Posts Tagged ‘Department of Health’
If the Government Won’t Regulate Cannabis Then We’ll Do It For Them
The CBD Market
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, the response to the recent call from MPs and peers to legalise cannabis for medicinal use has come straight from the top. Theresa May’s longstanding reputation as a denier of science and evidence on drugs policy is reinforced by her peremptory dismissal of the expert report. It seems that, at least in the short term, the UK government is sticking by a policy that is discredited, ridiculous and deeply cruel.
It fell to Sarah Newton MP, minister of state at the Home Office, to respond to a parliamentary question from Roger Godsiff, Labour MP for Birmingham, Hall Green.
“To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, if she will respond to the recommendations of the report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform Accessing Medicinal Cannabis: Meeting Patients’ Needs, published in September 2016.”
“The Prime Minister responded to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform’s report ‘Accessing Medicinal Cannabis: Meeting Patients’ Needs’ on the 27 October.
Cannabis is controlled as a Class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and, in its raw form, currently has no recognised medicinal benefits in the UK. It is therefore listed as a Schedule 1 drug under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001.
It is important that all medicines containing controlled drugs are thoroughly trialled to ensure they meet rigorous standards so that doctors and patients are sure of their efficacy and safety. To do otherwise for cannabis would amount to a circumvention of the clearly established and necessary regime for approving medicines in the UK.”
In other words, this is nothing more than a re-statement of the same position that the UK government has held since 1971 when legal access to medicinal cannabis was halted. Quite clearly the government has given no consideration at all to the vast amount of scientific evidence and international experience that has accumulated over the last 45 years. The latest report which took nine months to produce, took evidence from over 600 witnesses and included a review of over 20,000 scientific studies is simply cast aside. To be honest, I doubt whether it has even been read by Ms May or anyone in the Home Office or Department of Health. This is the standard that now prevails in the UK – government of the people by an unaccountable, out-of-touch, unresponsive cabal of individuals elected by a deeply flawed system that gives democracy a bad name.
On the face of it, the claim that all medicines must be thoroughly trialled seems plausible – but it is not. It is a misleading half-truth clearly intended to squash the call for access to medicinal cannabis by painting a false picture.
Doctors are allowed to prescribe any medicine, licensed or unlicensed, as they see fit, based on their own judgement. But prescribing of cannabis is specifically prohibited by Statutory Instrument despite the scientific consensus that it is far less dangerous than many, probably most commonly prescribed medicines.
So it’s not a level playing field. It’s a policy that is based on prejudice and scaremongering about recreational use of cannabis. Ms Newton’s answer is at best disingenuous but then she probably doesn’t even realise that herself. For many years Home Office policy has been systematically to mislead and misinform on cannabis and evidently under Ms May’s successor, Amber Rudd MP, such dishonesty continues.
Something will eventually force the government’s hand to change its absurd position on cannabis. Sadly the very last consideration will be scientific evidence or the will of the people. Such factors hold no sway with UK governments. Only when enough of the political elite open their eyes and examine their conscience, or some key individuals or their family members, experience the need for medicinal cannabis will change become possible. Alternatively, political upheaval may present an opportunity. The Liberal Democrats were too cowardly, weak and concerned with building their personal careers when in coalition to advance the cause they now so bravely advocate. Perhaps the SNP, with 56 MPs, all in favour of medicinal cannabis may be our best hope.
Sarah Newton is merely a puppet of the Home Office bureaucracy. Theresa May’s mendacious position on all aspects of drugs policy is well established and she is as stubborn and bigoted as they come on such matters. Only when she, in person, is subject to sufficient pressure will this cruel, ignorant and hateful policy change.
The Liberal Democrats are doing great work on advancing the cause of cannabis law reform. Their policy proposals are sensible and their arguments for change are irrefutable but they are wrong to buy into and sustain the myths and scaremongering that have dominated the cannabis debate for so long.
Cannabis does not cause psychosis. Stronger strains do not present serious health risks. Memory loss is not a significant issue and no issue at all in comparison to the health harms of alcohol or tobacco. Cannabis cannot be described as dangerous unless you also apply that word to hay fever remedies, over-the-counter painkillers and energy drinks. There is not and never has been any scientific evidence to support these myths.
Of course, we must be sensitive to people’s fears and concerns. For more than 50 years the British people have been fed a stream of lies and exaggeration by the tabloid media. The Home Office, right up to today, is engaged in a systematic and deliberate policy to mislead and misinform on cannabis. Shocking though that fact is, this policy transcends successive governments and continues irrespective of ministers’ views. It clearly emanates from dishonest and corrupt officials who are determined to pursue their own agenda, irrespective of truth or concern for the massive harms and cost of cannabis prohibition.
Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat MP and health spokesperson, who is leading the party’s campaign, is a brave, sincere and conscientious politician. One of the few in Westminster that matches up to the high standards of probity and wisdom that we should be able to expect from all MPs. Similarly, Nick Clegg, former leader, and Tim Farron, current leader, have spoken out strongly on the need to reform the law. Now is the time for them also to start telling the truth about cannabis, about how its dangers have been vastly exaggerated, how for adults, in moderation, it can actually be very beneficial and far preferable as a choice of relaxant to alcohol. Indeed, if people substituted cannabis for some of their alcohol consumption, it would be a public health revolution. It would save the NHS billions and transform the health of our society.
The cannabis campaign will not succeed unless we tell the truth. We cannot compromise facts and evidence for the illusory belief that buying into the scare stories will somehow advance the cause. We need to push back at the scaremongering, acknowledge there are risks but that they are extremely small. They really only apply to use by children or to behaviour that is analogous to a ‘white cider drinker’. Consume anything to excess, regularly, without a break, without regard to other aspects of life and it will cause harm but even then, cannabis will cause less harm than any other substance.
As for children, one of the main aims of reform must be to minimise underage use. Even then, the scare story that cannabis is causing significant mental health problems amongst young people is untrue. The Department of Health’s own data shows that in the last five years, there has been an average of just 28 episodes per year of care for ‘cannabis psychosis’ in young people. 28 individual tragedies but an insignificant problem in public health terms.
The misuse of the term ‘skunk’ is also unhelpful. The Channel 4 ‘Drugs Live’ debacle last year was based on reckless, irresponsible overdosing of inexperienced users by a scientist who should know better. All the time calling the cannabis was called ‘skunk’ when it is a matter of fact that it was silver haze as grown by Bedrocan, the Netherlands’ government producer of medicinal cannabis. Skunk is actually the name of one particular cannabis strain and not an especially strong one. Cannabis is available in Britain that is twice, sometimes three times as potent as skunk but the word has been selected and promoted by the tabloid press because of its obvious, sensationalist, negative connotations.
Thank you to the Liberal Democrats for the fantastic work they are doing. All we need now is a little adjustment and focus on truth rather than scare stories.
Could This Be A Breakthrough In The UK Campaign For Medicinal Cannabis?
Cannabis used as medicine has appeared before in UK soaps but the news is that this Coronation Street storyline could be less jokey and trivial and actually deal in science and truth. If so it could be a major breakthrough against an intransigent government that flatly refuses even to consider the evidence.
Coronation Street is the world’s longest running soap opera still in production. Each episode reaches an average of between five and eight million viewers. It is deeply enmeshed in the fabric of British working class culture. If it puts a positive spin on medicinal cannabis it could change public opinion quicker than almost anything else.
Most senior politicians know the truth about medicinal cannabis but refuse to act, leaving millions in unnecessary pain and suffering for fear of a media backlash. But the media is changing too. Aside from a few individual dinosaur journalists and the bigots who edit the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph, the rest of the media is pretty much onside.
The UK government’s position is nothing short of ridiculous, particularly given developments throughout the rest of the world. Look to Australia for the latest progressive, evidence-based change in policy, where very soon 23 million people will gain legal access to medicinal cannabis.
A positive Coronation Street storyline will give the cowards in the Department of Health and the refuseniks in the Home Office a way out. It is inevitable that reform will come. This could mean it is sooner rather than later.
Yet another cannabis petition amongst hundreds of similar pleas was filed earlier this autumn. This one though is more tightly focused on removing cannabis from schedule 1, which defines it as having no medicinal value. The petition is also commendably concise but characterises itself as a ‘demand‘ that cannabis be rescheduled, an unfortunate choice of words.
Nevertheless, congratulations are due in that it has exceeded the threshold of 10,000 signatures which means the government must respond. That response is now in and it is predictably dishonest, dismissive and authoritarian in its tone. The Home Office has responsibility for drugs policy so it has drafted the response but it surely must have consulted with the Department of Health.
In fact, I was told only this week by a senior minister that “… the search into the medicinal use of cannabis is something that falls within the jurisdiction of the Department of Health.” That may be a subtle shift in policy from which we can draw some hope. But I fear that the response to this petition offers no hope at all. It is stubborn, obstinate, inaccurate and in denial of evidence and experience.
To be clear, the Home Office has been systematically lying and misleading the British people about cannabis for at least 50 years. The Department of Health is timid on the issue, leaves the public statements to the Home Office heavies and seems more interested in generating fee income for the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), than in actually treating patients effectively.
I analyse the response paragraph by paragraph.
“Herbal cannabis is listed in Schedule 1 as a drug with no recognised medicinal uses outside research. A substantial body of scientific evidence shows it is harmful and can damage human health.”
