Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘Nick Hurd

Home Office Denies FOI Request In Cover-Up Of All Information On Cannabis Production Licences

with 5 comments

On 6th March 2018 CLEAR submitted a Freedom of Information Request to the Home Office asking for full details of the licences accounting for the legal production of cannabis in the UK.  This arose from the story which we broke on 4th March revealing that the UK is the world’s largest producer and exporter of legal cannabis, this according to data provided to the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) by the government.

The Home Office has refused the request.  Its grounds for refusal are that disclosure “would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any person or would be likely to prejudice the prevention or detection of crime“.

Presumably this means that the commercial interest of GW Pharmaceuticals and whoever else has been granted such licences would be prejudiced and that they would risk robbery or other crime at their places of business.

INCB Production of Cannabis 2015-2016

We consider this to be false and without any merit whatsoever. How would it prejudice anyone’s commercial interest?  We would not expect any detail that goes behind the licence holder’s normal commercial confidence and it must be right that the identity of those companies or individuals licenced to produce cannabis should be on the public record together with outline information about the terms of the licence – what is it for, for what period, in what quantities.  Furthermore, with the security precautions required for such a licence, any attempt at crime would be foolhardy and utterly stupid.  It would be much easier either to import or produce your own cannabis.  The sort of criminal enterprise that would be required to raid, for instance, one of GW’s grows would be on a grand scale, incredibly risky and with sentences probably higher than for production of cannabis.

Clearly, disclosure of the information around these licences could, in any case, be limited to redact any specific information which should be kept confidential

It’s quite clear that this refusal is simply an excuse, probably to cover-up not only the extent of the licences but also the basis on which they have been issued.

Of course, the Home Office has pre-empted the next step in a FOI request and states that “the public interest falls in favour” of not providing this information.  We consider this to be nonsense.  It is clear that the public interest (not just the interest of the public) is very much that the issue of such licences should be a matter of public record.  It is outrageous that this information is being kept secret.

The answer to the second part of our FOI Request provides further insight into how little trust can be placed in the Home Office and demonstrates that its answers are dishonest.  In answer to a written question in Parliament on 1st March 2018, Home Office minster Nick Hurd MP said “No licences for pharmaceutical companies to grow and process medicinal cannabis for exportation to other countries have been issued.”  However the INCB report, which information can only have come from the Home Office, shows that in 2015/16 the UK exported 2.1 tons of medical cannabis.  We asked for an explanation of how Mr Hurd’s answer is consistent with the facts reported.

Nick Hurd MP, Home Office Minister

The Home Office’s answer is that “these figures could include any plant material exported for pharmaceutical purposes or pharmaceutical products containing cannabinoids that are manufactured in the UK and exported, such as Sativex.” and that it takes ‘medicinal cannabis’ to mean “substances produced to be consumed, be that smoked or ingested in any way.”

It is clear therefore that the Home Office has given two different answers to the same question and that the answer given to the INCB is correct whereas the answer given by Mr Hurd is without doubt intended to mislead Parliament.  It also seeks falsely to create a distinction between Sativex and other forms of cannabis which is manifestly and beyond doubt another deception, based on information published by GW Pharmaceuticals which CLEAR revealed in 2016.

In summary therefore, the Home Office has refused to answer the FOI Request in relation to licensing on grounds which are entirely spurious and has demonstrated that it is actively engaged in deceiving both Parliament and the public on the export of medicinal cannabis from the UK.

Following the required procedure, we have now requested an internal review of the Home Office’s handling of the FOI Request.  We argue that: “It goes directly to the question of the massive public demand for legal access to cannabis for medical use and the total denial of this by government. This policy is itself irrational and against the public interest and the refusal to disclose the information requested is a political cover-up.”

We anticipate this will be a whitewash and further attempt at a cover-up. Thereafter we have a right to complain to the Infomation Commissioner.  At this stage we would also seek to mobilise support from MPs with an interest in this area.  Ultimately, we may be able to apply to the High Court for judical review of the Home Office’s decision and we will consider mounting a crowdfunding campaign to enable this.

