Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘scaremongering

The Politics Of Cannabis

with 37 comments

Originally Published In ISMOKE Magazine Issue 1

Cannabis is a political issue.  Make no mistake about it.  The scientific, moral, medical and health arguments have all been won.  What we need to do now is find a way to make change happen.

It’s in the prohibitionists’ interests to keep debating all the ins and outs and going through the evidence because it diverts from the imperative for change. We have to keep repeating the truth.  We have to cut through their deception and scaremongering but above all, we have to demand action.

In the US, they’ve gone way, way past the silly and irrelevant arguments about cannabis being dangerous or harmful. We like to think that we’re smarter, a more mature democracy but so many Brits are still suckers for a Daily Mail scare story. The propaganda and bigotry still prevails here.  In America they simply accept that if you abuse or misuse something it may cause you harm. They rarely even mention the psychosis theory.  Even after Congresswoman Giffords’ shooting and the stories of Jared Loughner’s marijuana use, his friends were quick to step forward and say he’d stopped some time ago and actually seemed worse and more unstable without self-medicating on cannabis.  More importantly than that, the US media reported what his friends said rather than hushing it up because it wasn’t sensational enough.

Peter Hitchens, the Mail On Sunday columnist wrote a disgusting rant about the shooting, blaming it all on cannabis and having nothing to do with the truth at all. Now the US media are ridiculing him about Britain’s Reefer Madness.  He really is an example of the very worst in journalism.  The truth means nothing to him.  He is a liar and a mendacious frightener of the vulnerable, the elderly, of children and their parents.  You will be interested to know that the Legalise Cannabis Alliance has drawn a line in the sand.  We will no longer let such nonsense go unchallenged.  A formal complaint is being made in the LCA’s name to the Press Complaints Commission.  It will be the first of many.  We will no longer allow the British media to distribute lies without calling them to account.

The War On Prohibition Can Be Won!

Prohibition is fundamentally immoral.  It is nothing less than the unjustified oppression of a section of society.  It is as pernicious and evil as racism, sexism, homophobia or any other form of prejudice. It says that, irrespective of facts, evidence, science or justice, just because we disagree with you, we will make your activity illegal. We will criminalise you, imprison you, ruin your career, endanger your family, smear you with unjustified innuendo and suspicion. We will cause you far more harm than the activity you choose ever will.

It is pretty well accepted now, worldwide, that Nixon’s war on drugs can never be won.  It makes Vietnam or Afghanistan look like a little skirmish in some backwater.  It has been responsible for far more death, misery and destruction than any war since Nixon first declared it.  There are still those who cling to its ambitions, like our favourite preppy, baby face minister James Brokenshire   But he is rather like one of those Japanese soldiers, found on some remote Pacific island, thirty years after his Emperor surrendered – still dangerous, still committed to his cause but hopelessly out of touch, in need of re-education, a very, very sad case.

The war on prohibition is now in full flow and this is a campaign that can and must be won.  It is a war that has right and justice and common sense on its side.  It is time that we marshall our forces, determine our strategy, plan our tactics and hold fast to our courage as we advance on the enemy.  I believe that this year or next marijuana will be legalised in at least one state in America.  Once the dam is broken, progress will begin to roll out all over the world.

I believe that the Legalise Cannabis Alliance is the standard around which we should rally.  We are responsible, respectable, reasonable citizens and we need to unite to fight the war on prohibition.

What is vital is that the LCA communicates its messages effectively to the right people. It seems to me that one of, if not the most important audience is members of parliament. They, after all, are the only people who can actually change the law. We therefore have to play their game by their rules.

In the documentary “In Pot We Trust”, Aaron of the Marijuana Policy Project says that one man in short hair and a suit, lobbying congressmen can achieve more than hundreds marching in the street.  I think he’s right.

The LCA must re-launch its campaign.  We must overhaul our image, update the logo and the website.  We must become conscious of our communications, control and deliver our messages with ruthless effect, use all the spin doctor tricks and techniques, just as any other political party or pressure group.

I will put on a suit and tie for the LCA because that’s what is needed to make progress with politicians, through the media and, most importantly, with the great God of public opinion.

I think we also have to consider our name.  Not throw it out for the sake of something new but recognise that “Legalise” is a word that frightens people.  They think it means an uncontrolled free for all, whereas what we argue for is fact and evidence based regulation.  We also need to consider the word cannabis.  People are frightened to have it on their Facebook profile and concerned that it may come up in a Google search when they’re applying for a new job.  We have to consider these things.  I would argue that instead of saying “Legalise Cannabis”, we might say “End Prohibition”.

