Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘Theresa May

“The Settled View Of Ministers Is That The Medicinal Campaign Is Just An Excuse To Take Cannabis”.

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These are the words of Sir Oliver Letwin, my MP, during a meeting with him just a few days ago.

To some this may be an astonishing revelation, to others it will be depressing confirmation that this bigoted and out-of-date view still persists.  Anyone with even a modicum of knowledge will agree that it is deeply ignorant and in defiance of a vast quantity of scientific evidence.

This is the end point of my two and half years of discussion with Sir Oliver.  He’s not currently a cabinet minster but through his 20 year parliamentary career he’s always been at the top of the Conservative Party: Shadow Home Secretary, Shadow Chancellor and then in government in 2010 elevated to the status of right hand man to David Cameron.  As Minister for Government Policy and then Chancellor of The Duchy of Lancaster, he was been described as ‘the intellectual powerhouse of the Tory Party’ and as ‘number three in the government after Cameron and Osborne’.

So what goes through Oliver’s mind is a pretty good indication of how the Tory Party establishment thinks.  I’m absolutely certain that what he has told me is exactly the present mindset of ministers from Theresa May down.

Back in 2015 Oliver wrote to George Freeman MP on my behalf, then the minister with responsibility for medicines.  He’s also written to Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary and Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary.  None of this correspondence has resulted in anything but the usual, anodyne words that are nothing but a brush off.  I did think I was getting somewhere though when he told me he would establish with the Department of Health what its position was on the scientific evidence. Back came the answer that all the evidence had been considered, expert advice had been taken and the conclusion was that the risks of  legalising for medicinal use would outweigh the benefits.

Now this didn’t make sense to me. I wanted to know what evidence and what experts.  After half a dozen requests for this information and no response I submitted a Freedom of Information Request to the Department of Health.  Eventually it was returned stating quite clearly that it had neither requested, received nor considered any evidence on medicinal cannabis. Coincidentally, just a few days later, Paul Flynn MP asked almost exactly the same question in Parliament and received the same answer. So I wrote to Oliver and said that either he had been misled or he was misleading me, which was it? It was at this point that he stopped replying to my emails.

After several months of repeated requests and no response I went direct to his parliamentary secretary and booked a surgery appointment to see him as a constituent.  I was quite prepared to confront him face to face.  I was amused to receive an email from Oliver the very same day in which he said that would reluctantly agree to see me on the subject “one last time”.  So at the meeting his explanation was that it had all been a huge misunderstanding, he didn’t mean to suggest that any evidence had been examined, it was simply “the settled view of ministers is that the medicinal campaign is just an excuse to take cannabis”.

Such is the state of our so-called democracy and so-called evidence-based policy.

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Written by Peter Reynolds

October 18, 2017 at 4:26 pm

The Shame Of Drugs Minster Sarah Newton MP.

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Sarah Newton is MP for Truro and Falmouth. Since July 2016 she has been Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office. Her responsibilities include drugs and alcohol.

During last month’s drugs debate Mrs Newton caused uproar in the House of Commons when she said she “would not agree that alcohol is the most dangerous drug” and that “alcohol taken in moderation is not a harmful drug”.

Both these statements are, of course, directly contradicted by a vast quantity of scientific evidence and many MPs corrected her dreadful mistakes as they spoke in the debate.  Mrs Newton demonstrates very clearly the standard of knowledge, evidence and probity that prevails in the Home Office.  It is locked into a policy of deliberately misleading both Parliament and the public on drugs and has been so for at last 50 years.  Mrs Newton is the just the latest MP prepared to sell their soul and integrity for ministerial office.

Her shame is compounded by the photograph above from March 2017 which shows her endorsing and supporting the work of the Portman Group, the alcohol industry’s shadowy lobbying organisation which works relentlessly to minimise controls on alcohol and public perception of the harms it causes.

There can be no doubt that this is a form of corruption.  Mrs Newton, along with the home secretary, Amber Rudd MP and her predecessor, Theresa May MP, is engaged in misleading the public, encouraging use of the most dangerous drug of all while misinforming about the less harmful alternatives such as cannabis.

Written by Peter Reynolds

August 8, 2017 at 4:22 pm

Has There Ever Been A Worse UK Government Than This?

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I am a member of the Conservative Party – just.  My annual subscription is due and I feel physically sick at the prospect of doing anything that is supportive of the appalling collection of third and fourth rates that presently sit round the cabinet table.

The Conservative Party has Lost Its Way. We Need To Get Back To Being Tories.

We need to re-focus on our fundamental principles: individual liberty, individual responsibility, small government, free markets, evidence-based policy and a benevolent, responsible, one-nation approach.