By far the majority of scientists and doctors now recognise that cannabis has real and significant medicinal uses. Of course it is possible that cannabis can cause harm, as can any substance. However, there is no scientific evidence that shows cannabis as being any more harmful than over-the-counter medicines or many common foods. Professor Les Iversen, chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, is on the record saying: “cannabis is a safer drug than aspirin and can be used long term without serious side effects”.
“The Government will not encourage the use of a Schedule 1 controlled drug based on anecdotal evidence. It is important that a medicine is very thoroughly trialled to ensure it meets rigorous standards before being licensed and placed on the market so that doctors and patients are sure of its efficacy and safety. “
It is not the government’s role to encourage the use of any drug as medicine, that is the role of a doctor. Only by removing cannabis from schedule 1 can that decision be placed in doctors’ hands. There is a vast quantity of peer-reviewed, published scientific evidence on the medicinal use of cannabis including human clinical trials. It is false to suggest that only anecdotal evidence is available. See ‘Medicinal Cannabis: The Evidence’. Thousands of doctors and millions of patients are sure of the efficacy and safety of cannabis based on existing research, trials and experience. Many commonly prescribed medicines have nowhere near as much evidence behind them as cannabis.
“Cannabis in its raw form (herbal cannabis) is not recognised as having any medicinal purposes in the UK. There is already a clear regime in place to enable medicines (including those containing controlled drugs) to be developed and subsequently prescribed and supplied to patients via healthcare professionals. This regime is administered by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which issues Marketing Authorisations for drugs that have been tried and tested for their safety and efficacy as medicines in the UK.”
The lack of recognition for the medicinal purposes of cannabis is a grave error with no evidence that supports it. Cannabis is a traditional medicine which recorded history shows has been used safely and effectively for at least 5,000 years. The only thing that stands in the way of cannabis being prescribed by doctors is its schedule 1 status. The MHRA is a diversion and is irrelevant. It exists to trial and regulate new medicines and requires a £100,000 application fee before very costly clinical trials take place. This is an unnecessary obstacle to a traditional medicine which contains more than 400 compounds. The MHRA process is designed for potentially dangerous, single molecule drugs and is not applicable to cannabis.
“It is up to organisations to apply for Marketing Authorisation for products that they believe have potential medicinal purposes so that these can be subject to the same stringent regime and requirements that all medicines in the UK are subjected to.”
Many substances and drugs which have medicinal purposes are regulated either as Traditional Herbal Products or food supplements. It is the schedule 1 status of cannabis which prevents it being regulated and controlled in this way which is far more appropriate given its very low potential for harm and the very wide range of conditions for which it can be useful.
“Since 2010 UK patients can use the cannabis-based medicine ‘Sativex’ for the treatment of spasticity due to multiple sclerosis. ‘Sativex’ can also be prescribed for other conditions at the prescribing doctor’s risk. ‘Sativex’ was rigorously tested for its safety and efficacy before receiving approval, and is distinguished from cannabis in its raw form. It is a spray which is standardised in composition, formulation and dose and developed to provide medicinal benefits without a psychoactive effect. Due to its low psychoactive profile ‘Sativex’ was rescheduled from Schedule 1 and placed in Schedule 4 Part 1 to enable its availability for use in healthcare in the UK.”
Sativex is a massively expensive form of cannabis oil which is not prescribed because of its cost. It is at least 10 times the price of Bedrocan medicinal cannabis as regulated by the Netherlands government which could be immediately made available in the UK. It is a deliberate falsehood to claim that Sativex does not have a psychoactive effect. The statutory document ‘Summary of Product Characteristics’ describes “euphoric mood” as a “common” side effect. The scheduling of Sativex in schedule 4 is a deception requiring 75 words falsely to distinguish it from other forms of cannabis whereas every other drug in every other schedule requires just one word.
“The MHRA is open to considering marketing approval applications for other medicinal cannabis products should a product be developed. As happened in the case of ‘Sativex’, the Home Office will also consider issuing a licence to enable trials of new medicines to take place under the appropriate ethical approvals. “
Cannabis, which contains 400 + compounds is not suitable for MHRA regulation which is designed for single molecule drugs which are potentially dangerous. There is no significant danger from the use of cannabis when prescribed by a doctor. This is already well established in scientific evidence and the referral to the MHRA is a diversion and an excuse for failing simply to put the decision in doctors’ hands.
“In view of the potential harms associated with the use of cannabis in its raw form and the availability of avenues for medicinal development, the Government does not consider it appropriate to make changes to the control status of raw or herbal cannabis. “
The government has offered no evidence of the potential harms to which it gives such weight. No “development” of cannabis is required. It is a traditional medicine consisting of the dried flowers of the cannabis plant.
