Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘Drug Strategy

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.

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House Of Lords Condemns Government Drug Policy

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This evening, at the behest of Lord Norton of Louth, the House of Lords ripped apart our disgraceful and incompetent government drug policy.  Without exception, every speaker highlighted the human and financial cost of the disastrous course that the British government is on.  You can watch the  debate here from 19:48 onwards.

“Evidence! Evidence! Evidence!”

Again and again, highly intelligent speakers demolished the government’s strategy and contrasted it with the approach in other countries: Holland, Spain, Portugal, the Czech Republic and the USA.

“Why doesn’t the government recognise reality?”

Baroness Molly Meacher was particularly magnificent; stirring and powerful: “We have the evidence and lots of it”.

Cameron and his poodle, Theresa May and most of all Brokenshire must be grovelling in dismay at their humiliation.  Lord Stevenson of Balmacara said “…there is a good case for drugs policy being transferred to health and taken away from the Home Office…Judging from the evidence that we have heard tonight, something clearly has to happen soon!”.    Brokenshire’s job is on the way out!

The government response was stumbling and barely competent.  “A review is not warranted…what we want to do is give our strategy a good try”. There was a particularly embarrassing deception about the effect of banning mephodrone.  I am certain that Lady Neville-Jones herself was uncomfortable delivering it.

All in all this was a victory for truth, an inspiration and an absolute defeat for government drug policy.

Home Office Drug Strategy Blog – Brokenshire The Buffoon

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James Brokenshire introduces the new Home Office drug strategy blog here.

It is difficult to contain the contempt in which I hold this odious and dishonest little man.  His brazen cheek in believing that he has anything of honour or relevance to publish on the internet is astounding.  Is he really so isolated in his ivory tower that he doen’t realise how much he and his polices are despised and reviled?  Does he not know that he is subject to intense ridicule and disrespect at his absurd ideas and propaganda?  Doesn’t he know that he is universally regarded as a complete prat – by all his colleagues, doctors, scientists, members of the ACMD, everyone who comes into contact with him?

This is my comment.  I did my best to restrain myself and stay polite.  I wonder whether it will be published?

There are many, many things wrong with Britain’s drug strategy. We now have one of the most regressive, authoritarian and oppressive drug policies anywhere in the world.  Only in places where they execute people for drug possession such as Malaysia or China are there more backwards, unjust and outdated ideas being implemented.

No omission or error is more heinous though than the failure even to mention the medicinal use of cannabis.  With the new understanding of the endocannabinoid system and its vital importance to all aspects of human physiology, the power of cannabis as medicine is self-evident.  Throughout Europe, doctors are able to prescribe medicinal cannabis to patients.  Extraordinary results are achieved in multiple sclerosis, neuropathic pain, Crohn’s, cancer, ADHD and many other conditions. Meanwhile the British government continues with what can only be described as its inane response that “there are no medicinal benefits in cannabis”.  It is not just a stupid policy. It is cruel.  Hundreds of thousands of British citizens are denied access to the medicine that could relieve their pain and suffering. Meanwhile, in virtually every other country in Europe except France, in Israel and in 15 US states, cannabis is being used as medicine and achieving wonderful results.

Those denied their medicine in Britain are humiliated that European patients can bring medicinal cannabis into Britain and use it under the protection of the Schengen Agreement.  This is a cruel and unusual punishment for the crime of being resident in Britain.

The British drug strategy is a joke throughout the world except amongst those agencies and drug workers that depend upon it for their living.  It is a shame on our great nation and an extreme indictment of our political system which allows such discredited, cruel and self-defeating policies to persist.

The prohibition of medicinal cannabis is perhaps the best example of how utterly useless, out of date and hopeless is current government drugs policy.

Breakthrough In The Drugs Debate!

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Bob Ainsworth

Tomorrow, Bob Ainsworth MP, former Home Office drugs minister and Secretary of State for Defence, will call for the legalisation and regulation of drugs. He is to lead a Parliamentary debate in Westminster Hall, at 2.30pm on Thursday 16th December 2010.

