Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Liebling

A Day In Cambridge On Drugs.

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Homerton College, Cambridge.

Homerton College, Cambridge.

George and Dean were where I expected them to be.  In the car park, ‘medicating’ in order to get them through a long afternoon.

The Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) Drugs Conference took place in the delightful surroundings of Homerton College, Cambridge.  I know there were several others there who were only able to make it because they committed criminal offences in order to maintain their health.  I attended with George Hutchings and Dean Price, leading members of the CLEAR Medicinal Cannabis Users Panel.

Almost everybody who is anybody in UK drugs policy was there and while there were no groundbreaking new revelations or ideas, it was an important occasion.  It marked the current position of the debate on drugs policy in Britain at the end of the first coalition government since 1945. As Keith Vaz, chair of the HASC, said, the conference will influence the drugs policy agenda in the next government.

I know I wasn’t the only person who lobbied in advance for medicinal cannabis to be included in the conference programme.  It wasn’t but what was of enormous significance was that it was probably the single issue mentioned most often, time and time again in fact, throughout the day. I trust that the committee will take this on board and ensure that in any future event, it is given proper attention.

Dr Julian Huppert MP; Lynne Featherstone MP, Minister;Keith Vaz MP, Dr Roberto Dondisch, Danny Kushlick

Dr Julian Huppert MP, Lynne Featherstone MP, Keith Vaz MP, Dr Roberto Dondisch, Baroness Molly Meacher, Danny Kushlick

It’s no good saying it’s a health issue because until the Home Office releases its stranglehold on the throats of the thousands who need medicinal cannabis, it’s the HASC that needs to hold the government to account. CLEAR estimates that around one million people already use cannabis for medicinal reasons in the UK.  This equates closely to the proportion of medicinal users in jurisdictions where there is some degree of legal access.

Julian Huppert mentioned medicinal cannabis in his review of the HASC’s work, confirming that the Liberal Democrats have adopted the policy advanced by CLEAR almost word for word.

Baroness Molly Meacher made an impassioned plea for medicinal cannabis access in her address, expressing her anger and outrage that people are denied the medicine they need.

Jonathan Liebling, of United Patients Alliance, and I also raised the issue independently in questions from the floor. I also dealt with Professor Neil McKeganey’s attempt to dismiss the issue.  He claimed that there are perfectly satisfactory procedures for licensing medicines.  I explained how cannabis cannot be regulated like single-molecule pharmaceutical products and gave a brief description of research on the ‘entourage effect’.

The Home Office minister, Lynne Featherstone, gave the keynote speech and I was delighted that she chose to mention her meeting ten days ago with a CLEAR medicinal users delegation.

David Nutt was as wise and authoritative as ever . Then Neil McKeganey launched into an entertaining rant about how the conference programme, the speakers and delegates were massively biased in favour of reform.  He claimed that this was not a proper reflection of the evidence or nationwide opinion.

I like Neil, even though we are on opposite sides of the debate. In fact, at events like this I prefer to engage with the opposition rather than back-slapping and self-affirming chats with those on the side of reform. I also had good informal discusions with David Raynes of the National Drug Prevention Alliance and Sarah Graham, the magnet-wielding addiction therapist.

Tom Lloyd’s speech was inspiring.  He also made a powerful case for medicinal cannabis and as ex-chief constable of Cambridge, it was extraordinary to see him lambast the new drug driving law as “…outrageous…unjust…will criminalise people who are in no way impaired…”

The final speech was given by Mike Trace, chair of the International Drug Policy Consortium, who is deeply involved in preparing for the UN General Assembly Special Session in 2016 on drugs policy.

So, a fascinating and worthwhile day.  All we need to do now is get through the General Election.  In about two months we will know where we are and unless we have the disaster of a Tory or Labour majority government, then drug policy reform should be high on the agenda.

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CLEAR Medicinal Users Panel. Fifth Delegation To Parliament.

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Vicky Hodgson, Kate Stenberg, Roland Gyallay-Pap, Lynee Featherstone MP, Peter Reynolds, Penny Fitzlyon, Richard Tong, Jonathan Liebling

Vicky Hodgson, Kate Stenberg, Roland Gyallay-Pap, Lynne Featherstone MP, Peter Reynolds, Penny Fitzlyon, Richard Tong, Jonathan Liebling

Today a further delegation from CLEAR met with Lynne Featherstone, the new Home Office minister with responsibility for drugs policy. She is the Liberal Democrat MP for Hornsey and Wood Green and was appointed to replace Norman Baker after he resigned in November 2014.

