Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘harm

Breakthrough In The Drugs Debate!

with 32 comments

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.”

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UK Drug Strategy 2010 – A Plan To Fail

with 38 comments

Mother Knows Best

Gone are the days when central Government tells communities and the public what to do.

Rt. Hon. Theresa May, MP, Home Secretary, December 2010

A slim volume of treacle-like and turgid social worker-speak shot through with a few strands of sharp hypocrisy.  See here.

A disappointment?  Not really, it’s pretty much what I expected – an authoritarian, moralistic smokescreen behind which the government will do what it wants with no regard whatsoever for the views or the welfare of the people.  It stinks.

It claims to be radical in that it turns away from reducing the harms caused by drugs and instead aims to force abstinence. In other words, do as we say or suffer the consequences.  It is, in fact, a medieval solution to a 21st century problem.  It seems that the British government no longer cares about the harm caused by drugs.  All it cares about is that you STOP!  This is the ultimate exposition of Nancy Reagan’s discredited “Just Say No” campaign because it really is “just” say “no” – no other option exists.  This from a government that advocates giving people methadone  to “treat” cannabis use.  Can you believe it?  That isn’t medieval. It’s prehistoric – or perhaps better described as mid 20th century, a sort of Dr Mengele method.

I give Ms May credit for one thing.  She mentions alcohol alongside drugs in the first sentence of her foreword.  That is progress but from then on there is little of any value.  Nothing that you couldn’t have copied from any out of date A level textbook on social work.

The laughable assertion quoted above that the government doesn’t tell us what to do is just absurd.  Never has there been a more hard line approach to the drugs issue.  See Edwin Stratton’s article in The Guardian here which reveals just how draconian, anti-civil liberties and severe this government is.

In the penultimate paragraph of her foreword, Ms May acknowledges that there were calls during consultation on the strategy for “liberalisation and decriminalisation”.  She dismisses these as not “the answer” but fails entirely to consider the enormous harm caused and crime created by existing policies.  I will be making Freedom Of Information requests to determine just how much notice was taken of the consultation.

There is a complete failure to understand or consider the harms of prohibition.  Britain now stands as one of the most backward and restrictive countries in the world when it comes to drug policy.  We now rub shoulders with those countries that execute people for drug possession.  There is no civilised country in the world with a more repressive drugs policy than Britain.

Broken Britain

Emphasis is given to the introduction of elected Police and Crime Commissioners.  I support this move.  Hopefully, these elected officials, being closer to reality and not ensconsed in Whitehall’s ivory towers, will mitigate some of the damage that this strategy could cause.  They will have the impossible job of trying to implement these ideas and will surely give Ms May and her protege James “Broken Britain” Brokenshire some lessons in reality and common sense.

The statistics and figures quoted in the strategy are manifest nonsense.  Apparently the economic and social costs of Class A drug use are £15.4 billion per annum while the equivalent figure for alcohol is £18 – 25 billion.  Supposedly the total illicit drug market in Britain is worth just £4 – 6 billion per annum while the market for alcohol is £30 billion.  There are just 320,000 heroin and/or crack cocaine users but tens of million that use alcohol.  These figures just don’t add up.  Maybe that’s part of the reason this strategy is so badly conceived and directed.

It’s only part of the reason though.  The main problem is that the government’s approach is based on prejudice and an arrogant, moralistic, proselytising stance.  See David Nutt’s article here on what the government would do if a completely safe alternative to ecstasy was developed.  Prohibition is immoral and evil in itself.  When will our politicians wake up to what most of the rest of Europe and the USA already knows?

Powerful Medicine. Gentle Pleasure.

Cannabis, the most widely used illegal drug by a factor of at least 10 barely gets a mention except in passing.  This, in itself, exposes the inane content of this strategy.  The government apparently intends to deal with cannabis in exactly the same way as it deals with heroin and crack.  The medicinal use of cannabis, now a burgeoning industry and source of hope to people all over Europe and America isn’t even mentioned.  The crass stupidity of this strategy is almost beyond belief.

So the battle lines are drawn.  Every other civilised country in the world is coming to terms with the fact that the war on drugs is unwinnable, even lost.  Theresa May, like some mad first world war general, is blowing her whistle and urging on millions more to go over the top into certain death, or at least misery and degradation.  Her slightly fey, sweet boy, Colonel Jimmy is hiding behind her, determined to gain credit for something but definitely not doing anything worthwhile, “Crikey!  Not me. I’m staying safe.”

