Posts Tagged ‘Home Office’
Essentially, UK government policy on cannabis hasn’t altered since 1971. Despite the vast amount of new evidence published since then and revolutionary change, particularly on medicinal use, all across the world, successive governments have stubbornly and obstinately refused to consider any sort of reform.
It doesn’t matter which party has been in power, Conservative, Labour or the coalition, it’s a subject that ministers and MPs simply refuse to engage with. It’s easier that way for them and be in no doubt: laziness, fear of a media backlash and deeply ingrained prejudice are the key factors in this impasse.
We had the downgrade to class C in 2003 and then back up to B in 2009 but this was a turgid and useless effort. No notice was taken of any evidence arising from this experiment. It was enacted to enable police to concentrate more on class A drugs and reversed based on Gordon Brown’s ‘Presbyterian conscience’ and a grubby, corrupt deal with Paul Dacre to win the Daily Mail’s political support. In fact, use went down while cannabis was class C and back up again when it was upgraded but governments have no interest in facts or evidence on this subject, only in political expediency and spinning advantage with the media.
The clamour for medicinal access has increased enormously, just as the evidence for its safety and efficacy has become overwhelming. The UK is now virtually isolated amongst first world countries with a cruel, inhumane and anti-evidence policy which makes us a laughing stock with all who are properly informed. It’s not a laughing matter for the victims though. For those persecuted by this nasty policy it is tears, pain, suffering, disability – all of which could be alleviated to at least some extent just by a stroke of the Home Secretary’s pen. It is sickening that all those who have held that office over the last 45 years escape without any shame or opprobrium on their character.
CLEAR receives hundreds of letters and emails every year from people who have written to their MP about medicinal cannabis and it is astonishing that unlike almost every other policy, exactly the same words are used by all MPs. They slavishly repeat the Home Office line which is ruthlessly enforced across party lines.
There have been some subtle changes. The marketing authorisation issued for Sativex in 2010 has led to a minor change in the tired and inaccurate line ‘there is no medicinal value in cannabis’. It’s now become ‘there is no medicinal value in raw cannabis’. This is scientifically and factually incorrect. Pharmacologically, Sativex and the ‘raw’ plants from which it is made are identical. It is whole plant cannabis oil and its authorisation by the MHRA as an extract of THC and CBD is fundamentally dishonest. GW Pharmaceuticals reveals it contains more than 400 molecules, the MHRA says it only contains two and “unspecified impurities”.
More recently, and in the face of an explosion of supportive evidence, another line has been added. This states that ‘the UK has a well established process for the approval of medicines through the MHRA and that any company wishing to bring a medicinal cannabis product to market should follow this procedure. In fact, inside sources suggest that the government is very keen to see new cannabis-based medicines approved by the MHRA. It would take the wind out of the sails of the medical cannabis campaign
This is the very last excuse for denying access to medicinal cannabis. It is nothing but an excuse and one that is misleading and based on deception. If we can expose how weak, inappropriate and fake it is, the government will have nowhere else to hide.
Firstly, as demonstrated with Sativex, the MHRA process is incapable of dealing with a medicine that contains hundreds of molecules. It is designed by the pharmaceutical industry for regulating single molecule medicines, usually synthesised in a lab, which have the potential to be highly toxic. CLEAR rejects the tired, boring theory that ‘Big Pharma’ is engaged in a massive conspiracy to deny access to cannabis and to ‘keep people ill’ so it can continue to sell its products to the NHS. The MHRA isn’t engaged in such malevolent conduct, it’s simply incapable of properly evaluating a whole plant extract through its existing methods.
The bright, shining truth of this, that totally demolishes the government’s position, is that in every jusrisdiction throughout the world where medicinal cannabis has been legally regulated, it is through a special system outside pharmaceutical medicines regulation. Every other government that has recognised the enormous benefit that medicinal cannabis offers has come to the same conclusion: cannabis is a special case. It is far more complex but much, much safer than pharmaceutical products.
Of course, there is also the ludicrous status of cannabis as a schedule 1 drug, which prevents doctors from prescribing it. If it was moved to schedule 2, alongside heroin and cocaine, or to schedule 4 alongside Sativex (the logical choice), doctors could be prescribing it tomorrow and high-quality, GMP and EU regulated medicinal cannabis from Bedrocan would be immediately available.