So we do need to become much more professional about our communications and image. Anything put out in our name needs to be “on message” in every sense of the phrase – look, feel, content, style, etc. Each target audience needs to be addressed on its terms. We need an analysis and a plan for each individual MP and constituency. We need a rota of pro-active media communications. We need to enlist the help of celebrities who support our cause.  This needs to be done consistently and repeatedly. We need a team of people all over the country working together with a plan to succeed.

I also believe that we should re-register as a political party and field candidates in every byelection.  In fact, I would propose that we field the same candidate in every byelection and we build.the campaign and awareness over time.  I don’t expect us to win a seat in parliament but I do expect us to start being taken seriously. I want to see us on Newsnight and on Question Time.  When Debra Bell is asked for a quote or is interviewed about a cannabis story, I want us to be quoted as well and to be on the other side of the TV sofa facing down her mischief and misinformation.

Cannabis is a political issue.  If we get our act together and get serious about the war on prohibition, get serious about achieving results, explain the facts, expose the lies, then we can prevail. We can see the truth revealed.  We can win!

The British Medicinal Cannabis Register And Your Security

with 34 comments

Apart from the misinformation and propaganda of government, there are two reasons why cannabis law reformers have met with little success in Britain.

The first is a lack of factual information about who uses cannabis, how and for what reasons.  The second is a terrible record of disunity, squabbling and petty power games amongst campaigners.

My fervent hope is that the creation of the British Medicinal Cannabis Register (BMCR) will help to solve the first, at least for medicinal users.   The second though may prove more difficult.

The BMCR has attracted the endorsement of a number of eminent individuals.  Council members include people whose reputation is beyond reproach as well as medicinal users who, by definition, are described as criminals.  There have already been scurrilous attacks on the integrity of some council members and cowardly abuse,  anonymous or in disguise, from those who have a different agenda.

Regrettably,  a well known campaigner with an honourable and courageous record in assisting medicinal users, has resigned from the council over concerns about data security.  While he is a man of great integrity, the web site with which he is associated has hosted a series of paranoid and scaremongering attacks on the BMCR.   The site is well known as a forum for cannabis growers who clearly have good reason to be concerned about their security.

The BMCR issued the following guidance:

Your Security

The purpose of the BMCR is to build a database of factual information.  For that data to have any value it must be validated.  Cannabis remains illegal in Britain so there will always be some danger in contributing to any website or source of information, even if you do so anonymously or under a pseudonym.

After careful consideration the BMCR has concluded that the minimum requirement for data to be validated is a name, a part post code and a verifiable email address.  The name and postcode cannot be verified so there is nothing to stop you using an alias.

Clearly, the information about post code, condition(s) and method(s) of use is only of any value if it is truthful.  All data will be stored on encrypted servers and/or storage devices and will not be released to anyone voluntarily.  However, you must decide for yourself the balance between providing information and your own security.

Ultimately, medicinal users must decide for themselves whether they want to stand up and be counted or not.   Personally, I put my name loud and proud alongside the BMCR and I will defend and keep confidential any information entrusted to me to the ultimate.  I know the same goes for all those involved.

The BMCR website is at www.bmcr.org.uk.

Anti-Social Police Behaviour

with 23 comments

Out Of Control

The British police are out of control.  Far from becoming a politically correct “service”, they’re moving more and more towards the “force” ethos, promoting their own self-interest and resisting all attempts to be subject to democratic control.  The sooner we get elected police commissioners the better.  Those presently in charge of the police increasingly place themselves above the law and regard the public as the opposition, not the people they are paid to protect and serve.

They’re even trying to frighten us over the spending cuts, suggesting that any reduction in police budgets will lead to increased crime and disorder.  What other public service with its budget under threat uses direct fear of violence as its response?  I call that scaremongering.  I call it precious close to a protection racket, to blackmail and extortion.

The police are very, very good at road accidents.  There are brave and clever men and women in anti-terrorism and serious crime.  But we lost the British bobby sometime ago now.  I’d say it was in the 1990s.  Dixon Of Dock Green had retired to the other side of the world.  Jack Regan was supposed to have gone but he returned disguised as Gene Hunt.  The TSG continued its long tradition of brutality providing a career path for violent thugs.  The term “institutionalised racism” was coined.  The cars got faster.  The uniforms got sexier in a Nazi stormtrooper sort of way.   Meanwhile, in parallel,  the gay rights, politically correct, sociology graduates and new Labour bureaucrats gained influence and these two factions, fundamentally incompatible, consumed huge quantities of police time and procedure,  and eventually created a perfect storm of bureaucracy, corruption and laziness.  The police lost touch with the people completely.

