Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘NPS

Reefer Madness 3.0 Is Here And It’s Being Promoted By Cannabis Law Reformers.

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Reefer Madness started in 1930s America with the propaganda film of the same name.

Reefer Madness 2.0 was promoted by the Daily Mail from 2003 onwards after cannabis was classified downwards to a class C drug.  It was strongly supported by the Labour Party through home secretaries Jacqui Smith, Alan Johnson and prime minister Gordon Brown.

Reefer Madness 3.0 is its latest incarnation but this time it’s promoted by reform groups Transform, which has been around as long as CLEAR and Volteface, which is a new group funded by Paul Birch’s personal fortune.  (Birch was also the founder of the now defunct Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol (CISTA) political party.)  Despite the overwhelming body of scientific evidence and the facts of healthcare records which show that cannabis is an insignificant health problem, both Transform and Volteface argue that ‘cannabis is dangerous so it must be regulated’.

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This is nonsense.  Cannabis is not dangerous, in fact for most people it’s beneficial.  It’s prohibition and enforcement of the law against cannabis that are dangerous.  Prohibition has caused far more harm than cannabis ever has or ever could.  Cannabis needs to be regulated because prohibition is dangerous.

I’m very disappointed by the new, much-hyped Volteface report ‘Street Lottery’. It offers nothing new, either in information or in proposed solutions. It takes us no further on from Transform’s work in 2009 or CLEAR’s proposals from 2011.  What it does is ramp up the unjustified scaremongering and panic about high THC and low CBD levels.  It panders slavishly to the exaggerated studies on psychosis from the Institute of Psychiatry and wildly overstates the health harms that, in fact, only occur in a very small number of people.

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t do all we can to protect those very few people for whom cannabis can be a problem and we should certainly educate about harm reduction.  The most important message is that the most dangerous thing about cannabis is mixing it with tobacco.

It’s worth saying that in my opinion, cannabis is a better product when it has higher levels of CBD than usually found in what’s generally available today.  When I say better, I mean more pleasant for recreational use and more effective for medicinal use and it is the ratio of THC:CBD that is more important than the absolute levels.  10:1 THC:CBD is plenty adequate enough to provide the benefits of CBD, any higher that 3:1 and it begins to wipe out the benefits of THC.  It certainly is true that younger people and novice users are best with higher levels of CBD.

Of course I understand that arguing for regulation as a means of reducing harm should encourage politicians towards reform.  I’m all for that but we don’t have to exaggerate the health harms and overlook the massive social harms in order to do that. However, it’s blindingly obvious that decisions on drugs policy are not made rationally, so what’s the point?  Our politicians have failed to act on cannabis law reform, despite the solution to the harms of the criminal market being obvious for more than 30 years. Ministers are completely disinterested in effective drugs policy. The truth about their attitude is best illustrated by the Psychoactive Substances Act. This disastrous legislation is regarded as a success because it has taken the sale of NPS off the high street and driven it underground. This is all that ministers care about. They have been seen to do something and these drugs are no longer so obviously available. They really don’t give a damn that use has increased, harms have multiplied and deaths are becoming increasingly common.

Where the Volteface report actually takes us backwards is its pandering to renewed reefer madness and vast exaggeration of the harms of cannabis.

Correct, cannabis can be harmful to a tiny minority of consumers. All the speculative studies from Robin Murray and his team at the Institute of Psychiatry, all the scaremongering hyperbole in what is presented as ‘scientific’ evidence, all the esoteric, statistical tricks that create alarming headlines – none of these can change the hard facts of how infinitesimal is the number of people whose health is genuinely impaired by cannabis.

It’s ‘young people’ that all the concern is about but in the last five years there has been an average of just 28 cases per year of cannabis-induced psychosis – a tragedy for the individuals but a problem that is irrelevant in public health terms: https://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2015-03-17.227980.h&s=drug

For the entire population the total number of finished admission episodes (FAE) for ‘mental and behavioural problems due to use of cannabinoids’ in 2015 – 16 was 1606.  A very long way from a problem of huge significance and you don’t be have to be an expert to realise that a very large proportion of those are due to ‘Spice’, suynthtrci cannabinoids which can have severe health effects.

For GP and community health treatment, Public Health England’s own data shows that 89% of under-18s in treatment are coerced into it, only in 11% of cases does the patient themselves or their families believe they need it: See table 2.4.1 http://www.nta.nhs.uk/uploads/young-peoples-statistics-from-the-ndtms-1-april-2015-to-31-march-2016.pdf

I welcome any new entrant to the drugs policy reform movement. We need all the help we can get but all Volteface has done since its inception is repeat the work already done by other groups. Now it is pursuing the same flawed and misguided route as Transform. It’s worth repeating – cannabis doesn’t need to be regulated because it is dangerous, it isn’t, cannabis needs to regulated because prohibition is dangerous.

US Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders

Note that this mythical ‘mental health crisis’ only seems to exist in the UK. It doesn’t exist in the rest of Europe, the USA, Israel or other jurisdictions where cannabis is legally avalable. Note also that former US Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders is published in the November edition of the American Journal of Public Health saying “The unjust prohibition of marijuana has done more damage to public health than has marijuana itself.”

