Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘National Audit Office

“Outrageous Scaremongering” Over Cannabis

with 15 comments

Last October,  36-year old Julie Ryan was found dead in bed by her three children, now aged 14, 13 and 8.  At a coroner’s inquest in Oldham last week, pathologist Dr Sami Titi said “The direct cause of her death was cardiac arrest because of a history of smoking cannabis”.

Dr Sami Titi

Julie’s family claims that this is not true, that Julie’s cannabis use has been blamed because the Royal Oldham hospital failed to treat her properly. In Britain, there has only been one previous occasion when a death has been attributed to cannabis. In 2004, Lee Maisey, 36 of Pembrokeshire, who smoked half a dozen “joints” a day, was found dead on his living room floor after complaining of a headache.

At the inquest in Oldham, the coroner, Simon Nelson, was said to be surprised at the pathologist’s story and questioned him closely. Dr Titi insisted that “smoking of cannabis is well known to have a negative impact on the heart and can cause heart attacks in young people”. The coroner said that in 15 years he had never heard a pathologist so confident that cannabis could be fatal. He recorded a narrative verdict of “death from cardiovascular complications induced by cannabis smoking”.

Coroner Simon Nelson

Julie’s brother, Kevin Ryan, says that the pathologist’s remarks are “outrageous scaremongering”. Her mother, Linda, is bewildered by events. As planned, Julie’s children had stayed with her while the inquest was taking place. Now they have returned home to the furore of this extraordinary verdict and are extremely distressed.

Julie had visited the Royal Oldham hospital several times complaining of chest pains but been sent away with a diagnosis of heartburn. The post mortem examination revealed she had a severely enlarged heart and had suffered a previous heart attack which had not been diagnosed. Family sources said “It’s a cover up. Cannabis doesn’t kill. They made a big mistake.” Mary Burrows, Julie’s cousin, who was very close to her, said she preferred to smoke cannabis rather than have a drink and that “she was a wonderful mother and her kids miss her so much”.

Dr Mark Eckersley, a local Manchester doctor, said “More and more pressure is being piled on medical professionals to propagate this type of untruth by the powers that be.” He said doctors need to maintain credibility with the community and that “this type of nonsense makes my blood boil”.

A spokesman for the Royal Oldham hospital said “Miss Ryan died from a heart attack and cardiovascular problems. Our thoughts and sympathy go to her family.”

On 2nd November in California, Proposition 19 is expected to permit the personal use of cannabis for the state’s 28 million adults. As a result, new tax revenues of $1.4 billion are anticipated, up to 110,000 new jobs and a boost of up to $18 billion to the state’s economy from spin-offs such as coffee shops and tourism.

In America, any health concerns about the plant are far outweighed by health benefits. Medical cannabis is already regulated in 14 states with another 12 in the planning stage. In Britain, Sativex, a whole plant extract of cannabis, was recently authorised as a treatment for MS. It costs about eight times what medical cannabis costs in America, Holland, Spain, Israel and very shortly Germany, where there is a fully regulated supply chain. In Britain, despite a House Of Lords Scientific Committee recommendation, the government refuses to consider such a move. Many patients whose doctors have prescribed Sativex have been denied funding from their health authority. In some of these cases, criminal prosecutions have been brought against them for cultivating their own plants.

A spokesman for GW Pharmaceuticals, developers of Sativex, said “The therapeutic ratio for cannabis is so high that it is virtually impossible to ingest a fatal dose”.

Prof. David Nutt

Professor David Nutt was sacked as chairman of the Home Office’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs last year after claiming that cannabis was less harmful than alcohol and tobacco. His successor, Professor Les Iversen, also maintains that cannabis has been “incorrectly” called dangerous and says it is one of the “safer recreational drugs”.

On Friday, Professor Nutt said cannabis “seems to cause much less harm than alcohol and that banning the plant is “unjust and therefore undemocratic”. He added: “The previous government’s policy to deter cannabis use by forceful policing increased convictions for cannabis possession from 88,000 in 2004 to 160,000 in 2008. As well as ruining many lives through getting a criminal record, this added massive costs to taxpayers in extra policing and prison costs.”

Prof. Les Iversen

Dr Sami Titi, the pathologist, was unavailable for comment and did not respond to emails. It has not been possible to identify any scientific support for his conclusions.

Julie Ryan’s family is left bemused and uncertain by this verdict. Three children are without a mother and confused about contradictory messages. The 13 year old has been posting on websites about her concerns. Meanwhile, the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office have criticised the government for basing drugs policy on opinion rather than evidence. James Brokenshire, the Home Office Minister, in direct contradiction to his own advisers, continues with the story that cannabis is “extremely harmful”.

