Posts Tagged ‘peter reynolds’
On Thursday, 16th February 2017, the Oxford Union held a debate on the motion ‘This House Would Say No To Drugs’.
I was honoured to be invited to speak against the motion in the august company of Paul Hayes and Stephen DeAngelo. Speaking for the motion were Andrew Ng, Assistant Commissioner Patricia Gallan and Shaun Attwood.
We successfully defeated the motion by approximately 120 votes to 90. A video of the debate will be released shortly. I reproduce my speech below.
“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”
These are the words of Harry Anslinger, who in 1930 was appointed the first ever commissioner of the US Federal Bureau of Narcotics.
And this is the exactly same standard of argument and evidence that we have in favour of drug prohibition today.
Anslinger went on to start the war on drugs 40 years before Richard Nixon invented the term. His anti-cannabis crusade was based on racism, the suggestion that it caused madness, violence and depravity – yes, the same scare stories, myths and deceit that we still see published every day in the pages of the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph. Indeed, exactly the same nonsense which every home secretary continues to trot out and on which our present prime minister bases UK drugs policy.
Don’t be in any doubt about it, the Home Office, under successive governments, has been engaged in the systematic deception of the British public. It misleads, misinforms and repeatedly publishes bare faced lies about drugs and drugs policy and subverts every effort towards reform advocated by more enlightened politicians.
In 2013, according to Norman Baker and Nick Clegg, Theresa May tried to falsify the international comparators report which showed that across the world harsh penalties make no difference to the level of drug use. The facts simply don’t fit with her ideology.
And this idiocy pervades our society. It is reflected in this motion which I oppose. The premise of ‘This House Would Say No to Drugs’ is false from the very start. It’s preposterous! We all say yes to drugs, every day, inevitably, in cocktails of medicines and recreational stimulants, in food, drink, in endogenous highs released through exercise and emotions, repeatedly, regularly, all of us, without exception, do drugs.
That our governments have seen fit to draw arbitrary lines as to which drugs are acceptable and which are not, which drugs that we can celebrate and which we will be locked up for, has nothing to do with evidence, science and, least of all, absolutely nothing to do with how harmful or dangerous they are. They are based on prejudice and thinking in 2017 that has advanced no further than Harry Anslinger in 1930.
Sometimes these prejudices have strange echoes in the past. Coffee was banned in Mecca in 1511, as it was believed to stimulate radical thinking – the governor thought it might unite his opposition. What does that remind you of?
Often these lines are not arbitrary, they are based on vested interests. In 1777, Frederick the Great of Prussia also tried to ban coffee. He argued it interfered with the country’s beer consumption. Before the first International Opium Convention in 1925 Egyptian cotton farmers successfully lobbied for cannabis to be banned as they feared the superior fibre crop of hemp. Back to Harry Anslinger and he was in league with the timber barons who greatly feared the far better option of using hemp to make paper and the fledging oil industry which had just invented nylon, a synthetic alternative to the job that hemp fibre had done for thousands of years. When Henry Ford invented the Model T he designed it to run on ethanol produced from hemp. He planted hemp on his own land for the purpose. It’s no conspiracy theory to argue that the entire oil industry in predicated on the prohibition of cannabis, it’s just good, solid evidence.
Today, in the UK, prohibition of much safer substances like cannabis and MDMA is enforced to preserve the monopoly of legal recreational drugs that belongs to the alcohol industry – a drug that is at least a dangerous as heroin and causes far more misery and death in our society. It’s no surprise when the UK alcohol industry spends £800 million every year on advertising that the media which enjoys that income supports the alcohol monopoly.
As if we didn’t have the clearest possible lesson from the prohibition of alcohol which gave birth to organised crime and demonstrated beyond any doubt that prohibition never works, it just makes the problem worse.
The UK is more backwards, more disgraced, more shamed by a drugs policy that causes far more harm than it prevents, than almost any other first world country.
Prohibition is a fundamentally immoral policy. If you remember one thing that I say today, please make it this. It sets law enforcement against the communities it is supposed to protect. Being a police office is a noble and honourable calling. Every society needs policing but drugs policy has perverted this profession. The demand for what are deemed illicit drugs comes from society but instead of protecting us from danger, police action increases the dangers we are subject to. The harder the police clamp down, the more the price of drugs rises, the more unscrupulous and violent the unregulated criminal trade becomes and the more contaminated, more concentrated and more dangerous are the drugs themselves.
