Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

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‘This House Would Say No To Drugs’, The Oxford Union, 16th February 2017.

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pjr-deangelo-crop

Peter Reynolds, Stephen DeAngelo

On Thursday, 16th February 2017, the Oxford Union held a debate on the motion ‘This House Would Say No To Drugs’.

thwsntd-graphicI was honoured to be invited to speak against the motion in the august company of Paul Hayes and Stephen DeAngelo. Speaking for the motion were Andrew Ng, Assistant Commissioner Patricia Gallan and Shaun Attwood.

We successfully defeated the motion by approximately 120 votes to 90.  A video of the debate will be released shortly.  I reproduce my speech below.

“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”

These are the words of Harry Anslinger, who in 1930 was appointed the first ever commissioner of the US Federal Bureau of Narcotics. 

And this is the exactly same standard of argument and evidence that we have in favour of drug prohibition today.

Anslinger went on to start the war on drugs 40 years before Richard Nixon invented the term.  His anti-cannabis crusade was based on racism, the suggestion that it caused madness, violence and depravity – yes, the same scare stories, myths and deceit that we still see published every day in the pages of the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph.  Indeed, exactly the same nonsense which every home secretary continues to trot out and on which our present prime minister bases UK drugs policy.

Don’t be in any doubt about it, the Home Office, under successive governments, has been engaged in the systematic deception of the British public.  It misleads, misinforms and repeatedly publishes bare faced lies about drugs and drugs policy and subverts every effort towards reform advocated by more enlightened politicians. 

In 2013, according to Norman Baker and Nick Clegg, Theresa May tried to falsify the international comparators report which showed that across the world harsh penalties make no difference to the level of drug use.  The facts simply don’t fit with her ideology.

And this idiocy pervades our society.  It is reflected in this motion which I oppose.  The premise of ‘This House Would Say No to Drugs’ is false from the very start.  It’s preposterous! We all say yes to drugs, every day, inevitably, in cocktails of medicines and recreational stimulants, in food, drink, in endogenous highs released through exercise and emotions, repeatedly, regularly, all of us, without exception, do drugs.

That our governments have seen fit to draw arbitrary lines as to which drugs are acceptable and which are not, which drugs that we can celebrate and which we will be locked up for, has nothing to do with evidence, science and, least of all, absolutely nothing to do with how harmful or dangerous they are. They are based on prejudice and thinking in 2017 that has advanced no further than Harry Anslinger in 1930. 

Sometimes these prejudices have strange echoes in the past. Coffee was banned in Mecca in 1511, as it was believed to stimulate radical thinking – the governor thought it might unite his opposition. What does that remind you of?

Often these lines are not arbitrary, they are based on vested interests. In 1777, Frederick the Great of Prussia also tried to ban coffee. He argued it interfered with the country’s beer consumption.  Before the first International Opium Convention in 1925 Egyptian cotton farmers successfully lobbied for cannabis to be banned as they feared the superior fibre crop of hemp.  Back to Harry Anslinger and he was in league with the timber barons who greatly feared the far better option of using hemp to make paper and the fledging oil industry which had just invented nylon, a synthetic alternative to the job that hemp fibre had done for thousands of years.  When Henry Ford invented the Model T he designed it to run on ethanol produced from hemp. He planted hemp on his own land for the purpose.  It’s no conspiracy theory to argue that the entire oil industry in predicated on the prohibition of cannabis, it’s just good, solid evidence.

Today, in the UK, prohibition of much safer substances like cannabis and MDMA is enforced to preserve the monopoly of legal recreational drugs that belongs to the alcohol industry – a drug that is at least a dangerous as heroin and causes far more misery and death in our society.  It’s no surprise when the UK alcohol industry spends £800 million every year on advertising that the media which enjoys that income supports the alcohol monopoly.

As if we didn’t have the clearest possible lesson from the prohibition of alcohol which gave birth to organised crime and demonstrated beyond any doubt that prohibition never works, it just makes the problem worse.  