So the MHRA is the final excuse, the last obstacle to a revolution in healthcare in the UK. We need an ‘Office of Medicinal Cannabis’ as there is in the Netherlands, or ‘Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations’ as administered by Health Canada. Colorado has its ‘Medical Marijuana Registry Program’ and other US states have similar arrangements. Israel’s Ministry of Health has its ‘Medical Cannabis Unit’. In Australia, its equivalent of the MHRA, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, has established its own set of medical cannabis regulations.
This is now the most important factor in achieving medical cannabis law reform. Next time you contact your MP or in any advocacy or campaign work you do, this is where to focus your energy. Cannabis is a special case, it is not like other medicines. Once we can open the eyes to this truth the path ahead will be clear.
When Mike Dobson first called me a few months ago and told me he had an idea for gaining legal access to cannabis in the UK, I was, of course, sceptical. CLEAR has frequently been approached with hare-brained and convoluted plans for avoiding the law that prohibits cannabis. Without exception they have all been bonkers.
Within a few minutes though, I could see this one was different. In the past, most of these ideas have been around sidestepping the law by claiming ‘freeman’ status, the suggestion being that statutes, laws made by Parliament, are only enforceable if you have consented to them in the first place. Some claim to have succeeded in using this to defeat charges for growing cannabis, even having their harvest returned to them by police. I can’t verify any of these stories but I’m quite sure the courts are littered with the broken dreams and delusions of those who have tried to go down this path.
The big difference with Mike’s plan, his ‘scheme’ as I like to call it, is that instead of evading, avoiding or dodging the law, it actually uses the law itself to provide legal rights to grow and possess cannabis.
The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 empowers the Home Secretary to issue licences in respect of cannabis. These could be for cultivation, production, possession, supply or any other activity such as import or export.
This scheme involves setting up a company to cultivate cannabis and produce cannabis products under licence from the Home Office – the ‘Licensed Supplier’. Providing the various licence conditions are complied with, the Home Office cannot unreasonably refuse such a licence. If it does then it will be subject to judicial review. The licence conditions that need to be met are security and the prevention of ‘diversion’ of the cannabis into illicit or unlicensed hands.
The next step is to set up another company where it and its shareholders, guarantors and/or members are licensed to possess cannabis – the ‘Membership Company’. Again, providing the licence conditions are complied with, the Home Office must issue a licence and if it refuses judicial review proceedings can be brought. Sensible and responsible rules must be put in place so that members only consume cannabis in private with necessary security precautions.
The genius of Mike’s scheme, now coming to reality with the first Membership Company, the Preston Cannabis Club, is that it uses the law exactly as it is intended, to ensure that the only people cultivating, producing, supplying or possessing cannabis are licensed to do so.
I have consulted informally with several lawyers and there is no doubt that this scheme holds promise. Whether it works out remains to be seen. CLEAR is putting its weight and support right behind the scheme as a responsible and lawful way to enable legal access to cannabis. I would expect initial resistance from the authorities but if we are right, it would mean Parliament would have to pass a new law to prevent this happening. In my judgement that is unlikely and, in fact, the demonstration of such a legitimate route to cannabis would get the government off the hook of its present, unsustainable policy.
Watch this space. CLEAR is now actively involved in supporting this venture and we will keep you fully informed.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, the response to the recent call from MPs and peers to legalise cannabis for medicinal use has come straight from the top. Theresa May’s longstanding reputation as a denier of science and evidence on drugs policy is reinforced by her peremptory dismissal of the expert report. It seems that, at least in the short term, the UK government is sticking by a policy that is discredited, ridiculous and deeply cruel.
It fell to Sarah Newton MP, minister of state at the Home Office, to respond to a parliamentary question from Roger Godsiff, Labour MP for Birmingham, Hall Green.
“To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, if she will respond to the recommendations of the report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform Accessing Medicinal Cannabis: Meeting Patients’ Needs, published in September 2016.”
“The Prime Minister responded to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform’s report ‘Accessing Medicinal Cannabis: Meeting Patients’ Needs’ on the 27 October.
