Posts Tagged ‘Professor Sir Robin Murray’
If the Government Won’t Regulate Cannabis Then We’ll Do It For Them
The CBD Market
Educating And Influencing Researchers
For cannabis and drugs policy reform, out of 650 MPs, there could not have been a worse person to seize power than Theresa May. There are a few who come close on both Tory and Labour benches but no one who has such a long record of bigotry, denial of evidence and refusal even to consider the subject.
To be fair, I am a member of the Conservative Party, which to many people involved in the cannabis campaign is a mortal sin but my advocacy is based on science and evidence, not tribalism or wider politics. In any case, though many find this fact hard to accept, there has always been more support from Tory MPs than Labour. Highly influential and senior Tory MPs such as Crispin Blunt, Peter Lilley and Dr Dan Poulter are powerful advocates for reform. I firmly believe that the only sustainable route to legalisation is commercialisation and the left wing, nanny state, anti-business types are already pushing the ‘Big Cannabis’ scare stories.
So what can we do and what are we doing to advance our cause in these dark days? Theresa May always has been secretive, inaccessible, unresponsive and entirely disinterested in any opinion except her own. How can we possibly make any progress with a PM who has already shown she is prepared to cover up or falsify evidence and defines herself by her belief in a supernatural power?
There is more support for cannabis law reform in Parliament than ever before. It is now official policy of both the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party. The support from Scotland is far more valuable than that from the discredited LibDems. With the added factors of Brexit and Scottish Independence, the SNP is in a powerful position to advance its policies. Also, in Ireland, both north and south, public support for medical cannabis reform is exploding. Michelle O’Neill, SinnFein’s new leader, has pledged medical cannabis reform if she is re-elected (though she has no power to do so!). Her negotiating position is immensely strong now that the problems at Stormont, the rise of Sinn Fein and the Brexit factor all combine to make a united Ireland a real possibility.
During the coalition government from 2010 to 2015, few doors were closed to us. Over that period, CLEAR conducted more meetings with ministers and senior politicians than the entire UK campaign had achieved in 50 years. Because we had support from the LibDems, and introductions from the Deputy Prime Minister, even Tory ministers were ready to see us, even if they were merely paying lip service. That all stopped with the election of a majority Conservative government and after Cameron stepped down the doors were slammed in our faces, bolted and double-locked. The campaign has been in the doldrums ever since. Or has it?
The last major achievement of the last few year’s campaigning was the release of the APPG report on medical cannabis in September 2016. Alongside it, Professor Mike Barnes, CLEAR advisory board member, published his review ‘Cannabis: The Evidence for Medical Use‘. To all impartial and reasonable observers, these documents should have initiated positive government action towards reform, even if it was only very limited in scope. But no, Theresa May didn’t leave it to Amber Rudd, her successor as home secretary, she stepped straight in herself on the day of publication, before she could even have read it and dismissed the report out of hand. This echoes the apocryphal story of James Callaghan, then PM, throwing the 1969 Wooton Report in the bin without even opening it. Such is the inertia and prejudice that has not softened at all amongst the bigots despite 45 years of science and research proving that there are better, safer, more beneficial options available on cannabis.
For now, individual lobbying of MPs is our only route to power. Over the years we have refined our approach to this and we know what works. Getting into ping pong correspondence with an MP is a waste of time. An initial letter or email needs to be followed up with a face-to-face meeting and a determined focus on getting a tangible result. What sort of result you should look for depends on your circumstances but getting your MP to arrange a meeting with a government minister should be your goal.
If you’re a medical user then you’ll want to meet a health minister, preferably the Secretary of State, if not a junior minister or perhaps an advisor to the Department of Health. Work with your MP to achieve the best result you can. Your MP doesn’t necessarily have to agree with you about cannabis but they should facilitate your communication with government, that’s their job. If you’re more interested in the economic or social benefits to be gained from reform, you could ask for an introduction to the Chancellor, a treasury or business minister, or someone at the Cabinet Office who is involved in policy development. CLEAR can usually provide someone to accompany you on meetings but this must be arranged in advance and agreed with your MP or whoever your appointment is with. Alternatively, we can provide advice over the telephone on how to approach the meeting, what to ask for and what evidence or supporting material to take with you.
If the Government Won’t Regulate Cannabis Then We’ll Do It For Them
With an intransigent government that does it all it can to evade engagement on this issue, there is more that CLEAR is already doing. If the government won’t take responsibility and regulate cannabis, then step by step we are going to do it for them. Someone has to, there is far too much harm and suffering caused by present policy.
