Peter Reynolds

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Posts Tagged ‘Norman Lamb

The Drugs Policy Debate. House Of Commons, 18th July 2017.

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This debate was held in Parliament following the publication on 14th July 2017 of the ‘2017 Drug Strategy’.

The debate may be watched in full here.  It starts at 13:17 and finishes at 19:00.

Highlights include:

Crispin Blunt MP at 14:09

 

 

 

 

 

Jeff Smith MP at 15:21

 

 

 

 

 

Norman Lamb MP at 16:10

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul Flynn MP at 16:32

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Written by Peter Reynolds

July 26, 2017 at 4:07 pm

LibDems: Correct On Cannabis Policy, Wrong On Scaremongering.

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The Liberal Democrats are doing great work on advancing the cause of cannabis law reform.  Their policy proposals are sensible and their arguments for change are irrefutable but they are wrong to buy into and sustain the myths and scaremongering that have dominated the cannabis debate for so long.

Cannabis does not cause psychosis.  Stronger strains do not present serious health risks.  Memory loss is not a significant issue and no issue at all in comparison to the health harms of alcohol or tobacco. Cannabis cannot be described as dangerous unless you also apply that word to hay fever remedies, over-the-counter painkillers  and energy drinks.  There is not and never has been any scientific evidence to support these myths.

Of course, we must be sensitive to people’s fears and concerns.  For more than 50 years the British people have been fed a stream of lies and exaggeration by the tabloid media.  The Home Office, right up to today, is engaged in a systematic and deliberate policy to mislead and misinform on cannabis.  Shocking though that fact is, this policy transcends successive governments and continues irrespective of ministers’ views.  It clearly emanates from dishonest and corrupt officials who are determined to pursue their own agenda, irrespective of truth or concern for the massive harms and cost of cannabis prohibition.

lamb 10 min stillNorman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat MP and health spokesperson, who is leading the party’s campaign, is a brave, sincere and conscientious politician. One of the few in Westminster that matches up to the high standards of probity and wisdom that we should be able to expect from all MPs.  Similarly, Nick Clegg, former leader, and Tim Farron, current leader, have spoken out strongly on the need to reform the law. Now is the time for them also to start telling the truth about cannabis, about how its dangers have been vastly exaggerated, how for adults, in moderation, it can actually be very beneficial and far preferable as a choice of relaxant to alcohol. Indeed, if people substituted cannabis for some of their alcohol consumption, it would be a public health revolution.  It would save the NHS billions and transform the health of our society.

The cannabis campaign will not succeed unless we tell the truth. We cannot compromise facts and evidence for the illusory belief that buying into the scare stories will somehow advance the cause.  We need to push back at the scaremongering, acknowledge there are risks but that they are extremely small.  They really only apply to use by children or to behaviour that is analogous to a ‘white cider drinker’.  Consume anything to excess, regularly, without a break, without regard to other aspects of life and it will cause harm but even then, cannabis will cause less harm than any other substance.

As for children, one of the main aims of reform must be to minimise underage use.  Even then, the scare story that cannabis is causing significant mental health problems amongst young people is untrue.  The Department of Health’s own data shows that in the last five years, there has been an average of just 28 episodes per year of care for ‘cannabis psychosis’ in young people.  28 individual tragedies but an insignificant problem in public health terms.

The misuse of the term ‘skunk’ is also unhelpful. The Channel 4 ‘Drugs Live’ debacle last year was  based on reckless, irresponsible overdosing of inexperienced users by a scientist who should know better.  All the time calling the cannabis was called ‘skunk’ when it is a matter of fact that it was silver haze as grown by Bedrocan, the Netherlands’ government producer of medicinal cannabis. Skunk is actually the name of one particular cannabis strain and not an especially strong one.  Cannabis is available in Britain that is twice, sometimes three times as potent as skunk but the word has been selected and promoted by the tabloid press because of its obvious, sensationalist, negative connotations.

Thank you to the Liberal Democrats for the fantastic work they are doing.  All we need now is a little adjustment and focus on truth rather than scare stories.

Written by Peter Reynolds

March 23, 2016 at 6:37 pm

Talking Cannabis In Parliament.

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Norman Lamb MP, Peter Reynolds

Norman Lamb MP, Peter Reynolds

Today, 8th February 2016, Peter Reynolds, president of CLEAR, met with Norman Lamb MP, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for health, for an update on the cannabis campaign.

