Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘heroin

BBC Executive Complaints Unit, Stage 3 Complaint Re: Interview Claiming ‘Cannabis More Harmful Than Heroin’.

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Louisa Philips Kulukundis

CLEAR has submitted a formal complaint to the BBC concerning its broadcast of the interview with Lousia Kulukundis in which she claimed that using heroin was safer than using cannabis.

BBC complaints are outsourced to Capita and are not actually considered by the BBC itself until they reach Stage 3, the ‘Executive Complaints Unit’.

From: Peter Reynolds
Sent: 22 September 2017 17:05
To: ‘ecu@bbc.co.uk’ <ecu@bbc.co.uk>
Subject: Request to review complaint CAS-4563673-ZNGCG0

Dear Sirs,

1. Please review the decision made in respect of this complaint.  The correspondence including complaints and responses at stages 1a and 1b are attached to this email.

2. The complaint concerns an interview with Louisa Kulukundis, a psychotherapist, a member of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP).  The interview was broadcast as part of ‘Newsbeat Documentary Cannabis:Time for a Change’ which was repeated frequently on the BBC News channel and is available online.  It was also included within the ‘Newsbeat Debate: Cannabis’ also broadcast on the BBC News channel and also available online.

A formal complaint about Ms Kulukundis’ conduct has also been made to the BACP.

During the interview Ms Kulukundis made the statement:

“I would say give me a room full of heroin addicts than skunk addicts. I remember saying to my older son I would prefer you to take heroin than to smoke skunk. There will be generations of kids with severe mental health issues.”

1.The points of complaint raised at 1b that need reconsideration are:

a. In broadcasting these comments which are dangerous, irresponsible and directly contradicted by all scientific and medical evidence, the BBC has acted negligently and endangered the lives of vulnerable, easily-influenced young people at whom this programme was targeted.

b. The relative danger and/or harms of heroin and cannabis cannot be justified as a matter of opinion or of ‘balance’ because they are clearly established scientific fact.

c. It is essential that the BBC should broadcast a correction with equal prominence and repeated as many times as the original programme. The BBC owes a duty of care to its viewers, particularly in the case of programmes for the young.  It must make clear that Ms Kulukundis’ words were incorrect, that heroin is hundreds of times more dangerous than cannabis to both physical and mental health and can lead to death.

Broadcasting this interview breaches the BBC Editorial Guidelines as follows:

a. “…we must give our audiences content made to the highest editorial and ethical standards.  Their trust depends on it.” 1.1

b. “ We must therefore balance our presumption of freedom of expression with our responsibilities…to provide appropriate protection for our audiences from harm.” 1.1

c. “Accuracy  is  not  simply  a  matter  of getting facts right; when necessary, we will weigh relevant facts and information to get at the truth.” 1.2.2

d. “…we  balance  our  right  to broadcast  innovative  and  challenging  content  with  our  responsibility  to  protect the vulnerable from harm…particularly  in  relation  to  the  protection of children.” 1.2.5

e. “We will be rigorous in establishing the truth of the story and well informed when explaining it.” 1.2.6

f. “We will always seek to safeguard the welfare of children and young people…while ensuring their dignity and  their  physical  and  emotional  welfare  is  protected  during  the  making  and broadcast of our output.  Content which might be unsuitable for children will be scheduled appropriately.” 1.2.9

g. “…accuracy  must  be  adequate  and  appropriate  to the  output,  taking  account  of  the  subject  and  nature  of  the  content,  the  likely audience expectation and any signposting that may influence that expectation.” 3.1

h. “Accuracy   is   not   simply   a   matter   of   getting   facts   right… we should check and cross check facts…corroborate claims and allegations made by contributors.” 3.1

i. “The  BBC  must  not  knowingly  and  materially  mislead  its  audiences.    We should  not  distort  known  facts,  present  invented  material  as  fact  or  otherwise undermine our audiences’ trust in our content.” 3.2.3

j. “We should normally acknowledge serious factual errors and correct them quickly, clearly and appropriately.” 3.2.4

k. “ In  all  our  content  we  must  check  and  verify  information,  facts  and documents,  where  required  to  achieve  due accuracy.” 3.4.2

l. “We should not   automatically   assume   that   the   material   is   accurate   and   should   take reasonable  steps,  depending  on  how  it  is  to  be  used  and  if  necessary  to achieve due accuracy, to seek verification.” 3.4.3

m. “We  must  not  knowingly  and  materially  mislead  our  audiences  with  our content.” 3.4.11

n. “We should consider the emotional impact pictures and personal testimony can have on perceptions of risk when not supported by the balance of argument.  If a  contributor’s  view  is  contrary  to  majority  opinion,  the  demands  of  due accuracy and due impartiality may require us to make this clear.” 3.4.21