The CBD Market
Through 2016 the CBD market in the UK really began to take off. These are products derived from industrial hemp, grown legally under licence that offer many of the therapeutic benefits of cannabis. They should, in fact, be more accurately termed low-THC cannabis as apart from crystals and a few, rare examples of isolated CBD, they are whole plant extracts and contain all the cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and other compounds found in the plants from which they are made. Therefore they offer many of the ‘entourage effect’ benefits but with very low levels of THC. It was obvious though that this market was heading for problems. More and more dubious suppliers were starting up, many making brazen claims for the medical effects and benefits of their products and many without any product testing, quality assurance or honest customer service. The law was then and always has been crystal clear, you cannot make medical claims for a product without it being properly licensed or regulated. Inevitably, in June 2016 the MHRA stepped in and sent threatening letters to a number of CBD suppliers.
CLEAR took the initiative. We wrote to the MHRA requesting a meeting. We engaged with the leading CBD suppliers and our advisory board members Professor Mike Barnes and Crispin Blunt MP were quickly on the case. The story has already been extensively reported but now, nearly a year on, our efforts are coming to fruition. We led the approach to the MHRA and in the process created what is now the Cannabis Trades Association UK (CTAUK). It is now recognised by the MHRA, it has established a code of conduct and it is now the gold standard of quality, ethics and legality that can give anyone buying CBD products real peace of mind. There are still cowboys out there, making false claims, selling products that offer no real benefit and even endangering their customers with products that are illegal under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 or the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016. Now though, customers can go to the CTAUK website and choose a supplier that is operating legally, ethically and within the regulations that the industry itself has established. We expect the MHRA very shortly formally to endorse CTAUK members as legitimate suppliers of CBD products as food supplements.
Neither can we accept the government’s irresponsible and cruel policy towards people who need cannabis as medicine. So CLEAR has taken a further initiative. After Theresa May’s dismissal of the APPG report, we approached the Royal Colleges of medicine. We pointed out that whatever the government might say, around one million people are using cannabis as medicine. Doctors have a duty and an ethical responsibility to educate themselves on the subject and be able to provide properly informed care to their patients. Our efforts have borne fruit. Professor Mike Barnes and I have worked with Professor Nigel Mathers of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP). We will be producing a draft set of guidelines on medicinal cannabis for GPs which will go the next meeting of the RCGP Council and is planned for publication in June 2017. If the government won’t do it, we will and the medical profession agrees with us. This will be the greatest practical advance ever made in medical cannabis in the UK.
Educating And Influencing Researchers
The UK is the most prolific source of research into the harms of cannabis, particularly the tenuous links between cannabis and psychosis. Despite dozens of studies, mainly from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College Hospital, this has never been shown to be any more than statistical correlation. Most of these studies are confounded by tobacco use but the latest work from Professor Sir Robin Murray and his team shows an even stronger correlation between tobacco and psychosis than cannabis.
Across the world, UK scientists have become notorious for this scaremongering which seems little different from the ‘reefer madness’ hysteria. To be fair, much of this is down to the UK media which has barely advanced since the 1930s in its reporting. It provides the environment in which researchers are able to gain funding for research into cannabis harms but hardly ever for cannabis benefits.
CLEAR is now working with the Institute of Psychiatry to develop a new and more balanced way of surveying the effects of cannabis. Dr Musa Sami has asked us to advise on the construction of a questionnaire on which the Institute will base its future work.
The Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London issued a press release on 27th November claiming that its latest study shows cannabis causes damage to the corpus callosum. This was widely reported across the world and many publications extended what was already an inaccurate claim into saying that this “damage” was a cause of psychosis.
As I have already reported and as confirmed by the NHS, the study showed nothing of the sort. Then, last week, by accident really, I discovered that quietly and with just a small footnote the headline had been changed!
Original: “Study shows white matter damage caused by ‘skunk-like’ cannabis”
Edit: “Study shows white matter damage may be caused by ‘skunk-like’ cannabis”
Professor Shitij Kapur, Executive Dean of the Institute of Psychiatry hadn’t responded to two emails from me, so this time I wrote to the Principal of King’s College, Professor Ed Byrne. He has now confirmed that the press release has been changed but makes the extraordinary and false claim that “By and large the press coverage was a true reflection of the science.”
Dear Mr. Reynolds
Thank you for your email regarding the recent article from King’s.
I have discussed it with Professor Kapur and the authors and we believe it appropriate to change the headline to ‘may be caused by’, which has already been done.
