Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘Theresa May

The UK Drugs Stategy Is In Limbo.

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Norman Baker.  The Man Who Broke The Mould Of UK Drugs Policy.

Norman Baker. The Man Who Broke The Mould Of UK Drugs Policy.

Who is to be the new drugs minister?

No word yet from David Cameron. I have been calling the Home Office every day since the election and the answer is always the same – ‘no appointment has been made, it is expected within the coming days’.

Responsibility for the drugs strategy rests with the Minister of State for Crime Prevention.  At least it did throughout the last Parliament. That gave us the horror of arch-prohibitionist James Brokenshire, followed by Baroness Browning, then the Liberal Democrat Jeremy Browne, followed by Norman Baker, the man who broke the mould and resigned because of Theresa May’s opposition to evidence and common sense. Lynne Featherstone succeeded him and continued to support reform. The Liberal Democrat’s intelligent and progressive drugs policy was incorporated into its election manifesto, sadly defeated by an electorate terrorised by the prospect of a Labour/SNP victory.

Why is this vital role still not decided? Perhaps responsibility for drugs is to be allocated elsewhere?  Probably too much to hope that it will go the Department of Health but there were encouraging noises from the civil service just before the election, suggesting that the costs of enforcing drug possession charges were too high and decriminalisation should be considered.

This decision, when it comes, will speak volumes about the new government.  The signs are not good with Cameron launching the most horrendous attacks on liberty and British values, threatening to crack down on the freedom of speech and thought for which thousands of British heroes have fought and died over many years.

So this is a crucial decision.  On it will depend the development of CLEAR’s future strategy. What is certain is that we must re-adjust to communicate effectively with Tory ministers.  We are well placed to do that, more so than any other UK drugs policy reform group because our strategy is already one of engagement, not protest.  We need to be talking about public expenditure savings, new tax revenues, individual liberty. Now more than ever the failed politics of protest and human rights will not work.

Immediately after the election came calls from the stoner groups for protests and direct action. A ridiculous and futile demo has been arranged for 30th May “FUCK YOUR DRUG WAR – PROTEST“.  Make no mistake, these ideas are idiotic, misguided, counterproductive, offensive, exactly what the campaign does not need.

The choice of which minister gets to look after the drugs strategy is hugely important. Watch this space.

Written by Peter Reynolds

May 14, 2015 at 6:02 pm

I Have Had The Most Terrible Post-Election Nightmare.

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Libdem leaders

Julian Huppert, Norman Baker, Lynne Featherstone

Our principal allies on the Liberal Democrat benches have all lost their seats.

Quickly now, the government will be formed.  No surprise that Theresa May has already been reappointed Home Secretary but who will the junior Home Office ministers be?

Brokenshire may leave for another department.  He’s probably due for a promotion.  It would be very good to see the back of him.  Who will the Crime Prevention Minister be?  Within that portfolio rests responsibility for drugs.

This is when the nightmare struck.  Key candidates for Home Office ministers will be backbenchers who have sat on the Home Affairs Select Committee.  I hardly dare write his name in case it puts ideas in Cameron’s mind – Michael Ellis.

Michael Ellis

Michael Ellis

Ellis is a hard line prohibitionist, anti-drugs, anti-liberty, anti-science, criminal barrister with a particular record of boorish behaviour during PMQs.  He’s a junior barrister working out of chambers in Northampton and he thinks that his experience with a few scumbag dealers qualifies him to know all about drugs policy.

The idea is a nightmare.  Cameron will see his increased number of seats as vindication of all past policies so he may well go further to the right.  I hope I’m wrong. Perhaps we will get some young MP with a brain in his head and an eye for the free market economy that is blossoming in Colorado and elsewhere.  Let’s hope so.

There’s also the new members of the Home Affairs Select Committee.  Who will they be?  We need to get to know them and present our case.

We must re-design, re-target, re-focus and refine our campaign for our new audience – Tory ministers are our most important targets.

Our messages must be developed for Tory eyes. More focus on the free market, profit opportunities, public expenditure savings.  And our tactics must work with Tories as well.  There is even less room now for the self-defeating tactics of protest, civil disobedience and flaunting alternative lifestyles in a way that distracts from our very powerful arguments.  Such tactics might cause a right-wing backlash now.

Instead of being self-obsessed, as so much of the cannabis campaign is, if we want to be effective we must see things through the eyes of our target audiences, look outward not in, recognise that preaching to the choir achieves little.  It is people who don’t agree with our cause that we must talk to and it is to their standards that we must dress and behave if we want to influence them.