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UK Is The Only Country In the World To Criminalise Doctors Who Prescribe Cannabis

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Bob Ainsworth MP. Like so many ex-ministers, now a supporter of cannabis law reform

It’s popularly believed that the obstacle to prescription of cannabis by doctors is that it is in schedule 1 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations.  In fact, in 2001, the then drugs minster, Labour’s Bob Ainsworth MP, enacted a little known provision of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 UK specifically to make prescribing of cannabis a criminal offence.

Extraordinarily, apart from mescaline, raw opium, coca leaf, DMT and some extremely rare substances that most people will never have heard of, cannabis is the only substance to which this ruling applies.  The Statutory Instrument can be seen here. It designated cannabis as a drug to which section 7(4) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 applies.  I have reproduced the relevant sections at the end of this article.

Why?  Well that is a very good question and one that will no doubt be subject to endless speculation.  Could it be because only a couple of years previously the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee had recommended that it be available on prescription? No doubt the conspiracy theorists will connect it to that fact that only six months previously GW Pharmaceuticals PLC  had floated on the Alternative Investment Market of the London Stock Exchange.  It certainly demonstrates a determination by the then Labour government to restrict and prevent the medical use of cannabis as tightly as the law could possibly allow. It is unprecedented that such rigid controls should be placed, without any supporting evidence, on a substance which we know from recorded history has been used as a medicine for at least 5,000 years.

What is most important is what this means for law reform.  Removing cannabis from schedule 1 would be insufficient to allow doctors to prescribe it. The Statutory Instrument would also need to be rescinded so that section 7(4) of the Act no longer applied to it.

Amber Rudd MP. A single stroke of her pen can save Alfie Dingley

 

However, what this highlights is that the scheduling of cannabis and its use as medicine is entirely within the discretion of the Home Secretary.  The present incumbent, Amber Rudd MP, or any of her successors can, entirely on her own account, make any change to the scheduling of cannabis or doctors’ ability to prescribe it.  She can also issue a licence on whatever terms she chooses to enable individual prescription, importation or possession.

In other words, the fate of Alfie Dingley and thousands more is entirely in Amber Rudd’s hands.  The dishonest excuses advanced by junior Home Office minister Nick Hurd, that they “want to explore every option within the current regulatory framework” is obfuscation, doublespeak and deception at its most blatant.

 

 

The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 section 7(3) and (4) Source: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1971/38/section/7

(3)Subject to subsection (4) below, the Secretary of State shall so exercise his power to make regulations under subsection (1) above as to secure—

(a)that it is not unlawful under section 4(1) of this Act for a doctor, dentist, veterinary practitioner or veterinary surgeon, acting in his capacity as such, to prescribe, administer, manufacture, compound or supply a controlled drug, or for a pharmacist or a person lawfully conducting a retail pharmacy business, acting in either case in his capacity as such, to manufacture, compound or supply a controlled drug; and

(b)that it is not unlawful under section 5(1) of this Act for a doctor, dentist, veterinary practitioner, veterinary surgeon, pharmacist or person lawfully conducting a retail pharmacy business to have a controlled drug in his possession for the purpose of acting in his capacity as such.

(4)If in the case of any controlled drug the Secretary of State is of the opinion that it is in the public interest—

(a)for production, supply and possession of that drug to be either wholly unlawful or unlawful except for purposes of research or other special purposes; or

(b)for it to be unlawful for practitioners, pharmacists and persons lawfully conducting retail pharmacy businesses to do in relation to that drug any of the things mentioned in subsection (3) above except under a licence or other authority issued by the Secretary of State,

he may by order designate that drug as a drug to which this subsection applies; and while there is in force an order under this subsection designating a controlled drug as one to which this subsection applies, subsection (3) above shall not apply as regards that drug.

Written by Peter Reynolds

March 18, 2018 at 5:09 pm