Cannabis is controlled as a Class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and, in its raw form, currently has no recognised medicinal benefits in the UK. It is therefore listed as a Schedule 1 drug under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001.
It is important that all medicines containing controlled drugs are thoroughly trialled to ensure they meet rigorous standards so that doctors and patients are sure of their efficacy and safety. To do otherwise for cannabis would amount to a circumvention of the clearly established and necessary regime for approving medicines in the UK.”
In other words, this is nothing more than a re-statement of the same position that the UK government has held since 1971 when legal access to medicinal cannabis was halted. Quite clearly the government has given no consideration at all to the vast amount of scientific evidence and international experience that has accumulated over the last 45 years. The latest report which took nine months to produce, took evidence from over 600 witnesses and included a review of over 20,000 scientific studies is simply cast aside. To be honest, I doubt whether it has even been read by Ms May or anyone in the Home Office or Department of Health. This is the standard that now prevails in the UK – government of the people by an unaccountable, out-of-touch, unresponsive cabal of individuals elected by a deeply flawed system that gives democracy a bad name.
On the face of it, the claim that all medicines must be thoroughly trialled seems plausible – but it is not. It is a misleading half-truth clearly intended to squash the call for access to medicinal cannabis by painting a false picture.
Doctors are allowed to prescribe any medicine, licensed or unlicensed, as they see fit, based on their own judgement. But prescribing of cannabis is specifically prohibited by Statutory Instrument despite the scientific consensus that it is far less dangerous than many, probably most commonly prescribed medicines.
So it’s not a level playing field. It’s a policy that is based on prejudice and scaremongering about recreational use of cannabis. Ms Newton’s answer is at best disingenuous but then she probably doesn’t even realise that herself. For many years Home Office policy has been systematically to mislead and misinform on cannabis and evidently under Ms May’s successor, Amber Rudd MP, such dishonesty continues.
Something will eventually force the government’s hand to change its absurd position on cannabis. Sadly the very last consideration will be scientific evidence or the will of the people. Such factors hold no sway with UK governments. Only when enough of the political elite open their eyes and examine their conscience, or some key individuals or their family members, experience the need for medicinal cannabis will change become possible. Alternatively, political upheaval may present an opportunity. The Liberal Democrats were too cowardly, weak and concerned with building their personal careers when in coalition to advance the cause they now so bravely advocate. Perhaps the SNP, with 56 MPs, all in favour of medicinal cannabis may be our best hope.
Sarah Newton is merely a puppet of the Home Office bureaucracy. Theresa May’s mendacious position on all aspects of drugs policy is well established and she is as stubborn and bigoted as they come on such matters. Only when she, in person, is subject to sufficient pressure will this cruel, ignorant and hateful policy change.
Amber Rudd is following faithfully in Theresa May’s footsteps by spurning evidence in her role as Home Secretary.
With such powerful prima facie evidence of organised police violence and systematic collusion over their witness statements, it is vital to justice and the rule of law that an inquiry is held. If Ms Rudd doesn’t have the courage to support this then she is not acting in accordance with the purpose of her office. That would mean she is corrupt, so I fervently hope she will do the right thing and reverse this dreadful decision.
There is no doubt that in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, corruption was endemic within British police forces. Other than general trend in society towards more openness I’m not sure we can be certain there has been much improvement. My perception is that trust in the police is at an all time low and while there are many ‘good cops’, established practices, such as the police complaints system, are still deeply flawed and embed bias and cover-up. The number of deaths following ‘police contact’ and no officers ever held to account is a national scandal.
I remain very impressed with Theresa May’s leadership since she was appointed PM but it is a myth that this was after a successful period as Home Secretary. The only ‘success’ she achieved was to remain in post for six years but disasters with immigration, the Border Force, the Passport Office and virtually everything the Home Office touched tell a different story. Her drugs strategy has now been proven as a public health catastrophe with the highest rate of drug overdose deaths since records began and evidence-free bigotry defining policy, particularly on medicinal cannabis where the UK is now a third world country.
If the Home Office and the police are to regain the trust and respect of the British people, Amber Rudd needs to start making her own mark and not by following meekly in Theresa May’s kitten heels. Neither of them are pussy cats and that’s not what we want. We want strength, integrity, compassion and honour, that is what Ms Rudd must strive for.