James Brokenshire

Both David Cameron and Nick Clegg are on record over the last 10 years as consistently calling for reform in drug policy. The Your Freedom website has been overwhelmed with requests for evidence based regulation of drugs and the legalisation of cannabis but the government is riding roughshod over this public outcry. A consultation document on a new drugs strategy was issued just over a week ago but it seems meaningless and dishonest as all the big decisions have already been taken. Cannabis campaigners, working on behalf of six million regular users in the UK, are outraged at what they see as hypocrisy, misinformation and regressive government action.

Dr Mark Eckersley, exasperated and concerned at the pathologist’s evidence said “This is simply not true. Hearing this story is more likely to cause a heart attack than the ingestion of any cannabinoid”.

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Written by Peter Reynolds

August 31, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Posted in Health, Politics

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The Drugs Debate

with 20 comments

It won’t go away will it?  It seems like at least once a month now some new high profile figure comes out against prohibition.  The latest, Sir Ian Gilmore, outgoing president of the Royal College of Physicians, is hot on the heels of  Nicholas Green QC, chairman of the Bar Council in July and three eminent co-authors in The Lancet in May.  The National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee have also criticised government for failing to implement an evidence-based drugs policy and instead giving more weight to opinion.

Meanwhile the Humpty Dumpties at the Home Office keep on building their big walls, refusing to listen, refusing to think, refusing to care.  Their response is no, no, no, out of the question, no and no again.  In fact, I don’t think the ministers even think about it at all.   They just replay the same old no, no and no again as written by some civil servant, probably in the days of the golf ball typewriter.  Remember those?

It won’t go away though.  I first submitted a report to the Home Affairs Committee on the cannabis laws in 1978.  It was called “An Unaffordable Prejudice”.  I’ve been giving them the facts and the evidence ever since and so have hundreds of other individuals and organisations.  I’m in direct correspondence with the Home Office at the moment.  I’ve received one three page response and replied with four.  That’s how long it takes to get a dialogue going with our “responsive” government.   I started in May, immediately after my new MP was elected, and it takes a good three months to get anywhere – or perhaps I mean nowhere.  Still, I expect it was worse in the USSR.

It won’t go away.   Aside from the Home Office the only people in favour of our current drugs policy are the drug dealers and the Taliban.  They certainly don’t want things to change.

The Home Office can’t even get its story straight.  Today its latest pearls are: “Drugs such as heroin, cocaine and cannabis are extremely harmful and can cause misery to communities across the country.”  This is nothing short of crass stupidity and irresponsible misinformation.  Lumping in cannabis with heroin and cocaine is simply ridiculous.  Describing cannabis as “extremely harmful” is in direct contradiction to every one of the Home Office’s own scientific experts.  These are the people who are supposed to be protecting our children, the vulnerable and the uneducated.   They should be ashamed of themselves.

When Proposition 19 passes on 2nd November (see here), the world will sit up and take notice.   Even Humpty Dumpty will have to engage his brain then because when 37 million Californians get the right to enjoy God’s herb without interference, well it ain’t gonna stop there.  If for no other reason than that our avaricious politicians will soon put aside their “principles” when they realise the oodles of cash and brownie points they’re missing out on.  California reckons it will create up to 110,000 new jobs, £1.4 billion in new tax revenue and a saving of $200 million in law enforcement costs.  When Humpty Dumpty takes off his blindfold of prejudice, ignorance and propaganda he’ll soon be gagging for the cash.

There are a million quotes from world leaders, politicians, doctors, scientists and “experts” of all sorts stating how ridiculous and self-defeating current drugs policy is.    It never seems to make any difference though.  David Cameron and Nick Clegg have both called for change many times but once they get into power what happens?  However, just to get right up the nose of Humpty Dumpty (that’s right, snort it up there), here’s what one very, very senior civil servant said just two years ago:

“I think what was truly depressing about my time in UKADCU was that the overwhelming majority of professionals I met, including those from the police, the health service, the government and voluntary sectors held the same view: the illegality of drugs causes far more problems for society and the individual than it solves. Yet publicly, all those intelligent, knowledgeable people were forced to repeat the nonsensical mantra that the government would be ‘tough on drugs’, even though they all knew the government’s policy was actually causing harm.”

Julian Critchley, Director, Cabinet Office UK Anti-Drug Coordination Unit. 13-08-08

It won’t go away.  Just Say No has become Just Say Now and the slimy dissembling oiks who insist on running our lives (and ruining many) will soon be in retreat.  It won’t go away.