The UK is more backwards, more disgraced, more shamed by a drugs policy that causes far more harm than it prevents, than almost any other first world country.

Prohibition is a fundamentally immoral policy.  If you remember one thing that I say today, please make it this. It sets law enforcement against the communities it is supposed to protect.  Being a police office is a noble and honourable calling.  Every society needs policing but drugs policy has perverted this profession.  The demand for what are deemed illicit drugs comes from society but instead of protecting us from danger, police action increases the dangers we are subject to.   The harder the police clamp down, the more the price of drugs rises, the more unscrupulous and violent the unregulated criminal trade becomes and the more contaminated, more concentrated and more dangerous are the drugs themselves.

In Amsterdam, there is no problem with Spice, the synthetic cannabinoid that is ravaging our streets and British prisons at present.  In sane, civilised society like California, Colorado or Washington, where adults can access safe, properly regulated cannabis, there is no Spice problem like we have in the UK. This disgusting, horrible product is the direct responsibility of the politicians who continue to pursue our ignorant anti-cannabis policy.  It is just one example of the great, immoral evil that prohibition causes.  And I ask you, if this crazy policy of prohibition cannot be enforced in prisons, then how do we expect to enforce it in wider society?

It is prohibition and drugs policy based on prejudice that destroys police and community relations.  It is current policy that means 70% of all acquisitive crime is caused by drug addiction – for which we send sick and poorly people to jail where they find easy access to more and nastier drugs.  This is the real madness that drugs cause.  It is the madness of deranged government ministers and their refusal to consider evidence or to resist pressure from their masters in Fleet Street.

What we need to do is say yes to a drugs policy that is designed to reduce harm and protect our communities.  Alcohol is promoted and so easily available as to be ridiculous, in every other shop on the high street, yet we control the access of children to alcohol and tobacco quite effectively.  But we abandon them to the street weed dealer who sells them muck grown by other children who have been trafficked from overseas and locked in hidden farms which are dangerous fire risks.  This is the shameful reality that our policies have produced.

Doctors freely prescribe anti-depressants, tranquilisers, highly toxic opioids such as tramadol, weird drugs for pain and epilepsy like gabapentin, which we don’t really understand at all.  Yet it is a criminal offence for a doctor to prescribe cannabis, a remedy that mankind has used safely and effectively for at least 10,000 years.

We mislead and misinform.  We encourage young people to go out and drink, yet we make ecstasy, MDMA, a drug far safer than even paracetamol, a class A substance , and we threaten people with years in jail just for handing a single dose to a friend.  It’s estimated that between two and ten million doses of MDMA are taken every weekend in the UK and we get about 50 deaths a year.  200 people die every year from paracetamol.  How much safer would MDMA be if the product was regulated with known strength and purity? It would probably be virtually harmless.

Now everyone is a victim of this drug war propaganda and the terrible effects of prohibition. Politicians, police officers, social workers, mothers and fathers have all been drenched in this propaganda from birth.  Many sincerely believe the rubbish they have been fed and they do all they can to pass on misguided ideas to the next generation.

We need to grow up, get a grip and drag Britain out of the dark ages. Drugs can cause harm but British drugs policy is a scourge on our society.  It damages the lives of millions and costs us billions.  Please oppose the motion, saying no to drugs is a nonsense.  Let’s say yes to a rational drugs policy.

Street Skag Dealer Or Synthetic Cannabinoid Pusher. What’s The Difference?

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Chris Bovey of Totnes. Europe's 'Mr Big' In Synthetic Cannabinoids.

Chris Bovey of Totnes. Europe’s ‘Mr Big’ In Synthetic Cannabinoids.

Synthetic Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists (let’s call them synthetic cannabinoids) are highly toxic, dangerous substances associated with a range of extremely serious, potentially fatal, medical conditions.