This could be a deeply depressing day but at least now we know where we stand.  David Cameron and Nick Clegg have completely turned around on the progressive and liberal ideas they have advocated in the past.  Nothing is a better indicator of the integrity and intelligence of a government than its drug policy.  Britain is shamed by this effort which will inevitably cause more harm, cost more money and ruin more lives.

European Parliament – Public Hearing On Cannabis Regulation

with 7 comments

The European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies (ENCOD) has organised a public hearing on cannabis regulation at the European Parliament on 8th December 2010.  See here for full details.

In March 2009, the European Commission published the “Report on Global Illicit Drug Markets 1998 – 2007” .  This concludes that current policies of prohibition are failing in their main objective to reduce the demand and supply of illicit drugs.  Current policies may also be a crucial factor in generating and increasing harm to individual drug users, their direct surroundings and society at large.

According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) in its 2010 annual report, Europe faces new challenges posed by changes in drug supply and use.  The report also highlights the increased usage of cocaine, heroin and of a record number of new synthetic drugs.

ENCOD says that prohibitionist policies have failed to tackle the issues of drugs and drug use effectively and it is time to investigate alternative approaches.  European authorities must produce a thorough impact assessment of the costs of the current policy of prohibition and the economic benefits of decriminalisation and, as a start, the regulation of the cannabis market.

Victor Hamilton

It has been calculated that cannabis regulation would save billions in law enforcement costs, foster harm reduction, weaken the illegal cartels, and provide the opportunity to generate considerable income from taxes. The examples of California, Spain, The Netherlands and Portugal lead the way.

Victor Hamilton, the well known cannabis campaigner and former Legalise Cannabis Alliance (LCA) parliamentary candidate, liaises as a UK representative with ENCOD.   He has submitted the following letter to ENCOD in advance of the public hearing on the current state of cannabis in Britain.

Dear Joep,
Thank you for the invitation to attend the hearing on 8th December 2010.  I am afraid that both my health and the expense involved prevent me from attending.

However, as you know, ending the prohibition of cannabis and encouraging more and better use of the plant in all its forms is my main concern.  Cannabis offers many benefits medicinally, recreationally, spiritually and, as hemp, in ecologically sound fuel, construction materials, paper and plastics alternatives.  Prohibition of cannabis is a far greater crime than any perpetrated by those who use it.  It is a scandal and a sad litany of wasted opportunity and resources.

In the UK, based on research I have done and confirmed by the Independent Drug Monitoring Unit (IDMU), a legalise, regulate and tax regime could produce between £4 – 6 billion pa in new tax revenue.

For the benefit of the hearing, please allow me to update you on the present situation in Britain.

Calls For Decriminalisation

There have been calls for a relaxation of cannabis laws from a number of sources:  The Bar Council, the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Physicians, The Lancet, Professor Roger Pertwee, Professor David Nutt and the Association of Chief Police Officers.  The new coalition government’s “Your Freedom” website was swamped with calls for legalisation.

Reaction To Propositon 19

The cannabis community was eager with anticipation for the Proposition 19 vote in California, despite a dearth of media attention.  Even the BBC, obliged under its charter to provide balanced coverage, found very little time for an issue that affects at least six million Britons.  Strangely, the best of the lot was The Daily Telegraph, formerly known as the most conservative paper, it told us more about what was happening than any of the others.

The result was a disappointment and reminded us how our own campaigning has suffered from internal divisions and a lack of focus.  Nevertheless. legalisation seems inevitable in the US, even if only at state level, within the next few years.

Formation of British Medicinal Cannabis Register

This exciting initiative to create a database of medicinal users in Britain was announced only in November.  I was honoured to be invited to sit on the BMCR council as a medicinal user representative.  Other members of the council include very eminent individuals such as Baroness Meacher, the MP Paul Flynn, Matthew Atha of IDMU and Dr Malcolm Vandenburg, the pre-eminent expert witness on drugs.

The real coup though was the announcement of Professor Leslie Iversen as a council member.  Professor Iversen is the government’s chief scientific advisor on drugs.  Yes that’s the British government which continues to state that cannabis has “no medicinal benefits”.

Subversion of Schengen Agreement

Several British medicinal users travelled to Holland for prescriptions from a doctor believing that their medicine was then protected by the Schengen Agreement.  At first the Home Office agreed but then changed its position to say that British residents are not covered.  The ridiculous situation now is that any non-UK resident can bring prescribed medicinal cannabis into Britain and use it without restriction. A UK resident cannot.

