Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘Ireland

How To Campaign For Cannabis Law Reform Under A Theresa May Government.

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  • Lobbying Parliament

  • If the Government Won’t Regulate Cannabis Then We’ll Do It For Them

  • The CBD Market

  • Medical Cannabis

  • Educating And Influencing Researchers

For cannabis and drugs policy reform, out of 650 MPs, there could not have been a worse person to seize power than Theresa May.  There are a few who come close on both Tory and Labour benches but no one who has such a long record of bigotry, denial of evidence and refusal even to consider the subject.

Senior Tory MPs For Cannabis Law Reform

To be fair, I am a member of the Conservative Party, which to many people involved in the cannabis campaign is a mortal sin but my advocacy is based on science and evidence, not tribalism or wider politics.  In any case, though many find this fact hard to accept, there has always been more support from Tory MPs than Labour. Highly influential and senior Tory MPs such as Crispin Blunt, Peter Lilley and Dr Dan Poulter are powerful advocates for reform. I firmly believe that the only sustainable route to legalisation is commercialisation and the left wing, nanny state, anti-business types are already pushing the ‘Big Cannabis’ scare stories.

So what can we do and what are we doing to advance our cause in these dark days?  Theresa May always has been secretive, inaccessible, unresponsive and entirely disinterested in any opinion except her own.  How can we possibly make any progress with a PM who has already shown she is prepared to cover up or falsify evidence and defines herself by her belief in a supernatural power?

There is more support for cannabis law reform in Parliament than ever before.  It is now official policy of both the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party. The support from Scotland is far more valuable than that from the discredited LibDems.  With the added factors of Brexit and Scottish Independence, the SNP is in a powerful position to advance its policies.  Also, in Ireland, both north and south, public support for medical cannabis reform is exploding.  Michelle O’Neill, SinnFein’s new leader, has pledged medical cannabis reform if she is re-elected (though she has no power to do so!).  Her negotiating position is immensely strong now that the problems at Stormont, the rise of Sinn Fein and the Brexit factor all combine to make a united Ireland a real possibility.

During the coalition government from 2010 to 2015, few doors were closed to us.  Over that period, CLEAR conducted more meetings with ministers and senior politicians than the entire UK campaign had achieved in 50 years.  Because we had support from the LibDems, and introductions from the Deputy Prime Minister, even Tory ministers were ready to see us, even if they were merely paying lip service.  That all stopped with the election of a majority Conservative government and after Cameron stepped down the doors were slammed in our faces, bolted and double-locked.  The campaign has been in the doldrums ever since. Or has it?

The last major achievement of the last few year’s campaigning was the release of the APPG report on medical cannabis in September 2016.  Alongside it, Professor Mike Barnes, CLEAR advisory board member, published his review ‘Cannabis: The Evidence for Medical Use‘.  To all impartial and reasonable observers, these documents should have initiated positive government action towards reform, even if it was only very limited in scope.  But no, Theresa May didn’t leave it to Amber Rudd, her successor as home secretary, she stepped straight in herself on the day of publication, before she could even have read it and dismissed the report out of hand.  This echoes the apocryphal story of James Callaghan, then PM, throwing the 1969 Wooton Report in the bin without even opening it.  Such is the inertia and prejudice that has not softened at all amongst the bigots despite 45 years of science and research proving that there are better, safer, more beneficial options available on cannabis.

Lobbying Parliament

For now, individual lobbying of MPs is our only route to power. Over the years we have refined our approach to this and we know what works.  Getting into ping pong correspondence with an MP is a waste of time.  An initial letter or email needs to be followed up with a face-to-face meeting and a determined focus on getting a tangible result. What sort of result you should look for depends on your circumstances but getting your MP to arrange a meeting with a government minister should be your goal.

If you’re a medical user then you’ll want to meet a health minister, preferably the Secretary of State, if not a junior minister or perhaps an advisor to the Department of Health.  Work with your MP to achieve the best result you can.  Your MP doesn’t necessarily have to agree with you about cannabis but they should facilitate your communication with government, that’s their job. If you’re more interested in the economic or social benefits to be gained from reform, you could ask for an introduction to the Chancellor, a treasury or business minister, or someone at the Cabinet Office who is involved in policy development.  CLEAR can usually provide someone to accompany you on meetings but this must be arranged in advance and agreed with your MP or whoever your appointment is with.  Alternatively, we can provide advice over the telephone on how to approach the meeting, what to ask for and what evidence or supporting material to take with you.

If the Government Won’t Regulate Cannabis Then We’ll Do It For Them

With an intransigent government that does it all it can to evade engagement on this issue, there is more that CLEAR is already doing.  If the government won’t take responsibility and regulate cannabis, then step by step we are going to do it for them.  Someone has to, there is far too much harm and suffering caused by present policy.

