offers closer to reality than ever before.
It’s becoming more common for police forces to launch publicity campaigns about their cannabis law enforcement activities. They may be seeking to justify their expenditure or, perhaps, appease the sort of members of the public who have their Crimestoppers ‘scratch ‘n’ sniff card to hand and turn in their neighbours for growing a few plants. To be fair, there is anti-social behaviour around some farms: destruction of rental property, theft of electricity, human trafficking, fire risks and street dealing. These are real social harms that the police do need to deal with. Of course they would all be virtually eliminated by a legally regulated market and the police could get on with tackling real crime.
West Midlands Police are the latest force to join up with a local media outlet to look in detail at their cannabis operations, in this case the Wolverhampton Express & Star, the biggest-selling regional evening newspaper in Britain.
Earlier in April a series of articles were published, all based around the ‘Cannabis Disposal Team Manager’, Mike Hall. To those who follow UK cannabis stories he is a familiar figure who is often quoted in Midlands local newspapers. He shares some characteristics with other police officers involved in cannabis operations, a bit like PC Adge Secker of Avon and Somerset Police, against whom CLEAR is already successfully pursuing a complaint. They seem to be publicity hungry, truculent and rather cocky. They consider themselves as experts, when their knowledge is actually very weak, and they seem to think they can use fear, scaremongering, exaggeration and express their personal political opinions in their official capacity.
They can’t. In fact, engaging in politics amounts to misconduct for a police officer.
We have submitted a formal complaint to the Professional Standards department of West Midlands Police.
From: Peter Reynolds
Sent: 20 April 2016 14:40
Subject: Attention Professional Standards Department. Complaint against Mike Hall, cannabis disposal team manager.
1. I wish to make a complaint against Mike Hall, cannabis disposal team manager.
I make the complaint on my own account but also in my capacity as the president of CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform of Kemp House, 152 City Road, London, EC1V 2NX. For the purposes of correspondence, please contact me via email.
2. Hall has been in engaging in politics by giving interviews to the Express and Star about cannabis which amount to politicking, propaganda, misleading and terrorising the public. The interviews can be seen at these links :
Published Apr 9, 2016. VIDEO. “Exclusive look inside a mock cannabis factory” https://youtu.be/kgpUsypBjhY
Published April 10, 2016 “Sowing the seeds of drugs: The easy-to-buy items that harbour a hidden secret”: http://www.expressandstar.com/news/2016/04/10/sowing-the-seeds-of-drugs-the-easy-to-buy-items-that-harbour-a-hidden-secret/
3. Police officers are specifically prohibited from engaging in politics by schedule 1 of the Police Regulations 2003 which states:
“A member of a police force shall at all times abstain from any activity which is likely to interfere with the impartial discharge of his duties or which is likely to give rise to the impression amongst members of the public that it may so interfere; and in particular a member of a police force shall not take any active part in politics.”
4. I am a victim of misconduct by Hall which has caused me distress at his misuse of his office to promote myth, prejudice and propaganda about cannabis and hatred of cannabis users as a social group. I am also acting on behalf of more than half a million registered supporters of CLEAR who are victims of Hall’s misconduct for the same reasons, particularly those who need cannabis as medicine for the treatment of conditions such as MS, Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, spinal injury, epilepsy and chronic pain. Hall has specifically attacked people suffering from arthritis with grossly offensive, defamatory and inaccurate claims.
5. In the video linked to in 2. above, starting at approximately 2:42, Hall says:
“Cannabis causes a lot of harm to the community. People talk about legalising and taxing it. From my point of view, I know that alcohol and tobacco are legalised and taxed but it doesn’t stop crimnals from profiting from counterfeiting and smuggling those commodities. There will always be crime linked to cannabis. If it was sold and legislated against there would still be underground users and growers that would be profiting from that legislation.
From my perspective and I’m an expert witness for cannabis for the purposes of the courts as well, I know that anybody who starts getting involved in cannabis it’s only a matter of time before, either out of jealousy or concern or spite, somebody lets the authorities know that you are growing cannabis. Now that can either result in the police coming round your house and you obtaining a crimnal conviction or, even worse, other people can find out and come and be armed raiders at your house to steal your cannabis. None of it is a good idea.”
6. It is incorrect to claim that “cannabis causes a lot of harm to the community”. The harms are caused not by cannabis itself but by enforcement of the law against it and would be exactly the same were basil, oregano or tomatoes prohibited. Hall’s expression of his opinions about legalising and taxing cannabis is clearly engaging in politics. His attempt to scare people about armed raiders is reprehensible. Police officers should not be terrorising the public with such exaggeration, falsehood and distortion. Hall is entitled to hold his political opinions but he is not entitled to express them in an official capacity. I recognise that cannabis is a controversial subject and people will hold different opinions but it is wholly wrong and unprofessional for any police officer to engage in this political debate and amounts to misconduct.
7. In the article linked to in 2. above, Hall is quoted as saying “We hear people talk about medicinal cannabis to help with arthritis, but then they are climbing up into their loft every three hours to water their plants.”. This is offensive to people who have arthritis and discriminates against them based on their medical condition. It is also manifestly ridiculous and inaccurate. Watering any type of plant every three hours would kill the plants. Also, modern medical practice is that people with arthritis are encouraged to keep moving. There is a great deal of peer-reviewed, published, scientific evidence that supports the safety and efficacy of using cannabis for chronic pain conditions. See attached document ‘Medicinal Cannabis:The Evidence’. Therefore, Hall’s remarks towards people with arthritis amount to misconduct.
8. Later in the article, Hall again engages in political debate. In response to the Liberal Democrat’s proposals for a regulated cannabis market, he is quoted as saying:
“It would impact on other legislation. We have relatively new laws on drug driving, but would we want the battle we have had with drink driving for decades to happen all over again? It could mean 30 years of hard publicity and no end of terrible accidents to get that through to people. You also have to ask what would happen to the thousands of unemployed drug dealers. They would turn to other areas of crime. And underground growers could profit further, as their product would not carry the tax and VAT of legal cannabis. Legalisation would not destroy the market for illegal cannabis. Tobacco and alcohol are legislated against but it doesn’t stop criminals from smuggling or counterfeiting.”
This is blatant politicking. Hall is engaging in politics in his official capacity which amounts to misconduct.
I would be grateful if you would deal with this complaint at your earliest convenience. I shall be happy to provide any further information required or to give oral evidence in support.
In five years, CLEAR has transformed the UK cannabis campaign from a ragtag group of protestors into a coherent, science and evidence-based strategy. New groups pursuing similar, responsible advocacy have emerged such as the United Patients Alliance (UPA) and most recently End Our Pain (#EndOurPain). In the last three years, in government and Parliament, there has been more liaison between the campaign, ministers and senior politicians than in the last 50 years. The Liberal Democrats have formally adopted policies which are almost identical to those enshrined in CLEAR’s aims and objectives.
Fundamental to CLEAR’s work has been the publication of evidence and the development of plans based on consultation with consumers, patients, doctors, scientists, academics and other experts.
These three publications form the basis for all our work. Please download them, read them, share them and use them as widely as you can. Together they defeat all the arguments for the continuing ban on cannabis.
The most authoritative, independent, expert research on the UK cannabis market by the Independent Drug Monitoring Unit, commissioned by CLEAR in 2011.
This is the second version of a plan for the regulation of the cannabis supply chain in Britain. This version was published on 18th October 2013
The most up-to-date, comprehensive analysis of the evidence on the safety and efficacy of cannabis as medicine. Focuses on Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, chronic pain, Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Published April 2015.