The police don’t want to be accountable to anybody.   Even when they assault members of the public, even when innocent bystanders die at the hands of police officers in disguise, they close ranks, obstruct justice, lie, cheat and dissemble to avoid the consequences.  Now,  Sir Paul Stephenson, not content with the way his officers pervert the criminal justice system, wants some sort of immunity from the civil courts.  His secret letter to Theresa May, seeking protection against officers being sued for brutality or wrongful arrest is a disgrace.  See here. It reveals his true intentions only too clearly.  He even wants to charge for requests under the Freedom Of Information Act, further tightening the police culture of secrecy and concealment.   It is truly terrifying that Britain’s most senior police officer should even contemplate such ideas.  It is the very opposite of responsibility and conclusive proof that he is not a fit and proper person to be any sort of policeman, let alone commissioner of the Metropolitan police.  Theresa May should dismiss him immediately.   He is a power hungry, manipulative, enemy of justice.  No sort of protector or champion or servant of the public at all.

When it comes to the brutal assault by Sergeant Delroy Smellie on Nicola Fisher or the death of Ian Tomlinson, clearly caused by PC Simon Harwood, most of us would be prepared to accept the “bad apple” argument.   Yet somehow, in the Nicola Fisher case, District Judge Daphne Wickham was persuaded to refuse to hear Ms Fisher’s statement in court.  Somehow,  over a year and a half after Ian Tomlinson was killed, PC Harwood has still not been called to account for his actions and is still suspended on full pay.  Neither have his colleagues who blatantly lied and tried to cover up what had happened.  The truth is these men are not bad apples.  They are the deliberate product of the Met’s Territorial Support Group (TSG).  In hiding their identification and using brutal, disproportionate violence, they are entirely consistent with the culture and training that their senior officers have designed.

Hero

Of course, there are still good cops, selfless, conscientious heroes like PC Bill Barker who genuinely seek to serve the public.  He gave his life while protecting people during the Cumbrian floods.  See here.   He deserves every honour that we can bestow on him.  He shames all those corrupt, cowardly bullies that infect our country, that hide in their offices and cars, that display their vile and despicable attitudes on the Inspector Gadget website.   Officers like PC Barker are now in the minority, in full scale retreat, ridiculed and excluded by a wannabe Gene Hunt culture that has attracted more and more borderline psychopaths to the paramilitary uniform and fast car culture.

Role Model

Now they don’t even think that anti-social behaviour is police work.  It’s not exciting or glamorous enough.  In the early noughties in North Kensington, I saw how the police completely lost control of the Avenues, the terraced houses between the Harrow Road and Queens Park.  The police from Kilburn and Paddington Green stations were in full scale retreat, absolutely impotent and useless in the face of gangs of kids aged 10 – 16, on the streets at all hours, abusing people, keying cars, throwing eggs and laughing at any authority or discipline.   Those hooligans and yobs are now breeding and the police are reaping what they’ve sown.  I expect their solution will be violence and “fit-ups”.  They’re no different from the lowlife,  layabouts themselves.  They’re just two sides of the same coin.

Illegal Weapon

The Raoul Moat affair revealed how the police have lost the plot.   While some officers proved their courage and worth, others indulged in an orgy of technology, expense, hiding behind their procedures and precautions.  Others used banned super-Tasers, illegally obtained from their cronies in the arms industry and undoubtedly caused the death of the mad nutter.  Not a bad result but achieved in a dreadful way.  It was a dismal and demeaning epsiode for all concerned.  See here.

Corruption is endemic in the police.  It starts at the beginning of every shift and continues off duty.  At its worst, it’s the disgusting spectacle of PC Stephen Mitchell in Newcastle, who inflicted his sexual desires and drug appetite on those he arrested.  See here.  At the everyday, commonplace level, it’s the copper who confiscates a bag of weed and takes it home to smoke himself, or who brutalises a wheelchair bound medicinal cannabis user.  It’s the thugs who think it’s acceptable to terrorise and batter an old man over a motoring offence.  See here.

Elected police commissioners are our only hope.  I applaud the coalition government for bringing forward this proposal and acting on it.  I see no other way of rolling back the  Stasi-like culture that the Labour party has allowed to flourish.  Beware though, those that put themselves forward for election as a commissioners are in the front line.  They risk the attention of the police establishment in ways that we cannot yet know.  I wonder how many candidates will have their personal lives investigated and possibly fabricated?  Any prospective commissioner who wants to disrupt the comfortable life of the police may find himself in the firing line.   All sorts of inconveniences,  stops and searches, investigations and embarrassments may be just around the corner.

