Posts Tagged ‘cannabis’
Face it, this is exactly how too many people in Britain see medicinal cannabis users. It’s not true. It’s not fair. It’s unjust. Almost everything about it is wrong. The one thing that’s right – is that it’s a stereotype some people keep on reinforcing.
So we have to educate and inform those who have the power to change the law. We also have to adjust our aims and our expectations to be realistic in the eyes of those we need to persuade. It’s a big enough leap to convince people that cannabis can be a safe and effective medicine. In 2015, in the UK, the idea that we are going to convince politicians and medical policymakers that we “grow our own medicine” is fantasy. It is not going to happen.
Of course, many people have to grow their own at present because they have no choice. Particularly now that NICE have recommended against Sativex there is, for most people, no other option.
Effective campaigning is about focus, ruthless focus on a precise target. For medicinal cannabis, wider issues of human rights, individuality, ecology, lifestyle, – these are irrelevant. Do those some other time. Real and effective campaigning is like a job interview. You behave and dress in a way you believe will win you credit with your your prospective employer. That’s what we must do if we want to persuade people and change minds.
So the image of medicinal cannabis users we present is crucial. When government ministers see that we are ordinary, decent, hardworking people with families, careers, homes, pets, elderly relatives that we care about – and all we are trying to do is improve our health – that’s what makes the difference.
Believe me, I have seen it with my own eyes. When we first met Norman Baker last year, he was far from convinced about medicinal cannabis. He was pretty dubious about it in fact, as are many. He said initially there was only “limited evidence”. Only when he met some people and listened to their stories did he become open to considering the evidence that we offered. I swear, I actually watched his mind changing, particularly as he listened to Lara Smith explain how she copes with constant pain and bringing up three young children.
Later, Norman told me that when he spoke to Theresa May about it, she simply didn’t understand. She couldn’t conceive that these scumbag potheads and druggies have anything to do with the consumption of a therapeutic and beneficial plant.
It is a step too far to try and include GYO in the campaign for medicinal cannabis. We are simply laughed at. No one suggests growing opium poppies or willow trees or deadly nightshade to use as medicine. It undermines all the effort to provide good scientific evidence and a responsible, coherent argument. GYO cannot provide the standards of quality, consistency, safety (free from mould, fertiliser and pesticide residues, etc) that other medicines have to comply with.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for GYO but I’m a weirdo, one of those eccentrics who also grows his own tomatoes, potatoes and other vegetables. Most people prefer to buy them in Sainsbury’s and that’s exactly how it will be when cannabis is finally legalised. Most people will prefer it in a nice plastic tray with a film wrapper and a label telling them exactly what they are getting.
GYO must wait for wider decriminalisation or legalisation. Bringing it into the argument for permitting medicinal use is the cannabis campaign shooting itself in the foot – yet again!
Oliver Letwin MP is, according to The Independent, “probably the most powerful person in the government after the Prime Minister and Chancellor”.
He is the Cabinet Office minister with responsibility for the implementation of government policy. He holds the ancient title of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He is a member of 13 of the 14 Cabinet committees and chair of three of them, more than anyone other than Cameron. He is now chair of the most powerful of them, the Home Affairs committee, which Theresa May would have expected to chair and he also sits on nine of the 10 new “Implementation Taskforces”. Cameron is said to have told him “I need you with me every day”.
An extraordinarily powerful and influential man. I met with him last week to put the case for reform of policy on medicinal cannabis. He listened attentively, asked searching questions, evidently has a good understanding of science and medicines regulation. In the end, he agreed to ask Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, to meet with me and a delegation of medicinal cannabis users. We agreed that the Home Office is no longer the route to reform. The word is that if the Department of Health calls for a new policy then the Home Office will comply. Theresa May has been sidelined on this issue. Her minister of state for drugs policy, Mike Penning, seems to be nothing but a mouthpiece for Home Office civil servants. Quite properly and at last, medicinal cannabis is being seen as a health issue and not one of law enforcement or criminal justice.