The body of the press release is a fair representation of the paper so needs no amendment. By and large the press coverage was a true reflection of the science in the paper so we do not believe the press release requires further amendments.
King’s is committed to a balanced reporting of science and its work and hence we have changed the headline and acknowledged the change.
Thank you again for your diligence.
Professor Edward Byrne AC
President & Principal
Too late! The sensationalist, scaremongering deceit and exaggeration has already spread like wildfire across the world. Dozens of publications have repeated the falsehood and yet again the Institute of Psychiatry is responsible for misleading millions of people. It has form for such conduct, regularly, repeatedly and deliberately confusing correlation with causation and vastly exaggerating the results of its work. This is deceit and fraud at the highest level and if it took place in another context, financial services for instance, it would merit police investigation.
I have written again to Professor Byrne asking him to do the right and honourable thing.
Dear Professor Byrne,
Thank you for your email. I am grateful that you have had the courtesy and honour to reply, unlike Professor Kapur.
I am disturbed though by how lightly you take this very serious matter. It is absolutely false to say “By and large the press coverage was a true reflection of the science”.
As someone who has observed the Institute’s work for many years, I am now convinced that it is routinely in the business of exaggerating the results of its work, deliberately misleading the media and through it, the public at large. I can only conclude that this dishonesty is connected with raising funding for its work.
This is not a situation that can be allowed to persist. Every year Professor Sir Robin Murray publishes a paper on cannabis and psychosis which is always presented to the media as showing a causal link when the science itself shows nothing of the sort. I have met with Sir Robin on several occasions and spoken alongside him at conferences. In person he is reasonable and accurate but the way his work is presented to the media is dishonest and false, exactly as this latest episode.
This is a matter of huge importance because it is largely the hysteria drummed up by such falsified science that stands in the way of legal access to medicinal cannabis in the UK. Hundreds of thousands of people suffer needlessly in Britain when throughout the rest of Europe, Israel, Canada and the USA, more enlightened policies enable access to the medicine that people need. I hold the conduct of organisations such as the Institute of Psychiatry directly responsble for the pain and suffering caused.
It is disgraceful that Dr Paola Dazzan should enter into the political arena of cannabis policy with blatantly false claims that her study shows a causal link or that the differences observed amount to “damage”. These are nothing less than lies.
This might be the result of a renegade press office which doesn’t understand the science but we have put up with it for decades and I appeal to you to take proportionate steps to stop it. To start with, on this latest incident, you should issue a further press release explaining the errors in the first. You can’t just change the headline surreptitiously, hope no one will notice and expect the dishonesty to be overlooked. The damage has already been done. You must act to make amends.
This is a matter of professional ethics and integrity and I rely on you to take the appropriate steps.
On Friday, 27th November 2015, the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London issued a press release titled “Study shows white matter damage caused by ‘skunk-like’ cannabis”. As a result, hundreds of media outlets across the world have published to the effect that cannabis use causes changes in the corpus callosum, the largest white matter structure in the brain, which is responsible for communication between the left and right hemispheres.
In fact, the study showed nothing of the sort. Even one of its authors, Dr Paola Dazzan, is on the record stating “It is possible that these people already have a different brain and they are more likely to use cannabis.”
Sadly, this is par for the course by King’s College and I can only assume is a corrupt attempt to sensationalise its work in order to drum up funding. Every time this institution publishes a study on cannabis it confuses causation and correlation.
For instance, Professor Sir Robin Murray’s annual study on cannabis and psychosis only ever shows correlation but when he talks to the press he always puts across the relationship between cannabis use and psychosis as causative.
We simply cannot rely on these so-called eminent scientists to be honest about their work. They are in the gutter and they aren’t looking at the stars, they are looking at their bank balances.
I have now written twice to Professor Shitij Kapur, Executive Dean of the IoPPN asking for an explanation but he hasn’t seen fit even to acknowledge my emails.
For anyone who takes an interest in the science of cannabis and the reasons this immensely valuable plant is banned, this example should give you an insight into the dishonesty, corruption and propaganda that is behind it all.
Charles Walker MP, Parliament’s cheerleader for the ‘skunk scaremongerers’ shot himself and his hysterical campaign in the foot yesterday.
He had submitted a parliamentary written question asking:
“…how many people under 18 years of age have been treated in NHS-funded mental health units for cannabis-induced psychosis in each of the last five years?”
The answer from Jane Ellison MP, minister of state at the Department of Health, must have gravely disappointed Mr Walker. She revealed there have been average of just over 28 ‘finished admission episodes’ for each of the past five years. That doesn’t necessarily mean 28 people as it could include the same person being admitted more than once.