The police want us to believe that if they are squeezed in the spending review we will face danger, disorder and violence in the streets.  Instead, what we must do is paralyse the police bureaucracy, starve it of the resources it needs to promote its self-fulfilling prophecies and force officers back onto the streets. We will pay for shoe leather but not for air conditioned limousines.  We will support bobbies on the beat but not poseurs in flashy SUVs.   We will not tolerate any sort of discrimination or favouritism.  No officer may be a freemason or belong to any secret organsation.  We must fight for the soul and integrity of our police service against the corrupt thugs that have infiltrated it.

The British people deserve police officers they can be proud of.

“Outrageous Scaremongering” Over Cannabis

with 15 comments

Last October,  36-year old Julie Ryan was found dead in bed by her three children, now aged 14, 13 and 8.  At a coroner’s inquest in Oldham last week, pathologist Dr Sami Titi said “The direct cause of her death was cardiac arrest because of a history of smoking cannabis”.

Dr Sami Titi

Julie’s family claims that this is not true, that Julie’s cannabis use has been blamed because the Royal Oldham hospital failed to treat her properly. In Britain, there has only been one previous occasion when a death has been attributed to cannabis. In 2004, Lee Maisey, 36 of Pembrokeshire, who smoked half a dozen “joints” a day, was found dead on his living room floor after complaining of a headache.

At the inquest in Oldham, the coroner, Simon Nelson, was said to be surprised at the pathologist’s story and questioned him closely. Dr Titi insisted that “smoking of cannabis is well known to have a negative impact on the heart and can cause heart attacks in young people”. The coroner said that in 15 years he had never heard a pathologist so confident that cannabis could be fatal. He recorded a narrative verdict of “death from cardiovascular complications induced by cannabis smoking”.

Coroner Simon Nelson

Julie’s brother, Kevin Ryan, says that the pathologist’s remarks are “outrageous scaremongering”. Her mother, Linda, is bewildered by events. As planned, Julie’s children had stayed with her while the inquest was taking place. Now they have returned home to the furore of this extraordinary verdict and are extremely distressed.

Julie had visited the Royal Oldham hospital several times complaining of chest pains but been sent away with a diagnosis of heartburn. The post mortem examination revealed she had a severely enlarged heart and had suffered a previous heart attack which had not been diagnosed. Family sources said “It’s a cover up. Cannabis doesn’t kill. They made a big mistake.” Mary Burrows, Julie’s cousin, who was very close to her, said she preferred to smoke cannabis rather than have a drink and that “she was a wonderful mother and her kids miss her so much”.

Dr Mark Eckersley, a local Manchester doctor, said “More and more pressure is being piled on medical professionals to propagate this type of untruth by the powers that be.” He said doctors need to maintain credibility with the community and that “this type of nonsense makes my blood boil”.

A spokesman for the Royal Oldham hospital said “Miss Ryan died from a heart attack and cardiovascular problems. Our thoughts and sympathy go to her family.”

On 2nd November in California, Proposition 19 is expected to permit the personal use of cannabis for the state’s 28 million adults. As a result, new tax revenues of $1.4 billion are anticipated, up to 110,000 new jobs and a boost of up to $18 billion to the state’s economy from spin-offs such as coffee shops and tourism.

In America, any health concerns about the plant are far outweighed by health benefits. Medical cannabis is already regulated in 14 states with another 12 in the planning stage. In Britain, Sativex, a whole plant extract of cannabis, was recently authorised as a treatment for MS. It costs about eight times what medical cannabis costs in America, Holland, Spain, Israel and very shortly Germany, where there is a fully regulated supply chain. In Britain, despite a House Of Lords Scientific Committee recommendation, the government refuses to consider such a move. Many patients whose doctors have prescribed Sativex have been denied funding from their health authority. In some of these cases, criminal prosecutions have been brought against them for cultivating their own plants.

A spokesman for GW Pharmaceuticals, developers of Sativex, said “The therapeutic ratio for cannabis is so high that it is virtually impossible to ingest a fatal dose”.

Prof. David Nutt

Professor David Nutt was sacked as chairman of the Home Office’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs last year after claiming that cannabis was less harmful than alcohol and tobacco. His successor, Professor Les Iversen, also maintains that cannabis has been “incorrectly” called dangerous and says it is one of the “safer recreational drugs”.