So we could not have a more important opportunity. Mr Letwin has now confirmed to me in writing that he will “..investigate the question of prescription cannabis for relief of medical conditions. I will start the process of talking to people in MHRA, Public Health England and so forth to try to get a sense of the pros and cons.”
Although he has not yet indicated to me that he supports our cause, he seemed particularly perplexed that cannabis is a schedule 1 drug whereas heroin is schedule 2 and may be prescribed by a doctor. It is clear that he recognises there is medicinal value in cannabis.
To have Oliver Letwin pursuing our cause through government is great progress. Although the loss of our Liberal Democrat allies has been a setback, it seems that the issue of medicinal cannabis has momentum. We need to keep on keeping on. Nothing works better than getting in front of government minsters and showing them that most people who use medicinal cannabis are responsible members of society, doing the best they can to contribute, holding down a job where possible, looking after their families and trying to maintain their health.
I sense that the optimism we felt before the election was not misplaced. Engaging with government, turning away from irresponsible protest and putting our arguments forward with courtesy and evidence is what will achieve our goal.
CLEAR is launching a new recruitment drive for its Medicinal Cannabis Users Panel. If you use cannabis as medicine, joining the panel is the most effective thing you can do both to advance the campaign and, in some instances, gain legitimate access to prescribed Bedrocan medicinal cannabis.
The panel has proved itself to be the most effective campaigning method ever used in the UK. As a direct result of the efforts of panel members, in the last two years there have been more meetings with government minsters, officials and senior MPs than the whole campaign has managed in the last 50 years.
You must be a member of CLEAR to join the panel, then you complete a detailed questionnaire providing information on your condition(s) and how cannabis helps. Each applicant is then interviewed by telephone to develop an individual plan. This will depend on a number of factors, such as your relationship with your doctor, your MP, how much time you have available and whether you are prepared to tell your story to the media.
If your doctor is prepared to help, there is now an established route to getting medicinal cannabis prescribed and legally imported into the UK. CLEAR has developed this process through experience working with doctors, MPs, the Home Office and the Border Force. We also have crucial support from the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Drug Policy Reform and a number of members of the House of Lords. This is on a private prescription basis only. The prescription has to be very carefully written, using exactly the correct wording and, to begin with, you will have to travel to Holland in person to have the prescription dispensed at a pharmacy. Thereafter it may be possible to have repeat prescriptions sent through the post.
Bedrocan is the Dutch government’s official producer of medicinal cannabis. Five different varieties are available at a cost of approximately seven to eight euros per gram. See full details of the different products here.
All panel members are guided in how to approach their doctor and MP. Initial contact should be made by letter or email but then it is important to meet your doctor and MP face to face and provide them with high quality scientific evidence to support your case. CLEAR will offer guidance and help at every stage. If you wish then a member of our executive committee will accompany you to meetings to help you present your case. Whether or not your doctor is prepared to write a prescription for you, we aim to continue leading delegations of medicinal users to meet ministers. We have seen again and again what an impact this can have. When senior politicians who have no experience of medicinal cannabis meet genuine, decent, ordinary people with families and careers who tell their story with sincerity and conviction, it has an enormous impact.
If you live in the UK and are interested in joining the panel, please email a brief explanation of your interest to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please do not go into great detail at this stage. Applications should be no more than 200 words. We will respond to you with a questionnaire within seven to 10 days.
Today, Baroness Molly Meacher asked a question about cannabis in the House of Lords .
There is a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding about what happened, so I shall do my best to explain.
This was not a full debate. There never was any prospect of any law being changed. It was simply a question, which would be answered by the government spokesman and Lady Meacher would then have the opportunity to ask a further, supplementary question. In the process, other members of the House would be able to interject and make their own comments.
The question was whether cannabis could be re-scheduled, out of schedule one, which determines that it has no medicinal value, to schedule two or three which would allow doctors to prescribe it and also enable researchers to access and use cannabis more easily in studies and clinical trials.
The government behaved exactly as expected. The most generous interpretation is that the spokesman, Lord Bates, was misinformed. His first response to Lady Meacher’s question was to parrot the Home Office’s usual line on cannabis about it being a harmful drug.