Let’s face it, we’ve had a privileged toff, little more than a ponce on the nation, who from his position of wealth found it very easy to impose austerity on people with whom he was totally out-of-touch. Throughout his political career he vacillated and dithered on policy because he has no principles except self-advancement.  Now we have some fake Tory, an authoritarian bureaucrat with big government, nanny state instincts, daughter of a high Anglican priest stuck in some 195os delusion of what Britain is today.

Meanwhile, a socialist activist but a man with integrity, courage and vision has stolen our place.  Jeremy Corbyn provides more leadership in the UK than the entire Conservative cabinet put together.  He was magnificent at Glastonbury, seizing the hearts and minds of not just the young but the young at heart – seizing the future!  Where is the Tory alternative? There is great excitement, belief and enthusiasm for Brexit, 17.4 million people voted for it!  Where is the Conservative spokesperson passionately declaiming this?  The party has been hijacked by Remainers, determined to undermine the referendum result, interested only in the ambitions and concerns of the Westminster Elite.

When I try to talk to my MP, Sir Oliver Letwin, formerly number three in Cameron’s cabinet, although I am talking to someone a few months younger than me, I feel I am talking to my father’s generation – and to someone particularly old-fashioned and out-of-touch.  My local Conservative Party branch, charming though many of the members are, is like an episode of Last of the Summer Wine, as disconnected from the rest of the UK as Cameron is from anyone on less than £250k per annum.  At 59, I’m a youngster.

It’s outrageous really that my party has got itself into such a state with years of weak opposition, popular support for non-socialist policies and, until Corbyn, an absence of effective alternative leadership.  It’s nothing less than disastrous and unless we change now we are doomed.  The membership is old and dying.  If we don’t get a grip within five years we will be gone forever.

A Perfect Storm Of Failure, Corruption And Arrogance.

I’ve been fascinated by and active in politics since the late 1970s. Never in my lifetime have I seen such a combination of mistakes and scandalous cock-ups. Brexit has been sabotaged by dithering and delay – and I’m quite ready to believe this is a calculated deceit.  With the BBC, the bankers and the Twitterati renewing Project Fear on a daily basis, is it any wonder that the going is tough?  Cameron resigned because he said we needed a Leave supporter to take charge but instead we have a Remainer, one of the worst performing government ministers ever.  How, after six years of persistent failure at the Home Office, she became PM is beyond belief but even more incredible is that after her terrible election performance she is still in No. 10.  It is ridiculous!

The failures are all too easy to see but let’s list them to be certain that the huge scale of this crisis is understood.

Brexit – Total failure to plan, perhaps deliberately, best illustrated by the absurd spectacle, just last month, of the Home Office commissioning analysis of the economic and social contributions and costs of EU citizens in Britain.  Surely something that should have been done years ago?  Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have both proved themselves to be lacking in courage and leadership skills.  The bumptious fool Dr Liam Fox, who does seem to stick to his principles on Brexit, shames us by his foreign adventures, recently praising the murdering thug President Duterte of the Philippines as having ‘shared values’ with Britain.

NHS – Persistent deceit from ministers, including the utterly in-credible Jeremy Hunt, about how much money in real terms the health service is receiving.  Scandalous failure to keep multiple promises about mental health having parity with physical health.

Democracy – The UK’s system of government is now a joke compared to other modern democracies.  Our electoral system is primitive.  Conservative and Labour parties conspire to keep the system as it is because it keeps them both in power.  It is obvious that we should be moving towards some form of proportional representation, online voting and a radical shake-up of the House of Lords.  MPs also need to be much more accountable.  The terrible murder of Jo Cox has let too many of them off the hook that the expenses scandal put them on.  Recently they have been whining about the abuse they get online. In general they deserve it for the terrible job they are doing. Also, they get protection from the police for such abuse.  The police are useless when it’s a member of the public under attack.  We need a job description for MPs, rights for constituents and a complaints procedure with teeth.

Social policy – I am ashamed at how Conservative ministers in reality are indistinguishable from the populist caricature of the ‘arrogant, uncaring, effing Tories’.  The Grenfell Tower tragedy encapsulates everything that is wrong with the high-handed view that they take of the people who pay their wages.

Justice – After food, shelter and health what is more important than justice?  The destruction of legal aid is one of the most dreadful developments in my lifetime.  All governments delight in making more and more law but what use is it if it cannot be enforced?  There is no justice if it is not available to everyone.  I am delighted at the Supreme Court’s ruling that makes legal aid available once again for employment tribunals  Without it employment law was literally useless and thousands have been deprived of their rights.  And for his disastrous, destructive, incompetent and thoroughly nasty attitude the man who defines injustice in modern Britain is Chris Grayling.  No other minster has more disgraced our party.  He is unfit to be in government and why he remains anywhere near ministerial office is unbelievable.  No one individual better epitomises the nasty, arrogant, incompetent Tory.