Independent Panel of Experts on Cannabis Regulation.

The Liberal Democrats have set up an independent panel of experts to establish how a legalised market for cannabis could work in the United Kingdom. Norman Lamb wants the panel to look at evidence from Colorado, Washington State and Uruguay, where cannabis has been legalised and to make recommendations for the party to consider in the spring.

As a contribution to the panel’s work, CLEAR has provided the independent study it commissioned in 2011, ‘Taxing the UK Cannabis Market’ which establishes the most comprehensive database on the reality of cannabis in the UK.  In addition, The CLEAR Plan, ‘How To Regulate Cannabis in Britain’, builds on this data to propose detailed regulations for exactly how the market could work and contribute a £6.7 billion net gain to the UK exchequer.

Imminent Launch of New Medicinal Cannabis Campaign.

Within the next few days, CLEAR, along with other cannabis law reform groups, will co-operate in the launch of probably the largest campaign for access to medicinal cannabis ever seen in the UK.  The time has come when people who are suffering must be given the opportunity to stop their pain with a safe, non-toxic, proven alternative to expensive and debilitating pharmaceutical products.  The intransigence of successive UK governments must be overcome and this time a strategy is in place which will work.

The CLEAR publication ‘Medicinal Cannabis:The Evidence’ has received international acclaim and is the most comprehensive and up to date review of the scientific evidence supporting the use of cannabis.

Further Development of Liberal Democrat Drugs Policy.

In 1971, when the Misuse of Drugs Act came into force there were approximately 3,000 problematic drug users in the UK.  Today, 45 years on, that figure has risen to around 350,000. Norman Lamb describes this as “one of the greatest public policy disasters of all time”.  Today, in a speech about the prison service, David Cameron talked of the need to tackle the most difficult social problems facing Britain. Drug crime and drug addiction is probably the single biggest factor in our prison problems and the consequences of 45 years of failed drugs policy pervades our society.  As the Liberal Democrats consider this difficult issue, tackling reform of cannabis policy is the first step.

Why I Have Joined the Liberal Democrats.

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Coalition first 100 days

In my view the only rational choice for the next UK government is another Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition.

The Labour Party is simply a joke.  Miliband is an out-of-touch, Hampstead-socialist buffoon who was part of the team whose reckless borrowing meant that the banking crisis destroyed this country’s economy.  It is ludicrous that we should even consider giving the same people another chance.

Cameron is an oily, two-faced oaf who has transformed the Conservative Party into the Bullingdon Club Party, dominated by out-of-touch posh boys with quasi-fascists like Theresa May, Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling as their attack dogs.

The only redeeming factor about the Tories is a basic competence in managing the economy. Osborne knows what he is doing but left unrestrained he would devastate our society: trashing the benefits system, care for the disabled and access to justice.

We must have the decent, fair, rational and conscientious Liberal Democrats in government with the Tories. Crucially they must hold out for a much tougher coalition agreement which will see the disgusting policies of Duncan Smith and Grayling reversed.  I think it’s too much to hope that we will see the back of Theresa May but definitely, in my area of special interest, the Liberal Democrats will insist on drugs policy reform.  The evidence-free, prejudice-based, self-defeating and cruel drugs policies of the past must be overturned. They have caused too much harm, suffering and promoted the interests of organised crime and the alcohol industry over common sense and the national interest.

So, in February I joined the Liberal Democrats. I was free to do so because that month the CLEAR Executive Committee resolved that we would no longer be a political party. An explanation of that decision is here.

My decision had a lot to do with drugs policy but, as I have explained above, was considered across the wider issues.  I think it reflects the fact that the LibDems are less ideologically-driven, more rational, evidence-based and fair in their policies.  All my life I have been a Tory voter for the crucial values of individual liberty, regulated free markets and opposed to the cloying, repressive ideas of socialism and the overbearing state – but the Tories have lost their way, their moral compass and their integrity.  I will never, ever vote Tory again.

CLEAR has worked closely with the LibDems since I first led a delegation of medicinal cannabis users to meet Norman Baker, then drugs minister, in July 2014.  Just a few weeks later he publicly called for a change in policy on medicinal cannabis, the most significant breakthrough in the UK cannabis campaign for nearly 50 years.  This year we have worked closely with Nick Clegg’s team and the LibDem manifesto incorporated CLEAR’s policy on medicinal cannabis word for word.  I had the privilege of personally briefing him on medicinal cannabis just a few weeks ago.  Julian Huppert, Norman Lamb and Lynne Featherstone, also LibDems, have been of great help to the CLEAR campaign and demonstrated outstanding sincerity, honesty and commitment, uncommon qualities amongst politicians.  Personally, I also greatly admire the courage of LibDem David Ward in standing against Israeli war crimes and in support of Palestine.