This of course, is nothing to do with medicinal use. Most medicines are far more harmful than cannabis and any potential harms are traded off against therapeutic benefit.
I know some people are already accusing Lord Bates of being a ‘liar’ but this is not true. He simply has no idea what he is talking about and his briefing from Home Office officials is designed not to inform but to deflect, confuse and retain control within the bureaucracy. The claim that the Advisory Council recommends against medicinal cannabis is factually incorrect. The ACMD is not constituted to advise on the medicinal benefits of any drug.
So ignore what the government said. It is largely irrelevant to the process of informing and changing minds amongst those in power. They will instruct officials and spokespeople as necessary once they understand a more successful path forwards.
The rest of the debate was almost all positive. Lord Dubs succumbed to the ‘skunk’ myth but who can blame him. given the level of propaganda and hysteria promoted even by ‘public service broadcasters’ such as Channel 4 and and some of our so-called eminent ‘scientists’. Lord Howarth of Newport hit the nail on the head and referred to the terrible difficulty of those who need access to Bedrocan. He is a stalwart ally of a few, fortunate CLEAR members whose doctors have had the courage to prescribe.
This mini debate was good news. It was another brick in the wall. Clearly, attitudes are changing and the facts are beginning to overtake the myths. Many Lords and MPs are on our side.
As ever, the way forward is relentless, individual, lobbying and informing. We must keep telling truth to power, challenging misinformation and providing knowledge.
Today, in the House of Lords, progress was made.
Sometime after 3.00pm, tomorrow, Wednesday, 17th June 2015, Baroness Molly Meacher will ask a question in the House of Lords on the re-scheduling of cannabis to permit it to be prescribed by doctors for medicinal use. Watch it here on Parliament TV.
Behind this is a report ‘Regulating Cannabis for Medical Use in the UK’, authored by Professor Val Curran of UCL and Frank Warburton of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform (APPG). This sets out an argument for moving cannabis from schedule one to schedule two or three, enabling doctors to prescribe it and facilitating further research on its therapeutic properties. It also endorses the central theme of CLEAR’s medicinal cannabis campaign – that UK doctors should be permitted to prescribe products from Bedrocan, the medicinal cannabis producer regulated by the Dutch government.
The UK is now a very long way behind the rest of the western world on enabling access to cannabis as medicine. The UK is second only to places like Indonesia, China and Singapore in ignoring evidence and basing drugs policy on prejudice and scaremongering. The only significant difference is that we don’t execute people for possession of drugs.
In Europe more than 250 million people now have legal access to medicinal cannabis, 210 million in the USA, 35 million in Canada and 8 million in Israel. A few CLEAR members, with the support of their doctors and the APPG have managed to obtain legal access to Bedrocan medicinal cannabis from pharmacies in Holland. The struggle involved though is horrendous. It means travelling to Holland, declaring the medicine to customs on return and legality depends on exactly how the prescription is phrased. Get it wrong and both doctor and patient could face criminal charges. It also depends on the mood and knowledge of the Border Force officer on duty at customs. If he or she has had a bad day, as one CLEAR member discovered, that’s £500 of medicine plus travelling expenses, that will never be seen again.
Just a few days ago, Lord Winston, the British public’s favourite doctor, also endorsed medicinal cannabis, saying:
“When I was chairman of the Science and Technology Select Committee some years ago, we looked intensively at the medicinal uses of cannabis. One of the pieces of evidence was very compelling and enabled us to think about rather permissive legislation. It was that a number of people who had medical conditions, such as glaucoma and multiple sclerosis, took cannabis, which was not prescribed, to relieve their symptoms.” Source
This reform is long overdue. UK policy on medicinal cannabis is deeply cruel, evidence-free and based on the views of the tabloid press rather than medical experts, although even that is changing with today’s story in The Sun ‘Cannabis: Is it a curse or cure? Three readers reveal how controversial herb has saved their lives’
CLEAR produced its own report earlier this year ‘Medicinal Cannabis:The Evidence’, a comprehensive and up to date review of the peer-reviewed, published evidence.