In Amsterdam, there is no problem with Spice, the synthetic cannabinoid that is ravaging our streets and British prisons at present. In sane, civilised society like California, Colorado or Washington, where adults can access safe, properly regulated cannabis, there is no Spice problem like we have in the UK. This disgusting, horrible product is the direct responsibility of the politicians who continue to pursue our ignorant anti-cannabis policy. It is just one example of the great, immoral evil that prohibition causes. And I ask you, if this crazy policy of prohibition cannot be enforced in prisons, then how do we expect to enforce it in wider society?
It is prohibition and drugs policy based on prejudice that destroys police and community relations. It is current policy that means 70% of all acquisitive crime is caused by drug addiction – for which we send sick and poorly people to jail where they find easy access to more and nastier drugs. This is the real madness that drugs cause. It is the madness of deranged government ministers and their refusal to consider evidence or to resist pressure from their masters in Fleet Street.
What we need to do is say yes to a drugs policy that is designed to reduce harm and protect our communities. Alcohol is promoted and so easily available as to be ridiculous, in every other shop on the high street, yet we control the access of children to alcohol and tobacco quite effectively. But we abandon them to the street weed dealer who sells them muck grown by other children who have been trafficked from overseas and locked in hidden farms which are dangerous fire risks. This is the shameful reality that our policies have produced.
Doctors freely prescribe anti-depressants, tranquilisers, highly toxic opioids such as tramadol, weird drugs for pain and epilepsy like gabapentin, which we don’t really understand at all. Yet it is a criminal offence for a doctor to prescribe cannabis, a remedy that mankind has used safely and effectively for at least 10,000 years.
We mislead and misinform. We encourage young people to go out and drink, yet we make ecstasy, MDMA, a drug far safer than even paracetamol, a class A substance , and we threaten people with years in jail just for handing a single dose to a friend. It’s estimated that between two and ten million doses of MDMA are taken every weekend in the UK and we get about 50 deaths a year. 200 people die every year from paracetamol. How much safer would MDMA be if the product was regulated with known strength and purity? It would probably be virtually harmless.
Now everyone is a victim of this drug war propaganda and the terrible effects of prohibition. Politicians, police officers, social workers, mothers and fathers have all been drenched in this propaganda from birth. Many sincerely believe the rubbish they have been fed and they do all they can to pass on misguided ideas to the next generation.
We need to grow up, get a grip and drag Britain out of the dark ages. Drugs can cause harm but British drugs policy is a scourge on our society. It damages the lives of millions and costs us billions. Please oppose the motion, saying no to drugs is a nonsense. Let’s say yes to a rational drugs policy.
Just four months younger than me, he was born in Cardiff in January 1958, 10 miles from where I was born in Newport, the previous September. We share the same three names: Peter John Reynolds. Clearly something of an eccentric but well respected, he is best known as the composer of the world’s shortest opera, ‘The Sands of Time’ (1993). It depicts a row that takes place during the boiling of an egg.
I can confirm that it is the only opera that I have listened to in full. Enjoy!
His obituary as published in The Times, 2nd November 2016
Peter Reynolds earned a place in Guinness World Records for The Sands of Time(1993), the world’s shortest opera. It lasts for three minutes, 34 seconds (no interval), about half the length of Darius Milhaud’s Deliverance of Theseus, which had held the record since 1928.
The piece is set in a suburban kitchen of the 1990s, as an egg is boiling (the length of the opera). Stan and Flo, husband and wife, are having an argument at breakfast when a knock at the door tells them that they have won the pools. Peace is restored as the egg is lifted out of the pan.
“It certainly has the influence of 19th-century Italian opera,” argued Reynolds, pointing out that his work included eight separate numbers. “Stan’s aria, ‘Down with the splash of cologne and deodorant spray’, was very much me doing early Verdi, the heroic tenor aria as in Il Trovatore. The patter song with its resonances of Gilbert and Sullivan is very quick.”
The Sands of Time, which has a libretto by Simon Rees, was conducted at its premiere at an outdoor shopping centre in Cardiff by Carlo Rizzi, the music director of Welsh National Opera. Reynolds later admitted that the work had been written in a hurry. “It took me an evening to write,” he said, adding: “I’m very proud to have used deodorant for the first time [in an opera]. It isn’t product placement. It’s simply facing reality in its harshest form.”
Later he would be embarrassed by the state of the work’s only copy. “I didn’t produce the neatest score in the world,” he said. “Twenty years on it’s still getting performances every year and each time I feel a bit more embarrassed about the old score.”
Peter John Reynolds was born in Cardiff in 1958. Almost as soon as he could walk he taught himself to play LPs and 78s on his parents’ 1954 radiogram. “I was enthusiastic, but none too careful and was often told off for playing 78s using an LP stylus,” he recalled.