On the narrow issue of drugs policy, once again, Labour is a joke.  It doesn’t have one.  With a few honourable exceptions, such as Paul Flynn, David Winnick and Bob Ainsworth, the party is stuck in reefer madness, terrorised by tabloid editors and prefers prejudice and scare stories to science and evidence.  The Tories have more individuals who support reform but the party as a whole is in a corrupt relationship with the alcohol industry and also terrorised by the tabloid press.

As far as the Greens are concerned, yes they have a sensible drugs policy (originally drafted, in fact, by Derek Williams, my colleague on the CLEAR Executive Committee) but they have no chance of any influence in the new government.  Caroline Lucas did a good job on getting the drugs debate in Parliament last year but I cannot support her party’s bizarre behaviour in the illiberal ‘No More Page 3’ censorship and fracking campaigns.  The Green’s attitude to fracking is as evidence-free and based on prejudice as is Labour’s attitude to cannabis.  Also, CLEAR gave the Greens an opportunity to present their drugs policy to our supporters but despite repeated efforts they couldn’t get it together.  By contrast, the LibDems welcomed us enthusiastically and at the highest level.

I am a Eurosceptic LibDem, which is unusual.  In fact, I voted for UKIP in the last European elections and although the party itself is confused on the issue, I have talked with Nigel Farage in person at length on drugs policy and he is progressive, intelligent and pragmatic on the subject.

CISTA, the Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol party?  Well, I know a number of the candidates personally and I would recommend voting for them in constituencies where the LibDems stand no chance. Overall though the party is a waste of Paul Birch’s money and I can say that with the experience of CLEAR’s 16 years as a political party.  It’s great that they are bringing some attention to the campaign but it’s a futile strategy and Birch has spurned all efforts at support and assistance from CLEAR.  Had he even returned our calls we would have endorsed and promoted CISTA candidates in some constituencies.

So in conclusion, for drugs policy reform, particularly for access to medicinal cannabis, but also for a fairer society where policy is based on evidence and compassion rather than prejudice and vested interests, vote Liberal Democrat!

CLEAR Medicinal Users Panel. Fourth Delegation To Parliament.

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Freeman meet 1There is real momentum building in Parliament on the issue of medicinal cannabis. The first thing George Freeman said this week when he welcomed us to the Department of Health was: “There is a lot of discussion going on in government about this subject”.

This is extraordinary progress, unimaginable as recently as 2012. Undoubtedly, developments in the US have raised cannabis up the political agenda. Through 2014, CLEAR has been well received by the Home Affairs Select Committee, the Home Office, the Department of Health, the Health Select Committee and just before Christmas I met with Baroness Meacher and Lord Howarth in the House of Lords.  They are chair and treasurer, respectively, of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform. They are determined to push reform through to make medicinal cannabis available and have briefed one of the UK’s leading psychopharmacologists to prepare a review of existing evidence on the subject.  Armed with this they have a plan to meet with key individuals in both Houses of Parliament and I have no doubt that they will succeed in changing minds.

Also this week, I met with advisors to Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, in the very heart of government at the Cabinet Office.  The Liberal Democrats are planning towards another coalition after the General Election and determined to see drugs policy form part of a new coalition agreement.  Right at the front of their priorities is medicinal cannabis for which there is strong support from existing ministers, Lynne Featherstone at the Home Office and Norman Lamb at the Department of Health.  Expect announcements in the run up to the election.

George Freeman is the Life Sciences Minister, responsible for medicines, NHS innovation, research, development, the MHRA and NICE.  His role is as important as any other minister in achieving the reform we seek.  He is another ally and has asked me to submit a paper setting out our proposals.  Of particular importance is how medicinal cannabis could be regulated, either with a full Marketing Authorisation from the MHRA or possibly registration as a Tradional Herbal Medicine.  The very fact that we are now discussing such detail is a measure of how far we have come.

So there is great cause for optimism at the start of 2015.  We are closer than we have ever been before and this has been achieved by moving away from the old ‘protests’ and outdated campaigning ideas.  I am confident that early in the new parliament we will see substantial progress.