Synthetic cannabinoids are intended to mimic the effects of  THC but they can be 50 or even 100 times more potent.  They also bind more tightly to the CB1 receptor meaning the effect can be more intense and longer lasting.  They are nothing like real cannabis.  They don’t have the balancing effect of CBD and other cannabinoids.  There is no ‘entourage effect‘, now known to be the real engine of the therapeutic and pleasant effects of real cannabis.

Cannabis is probably  the least toxic, therapeutic and psychoactive substances known to science but these nasty chemicals are the very opposite.  Why would anyone sell them? They are the product of prohibition and sold by immoral, irresponsible, exploitative drug dealers who are no better than those that sell dirty heroin or crack on the streets to the most vulnerable people.  Most synthetic cannabinoids are sold to children, teenagers or very young adults.

Synthetic cannabinoids are associated with seizure, stroke, severe kidney problems, panic attacks, cardiac arrest, severe psychotic episodes, fever, dehydration, paranoia, hallucinations, supraventricular tachycardia – the list goes on and on.

Chris Bovey of Totnes claims to have made more than £500,000.00 from selling Spice.

Chris Bovey claims to have made more than £500,000.00 from selling Spice.

Of course, you have no idea what you’re getting, which synthetic cannabinoid is in the ‘Spice‘ or ‘K2‘ that you’ve been sold or, indeed, whether there’s a cocktail.  Many of these products sold as ‘legal highs‘ actually contain substances that have been banned,  so buying them doesn’t  even protect you from prosecution.  Well it might, or it might not.  You just don’t know.  The shops that sell these products have no idea what’s in them either.

You have no idea how they are manufactured, in what conditions, using what precursors or what dangerous chemical processes.  You have no idea how they are mixed into herbal material if they look like weed or into a squidgy black substance if they look like hash.  I’ve seen Chris Bovey of Totnes, Europe’s biggest dealer in synthetic cannabinoids, mix his fake hash.  He uses a food mixer and just adds random amounts of anonymous white powder to whatever is the base substance.  God knows what that already contains.

Bovey told me that he has a chemist working in Austria who comes up with the compounds for his ‘legal highs‘.  He then uses laboratories in China to manufacture them.  He showed me a canister, rather like a large tea caddy, covered in Chinese writing and symbols.  There was no measurement of any sort.  He just tipped several slugs of the powder into the mixing bowl and then a bit more for luck.

I do wonder though whether his motives are more sinister. Why would Bovey, who claims to have made more than £500,000.00 personally from selling  ‘Spice‘, want to see cannabis legalised?  It doesn’t really make any sense.  His role may be about subverting the cannabis campaign in the UK.  He has certainly succeeded in creating massive negative energy and meanwhile his ‘legal highs‘ empire is expanding worldwide, even as far as Japan.

Irrespective of Bovey’s involvement in this nasty business, steer well clear of synthetic cannabinoids.  I am not calling for them to be banned.  That would only drive them underground and create yet another criminal market.  The real answer is to legalise, regulate and tax cannabis and MDMA, both relatively safe substances.  If we did that then the market for these horrible synthetics would dry up.  New Zealand has gone halfway there already with its Psychoactive Substances Act 2013,  very intelligent and progressive legislation.  It’s a model that the rest of the world would do well to follow and I see no reason why cannabis and MDMA couldn’t be included in it.

References:

Synthetic cannabis risk ‘vast’: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/global-drug-survey/9945906/Synthetic-cannabis-risk-vast

Synthetic cannabinoid JWH-018 and psychosis: An explorative study: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0376871611000639

Severe Toxicity Following Synthetic Cannabinoid Ingestion: http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.3109/15563650.2011.609822

The synthetic cannabinoid Spice as a trigger for an acute exacerbation of cannabis induced recurrent psychotic episodes: http://www.schres-journal.com/article/S0920-9964(09)00591-X/abstract

Understanding the dangers of the fake marijuana called ‘Spice’ or ‘K2’: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131002112426.htm

Why Synthetic Marijuana Is More Dangerous Than the Real Thing: http://www.livescience.com/18646-synthetic-marijuana-dangerous-health.html

Acute Kidney Injury Associated with Synthetic Cannabinoid Use: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6206a1.htm

“War On Drugs Has Failed, Say Former Heads Of MI5, CPS And BBC”, The Daily Telegraph, 21st March 2011

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The “war on drugs” has failed and should be abandoned in favour of evidence-based policies that treat addiction as a health problem, according to prominent public figures including former heads of MI5 and the Crown Prosecution Service.