He went to St Teilo’s school, studied music at University College, Cardiff, and was awarded a series of bursaries in the 1980s to attend composition classes at Dartington Summer School, with Morton Feldman, Peter Maxwell Davies and Gordon Crosse. In 1986 he was awarded the Michael Tippett award for composition, and the following year wrote his first large-scale commission, a work for chamber orchestra, that was performed at Dartington.
Over the following years Reynolds was an integral part of the vibrant Welsh music scene. He founded the PM Ensemble, major players in contemporary music at the end of the century; was artistic director of the Lower Machen Festival; wrote programme notes for more than 2,000 pieces of music; programmed concerts for St David’s Hall; set up a series of foyer concerts at Wales Millennium Centre; and, in 2009, published a history of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.
In 1994 he joined the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, where he was friend, mentor and confidant to a wide range of students. He would caution them against wasting energy on large-scale composing, while encouraging vigorous discussion in the bar.
Reynolds’s music was characterised by stillness, simplicity, an occasional playfulness and a tendency to set unusual and quixotic texts. For example, Adieu to all Alluring Toys, a set of songs, took its title from the epitaph on an 18th-century child’s grave at a tiny country church in Breconshire. He was recently the recipient of a Creative Wales award, enabling him to explore the relationship between music, architecture and landscape.
He tended to compose in longhand rather than use computer software. “It slows me down and makes me consider more carefully what I write,” he said. “I remember that Morton Feldman used to say that copying out his music in different drafts brought him closer to the material.”
Friends recalled that he was often seen at his local farmers market, cooked a delicious tagine and enjoyed exploring cycle tracks around Cardiff on his bike. At the time of his death Reynolds, who never married, was working on a car-horn fanfare for the Vale of Glamorgan Festival, to be performed by vintage cars.
Peter Reynolds, composer, was born on January 12, 1958. He died suddenly on October 11, 2016, aged 58
After all the speculation, many misleading and false reports and a plethora of attempts to interpret the MHRA’s actions concerning cannabidiol (CBD), this week the chips are down.
On Thursday 3rd November, at MHRA headquarters in Victoria, six representatives of the UK Cannabis Trade Association (UKCTA) will sit down with those responsible for the agency’s statements on CBD. We will be armed with counsel’s opinion on the legality of the MHRA’s action but most importantly we hope to secure clarification for those who rely on CBD as a food supplement. We will publish details of the outcome of the meeting as soon as we can.
Those attending as UKCTA representatives are:
Anthony Cohen, Elixinol UK
Mike Harlington, GroGlo Horticultural Research & Development
Peter Reynolds, CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform
Tom Rowland, CBD Oils UK
Karl Spratt, Hempire
Tom Whettem, Canabidol
‘This House Would Legalise Cannabis’. Reynolds v Hitchens. University Of Southampton, 29th September 2016.
A vote was taken before the debate started: For the proposition: 49 Against the proposition: 18 Abstain/undecided: 17
John Pritchard, studying economics. For the proposition.
Jacob Power, studying philosophy. Against the proposition.
Peter Reynolds, CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform. For the proposition.
Peter Hitchens, Mail on Sunday. Against the proposition.
A vote was taken after the debate finished: For the proposition: 57 Against the proposition: 26 Abstain/undecided: 8
I start with an assertion that I think we can all agree on – the only purpose of any drugs policy is to reduce harm.
I argue that British drugs policy, specifically on cannabis, causes far more harm than it prevents and that the solution is to legalise. But by legalise, I do not mean a free for all. In fact, I mean a system of regulation which minimises harm.
Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, cannabis is called a “controlled drug” but nothing could be further from the truth. What every government since 1971 has done is abandon all control. They have abandoned our communities. they have abandoned our young people and they have abandoned those who need cannabis as medicine. All of them, Conservative, Labour and the coalition, they have abandoned us all to criminals.
The results are street dealing, dangerous hidden cannabis farms that cause fires, theft of electricity, destruction of rental properties, gangs that exploit children, both by selling them cannabis and getting them involved in dealing, human trafficking, modern slavery, most often Vietnamese children, smuggled into Britain and locked up in cannabis farms to look after the plants. And as for the product itself, it is frequently poor quality and often contaminated with toxic residues.
These are the harms that the Misuse of Drugs Act is supposed to prevent but, in fact, it creates them, promotes them and maximises them.
Now, it may surprise you to know that the law is not about protecting people from health harms. The exact words of the Act are that it is about the misuse of drugs “having harmful effects sufficient to constitute a social problem”. It is social harm that the Act seeks to prevent.