The CBD Market

Through 2016 the CBD market in the UK really began to take off.  These are products derived from industrial hemp, grown legally under licence that offer many of the therapeutic benefits of cannabis.  They should, in fact, be more accurately termed low-THC cannabis as apart from crystals and a few, rare examples of isolated CBD, they are whole plant extracts and contain all the cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and other compounds found in the plants from which they are made.  Therefore they offer many of the ‘entourage effect’ benefits but with very low levels of THC.  It was obvious though that this market was heading for problems.  More and more dubious suppliers were starting up, many making brazen claims for the medical effects and benefits of their products and many without any product testing, quality assurance or honest customer service.  The law was then and always has been crystal clear, you cannot make medical claims for a product without it being properly licensed or regulated.  Inevitably, in June 2016 the MHRA stepped in and sent threatening letters to a number of CBD suppliers.

CLEAR took the initiative.  We wrote to the MHRA requesting a meeting.  We engaged with the leading CBD suppliers and our advisory board members Professor Mike Barnes and Crispin Blunt MP were quickly on the case.  The story has already been extensively reported but now, nearly a year on, our efforts are coming to fruition. We led the approach to the MHRA and in the process created what is now the Cannabis Trades Association UK (CTAUK).  It is now recognised by the MHRA, it has established a code of conduct and it is now the gold standard of quality, ethics and legality that can give anyone buying CBD products real peace of mind.  There are still cowboys out there, making false claims, selling products that offer no real benefit and even endangering their customers with products that are illegal under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 or the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016.  Now though, customers can go to the CTAUK website and choose a supplier that is operating legally, ethically and within the regulations that the industry itself has established.  We expect the MHRA very shortly formally to endorse CTAUK members as legitimate suppliers of CBD products as food supplements.

Medical Cannabis

Professor Nigel Mathers, Honorary Secretary, Royal College of GPs

Neither can we accept the government’s irresponsible and cruel policy towards people who need cannabis as medicine. So CLEAR has taken a further initiative. After Theresa May’s dismissal of the APPG report, we approached the Royal Colleges of medicine.  We pointed out that whatever the government might say, around one million people are using cannabis as medicine.  Doctors have a duty and an ethical responsibility to educate themselves on the subject and be able to provide properly informed care to their patients.  Our efforts have borne fruit.  Professor Mike Barnes and I have worked with Professor Nigel Mathers of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP).  We will be producing a draft set of guidelines on medicinal cannabis for GPs which will go the next meeting of the RCGP Council and is planned for publication in June 2017.  If the government won’t do it, we will and the medical profession agrees with us.  This will be the greatest practical advance ever made in medical cannabis in the UK.

Educating And Influencing Researchers

Dr Musa Sami, Peter Reynolds

The UK is the most prolific source of research into the harms of cannabis, particularly the tenuous links between cannabis and psychosis.  Despite dozens of studies, mainly from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College Hospital, this has never been shown to be any more than statistical correlation.  Most of these studies are confounded by tobacco use but the latest work from Professor Sir Robin Murray and his team shows an even stronger correlation between tobacco and psychosis than cannabis.

Across the world, UK scientists have become notorious for this scaremongering which seems little different from the ‘reefer madness’ hysteria.  To be fair, much of this is down to the UK media which has barely advanced since the 1930s in its reporting.  It provides the environment in which researchers are able to gain funding for research into cannabis harms but hardly ever for cannabis benefits.

CLEAR is now working with the Institute of Psychiatry to develop a new and more balanced way of surveying the effects of cannabis.  Dr Musa Sami has asked us to advise on the construction of a questionnaire on which the Institute will base its future work.

Cannabis Law Breakthrough

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Celebration

Yesterday I revealed how Jim “Pinky” Starr has managed to obtain legal medicinal cannabis in Britain.  See here. I’ve been asked to clarify whether the method set out in my article applies throughout Europe.

I’m not a lawyer.  I believe that this information is correct but don’t blame me if James Brokenshire decides he’s going to ride roughshod over justice and European law!

All I know is that (with due respect to my friends with genuine illness), if I could develop the right aches and pains, I’d be straight over to Holland!

As I understand it, Ireland is now the only EU country where this wouldn’t work. However, that won’t last long. The reason that the procedure set out works is because of this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schengen_Area#EU_member_states_with_opt-outs

So, the only remaining problem is actually enabling UK doctors to prescribe medicinal herbal cannabis and developing a local supply chain. It seems to me that as we’re all part of the EU this is going to be impossible to stop.