“The Government’s view is that the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and regulations made under the Act continue to facilitate the development of medicines which are made from Schedule 1 controlled drugs. The legislation is aimed at protecting the public from the potential harms of drugs and is not an impediment to research into these drugs or development of medicines.”
The government’s view is intransigent and as demonstrated by this response is ignorant of the available evidence. This response reinforces the government’s clear intention not to consider the evidence and simply to deny it. The evidence shows that the potential harms of cannabis as medicine are trivial and inconsequential. If its schedule 1 status was not an impediment to research, there would already be a great deal more research into cannabis as medicine.
“In 2013 the Home Office undertook a scoping exercise targeted at a cross-section of the scientific community, including the main research bodies, in response to concerns from a limited number of research professionals that Schedule 1 status was generally impeding research into new drugs.
Our analysis of the responses confirmed a high level of interest, both generally and at institution level, in Schedule 1 research. However, the responses did not support the view that Schedule 1 controlled drug status impedes research in this area. While the responses confirmed Home Office licensing costs and requirements form part of a number of issues which influence decisions to undertake research in this area, ethics approval was identified as the key consideration, while the next most important consideration was the availability of funding.”
The Home Office is entirely untrustworthy and dishonest on anything to do with cannabis. Researchers, scientists, doctors and those already using cannabis as medicine simply do not trust anything it says on the subject based on long experience of its calculated dishonesty and misinformation.
Today, Friday 9th October, in advance of Monday’s cannabis debate in Parliament, I met with Oliver Letwin, the Cabinet Office minister with responsibility for the implementation of government policy.
According to The Independent, Oliver Letwin is “probably the most powerful person in the government after the Prime Minister and Chancellor”. I first met with him back in July and he agreed to investigate the possibility of cannabis being available on prescription. When the cannabis debate was announced, I asked to see him again before the debate took place and he very generously arranged to see me just in time.
Monday’s debate will be the first time in nearly 50 years that MPs have had an opportunity to consider the subject. Throughout the world, more and more governments are waking up to the huge damage that cannabis prohibition causes. Nearly all the harms around cannabis are not caused by cannabis itself but the laws against it. Prohibition of anything for which there is huge demand inevitably creates a criminal market. More than three million people in the UK choose to use cannabis regularly. We consume more than three and a half tons every day and spend more than £6 billion every year, all of which goes into the black economy.
Since the early 20th century, acres of newsprint have been devoted to telling us how harmful cannabis can be. The alcohol industry fiercely guards its monopoly of legal recreational drug use. It has enormous influence in government and its £800 million annual advertising spend give it great power over the media.
But the truth is becoming clear. Scientific evidence and real world experience show that compared to alcohol and even common painkillers and over-the-counter medicines, cannabis is very, very safe. Concerns about mental health impacts are proven to be wildly overblown as cannabis use has escalated by many orders of magnitude but mental health diagnoses have remained stable. Increasingly, those responsible for drugs policy realise that abandoning this huge market to criminals only makes things worse. Criminals don’t care who they sell to or what they sell, so children and the vulnerable become their customers and their product becomes low quality, contaminated, often very high strength ‘moonshine’ varieties.
A Win Win Proposal To The UK Government On Cannabis.
Perhaps the most pernicious effect of cannabis prohibition is the denial of access to it a medicine. On this, Mr Letwin has been consulting with other ministers in the Department of Health and the Home Office. He says he is now convinced that there is a very positive future for cannabinoid medicines. As a result, I hope to be meeting again shortly with George Freeman MP, the Life Sciences Minister. I led a delegation of medicinal cannabis users to meet with him at the beginning of this year. Mr Letwin has indicated to me that it is Mr Freeman’s office that needs to deal with this, so I am hopeful of real progress in the near future.
Mr Letwin warned me that the debate itself will not produce any change in the law and I acknowledge this but it is part of the process that will eventually get us there. I suggested that there is a win win option that could be implemented very easily and quickly. There is huge pressure on the government to act but also great inertia and resistance to change from the old guard. I proposed that if cannabis could be moved out of schedule 1 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations it would enable doctors to prescribe it and researchers more easily begin the task of developing and testing new products.
The great benefit this would offer to the government is that it would be seen to be responding to the evidence, being progressive and keeping up with the worldwide movement towards reform. However, for the more conservative thinkers, the ‘tough on drugs’ mantra would remain in place. Cannabis would still be a class B drug and all the same penalties would remain in force. Both sides of the debate could see this move as a success for their argument.
So we all look forward to the debate. As is normal practice, no government ministers will participate but I expect a Home office minister will give some sort of response. We are making progress. Revolution is not the British way but I do think we can continue with guarded optimism that our message is getting through and the direction of travel is certain.