Drug availability and use has increased with up to 250 million people worldwide using narcotics such as cannabis, cocaine and heroin

Leading peers – including prominent Tories – say that despite governments worldwide drawing up tough laws against dealers and users over the past 50 years, illegal drugs have become more accessible.

Vast amounts of money have been wasted on unsuccessful crackdowns, while criminals have made fortunes importing drugs into this country.

The increasing use of the most harmful drugs such as heroin has also led to “enormous health problems”, according to the group.

The MPs and members of the House of Lords, who have formed a new All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform, are calling for new policies to be drawn up on the basis of scientific evidence.

It could lead to calls for the British government to decriminalise drugs, or at least for the police and Crown Prosecution Service not to jail people for possession of small amounts of banned substances.

Their intervention could receive a sympathetic audience in Whitehall, where ministers and civil servants are trying to cut the numbers and cost of the prison population. The Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, has already announced plans to help offenders kick drug habits rather than keeping them behind bars.

The former Labour government changed its mind repeatedly on the risks posed by cannabis use and was criticised for sacking its chief drug adviser, Prof David Nutt, when he claimed that ecstasy and LSD were less dangerous than alcohol.

The chairman of the new group, Baroness Meacher – who is also chairman of an NHS trust – told The Daily Telegraph: “Criminalising drug users has been an expensive catastrophe for individuals and communities.

“In the UK the time has come for a review of our 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act. I call on our Government to heed the advice of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime that drug addiction should be recognised as a health problem and not punished.

“We have the example of other countries to follow. The best is Portugal which has decriminalised drug use for 10 years. Portugal still has one of the lowest drug addiction rates in Europe, the trend of young people’s drug addiction is falling in Portugal against an upward trend in the surrounding countries, and the Portuguese prison population has fallen over time.”

Lord Lawson, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer between 1983 and 1989, said: “I have no doubt that the present policy is a disaster.

“This is an important issue, which I have thought about for many years. But I still don’t know what the right answer is – I have joined the APPG in the hope that it may help us to find the right answer.”

Other high-profile figures in the group include Baroness Manningham-Buller, who served as Director General of MI5, the security service, between 2002 and 2007; Lord Birt, the former Director-General of the BBC who went on to become a “blue-sky thinker” for Tony Blair; Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, until recently the Director of Public Prosecutions; and Lord Walton of Detchant, a former president of the British Medical Association and the General Medical Council.

Current MPs on the group include Peter Bottomley, who served as a junior minister under Margaret Thatcher; Mike Weatherley, the newly elected Tory MP for Hove and Portslade; and Julian Huppert, the Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge.

The group’s formation coincides with the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which paved the way for a war on drugs by describing addiction as a “serious evil”, attempting to limit production for medicinal and scientific uses only, and coordinating international action against traffickers.

The peers and MPs say that despite governments “pouring vast resources” into the attempt to control drug markets, availability and use has increased, with up to 250 million people worldwide using narcotics such as cannabis, cocaine and heroin in 2008.

By Martin Beckford, Health Correspondent

They believe the trade in illegal drugs makes more than £200 billion a year for criminals and terrorists, as well as destabilising entire nations such as Afghanistan and Mexico.

As a result, the all-party group is working with the Beckley Foundation, a charitable trust, to review current policies and scientific evidence in order to draw up proposed new ways to deal with the problem.

This Man Isn’t A Scientist. He’s A Prohibition Propagandist.

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Sitting alongside him at his press conference “Cannabis Can Hasten Psychosis”, who did Dr Large have to lend him support?