I think that the breakthrough I’ve been campaigning for since the late 1970s has finally happened!

Banker Robbers Still On The Loose

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If I considered it as the plot for my next novel, I would discard it immediately as being completely unbelieveable.  It is outrageous.  The story of the way the banks have wriggled and wormed away from their responsibilities is the biggest scandal the world has ever seen.

The Very Worst

Today the shameful figures are revealed of the number of complaints that our high street banks receive.  See here.  It is an appalling litany of failure and disrespect of customers.  Complaints are at the very bottom of their priorities.  They are inefficent.   They have bonus systems that discourage staff from accepting complaints.  Santander, which so many used to know as the Abbey or Alliance & Leicester,  cannot manage to answer even half of its complaints within two months!  It is shocking.  It hasn’t got better since we all bailed them out.  It’s got worse.  Oh, except for the bonuses.  They just get bigger and bigger all the time.

These problems,  affecting the modest balances of ordinary people, may seem trivial in the context of the billions that the banks have already cost us but they are not.   They are crucial.   This is real money belonging to real people and needed to pay real bills.  It’s not the cocaine, champagne, Ferrari fantasy of some City boy ponce.   These figures indicate precisely the contempt, the utter disregard which bankers have for us even though it is we, ordinary people, who have been called on to rescue them from their catastrophic mistakes.

Actions Not Words!

Where is Vince Cable now?  He is the biggest disappointment of the coalition government.  His brave words as recently as the LibDem conference are all hot air.  He has let us all down.  His promises were empty.

We want the banks split up so that they are no longer too big to fail.  Only today, in Ireland they are realising that their nation is still held to ransom by its bankers.  So is ours.

We want retail and transaction banking separated entirely from casino investment banking so that there can be no more threat to our economy from the spivs and gamblers.  We don’t want any of these sharks anywhere near our  money.   John Diamond, the putative new head of Barclays has made a £100 milion fortune on the back of the taxpayer and the banking crisis.  He is not a fit and proper person to be in charge of a British bank.  The government should ban him immediately.

Wide Boy Spiv

Late last year the Office of Fair Trading let the banks off a £40 billion hook.  These were the extortionate charges illegally debited from customers’ accounts over the previous six years.  See here. This was in addition to the £850 billion cost of the original bailout.  See here.

How much more are they going to get away with?

When will David Cameron, Nick Clegg, George Osborne and Vince Cable stop dithering?

Stop the banker robbers now!

The Evil Of Organised Religion

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If we lived in a world without religion there wouldn’t be any conflict in Iraq or Afghanistan.  The Twin Towers would still be standing.  We wouldn’t be hearing the dreadful news about child sexual abuse in Ireland.  The Christian Church and Islam are both condemned for thousands of years of violence and evil.  They are both as bad as each other.  If I had my way they would both be disgraced and proscribed by appropriate public ceremony.

“Too many have died in the name of Christ for anyone to heed the call”

Teach Your Children

These are the immortal words of Crosby Stills & Nash.  Substitute “Christ” with any deity you care to mention.

I accept that in all organised religions there are people who do good. However, an accounting of the last two thousand years: the Crusades, the Inquisition, Palestine, the vile behaviour of priests and nuns, so many wars – shows that religion is seriously in the red and, quite seriously, perhaps it should be illegal.

Worship who or what you want as you want.  The minute that two or more of you get together to promote ideas that lead to death and suffering – well then you’re in a conspiracy.

Shame on the Irish Catholic Church for what it has done to Ireland.  No consequences could be too great or severe for this godless institution.

I pray to the God I believe in for justice and healing.

Keep The Church Out Of Elections

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I do not support the BNP but I defend its right to state its case and campaign for election.  I have considerable sympathy with its complaint that it is not considered racist to have a black association or a Muslim group but the BNP is branded racist for seeking to represent the white British.  This is unjust.

It’s fair game for other politicians to attack the BNP but the call made today by the Church?  This is outrageous.   While there are certainly many good Christians and Church members, this week we have had to listen to the horrific truth of child abuse by the Church in Ireland.  Only the following day the new Catholic Archbishop Nichols of Westminster is enthroned and makes the disgraceful judgment that it was courageous for some of the priests to confess their dreadful crimes.

The most eloquent advice I have ever heard on the subject of the Church comes from Messrs Crosby, Stills and Nash:

“Too many people have died in the name of Christ for anyone to heed the call”

Too much evil and wickedness has been perpetrated across hundreds of years by the Church for it to have any relevance or role in our elections.  Stick to pastoral work with individuals and you’re entitled to promote your individual doctrine and beliefs but stay out of the business of parliament and government.

Written by Peter Reynolds

May 24, 2009 at 8:09 am