o. “We should normally acknowledge serious factual errors and correct such mistakes quickly, clearly and appropriately.  Inaccuracy may lead to a complaint of  unfairness.    An  effective  way  of  correcting  a  mistake  is  saying  what  was wrong as well as putting it right.” 3.4.26

p. “When dealing with ‘controversial subjects’…Opinion   should   be   clearly distinguished from fact.” 4.4.7

q. “…when   personal   view   programmes…cover  ‘controversial  subjects’…we should:…retain a respect for factual accuracy.” 4.4.30

r. “The  BBC  must  apply  generally  accepted  standards  so  as  to  provide adequate  protection  for  members  of  the  public  from the  inclusion  of  offensive and harmful material.” 5.2.1

s. “We  must  not  broadcast  material  that  might  seriously  impair  the  physical, mental or moral development of children and young people.” 5.2.2

t. “…deal  with  all  aspects  of  illegal  drug  use…with due accuracy.” 5.4.42

I am happy to provide further information, evidence or detail on any aspect of this complaint.

Yours faithfully,

Peter Reynolds

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Written by Peter Reynolds

September 25, 2017 at 12:22 pm

Irresponsible, Reckless BBC Broadcasts Dangerous Claim That So-Called ‘Skunk’ is More Harmful Than Heroin.

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Louisa Philips Kulukundis. Psychotherapist at Soul Counselling, counsellor at Steps2Recovery, member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.

“I would say give me a room full of heroin addicts than skunk addicts…

I remember saying to my older son I would prefer you to take heroin than to smoke skunk…

There will be generations of kids with severe mental health issues.”

Source: ‘Cannabis: Time for a Change?’ From 28:20

There is huge and justifiable righteous anger about the idiotic words spoken by this woman on the BBC Newsbeat documentary ‘Cannabis: Time for a Change?’

It would be easy to launch into a tirade against Ms Kulukundis but her words and their crass stupidity speak for themselves. I wonder how many kids, listening to her recommendation on the BBC’s ‘yoof’ channel will think ‘Well I’ve smoked weed loads of times with no trouble, now this woman who’s an expert says heroin is safer, maybe I’ll see if I can get hold of some.’

I understand that Ms Kulukundis supports the idea that cannabis with a higher proportion of CBD should be legally available instead of so-called ‘skunk’ which with zero or very little CBD dominates today’s illegal market.  She deserves credit for this and I would be very surprised if she wasn’t already regretting the very serious mistake she has made.

Ms Kulukundis does however subscribe to the falsehood that cannabis is a major cause of mental health problems.  The facts of hospital admissions and GP/community health service treatment prove this is not the case.  While we shouldn’t turn away from protecting those very few people who can be vulnerable, it is about time that the media started reporting accurately instead of the gross distortions and misrepresentation seen recently, particularly from the brazenly dishonest and ‘fake news’ Daily Telegraph.

Far, far more serious and the place where responsibility really lies for this broadcast is with the BBC.  Its negligence in allowing these words to be broadcast is unforgivable and CLEAR is pursuing a complaint.  The BBC’s complaints procedure is of course notorious for its determination to brush aside viewers’ concerns with anodyne responses that mean nothing. Many don’t realise that until you get to stage three you’re not even communicating with the BBC but with Capita to whom it outsources its complaints handling.  We will pursue this complaint until it reaches the BBC Editorial Complaints Unit and if necessary we will appeal it to OFCOM which, with the demise of the BBC Trust, is now the independent regulator.

It is a shame that the BBC has spoiled what is a clear shift in its position on cannabis.  Instead of mindless obedience to the government’s bad science and propaganda it is now recognising that reform is the only rational way forward.  As usual its coverage is dominated by stereotypical caricatures of what it regards as cannabis users.  It still seems incapable of recognising that most of the three million regular cannabis consumers in the UK are not relics of the hippy era but hardworking people with families and ‘ordinary’ lifestyles.  It also allowed its debate programme ‘Newsbeat Debates. Legalising Cannabis’ to be dominated by the ‘Gateway Theory’, an idea comprehensively disproven many times over, which even our prohibitionist government recognises is invalid.  What is the point of debate if it is hijacked by misinformation and not informed by science and evidence?

The BBC should take the initiative in apologising, correcting and broadcasting a full explanatuion of why Ms Kulukundis’ claim is scientifically inaccurate and extremely dangerous. Sadly, it will almost certainly have to be dragged kicking and screaming to provide any meaningful response at all.

 

 

 

New Drug Strategy Promises More Death, Misery And Ill Health For UK.

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The long overdue update to the UK Drug Strategy is published today by the Home Office.   A copy may be downloaded here.

