Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘cannabis

The Shame Of Drugs Minster Sarah Newton MP.

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Sarah Newton is MP for Truro and Falmouth. Since July 2016 she has been Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office. Her responsibilities include drugs and alcohol.

During last month’s drugs debate Mrs Newton caused uproar in the House of Commons when she said she “would not agree that alcohol is the most dangerous drug” and that “alcohol taken in moderation is not a harmful drug”.

Both these statements are, of course, directly contradicted by a vast quantity of scientific evidence and many MPs corrected her dreadful mistakes as they spoke in the debate.  Mrs Newton demonstrates very clearly the standard of knowledge, evidence and probity that prevails in the Home Office.  It is locked into a policy of deliberately misleading both Parliament and the public on drugs and has been so for at last 50 years.  Mrs Newton is the just the latest MP prepared to sell their soul and integrity for ministerial office.

Her shame is compounded by the photograph above from March 2017 which shows her endorsing and supporting the work of the Portman Group, the alcohol industry’s shadowy lobbying organisation which works relentlessly to minimise controls on alcohol and public perception of the harms it causes.

There can be no doubt that this is a form of corruption.  Mrs Newton, along with the home secretary, Amber Rudd MP and her predecessor, Theresa May MP, is engaged in misleading the public, encouraging use of the most dangerous drug of all while misinforming about the less harmful alternatives such as cannabis.

Written by Peter Reynolds

August 8, 2017 at 4:22 pm

UK Drugs Policy Equivalent To A Grenfell Tower Tragedy Every Fortnight, Yet Ministers Prescribe More Of the Same.

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The scandal that is UK drugs policy deepened last month as the Home Office published what must be one of the most irresponsible government reports ever.

UK Drugs Policy Kills As Many People Every Fortnight

The 2017 Drug Strategy adds nothing of any significance to the same document published in 2010. Since then, deaths from drug overdose have reached an all time high of 2,479 (latest 2015 data). There has been an explosion in highly toxic new psychoactive substances and the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 has increased harms, deaths, associated crime and potency, exactly as was predicted, warnings the government chose to ignore.  The government has refused to consider or take any expert advice on introducing legal access to medical cannabis, something that virtually all other modern democracies are moving forward on. Its continuing policy on cannabis defies scientific evidence and real-life experience from places where reform has been implemented.  It also supports and encourages the criminal market, encourages street dealing, dangerous hidden cannabis farms and the production of poor quality, low-CBD, so-called ‘skunk’ cannabis.

Do not doubt that this dreadful toll of death could be drastically reduced, at least halved, by a more responsible, progressive and evidence-based policy.  We should treat those with the disease of addiction humanely, not criminalising them for their drug use, prescribing pharmaceutical heroin where necessary, introducing drug consumption rooms and giving far more weight to harm reduction rather than the unrealistic and ideological pursuit of abstinence.  That would deal with the problem of drug deaths but millions more could have their lives improved, billions in public expenditure could be saved and many divisions and causes of conflict in our society could be swept away by a new approach to drugs policy in general.

Sarah Newton MP, Minister of State, during the drugs debate

The subsequent drugs debate in Parliament exposed the brazen dishonesty and deceit of Home Office ministers. The home secretary, Amber Rudd, couldn’t be bothered to show up so it was left to Sarah Newton, MP.  Her performance consisted only of lies, deceit and trickery, the like of which I have rarely seen before.  For many years, the Home Office has been systematically misleading and misinforming the public about drugs but here was a minister, clearly, deliberately and without compunction, misleading Parliament.  As with so much of the wickedness enforced by the Home Office, Ms Newton is now beyond redemption.  There can be no doubt at all about the depth of her dishonesty and the effect on the lives of millions of people should, surely, amount to a very serious crime.  Its consequences are far, far more serious than the failure of national and local government that led to the Grenfell Tower tragedy but they are caused by the same mindset of arrogance, prejudice and refusal to listen to expert evidence.

If there is any reason behind what comes out of the Home Office on drugs then it is most certainly corrupt.  It may not be plain brown envelopes changing hands but at best it is negligence, failure to act responsibly and in the interests of the public. This is corruption and there is no doubt it is firmly embedded amongst Home Office civil servants.  Their reputation is in the gutter: other government departments, universities and research institutions, drug licence applicants and holders, politicians – they all report stubborn, intransigent, uncooperative conduct.  While giving evidence to a Parliamentary Committee a year or so ago, I was nervous about how trenchant was my criticism of the Home Office.  I needn’t have been.  Every member of the panel nodded and agreed with me that Home Office is impossible to deal with.

Nothing can absolve ministers of their responsibility but after nearly 40 years I have seen many of them come and go while the Home Office remains exactly the same.  There is a culture amongst the civil service that resists any move towards any drug reform using whatever methods it deems necessary.  This is nothing less than subversion of our democracy and it is senior civil servants engaged in this treachery.

There is blood on the hands of Sarah Newton, Amber Rudd and, of course, the former home secretary, Theresa May.  That’s on the top of the misery, deprivation, violence, poverty, crime and ill health that their policies cause.

Change is inevitable but only after many more have died and others have had their lives blighted or ruined by this oppressive, unjust persecution. Although the drugs debate was once again sparsely attended, it was better than the last time the subject was discussed and more MPs from all parties are at last beginning to see the light. The Labour Party remains disgraced.  Its record is even worse than the Conservatives and despite some positive words from Corbyn about medicinal cannabis, this is not reflected in policy and flatly contradicted by John McDonnell.  Diane Abbott, as shadow home secretary, was truly pathetic in the debate and she offered no real opposition at all to the government.