Of course, each of these 28 cases is a tragedy for the people involved and nothing must distract from that but it clearly shows that in public health terms, ‘cannabis psychosis’ (which some senior psychiatrists don’t even believe is a genuine diagnosis) is virtually unheard of. So much for the endless newspaper columns, the endlessly repeated ‘studies’ that never reach any conclusion and the endless moralising and deceit from those who make money from this scare story – either from providing ‘therapy’ or by fleecing money from those prepared to fund so-called science that sets out to reach a pre-determined conclusion.
Of course, not only are these cases very, very few in number but they have arisen under the present policy of prohibition when the market is in the hands of criminals. How much could we reduce this number if government took a responsible approach and regulated the market? With proper quality control, age limits, better education and harm reduction surely we could make the cannabis market safer than it is in the hands of the criminal underworld?
“I don’t think it causes mental illness. I have never seen a case of so-called cannabis psychosis.”
Dr Trevor Turner, East London and City University Mental Health NHS Trust
So this is very, very bad news for Charles Walker, for his sponsor, Mary Brett of ‘Cannabis Skunk Sense’, for Peter Hitchens, David Raynes, Sarah Graham, Theresa May and hundreds of rehab clinics, therapists and charlatans who talk up the cannabis psychosis scare story. The Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph, which systematically misrepresent and distort evidence on the subject are exposed for what they are. Even those on the reform side like Transform, who have chosen the dubious path of talking up cannabis as ‘dangerous’ in order to sell their consultancy services, are disgraced. Their credibility is destroyed. Their argument is false and it always has been.
The husband and wife team of Professor Sir Robin Murray and Dr Marta Di Fiori, have built up a family business in skunk scaremongering. Every year they release another ‘study’ which says almost exactly the same as the last one, never shows any causative effect but is relentlessly exaggerated and regurgitated for those who want to demonise cannabis and cannabis users. Their last point is always ‘more research is needed’. I wonder is there anyone stupid enough out there to continue funding this vendetta against the three million people in the UK that enjoy cannabis or use it as medicine? Similarly in Australia, Professor Wayne Hall and his colleagues at the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre, have built their careers and made a lot of money pursuing this futile goal of proof that cannabis cause mental illness. The figures prove them all wrong. They are all self-serving propagandists and deceivers, nothing more.
These figures are more than evidence, they are facts and they prove that ‘cannabis psychosis’ is such an infinitesimally small risk, that we really need to stop wasting so much time, energy and money on it. We need to get on, legalise, regulate and start bringing the market under proper control, stop wasting money on futile law enforcement and research and start generating tax revenue and providing therapeutic and financial benefits for the whole community.
The British tabloid press has long been engaged in the corruption of our society and successive governments’ ability to deal with drugs policy by its sensationalism, distortion and dishonesty.
In fact the worst offender now is the Daily Telegraph, a tabloid in everything except format. It now eclipses the Mail newspapers for inaccurate, misleading and distorted reporting on all aspects of drugs policy. Its science and medicine writers are either deliberately engaged in deception or utterly incompetent. Virtually every story it publishes on drugs these days has to be retracted but you never hear about it because it’s buried in a tiny, tiny correction.
The Mail newspapers can’t resist the stories about the miraculous medicinal benefits of cannabis because they make such good sensationalism. So although they still publish hogwash, like this latest distortion, they’ve actually become more balanced almost by mistake.
Why is the British press so incompetent and/or malevolent on drugs? Is it anything to do with the £800 million pa that the alcohol industry spends on press advertising? I don’t know. Maybe it just likes to appeal to the fast dwindling band of bigots that actually buy newspapers these days.
We are a laughing stock across the world for the idiocy of our press and government, particularly in respect of cannabis. In Canada and Israel, hospitals provide elderly patients with cannabis vapourisers on trollies, so strong is the evidence for its beneficial effects on aging and dementia. Here of course we prefer to let them lie in their own excreta while feeding them with scaremongering nonsense, distortion and exaggeration of scientific studies.
Sugar, peanuts, hay fever remedies, aspirin, paracetamol and traffic fumes cause far more health harms than cannabis.
In Colorado, in 2014, $44 million in cannabis tax revenue was ringfenced for schools and hospitals. Since legalisation, crime and fatal traffic accidents are down 15%, murder is down 50%.
Far too sensible for Britain isn’t it? And it’s the work of our gutter press that prevents such progress here because politicians still give newspapers far too much respect.