Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘drug

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.

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Written by Peter Reynolds

August 8, 2017 at 4:22 pm

The Man Who Smashed UK Cannabis Prohibition – And Looks Set To Do The Same In America.

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Dr Geoffrey Guy

Dr Geoffrey Guy

Across social media, it’s ‘on message’ to despise Big Pharma and to promote the idea that government and pharmaceutical companies are engaged in the business of making people ill and feeding them with drugs in the pursuit of profit.

In the cannabis campaign, it’s virtually compulsory to abuse, defame and promote conspiracy theories about GW Pharmaceuticals, the world’s leading developer of cannabis-based medicines.

Now GW Pharma is hardly ‘Big Pharma’. It’s annual revenues for 2014 were £30 million. By contrast, Pfizer’s 2014 revenue was $50 billion. But such trifling facts are of no concern to the keyboard warriors and trolls that plague the cannabis campaign and bring it into disrepute every day.

In any case, I’m not sure whose message this is and why anyone buys into this hate-filled invective and unjust condemnation of an industry that has saved so many lives. Antibiotics, vaccines and, yes, chemotherapy products have saved or extended millions of lives. The most profitable pharmaceutical product of all time, Zantac (ranitidine), cures or prevents stomach ulcers and has prevented millions from having to undergo major surgery. Certainly, as in any industry, there have been mistakes, things have gone wrong and much could be improved but overall, the pharmaceutical industry is a huge force for good in our world.

Those engaged in these bitter, vindictive, online campaigns are largely sheep, ignorant of the facts and simply jumping on another hysterical bandwagon that they understand nothing about. They complain about the pursuit of profit and that money is being made from medicines and healthcare. It’s a strangely socialist and anti-business attitude, particularly as so much of it comes from America, supposedly the home of free enterprise where the maverick and outsider who triumphs against all the odds is usually revered.

Dr Geoffrey Guy, who founded GW Pharmaceuticals in 1998, is such a man. He has broken the UK government’s prohibition of cannabis by outwitting a regulatory process run by the Home Office and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) that is corrupt, dishonest and denies scientific evidence. In my view, he deserves great admiration and should be seen as a hero by cannabis campaigners, not as the villain that he is often portrayed.

Now, both GW’s lead products, Sativex and Epidiolex, look set to gain FDA approval in the US. This will be a fantastic achievement for Dr Guy and all his colleagues. It’s also something that we Britons should be immensely proud about. Even though America is a very long way ahead of us in understanding and using cannabis as medicine, it is British science and expertise that is breaking down US federal prohibition. Soon most Americans will have state sanctioned access to medical marijuana but also the option for doctor-prescribed cannabinoid medicine of unparalleled quality and consistency.

Of course, for now GW Pharma stands against the use of raw herbal cannabis and at present that’s a rational business decision but I won’t be at all surprised if in future it moves into that market too. There are already unconfirmed rumours that GW is considering entering the CBD market.

This is a story of enormous courage, innovation and triumph against all the odds.  It is in the finest tradition of British ingenuity and business skill. Since the Middle Ages we have led the world in engineering, science and technology. Geoffrey Guy is another world leader from Britain, this small island that has given birth to so many. Surely, at least a knighthood, possibly a Nobel prize must be coming his way soon. Even if the curmudgeonly, loud mouthed critics of today attack him, in future years he will be seen as a great pioneer of medicine and he will deserve his place in history.

Written by Peter Reynolds

August 7, 2015 at 3:03 pm

Add More Prohibition To UK Drugs Policy. A Recipe For Disaster.

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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.

Written by Peter Reynolds

June 7, 2015 at 6:54 pm

Drugs Policy Goes To Police Minister.

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Mike Penning, MP. Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice

Mike Penning MP

The Home Office has confirmed that responsibility for the UK drugs strategy goes to Mike Penning, MP for Hemel Hempstead, the Minister for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice.

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.

Written by Peter Reynolds

May 16, 2015 at 12:25 pm

I Have Had The Most Terrible Post-Election Nightmare.

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Libdem leaders

Julian Huppert, Norman Baker, Lynne Featherstone

Our principal allies on the Liberal Democrat benches have all lost their seats.

Quickly now, the government will be formed.  No surprise that Theresa May has already been reappointed Home Secretary but who will the junior Home Office ministers be?

Brokenshire may leave for another department.  He’s probably due for a promotion.  It would be very good to see the back of him.  Who will the Crime Prevention Minister be?  Within that portfolio rests responsibility for drugs.

This is when the nightmare struck.  Key candidates for Home Office ministers will be backbenchers who have sat on the Home Affairs Select Committee.  I hardly dare write his name in case it puts ideas in Cameron’s mind – Michael Ellis.

Michael Ellis

Michael Ellis

Ellis is a hard line prohibitionist, anti-drugs, anti-liberty, anti-science, criminal barrister with a particular record of boorish behaviour during PMQs.  He’s a junior barrister working out of chambers in Northampton and he thinks that his experience with a few scumbag dealers qualifies him to know all about drugs policy.

The idea is a nightmare.  Cameron will see his increased number of seats as vindication of all past policies so he may well go further to the right.  I hope I’m wrong. Perhaps we will get some young MP with a brain in his head and an eye for the free market economy that is blossoming in Colorado and elsewhere.  Let’s hope so.

There’s also the new members of the Home Affairs Select Committee.  Who will they be?  We need to get to know them and present our case.

We must re-design, re-target, re-focus and refine our campaign for our new audience – Tory ministers are our most important targets.