Sadly, as expected, it is nothing except more of the same.  It offers no new ideas worthy of any note and reinforces the failure of existing policy by further embedding an approach which has already been conclusively proven not to work.

The UK has become increasingly isolated in its approach to drugs policy and now that both Ireland and France are moving towards decriminalisation we are unique amongst modern democracies in maintaining an approach based on nothing but prohibition.  We now stand closer to countries such as Russia, China, Indonesia and Singapore.  In fact, the only thing that separates us from countries with such medieval policies is that we do not have the death penalty for drug offences.  Otherwise our policy is just as repressive, anti-evidence, anti-human rights and based on prejudice rather than what is proven to work.

From Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s introduction, through sections based on repetition of the original strategy, ‘Reducing Demand, Restricting Supply and Building Recovery’, the document is more of the same old platitudes, bureaucratic doublespeak and meaningless civil service and social worker jargon.  It offers nothing but despair to those wracked by addiction, desperate for the proven medical benefits of cannabis or suffering from the tremendous social problems caused by prohibition.  In every respect it mirrors the government’s approach to housing which has led to mass homelessness, depravation and the Grenfell Tower disaster.  It is yet another inadequate response imposed by a government which is out of touch and wedded to policies based on ideology rather than evidence.

UK Government Policy

Current UK drug policy has already led to the highest ever rate of deaths from overdose. Deaths from heroin more than doubled from 2012 to 2015, yet there is absolutely nothing offered in this document that might change this – as if existing policy is quite OK.  Similarly, in what would be farcical humour were it not so tragic, the government seeks to portray the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 as a success.  It trumpets the closure of hundreds of retailers and websites and end to open sales but it doesn’t even mention the burgeoning new criminal market which has led to a massive increase in harm and products which are more potent but also more inconsistent and unpredictable.  All the experts (except those appointed by the government) agree that this new law has been a disaster.  Just like Grenfell Tower, this is government enforcing policies which significantly increase danger and harm without any regard at all to evidence or public opinion.

As before, this strategy doesn’t even consider harm reduction, it offers only a puritanical, moralistic approach based on abstinence.  It fails entirely to recognise that 95% of all drug use is non-problematic, without causing harm to anybody.  It is entirely focused on mis-use and blind to the great benefits, often therapeutic but also simply of pleasure, enjoyment and recreation that many people gain from safe drug use, just as most people do with that most dangerous drug of all, alcohol.  These people, the vast majority, are completely ignored by their government.

By its own title this is a drug strategy, not a drugs strategy. It treats all drugs and all drug users the same, whether they are a prisoner serving a long sentence without access to education or rehabilitation, a ruthless gangster engaged in human trafficking, an affluent clubber, humble festival goer or a multiple sclerosis patient who grows a few cannabis plants for pain relief.  It is a travesty of government, failing entirely to meet the needs of the population.

It also contains some of the most extraordinary factual errors and contradictions.  “Most cannabis in the UK is imported”, it states in defiance of the evidence that the UK has been virtually self-sufficient in homegrown cannabis since the 1990s, even to the extent where we are ‘exporting’ to other European countries.

Unsurprisingly, the report states “We have no intention of decriminalising drugs” but then makes the dubious assertion that “Drugs are illegal because scientific and medical analysis has shown they are harmful to human health.”  This is simply unsustainable in face of the facts about harms caused by legal substances such as alcohol, peanuts and energy drinks.  It is also inconsistent with the stated purpose of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 which is about misuse “having harmful effects sufficient to constitute a social problem.”, nothing to do with individual health harms.

The report fails at all to consider the negative effects of current policy and how prohibition rather than drugs themselves is actually the cause of most harms connected with drugs. It doesn’t even mention the worldwide revolution in the medical use of cannabis or that one million UK citizens are criminalised and placed in danger of criminal sanctions or contaminated product simply for trying to improve their health.  Neither does it mention drug testing, a proven method of reducing the harms of club drugs, now being supported by many police forces at festivals.

This report really is as empty, ineffectual and useless as anything produced by this already tired and discredited government.  The parallels between Grenfell Tower and a government which actively maximise the harms of drugs through its policies are extraordinary.  Thousands are dying every year because Mrs May and Mrs Rudd won’t listen to evidence.  They pick and choose whether to accept the advice of their own Advisory Council based on political convenience rather than facts and while the Council includes eminent scientists it also includes specialists in ‘chocolate addiction’ and evangelical Christian ‘re-education’ of gay people.

Whether it’s determining the inflammability of building materials or the relative potential for harm of different substances, what is clear is that this government is more concerned with dogma, vested interests and old-fashioned prejudices than the safety, health and wellbeing of the population. This Drug Strategy is a recipe for failure, for continuing exactly as before.

VIDEO. Peter Reynolds Speaks At The Oxford Union On Drugs Policy.

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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.