Unique amongst western democracies, the UK is reinforcing its ‘war on drugs’ with the most inane blanket ban on anything that has a psychoactive effect.
In the face of all the evidence, even of Ireland which has seen a similar policy result in increased heroin use and a crimewave, the buffoons at the Home Office and No.10 are pressing ahead.
The result will be more criminal markets, more misery, more death, more crime, more harms. It is madness on a grand scale – but it’s actually more sinister than that.
Prohibition is a fundamentally immoral policy because it turns the forces of law enforcement against the people they are supposed to protect. It is cancerous to any society. Banning things never works. It only makes the problem worse.
It is bound to fail and we have seen it do so again and again. Nevertheless, weak politicians return to it in
the delusional belief that this time it will work. What encourages them is that it allows them to appease
vested interests. That starts with the tabloid press but it’s really all about the alcohol industry and its
monopoly of legal recreational drugs.
When the brewers, distillers and bankers say bend over, Cameron drops his trousers and says ‘how would you like me?’. Look at the deliberate suppression of the evidence on minimum unit pricing. Cameron’s hypocrissy about corruption at the G7 is astonishing. UK drugs policy is run for the benefit of vested interests and has nothing to do with reducing harm.
It is ludicrous that the most dangerous, addictive and harmful drug of all is the only one that is legal.
The rise of NPS is entirely the product of our lunatic and futile policy of banning safe substances such as
cannabis and MDMA.
Make no mistake, compared to booze, aspirin, paracetamol, ibuprofen, hay fever remedies – weed and E are safe. Check the facts of usage, deaths and hospital admissions.
This new bill is a pathetic concept by illiberal, repressive, rather stupid and weak policymakers. It disgraces Britain. In terms of humane, rational, evidence-based drugs policy it puts us second only to Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia. The only thing that distinguishes us from these medieval regimes is that we don’t execute people for drug possession.
This must be indicative of the attitude that we can expect from the new Conservative government. It would seem that this is a hardening of drugs policy as being a criminal justice issue rather than something to do with health.
Ironically, Penning is MP for a constituency that takes its name from the long history of cannabis cultivation in the UK. Hemel Hempstead means Hemel’s cannabis farm. Cannabis hemp was, of course, one of the most widely grown agricultural crops prior to the 20th century for its tremendous value as fibre for rope and textiles. Its history as a source of medicine has been largely forgotten but it was widely used and as many as half of all medicines in the British pharmacopoeia once contained cannabis. Without doubt cannabis was used as a recreational drug as well but the experiment of prohibition which began in 1928 has obscured all this history.
Penning is on record as a hardliner on drugs policy. In February 2015, he publicly rebuked Mike Barton, chief constable of Durham, saying:
“I do not agree at all with the chief constable of Durham. I have told him so and I will continue to tell him. Drugs are a scourge in our society and we must do everything we can to crack down on them.”
He has also twice submitted written questions asking how many deaths there have been from cannabis. Of course, on both occasions the answer has been none but it reveals a worrying lack of knowledge and suggests a readiness to listen to or even promote evidence-free scaremongering. He has also been responsible for the dreadful drug driving legislation, widely criticised by all informed parties and a classic example of bad lawmaking driven by the tabloid press rather than by evidence.
So this is very worrying and depressing news for those interested in drugs policy reform. CLEAR will be reaching out to Mr Penning through our network of supportive Tory MPs and we will be seeking a meeting as soon as possible to present our case. Most urgently we will seek his support for allowing the prescription of medicinal cannabis by doctors.
This reinforces my view that CLEAR’s strategy of engagement and persuasion is the correct way forward. Protests and making demands never have worked and never will, particularly with ministers like Penning.
Sometimes it seems that some UK politicians are oblivious to what is happening in the US, Uruguay, Israel and across Europe, not just on access to medicinal cannabis but on wider drugs policy reform. That will be another objective; to educate and inform him of policies that more enlightened jurisdictions are pursuing and the great benefits for public expenditure savings, new tax revenue, health, crime and Tory values of individual liberty and free enterprise.