Which is just as well because the “harmful effects” of cannabis are very difficult to identify. Most of what you hear is either wild exaggeration or completely false. Even the Institute of Psychiatry, the source of many scare stories, admitted last year that its press office was misrepresenting and exaggerating its own research.
Now t’other Peter will tell you that cannabis is a dangerous drug which can cause serious, irreversible mental illness. In a debate like this it is impossible to compare all the various scientific studies that form the body of evidence on which cannabis policy should be based. I can certainly answer specific questions later on but for now, let’s rely, not on evidence, but on cold, hard facts.
The populist myth is that thousands of young people are afflicted by this terrible condition called ‘cannabis psychosis’. The facts are that in the last five years there has been an average of just 28 finished admission episodes in hospitals each year for people under 18 for cannabis psychosis.
Of course these are 28 tragedies and I don’t overlook that but in public health terms it is an insignificant figure. For instance, there are more than 3,000 finished admission episodes each year for peanut allergy but we don’t spend £500 million each year on a futile attempt to ban peanuts, do we? Yes, that’s how much we spend every year on police, courts, probation and prison services to try and stop people using cannabis.
However, it’s not as simple as that. Apart from hospitals, thousands of people each year receive what’s called ‘treatment’ for cannabis use disorder from community health services. Nearly 16,000 young people for the year 2014/15.
Now the only ‘treatment’ for cannabis is counselling but that’s not what this is really about. It’s actually about trying to force people to stop using cannabis regardless of whether it’s causing any harm. Public Health England, which records these figures, shows that 89% of all those in treatment have been referred from the courts, educational institutions or some other authority. In other words this is coercive treatment. You have no option. If you don’t agree the courts will impose a tougher penalty or you might get expelled from school. Only 11% of those receiving this treatment actually decide they need it themselves.
Don’t get me wrong now, I’m neither suggesting cannabis is harmless nor that it can’t be a real problem for some people. But I ask you this, if it has the potential for harm, is it better that we leave the entire market, now worth £6 billion per year, in the hands of criminals, or would it be better and safer for everyone if it was properly regulated and controlled? Wouldn’t any health harms be reduced, better treated, if we had quality control, age limits, proper labelling of what you’re buying? Isn’t this obvious, common sense?
We will continue to put most of our effort into the medical campaign because that is what morality and compassion demands But actually, there is far more harm caused by the prohibition of recreational use. As well as all the social harms I mentioned earlier, do you know there are one million people in the UK with a conviction for cannabis? People whose careers, ability to travel, even their credit score can be damaged because they got caught smoking a joint.
In all jurisdictions where cannabis is legally available, the benefits are dramatic and very easy to see. In Holland, far fewer children use cannabis than in the UK. Underage use is declining in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska where cannabis is legal for all adults and in the other 30 US states where medical cannabis is legal. Crime is down, fatal traffic accidents are down, alcohol consumption is down, overdoses and deaths from dangerous opioid painkillers are down.
The prohibition of cannabis is a great force for evil in our society. It promotes crime, it maximises the health harms of cannabis, it ruins lives, it denies people medicine that science proves will help them, it blights communities, endangers children, fritters away precious law enforcement resources.
Indeed, prohibition is a fundamentally immoral policy. It sets the police and the courts against the communities they are supposed to protect. After all, the demand comes from us and it is not going away. We are adults, free human beings who are entitled to act as we wish provided it doesn’t harm others. Our government and our police should serve us. It is an affront to justice, to the rule of law, to morality and to each one of us that this oppressive, ridiculous, evidence-free policy persists.
Legalise cannabis now! Please vote in favour of the motion.
The launch of the APPG report on its inquiry into medicinal cannabis is a public event which anyone can attend. It takes place at the House of Lords committee room 2 on 13th September 2016 at 11.00am.
Baroness Molly Meacher and Caroline Lucas MP, are co-chairs of the APPG. The guest speakers will be:
Frank Field MP
Ron Hogg, Police and Crime Commissioner for County Durham
Professor Mike Barnes, Neurologist, CLEAR Scientific and Medical Advisor
Lara Smith, Medicinal Cannabis Patient, Life Fellow of CLEAR
Lara was awarded a Life Fellowship of CLEAR in August 2014 in recognition of her enormous contribution to our campaign. She suffers from a terrible chronic pain condition which is only relieved by cannabis. Her consultant is one of those few courageous doctors in the UK who have supported their patient by prescribing access to Bedrocan medicinal cannabis products. Using the protocol which CLEAR pioneered, which exploits loopholes in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, Lara now gains legal access to Bedrocan products on a regular basis. She has to travel to the Netherlands in person to collect her medicine every three months and it has to be paid for on a private basis. The important thing is she gets the medicine she needs and she is within the law.