Now, more than ever before, we need to be smart about the way we campaign for cannabis law reform.  We do have allies in the Tory party and the worldwide momentum continues to build.

A few adjustments on the tiller are necessary but we remain on course.  Let’s just be sure we adjust our sails and our technique for the new weather.

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!

For All The Hysteria About Cannabis And Psychosis, Here Are The Facts.

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Charles Walker MP. A Scaremonger Without A Cause.

Charles Walker MP. A Scaremonger Without A Cause.

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?

Dr Trevor Turner, Consultant Psychiatrist

Dr Trevor Turner, Consultant Psychiatrist

“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.

While America Legalises, Back In Blighty It’s Prejudice, Bigotry, Anti-Evidence And Contempt For The Electorate.

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Legalization Oregon

Overnight, voters in Alaska, Oregon and Washington DC have voted to legalise cannabis for recreational use.

legalize dcThe US island territory of Guam approved a ballot to legalise medicinal cannabis  and Florida also voted for medicinal cannabis by 58% but it failed as a 60% vote is required. All over the US, smaller jurisdictions, counties, cities and towns, have also passed legislation on medicinal cannabis and decrimnalisation.

Last week in Britain we saw the shameful spectacle of just 21 MPs turning up to debate drugs policy for the first time in a generation.  David Cameron, Theresa May and the Westminster elite are arrogant, out of touch and detached both from scientific evidence and public opinion.

Authoritarian, Illiberal, Out Of Touch.

Authoritarian, Illiberal, Out Of Touch.

Nothing can excuse this failure of our democracy.  Britain is a laughing stock both in Europe and to the Americans.  We are regressing into a caricature of Dickensian history.  Little more than an ‘Old Curiosity Shoppe’ for tourists and the nostalgic.  Our government is concerned only with vested interests, politicians  lining their own pockets and an increasingly authoritarian and illiberal regime. These developments are humiliating for all those who cherish what was once Great Britain.  Surely, even those unconcerned or opposed to cannabis legalisation, must begin to realise that Westminster is destroying our country from within. On this,  the anniversary of Guy Fawkes’ failed attempt to blow up Parliament, who can doubt that he had the right idea?

Extremist Attack On Freedom Renders Cameron And May Unfit To Be Ministers Of The Crown.

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may cameron

Even before Theresa May delivers another speech of hatred, prejudice and bile at the Tory Party conference, the dreadful news is out.  Cameron himself has trailed it and blatantly, unashamedly, these two oppressors of British democracy plan to restrict our freedom of speech and thought in a way never before contemplated.

Cameron explicitly states that it is not just about committing or inciting violence, it is about holding “extremist views”.  All that the Home Secretary has to have is “reasonable suspicion” that people hold views she does not agree with or dislikes and she may lock them up.

This must be stopped. It is the greatest ever betrayal of the British people and Cameron and May have demonstrated conclusively that they are not fit to be in government.  They are hoist on their own petard for their ideas are as extremist as any other and if such legislation is introduced, they should be the first to be arrested and charged

Written by Peter Reynolds

September 30, 2014 at 10:16 am

The Disaster That Is UK Drugs Policy.

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cocaine-n-marijuana

The more harmful, dangerous and addictive a drug is the more important that its availability should be legally regulated, otherwise, inevitably, a criminal market is created with massive consequential health and social harms.

In the UK, before the Misuse of Drugs Act was introduced in 1971, we had around 3,000 problematic drug users. We now have 350,000. Yet successive governments carry on in the same direction.

The vested interests of Big Booze have been supported and encouraged by weak politicians, leading to lighter and lighter regulation of the most dangerous drug of all. Meanwhile, relatively harmless and beneficial substances like cannabis have been abandoned to street dealers and organised crime, blighting communities and involving children in both dealing and use – just as happened with alcohol prohibition in the US.

All the evidence is before us and the most effective policies for reducing harm from drugs are very clear. What we need to do is sweep aside outdated, out of touch organisations like the Home Office and dinosaurs like the present Home Secretary, Theresa May.  Yet since 1971, there have been a few intelligent and progressive ministers in the Home Office. Surely it is the irresponsible and obstinate influence of senior civil servants that has prevented governments from moving forward with reform?

Drugs policy must be based on evidence, not pressure from tabloid newspapers, the alcohol industry, scared and ignorant politicians and self-serving civil servants and quangos.

Parliament is now obligated to debate Caroline Lucas’ e-petition formally to evaluate the effectiveness of current policy. We must move rapidly and radically thereafter towards a solution that will work and put aside the idiocy of the last 43 years.

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