Our messages must be developed for Tory eyes. More focus on the free market, profit opportunities, public expenditure savings.  And our tactics must work with Tories as well.  There is even less room now for the self-defeating tactics of protest, civil disobedience and flaunting alternative lifestyles in a way that distracts from our very powerful arguments.  Such tactics might cause a right-wing backlash now.

Instead of being self-obsessed, as so much of the cannabis campaign is, if we want to be effective we must see things through the eyes of our target audiences, look outward not in, recognise that preaching to the choir achieves little.  It is people who don’t agree with our cause that we must talk to and it is to their standards that we must dress and behave if we want to influence them.

Now, more than ever before, we need to be smart about the way we campaign for cannabis law reform.  We do have allies in the Tory party and the worldwide momentum continues to build.

A few adjustments on the tiller are necessary but we remain on course.  Let’s just be sure we adjust our sails and our technique for the new weather.

Shocking Misconduct By South Wales Police.

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drugs search

On 11th March, South Wales Police (Heddlu De Cymru), posted this alarming picture on its Facebook page.

What is the purpose of placing such a sign outside someone’s home?

It can only be to humiliate them.  It also raises serious issues of justice and the law.  It brands the house, indeed the whole street, so the neighbours aren’t going to be happy either.  It also delivers a verdict. What happened until innocent until proven guilty?

For anyone, innocent or guilty, having your home searched is traumatic and it should be done with respect, courtesy and consideration for any children, elderly or sick people who may be upset.  It’s a craven breach of fundamental human rights to privacy and dignity.

It should be a disciplinary matter both for the officers who devised this policy and those who have implemented it.

CLEAR will be submitting a formal complaint.

Written by Peter Reynolds

March 13, 2015 at 6:54 pm

A Day In Cambridge On Drugs.

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Homerton College, Cambridge.

Homerton College, Cambridge.

George and Dean were where I expected them to be.  In the car park, ‘medicating’ in order to get them through a long afternoon.

The Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) Drugs Conference took place in the delightful surroundings of Homerton College, Cambridge.  I know there were several others there who were only able to make it because they committed criminal offences in order to maintain their health.  I attended with George Hutchings and Dean Price, leading members of the CLEAR Medicinal Cannabis Users Panel.

Almost everybody who is anybody in UK drugs policy was there and while there were no groundbreaking new revelations or ideas, it was an important occasion.  It marked the current position of the debate on drugs policy in Britain at the end of the first coalition government since 1945. As Keith Vaz, chair of the HASC, said, the conference will influence the drugs policy agenda in the next government.

I know I wasn’t the only person who lobbied in advance for medicinal cannabis to be included in the conference programme.  It wasn’t but what was of enormous significance was that it was probably the single issue mentioned most often, time and time again in fact, throughout the day. I trust that the committee will take this on board and ensure that in any future event, it is given proper attention.

Dr Julian Huppert MP; Lynne Featherstone MP, Minister;Keith Vaz MP, Dr Roberto Dondisch, Danny Kushlick

Dr Julian Huppert MP, Lynne Featherstone MP, Keith Vaz MP, Dr Roberto Dondisch, Baroness Molly Meacher, Danny Kushlick

It’s no good saying it’s a health issue because until the Home Office releases its stranglehold on the throats of the thousands who need medicinal cannabis, it’s the HASC that needs to hold the government to account. CLEAR estimates that around one million people already use cannabis for medicinal reasons in the UK.  This equates closely to the proportion of medicinal users in jurisdictions where there is some degree of legal access.

Julian Huppert mentioned medicinal cannabis in his review of the HASC’s work, confirming that the Liberal Democrats have adopted the policy advanced by CLEAR almost word for word.

Baroness Molly Meacher made an impassioned plea for medicinal cannabis access in her address, expressing her anger and outrage that people are denied the medicine they need.

Jonathan Liebling, of United Patients Alliance, and I also raised the issue independently in questions from the floor. I also dealt with Professor Neil McKeganey’s attempt to dismiss the issue.  He claimed that there are perfectly satisfactory procedures for licensing medicines.  I explained how cannabis cannot be regulated like single-molecule pharmaceutical products and gave a brief description of research on the ‘entourage effect’.

The Home Office minister, Lynne Featherstone, gave the keynote speech and I was delighted that she chose to mention her meeting ten days ago with a CLEAR medicinal users delegation.

David Nutt was as wise and authoritative as ever . Then Neil McKeganey launched into an entertaining rant about how the conference programme, the speakers and delegates were massively biased in favour of reform.  He claimed that this was not a proper reflection of the evidence or nationwide opinion.

I like Neil, even though we are on opposite sides of the debate. In fact, at events like this I prefer to engage with the opposition rather than back-slapping and self-affirming chats with those on the side of reform. I also had good informal discusions with David Raynes of the National Drug Prevention Alliance and Sarah Graham, the magnet-wielding addiction therapist.

Tom Lloyd’s speech was inspiring.  He also made a powerful case for medicinal cannabis and as ex-chief constable of Cambridge, it was extraordinary to see him lambast the new drug driving law as “…outrageous…unjust…will criminalise people who are in no way impaired…”

The final speech was given by Mike Trace, chair of the International Drug Policy Consortium, who is deeply involved in preparing for the UN General Assembly Special Session in 2016 on drugs policy.

So, a fascinating and worthwhile day.  All we need to do now is get through the General Election.  In about two months we will know where we are and unless we have the disaster of a Tory or Labour majority government, then drug policy reform should be high on the agenda.