The valuable contribution Volteface has made so far to cannabis law reform is the money it has spent on professional media relations. This has elevated the subject up the news agenda and that is a very good thing indeed. Everyone, cannabis consumers and those who don’t have the slightest interest, will benefit from legalisation. The sooner we get on with it the better.  A legal, regulated market will help protect the few dozen children and few hundred adults who are vulnerable to possible health harms.  Much, much more important it will halt the enormous harm that prohibition causes.

 

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What Exactly Is Theresa May Doing?

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theresa-may-looking-sidewards

Is she totally preoccupied with Brexit – but unable to tell us anything?

Is she fretting about her personal stake in the child abuse inquiry – a total, utter shambles?

Is she powerfully representing Britain to the new US president – or more concerned about losing influence to Nigel Farage?

Is she making decisions on crucial strategic issues like HS2, London airport expansion or our housing crisis?

Is there any realistic strategy for the NHS or for funding social care for an aging population?

In such turbulent times what we need is competence and radical leadership. That’s what we got back in 1979 when we had our last woman prime minister and it transformed our country.  It’s not what we’ve got now.

Theresa May was always a bad choice. Her record at the Home Office was appalling.  The only thing she achieved there was to stay in post for six years. She was a closet Remainer who was too sly to commit herself to either side of the referendum.

If immigration was a key factor behind Brexit then she was the minister who utterly failed to control our borders.  There was chaos at the Passport Office and the Border Force. Some of the injustices and inhumanity around immigration remind me of what we used to read about the USSR.  Her drugs policy has been an unmitigated disaster with the highest ever rate of drug overdose deaths, the explosion of NPS and the cruel, anti-evidence denial of access to medicinal cannabis.  She has also been demonstrated to be corrupt with a deliberate attempt to falsify the Home Office report on ‘International Drug Comparators’, which showed that tougher sentences make no difference to drug use and harms.

For reasons I have already explained, I resigned from the Liberal Democrats and joined the Conservative Party shortly before the referendum.  If there had been a leadership election, I wouldn’t have been entitled to a vote but I certainly wouldn’t have chosen Ms May, Michael Gove would have been my first choice.

How and why did she become prime minister?  I think she appeared to be the safe choice for the Conservative Party.  She was definitely the short term easy choice and she assumed office by acclamation without any vote. That made the whole transition very easy for the country at a very difficult time – and for the Conservative Party

I was impressed with her first few weeks.  She chose the right words, struck the right tone and gave the impression of a powerful leader, something Britain desperately needs. Even I, as someone who has fought against her drugs policy ever since she became Home Secretary, was prepared to give her a chance.  But it’s unravelling already.  She seems to want to do everything behind closed doors.  Her public performances seem more about point scoring than dealing with real issues. The vision she expressed about a country that works for everyone simply isn’t reflected in the reality of what she does.  No, she is no Margaret Thatcher.  She’s not even a poor imitation.

What exactly is she doing and what exactly do we think she will achieve?

 

 

Add More Prohibition To UK Drugs Policy. A Recipe For Disaster.

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Unique amongst western democracies, the UK is reinforcing its ‘war on drugs’ with the most inane blanket ban on anything that has a psychoactive effect.

In the face of all the evidence, even of Ireland which has seen a similar policy result in increased heroin use and a crimewave, the buffoons at the Home Office and No.10 are pressing ahead.

The result will be more criminal markets, more misery, more death, more crime, more harms.  It is madness on a grand scale – but it’s actually more sinister than that.

Prohibition is a fundamentally immoral policy because it turns the forces of law enforcement against the people they are supposed to protect.  It is cancerous to any society.  Banning things never works.  It only makes the problem worse.

It is bound to fail and we have seen it do so again and again. Nevertheless, weak politicians return to it in
the delusional belief that this time it will work. What encourages them is that it allows them to appease
vested interests. That starts with the tabloid press but it’s really all about the alcohol industry and its
monopoly of legal recreational drugs.

When the brewers, distillers and bankers say bend over, Cameron drops his trousers and says ‘how would you like me?’. Look at the deliberate suppression of the evidence on minimum unit pricing. Cameron’s hypocrissy about corruption at the G7 is astonishing. UK drugs policy is run for the benefit of vested interests and has nothing to do with reducing harm.

It is ludicrous that the most dangerous, addictive and harmful drug of all is the only one that is legal.

The rise of NPS is entirely the product of our lunatic and futile policy of banning safe substances such as
cannabis and MDMA.

Make no mistake, compared to booze, aspirin, paracetamol, ibuprofen, hay fever remedies – weed and E are safe. Check the facts of usage, deaths and hospital admissions.

This new bill is a pathetic concept by illiberal, repressive, rather stupid and weak policymakers. It disgraces Britain.  In terms of humane, rational, evidence-based drugs policy it puts us second only to Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia. The only thing that distinguishes us from these medieval regimes is that we don’t execute people for drug possession.

Written by Peter Reynolds

June 7, 2015 at 6:54 pm