We invited Jonathan Liebling, Political Director of the United Patients Alliance (UPA) to accompany us and he gave eloquent testimony about his own use of medicinal cannabis.  UPA has been doing excellent work in running a series of meetings up and down the country bringing medicinal users together.  We hope there will be further co-operation between UPA and CLEAR.

Jonathan spoke about using cannabis to help with anxiety and depression, as did Kate Stenberg who has also used cannabis to deal with a chronic pain condition.  Vicky Hodgson spoke about treating her scoliosis, COPD and cluster headaches. Roland Gyallay-Pap, related how he produced cannabis oil when his mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and the great help it gave her with sleeping and eating in the final months of her life. Penny Fitzlyon talked about treating her MS with cannabis and how she has now been refused Sativex.  It was obvious this had a big impact on the minister.

She listened to each of us very attentively and we all felt that she had taken genuine interest and understood our arguments, particularly about enabling UK patients to import Bedrocan medicinal cannabis.

We also presented Ms Featherstone with a pre-publication copy of the paper ‘Medicinal Cannabis: The Evidence’, which we have produced at the request of George Freeman MP, the Life Sciences minister.  This is a literature review of the existing evidence on medicinal cannabis.  It makes a powerful argument for the transfer of cannabis from schedule I to schedule II so that it may be prescribed by a doctor. Currently the paper is being peer-reviewed and we hope that it may itself be published in a scientific/medical journal shortly.

CLEAR has also recently delivered a briefing on medicinal cannabis to Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats.  We shared this with Ms Featherstone as well.

With the General Election fast approaching, all MPs, including minsters, are about to go into campaign mode. Nick Clegg is to cover drugs policy in a speech a Chatham House later this week. There may yet be further developments, specifically on medicinal cannabis as the election campaign unfolds.  What is certain is that the new Parliament will represent a real opportunity for change and we have high hopes of real progress.

‘Skunk’ Drives Tabloids And Politicians Mad.

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Tom Chivers, Ian Dunt and Jonathan Liebling expose the dreadful reporting of the latest cannabis harms study from the husband and wife team of Professor Sir Robin Murray and Dr Marta Di Forti.

The British tabloid press has long been engaged in the corruption of our society and successive governments’ ability to deal with drugs policy by its sensationalism, distortion and dishonesty.

In fact the worst offender now is the Daily Telegraph, a tabloid in everything except format. It now eclipses the Mail newspapers for inaccurate, misleading and distorted reporting on all aspects of drugs policy. Its science and medicine writers are either deliberately engaged in deception or utterly incompetent. Virtually every story it publishes on drugs these days has to be retracted but you never hear about it because it’s buried in a tiny, tiny correction.

Here’s what happened to its ridiculous claim recently “cannabis as addictive as heroin”

DT headline 071014

The Mail newspapers can’t resist the stories about the miraculous medicinal benefits of cannabis because they make such good sensationalism. So although they still publish hogwash, like this latest distortion, they’ve actually become more balanced almost by mistake.

Why is the British press so incompetent and/or malevolent on drugs? Is it anything to do with the £800 million pa that the alcohol industry spends on press advertising? I don’t know. Maybe it just likes to appeal to the fast dwindling band of bigots that actually buy newspapers these days.

We are a laughing stock across the world for the idiocy of our press and government, particularly in respect of cannabis. In Canada and Israel, hospitals provide elderly patients with cannabis vapourisers on trollies, so strong is the evidence for its beneficial effects on aging and dementia. Here of course we prefer to let them lie in their own excreta while feeding them with scaremongering nonsense, distortion and exaggeration of scientific studies.

Sugar, peanuts, hay fever remedies, aspirin, paracetamol and traffic fumes cause far more health harms than cannabis.

In Colorado, in 2014, $44 million in cannabis tax revenue was ringfenced for schools and hospitals. Since legalisation, crime and fatal traffic accidents are down 15%, murder is down 50%.

Far too sensible for Britain isn’t it? And it’s the work of our gutter press that prevents such progress here because politicians still give newspapers far too much respect.