From the campaign point of view it’s very disheartening but reformers should not despair.  We are making steady progress, not just among MPs but also within the media.  Even the Murdoch press, the Mail and all the tabloids have changed their position.  The darkest time of the night is just before dawn and I do believe that shortly we will see the first glimmers of light.  We are on the cusp of change and legal access to medical cannabis will almost certainly come first.

The Drugs Policy Debate. House Of Commons, 18th July 2017.

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This debate was held in Parliament following the publication on 14th July 2017 of the ‘2017 Drug Strategy’.

The debate may be watched in full here.  It starts at 13:17 and finishes at 19:00.

Highlights include:

Crispin Blunt MP at 14:09

 

 

 

 

 

Jeff Smith MP at 15:21

 

 

 

 

 

Norman Lamb MP at 16:10

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul Flynn MP at 16:32

Written by Peter Reynolds

July 26, 2017 at 4:07 pm

New Drug Strategy Promises More Death, Misery And Ill Health For UK.

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The long overdue update to the UK Drug Strategy is published today by the Home Office.   A copy may be downloaded here.

Sadly, as expected, it is nothing except more of the same.  It offers no new ideas worthy of any note and reinforces the failure of existing policy by further embedding an approach which has already been conclusively proven not to work.

The UK has become increasingly isolated in its approach to drugs policy and now that both Ireland and France are moving towards decriminalisation we are unique amongst modern democracies in maintaining an approach based on nothing but prohibition.  We now stand closer to countries such as Russia, China, Indonesia and Singapore.  In fact, the only thing that separates us from countries with such medieval policies is that we do not have the death penalty for drug offences.  Otherwise our policy is just as repressive, anti-evidence, anti-human rights and based on prejudice rather than what is proven to work.

From Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s introduction, through sections based on repetition of the original strategy, ‘Reducing Demand, Restricting Supply and Building Recovery’, the document is more of the same old platitudes, bureaucratic doublespeak and meaningless civil service and social worker jargon.  It offers nothing but despair to those wracked by addiction, desperate for the proven medical benefits of cannabis or suffering from the tremendous social problems caused by prohibition.  In every respect it mirrors the government’s approach to housing which has led to mass homelessness, depravation and the Grenfell Tower disaster.  It is yet another inadequate response imposed by a government which is out of touch and wedded to policies based on ideology rather than evidence.

UK Government Policy

Current UK drug policy has already led to the highest ever rate of deaths from overdose. Deaths from heroin more than doubled from 2012 to 2015, yet there is absolutely nothing offered in this document that might change this – as if existing policy is quite OK.  Similarly, in what would be farcical humour were it not so tragic, the government seeks to portray the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 as a success.  It trumpets the closure of hundreds of retailers and websites and end to open sales but it doesn’t even mention the burgeoning new criminal market which has led to a massive increase in harm and products which are more potent but also more inconsistent and unpredictable.  All the experts (except those appointed by the government) agree that this new law has been a disaster.  Just like Grenfell Tower, this is government enforcing policies which significantly increase danger and harm without any regard at all to evidence or public opinion.

As before, this strategy doesn’t even consider harm reduction, it offers only a puritanical, moralistic approach based on abstinence.  It fails entirely to recognise that 95% of all drug use is non-problematic, without causing harm to anybody.  It is entirely focused on mis-use and blind to the great benefits, often therapeutic but also simply of pleasure, enjoyment and recreation that many people gain from safe drug use, just as most people do with that most dangerous drug of all, alcohol.  These people, the vast majority, are completely ignored by their government.

By its own title this is a drug strategy, not a drugs strategy. It treats all drugs and all drug users the same, whether they are a prisoner serving a long sentence without access to education or rehabilitation, a ruthless gangster engaged in human trafficking, an affluent clubber, humble festival goer or a multiple sclerosis patient who grows a few cannabis plants for pain relief.  It is a travesty of government, failing entirely to meet the needs of the population.

It also contains some of the most extraordinary factual errors and contradictions.  “Most cannabis in the UK is imported”, it states in defiance of the evidence that the UK has been virtually self-sufficient in homegrown cannabis since the 1990s, even to the extent where we are ‘exporting’ to other European countries.

Unsurprisingly, the report states “We have no intention of decriminalising drugs” but then makes the dubious assertion that “Drugs are illegal because scientific and medical analysis has shown they are harmful to human health.”  This is simply unsustainable in face of the facts about harms caused by legal substances such as alcohol, peanuts and energy drinks.  It is also inconsistent with the stated purpose of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 which is about misuse “having harmful effects sufficient to constitute a social problem.”, nothing to do with individual health harms.

The report fails at all to consider the negative effects of current policy and how prohibition rather than drugs themselves is actually the cause of most harms connected with drugs. It doesn’t even mention the worldwide revolution in the medical use of cannabis or that one million UK citizens are criminalised and placed in danger of criminal sanctions or contaminated product simply for trying to improve their health.  Neither does it mention drug testing, a proven method of reducing the harms of club drugs, now being supported by many police forces at festivals.

This report really is as empty, ineffectual and useless as anything produced by this already tired and discredited government.  The parallels between Grenfell Tower and a government which actively maximise the harms of drugs through its policies are extraordinary.  Thousands are dying every year because Mrs May and Mrs Rudd won’t listen to evidence.  They pick and choose whether to accept the advice of their own Advisory Council based on political convenience rather than facts and while the Council includes eminent scientists it also includes specialists in ‘chocolate addiction’ and evangelical Christian ‘re-education’ of gay people.

Whether it’s determining the inflammability of building materials or the relative potential for harm of different substances, what is clear is that this government is more concerned with dogma, vested interests and old-fashioned prejudices than the safety, health and wellbeing of the population. This Drug Strategy is a recipe for failure, for continuing exactly as before.

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.