Increasing Evidence Of Medicinal Benefits

There is a never ending flow of information from all around the world on the extraordinary power of cannabis as a medicine.  Facebook groups, blogs and organisations such as the LCA and UKCIA keep spreading the news.  Particularly strong evidence has been revealed for cannabinoids as a treatment for Alzheimer’s, head, neck, breast and prostate cancer, fibromyalgia, ADHD and migraine.  The mainstream media seem only interested in scandal and scare stories. They publish news about vastly expensive new pharmaceutical products but not about cannabis cures.

Confusion At The Home Office

Understandably, the British government’s position looks increasingly absurd.  The Home Office veers between describing cannabis as very harmful, harmful, dangerous, extremely dangerous and changes its story every time it is challenged.

Approval of Sativex

Sativex won welcome approval from the medicines regulator as a treatment for spasticity in MS. Despite the fact that Sativex is nothing more than a tincture of herbal cannabis, the government now maintains that “cannabis has no medicinal benefits in herbal form”.  Sativex is approximately eight times the cost of herbal medicinal cannabis and many health authorities are refusing to fund it.

New UK Drug Strategy

The government is to announce a new drugs strategy in December.  There is expected to be a shift in emphasis towards healthcare interventions rather than criminal sanctions but no move away from prohibition.  The more liberal views expressed by both David Cameron and Nick Clegg over the last 10 years seem to have changed now they have come to power.

Joep, I hope this is helpful and informative for the hearing and for you and your colleagues.

Victor Hamilton

Drug Crazed Politicians Promote Crime And Misery

with 13 comments

Sir Richard Nutt

Sir David Nutt

Gord stoned

"I'm so stoned...I don't know what I'm doing..."

Nothing more clearly demonstrates the complete absence of integrity in this inane, corrupt government than the sacking of Sir David Nutt.   I had always admired Alan Johnson.  Now he shows himself to be just as stupid and dumb as any of Gordon’s cronies.

Cannabis is a benign, natural herb that has been used as a medicine and recreational relaxant for over 4,000 years until politicians took a dislike to it just over 100 years ago.  Since then, despite dozens of “studies” across the world, each one of which has been specifically tasked to condemn it as dangerous, no harm has been proven.  Nevertheless, from Richard Nixon to Gordon Brown, myopic, paranoid, self-serving, tabloid-worshipping politicians have imposed more and more severe penalties for its use.

In the 50s the argument was that it made white women promiscuous with black men.  The standard of discussion has barely improved since.  The recent government sponsored hysteria over psychosis in adolescents is now revealed as utter nonsense in the face of the facts.

So why do politicians continue to persecute those who use cannabis?  What’s in it for them?  After all there is overwhelming evidence to show that a properly regulated cannabis supply could be a huge source of new taxation revenue for government and that regulation would drastically reduce all the harm that is caused by prohibition.

ajohn

Off His Head

It’s more difficult to accept this argument in respect of  heroin and cocaine because these are harmful substances but look at the evidence from Holland, Switzerland, Portugal and many other places.  There can be little doubt that if the supply and distribution of drugs was regulated rather than prohibited then the harm caused would be reduced enormously.  Furthermore, decriminalisation would drastically – and I mean DRASTICALLY – reduce crime at all levels.  Street crime is all about theft and robbery in order to fund the purchase of drugs.  International organised crime and terrorism is all about the drugs trade.  End prohibition, start regulation and you pull the rug from under criminals at all levels.  It would transform our society and save thousands of lives.

So I ask again – why?  What do politicians gain from such a fundamentally stupid policy?  At a stroke they could cut out the majority of both street and serious crime  and  massively reduce the funding of terrorism.

Cannabis was first demonised because hemp was an early rival to the oil industry.  Before diesel came biodiesel.  Rudolph Diesel designed his engine to run on peanut or hemp oil.  Henry Ford designed his Model T to run on bioethanol produced from hemp and planted hundreds of acres on his own farms for that purpose – then along came oil.  More importantly along came the early investors in the oil industry, specifically Randolph Hearst, owner and controller of the biggest propaganda and disinformation machine ever known to man.  He started the the “Reefer Madness” campaign and promoted the lie against cannabis.  Hemp was outlawed in favour of oil and we have since spent 100 years burning oil, becoming more and more reliant on its byproducts, destroying our planet and persecuting those who use cannabis.

cannabis plants

Politicans are cowards.  They were bribed and cajoled by big money to turn against cannabis in the first place.  They do not have the vision or the common sense to see past the mess they have got themselves in over drugs policy.  In a very real way they are more responsible than anyone else for the misery, death and chaos casued by the drugs trade which they actually support through their stupidity.

This government might as well have a committee of tabloid newspaper editors advising it on drugs rather than scientists.  All over the world politicans have let us all down over drugs policy.  Why?  Because they are cowardly, self-serving and only interested in short term political expediency.