Great credit for this must go to the inestimable Transform Drug Policy Foundation, which has led the fight against prohibition.  This is an extraordinary breakthrough.  The news literally brought tears to my eyes.  We have fought so long for such progress.

Mr Ainsworth said;

“I have just been reading the Coalition Government’s new Drugs Strategy.  It is described by the Home Secretary as fundamentally different to what has gone before; it is not.  To the extent that it is different, it is potentially harmful because it retreats from the principle of harm reduction, which has been one of the main reasons for the reduction in acquisitive crime in recent years.

However, prohibition has failed to protect us. Leaving the drugs market in the hands of criminals causes huge and unnecessary harms to individuals, communities and entire countries, with the poor the hardest hit. We spend billions of pounds without preventing the wide availability of drugs. It is time to replace our failed war on drugs with a strict system of legal regulation, to make the world a safer, healthier place, especially for our children.  We must take the trade away from organised criminals and hand it to the control of doctors and pharmacists.

As drugs minister in the Home Office I saw how prohibition fails to reduce the harm that drugs cause in the UK, fuelling burglaries, gifting the trade to gangsters and increasing HIV infections. My experience as Defence Secretary, with specific responsibilities in Afghanistan, showed to me that the war on drugs creates the very conditions that perpetuate the illegal trade, while undermining international development and security.

My departure from the front benches gives me the freedom to express my long held view that, whilst it was put in place with the best of intentions, the war on drugs has been nothing short of a disaster.

Politicians and the media need to engage in a genuine and grown up debate about alternatives to prohibition, so that we can build a consensus based on delivering the best outcomes for our children and communities. I call on those on all sides of the debate to support an independent, evidence-based review, exploring all policy options, including: further resourcing the war on drugs, decriminalising the possession of drugs, and legally regulating their production and supply.

One way to do this would be an Impact Assessment of the Misuse of Drugs Act in line with the 2002 Home Affairs Select Committee finding – which included David Cameron – for the government to explore alternatives to prohibition, including legal regulation.

The re-legalisation of alcohol in the US after thirteen years of Prohibition was not surrender.  It was a pragmatic move based on the government’s need to retake control of the illegal trade from violent gangsters. After 50 years of global drug prohibition it is time for governments throughout the world to repeat this shift with currently illegal drugs.”

Peter Lilley MP, former Conservative Party Deputy Leader said;

“The current approach to drugs has been an expensive failure, and for the sake of everyone, and the young in particular, it is time for all politicians to stop using the issue as a political football. I have long advocated breaking the link between soft and hard drugs – by legalising cannabis while continuing to prohibit hard drugs.   But I support Bob Ainsworth’s sensible call for a proper, evidence based review, comparing the pros and cons of the current prohibitionist approach with all the alternatives, including wider decriminalisation, and legal regulation.”

Tom Brake MP, Co-Chair, Liberal Democrat Backbench Committee on Home Affairs, Justice and Equalities said;

“Liberal Democrats have long called for a science-based approach to our drugs problem. So it is without hesitation that I support Bob Ainsworth’s appeal to end party political point-scoring, and explore sensitively all the options, through an Impact Assessment of the Misuse of Drugs Act.”

Labour’s Paul Flynn MP, Founder Council Member of the British Medicinal Cannabis Register said;

“This could be a turning point in the failing UK ‘war on drugs.’ Bob Ainsworth is the persuasive, respected voice of the many whose views have been silenced by the demands of ministerial office. Every open rational debate concludes that the UK’s harsh drugs prohibition has delivered the worst outcomes in Europe – deaths, drug crime and billions of pounds wasted.”

“The Only Thing Drug Gangs Fear Is Legalisation”. The Independent 26th August 2010

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Superb piece in The Independent today

Superbly argued!  Thank you to Johann Hari.  Thank you to The Independent for giving the space for this to be heard.

Violence Breeds Violence.  The Only Thing Drug Gangs Fear Is Legalisation.

28,000 deaths in Mexico in four years because of drug laws!