On Friday, Professor Nutt said cannabis “seems to cause much less harm than alcohol and that banning the plant is “unjust and therefore undemocratic”. He added: “The previous government’s policy to deter cannabis use by forceful policing increased convictions for cannabis possession from 88,000 in 2004 to 160,000 in 2008. As well as ruining many lives through getting a criminal record, this added massive costs to taxpayers in extra policing and prison costs.”

Prof. Les Iversen

Dr Sami Titi, the pathologist, was unavailable for comment and did not respond to emails. It has not been possible to identify any scientific support for his conclusions.

Julie Ryan’s family is left bemused and uncertain by this verdict. Three children are without a mother and confused about contradictory messages. The 13 year old has been posting on websites about her concerns. Meanwhile, the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office have criticised the government for basing drugs policy on opinion rather than evidence. James Brokenshire, the Home Office Minister, in direct contradiction to his own advisers, continues with the story that cannabis is “extremely harmful”.

James Brokenshire

Both David Cameron and Nick Clegg are on record over the last 10 years as consistently calling for reform in drug policy. The Your Freedom website has been overwhelmed with requests for evidence based regulation of drugs and the legalisation of cannabis but the government is riding roughshod over this public outcry. A consultation document on a new drugs strategy was issued just over a week ago but it seems meaningless and dishonest as all the big decisions have already been taken. Cannabis campaigners, working on behalf of six million regular users in the UK, are outraged at what they see as hypocrisy, misinformation and regressive government action.

Dr Mark Eckersley, exasperated and concerned at the pathologist’s evidence said “This is simply not true. Hearing this story is more likely to cause a heart attack than the ingestion of any cannabinoid”.

Written by Peter Reynolds

August 31, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Posted in Health, Politics

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Cannabis

with one comment

God's Herb

God's Herb

I have smoked cannabis since I was 14.  There have been a few breaks, some of a few months, some of a year or two but those apart, I have smoked cannabis every day of my life for nearly 40 years.

I have come to regard weed or hash, in all seriousness, as the Rastafarians do, as “God’s herb”.  It is a sacrament, a truly positive, honourable and precious thing in my life.  Something that I thank God, I did not miss.

I grew up with smokin’ dope.  It was a fundamental part of my adolescent culture with the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead, with a heady summer living the love and peace dream in Amsterdam.  LSD blew my mind in those days but a joint was always a sustaining experience.  Something I held onto.

As I grew up and got interested in business, I relished the delicious and maverick escape that I enjoyed.  I took it seriously and wrote a 40 page report for the Home Affairs Committee entitled “An Unaffordable Prejudice”.

The prejudice, misinformation and sheer nonsense has continued throughout my life.  The idiocy of downgrading cannabis to a Class C drug and then, just two years later, back up to Class B is only outdone by the crass stupidity of  failing to decriminalise it completely.  Prohibition has proved time after time to be an ineffective solution.  Worse than that, the law makes a complete ass of itself by sustaining the criminal supply and distribution of a product that is never going to go away.

Regulation is the only viable solution and would provide the framework to care for those very few who may suffer from cannabis use.

What are the dangers?  Clearly any intoxicant offers more potential for harm when used by the young, when the brain is still developing.  Despite my own experience, cannabis use should be for adults only.  In adults it has been proved to be one of the least harmful substances known to man time and time again – despite the fact that most have actually set out to prove the opposite.

Recently the popular argument has been against skunk, a strain of cannabis that can be up to 20 times stronger than that previously known.

To claim this is a recent development is simply wrong.  For at least 20 years it has been difficult to buy anything but skunk and other F1/F2 hybrids of the plant.  There are many others: Northern Lights, Haze, Blueberry, etc.  In my teens it was difficult to buy anything but Lebanese or Moroccan hashish.  In Holland where the market is partly regulated there has always been a wide choice of grass or hash from all parts of the world grown and/or processed in many different ways.

The latest suggestion is that skunk is causing psychoses in adolescents – yet the incidence of psychoses in adolescents has remained constant since records began.  This is just the lastest scaremongering.  60 years ago it was said that cannabis caused young women to be promiscuous with black men.  The standard of the argument has not improved.

It really is time that this hopeless policy against a benign, natural herbal product was stopped.  Hemp is one of the most ecologically friendly, sustainable crops in the world.  As regulated cannabis it would pull the rug from underneath a great swathe of criminality and produce billions in additional tax income.  As biofuel, building materials, fabrics and cattle feed it could help to revitalise agriculture and many other businesses.

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