Cannabis Preventer

Jan Copeland, the director of the Australian National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre.

What does that tell you?

This isn’t anything to do with science.  It’s about advancing the prohibitionist agenda – and, of course, is closely connected to Dr Large’s future funding and career path.  See here for the unedited rushes from this little conspiracy.

His big pitch was “The results of this study confirm the need for a renewed public health warning about the potential for cannabis use to bring on psychotic illness.”

Absolute rot.  The study confirmed nothing of the sort.  All it consisted of was a recalculation of data from 83 previous studies.  It’s all correlation and association.  There’s no evidence of causation whatsoever. There was absolutely nothing new in it at all and to claim there is, is simply a lie.  Of course, the mindless, desperate and eager comics like the Daily Mail have almost wet themselves with excitement over it.

This is a very typical example of the misinformation, propaganda and distortion of science put out by the prohibitionists.  It is important to understand the way they work.  They have been doing this now for nearly 100 years, using the latest propaganda techniques every time.

In this “meta-analysis”, as Dr Large pretentiously calls it, what he doesn’t tell you is that all the subjects already had a predisposition towards psychosis (usually by genetics) and included tobacco and “other psychoactive substance users”.  That means any of the approximately 600 ingredients found in cigarettes such as ammonia, various ethyls, and any of dozens of acids and carcinogens could have distorted the findings.  Similarly, and not addressed by the study’s authors, is the fact that the cannabis users, in many cases, were also cocaine, heroine, amphetamine or other drug users.

The study claims that “…schizophrenia caused by cannabis starts earlier than schizophrenia with other causes.” but it fails to consider how many of the subjects were in fact, self-medicating.  The authors don’t even consider whether cannabis causes mental illness or if people with mental illness have a higher rate of using cannabis.  Other evidence shows that self-medicating with cannabis is widespread and that over 90% of diagnosed schizophrenics smoke cigarettes – but nobody is claiming tobacco causes schizophrenia.

It’s hogwash.

Cannabis Causes Tennis Elbow Which Could Lead To Cancer

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It Was In The Daily Mail. It Must Be True!

After all the brave and courageous work that the Daily Mail has done in demonising drugs, particularly in explaining how very, very dangerous cannabis is, tonight its editors and journalists gathered in an atmosphere of self-righteous gloom and sanctimonious misery.  The BBC has ruined it all.

The headline reads: “BBC Slammed For “How Drugs Work” Show Which Glamorises Illegal Substances”.  (Snappy, eh?) See here for the Mail’s valiant and noble defence against this wicked tide of reason and common sense.

Surely something can be done to shut the BBC up?

Can’t James “Broken Britain” Brokenshire come up with some ministerial order or something to stop them telling the truth?

Let’s get the punters back on the booze. That’s where the tax revenue come from.  More importantly, that’s where so much of ministers’ jollies, perks and, you know, fun and excitement comes from.  I mean there’s Ascot, Glyndebourne, Henley, Twickers, Eton old boys day, Wembley.  I mean, all these events are founded on a good old piss up – and the brown envelopes from the big booze companies, well they do come in very handy you know!

That’s what we want to get the hoi polloi back to.  That’ll keep em happy and docile. (Don’t tell ’em about Charlie and his snifters.  Let’s keep that between ourselves, eh?)

I know the truth has been allowed to leak out.  More and more are realising how dangerous alcohol is.  You really mustn’t mention it, even alongside heroin and cocaine.  We can’t afford the scientific comparison. It doesn’t support our case.  We must not allow them to realise how bad it is.  All we need to do is come up with some good scare story.  The schizophrenia thing doesn’t seem to have worked.  What about…what about…what about?  Tennis elbow?  Yes, tennis elbow!

What do you think?  You know, all that picking the spliff up, putting it down.  Yes!  That’s it!  Cannabis causes tennis elbow.   Get it out now!

Cannabis causes tennis elbow – which could lead to cancer.  Call the press conference now!

UK Drug Strategy 2010 – A Plan To Fail

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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

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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