It could be the same in the UK.   Our new drug strategy is in preparation but the only people applauding the disgraceful sham that is our drug strategy consultation are drug dealers and criminals.  James Brokenshire of the Home Office, the man intent on breaking British society,  is so backward in his thinking that he makes Alan Johnson look progressive.   He is blind to the evidence and the facts, to what is happening in Mexico and elsewhere

There is blood on the hands of cowardly politicians in the UK too.  They have shirked this issue, avoided grasping this nettle for too long.  Brokenshire can only have been offered as a lamb for sacrifice here – surely?  His arguments are too ridiculous, his distortion of science too crass. He is bound to fail if he persists but he will cause death, misery and degradation for thousands.  He personally will be responsible for a massive increase in street crime – inevitable if he tightens prohibition.  He will not have committed the crimes himself but he will have negligently and recklessly ignored proven current best practice.  His attitudes fly in the face of all logic, research and science.

The government is riding roughshod over the massive outcry for drug law reform on the Your Freedom website.  Surely, even if public opinion, morality, logic, science, history or common sense won’t convince them, Baroness Meacher’s claim of £19 billion per annum of waste will stir them to action!

Surely, if nothing else, the cash will make the government see sense!

Broken Society. Broken Britain. Brokenshire.

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A Gift To The Opposition

Given his increasingly authoritarian, “big government” stance, his misrepresentation of science and the deeply flawed, dishonest Home Office Drugs Strategy consultation,  James Brokenshire is proving himself to be a very dangerous young man.

If any coalition minister is pursuing policies that will lead to a broken society and a broken Britain, it is Brokenshire.   He is so far out of step with the progressive, liberal and intelligent direction of the government that one wonders has he been put out for sacrifice?   His attitude and ideas are those of a previous generation which had not yet made all the mistakes or suffered all the consequences that we already have.  He needs to study some history.

From Propostion 19 to the changing views of Latin America’s leaders, Brokenshire is way, way behind.  He is also in direct contradiction to the progressive policies which both Cameron and Clegg have supported in the past.

It is vital for the future of millions of British citizens, their health, liberty, freedom from crime and oppression that Brokenshire is stopped.  As a Tory I am also dismayed at the huge damage he is doing to the party.  He is making the coalition government look short sighted, regressive and stupid.   He has got to go.

See here for the story on Nominative Determinism.  What does a man’s name mean?

Home Office Drug Strategy Consultation – Sham And Deception

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Today I started to prepare my submission to the Home Office in response to its Drug Strategy consultation.  I am sorry to say but it appears to be a complete sham, a deception and merely a sop to public opinion.  The strategy is already decided.  It is not a Drugs Strategy,  it is a Drug Prevention Strategy.  It will create death, misery, suffering and crime.  It is a disaster in the making

At the beginning of the document it says:

Ministers have agreed the new strategic vision and broad themes for the Drug Strategy which will set the framework for the future delivery of drugs policy…The paper sets out the key objectives and themes of the government’s vision for drugs policy…The Home Office will lead the new Drug Strategy to prevent drug taking, disrupt drug supply, strengthen enforcement and promote drug treatment.

That’s right, despite Cameron’s and Clegg’s progressive statements in the past, nothing is to change.  It is an authoritarian, big government, top down approach.  It is the precise opposite of the values which The Big Society is supposed to stand for.  It’s a stitch up and completely undemocratic.  Most important of all, it flies in the face of all the experts, all the experience of the last 30 years and is completely out of step with Europe, America and most of the rest of the world.

In fact the only people who will be supporting this farcical exercise in misinformation will be drug dealers, organised crime drug cartels and countries like China, Singapore and Malaysia that execute people for drug use.

Trying to “prevent drug taking” is like asking King Canute to hold back the tide.  It is a completely hopeless and unachievable goal.  Man has been using mind-altering substances since the dawn of time and no government or strategy is going to change that.  What the new Drugs Strategy should be doing is setting out to regulate drug use in a way that will minimise harms.  All the experts agree on this.

Shame on you Cameron!  Shame on you Clegg!  Only four months in and you’ve hit moral rock bottom already.

Cameron, Clegg and Canute.  Three of a kind