Prisons – There is no greater truth than that in a free society we are defined by how we treat those we send to jail.  This is a terrible condemnation of Britain.  Our prison system is a production line for turning petty criminals into alienated, aggressive, violent repeat offenders.  There is no one who deserves the additional punishments we impose on top of deprivation of liberty.  I would make an exception for Chris Grayling who really should be made to experience a taste of his own medicine.  The Netherlands is closing prisons because it doesn’t send enough people to jail.  We should swallow our pride and copy their system exactly.

Technology – As the nation that has led the world in virtually all new technologies, we are now falling a long way behind.  The government has failed miserably to give enough priority to high speed internet.  We will never catch up now and our children and our businesses are forever disadvantaged.  Progress is hampered in development of new energy sources, transport and infrastructure by bureaucracy, endless bickering between special interest groups and weak strategic management.  The EU has magnified all these problems and prevented progress in GM foods and other technologies that are essential to our future.

Transport – With Chris Grayling at the helm and the farce that is HS2, there is no hope for a sensible transport strategy.  I simply don’t buy the argument that a slightly faster journey time between north and south will do anything to create a better future.  Train fares are ludicrously high.  The conditions commuters are expected to travel under are ridiculous.  The Southern Rail scandal is a microcosm of government incompetence and inaction.  It should have been re-nationalised at least a year ago and there should be massive fines and penalties on those responsible for the chaos, including individuals.  I see no conflict with Conservative principles in re-nationalising the whole network.  The mess that has prevailed since privatisation could not be any worse and compare us with railway networks and service on the continent for a true picture of our national shame and decay.

Environment – Technology and transport converge with environmental policy and this is a difficult, challenging area of policy.  What we need is strong leadership – no, not the empty claims of Mrs May but the real leadership of Mrs Thatcher.  Even the despicable Tony Blair showed more leadership than we have had from any current Conservative politician.  We need to take bold decisions and act on them.  Ecology and controlling pollution must be a real priority but we must not be distracted by the greeny loons and their endless prevarication and delays.  I have no objection to fracking as long as it is strictly regulated and in recent visits to Ireland I have seen how forests of wind turbines do not destroy wonderful countryside and can have their own beauty, just as we now revere Victorian aqueducts and civil engineering.  Most of all though we should racing ahead with tidal power.  As an island it has to be our future and its potential is unlimited.

Northern Ireland – I hope one of the by-products of Brexit will be a united Ireland.  There is no longer a real majority of unionists in the six counties and it only ever existed because of immigrants from Scotland.  The UK’s shameful history in Ireland places a heavy obligation on us.  We are one and the same people and the damage inflicted by the English Parliament on our neighbours must be put right.  We are far closer to the Irish than we are to the French, the Dutch or the Belgians.  As independent nations, with Ulster properly restored, we could be closer than ever and if Ireland wishes to remain in the EU, we should respect that.

Drugs Policy – No policy better demonstrates the incompetence, prejudice, cowardice and corruption of government ministers from all parties. Deaths from drug overdose have reached an all time high. There has been an explosion in highly toxic new psychoactive substances and the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 has increased harms, deaths, associated crime and potency, exactly as was predicted, warnings the government chose to ignore.  The government has refused to consider or take any expert advice on introducing legal access to medical cannabis, something that virtually all other modern democracies are moving forward on. Its continuing policy on cannabis defies scientific evidence and real-life experience from places where reform has been implemented.  It also supports the criminal market, encourages street dealing, dangerous hidden cannabis farms and the production of poor quality, low-CBD, so-called ‘skunk’ cannabis.

Defence – A catalogue of cock-ups, dullards in charge and weak, indecisive leadership.  In my view we should cancel the renewal of Trident and  spend more on conventional weapons and defence measures which we may actually have to use.  We should retain some battlefield nuclear weapons but invest more in our soldiers and their technology. We should also look after them far better when they leave the service

Foreign Affairs – The UK is the world superpower in ‘soft power’.  Our culture, language, history give us more influence than any other nation and we should be proud to exercise it. We should have the courage to stand for our principles, independently of the USA and Europe.  The £12 billion we give in international aid is far too much when there is real poverty at home but even if we halved the present budget we would still lead the world.  We are responsible for the injustice perpetrated on the Palestinian people when we facilitated the seizure of their land in the 1940s.  We should be standing up to Israel which has become an out-of-control monster.  We created it and we must take responsibility for bringing it to order and helping it to live alongside its neighbours respectfully.  Its conduct is unacceptable and we should be pursuing war crimes prosecutions against Netanyahu and many of his cronies.

Housing – The housing crisis needs a courageous, radical solution, not the pathetic, sticking plaster gimmicks and gestures that is all we have had for 50 years.  Massive investment in social housing would create jobs and boost the economy all round.  We shouldn’t hesitate.  We shouldn’t fear a dramatic fall in house prices caused by massive extra supply. We have to get real and government must stop shirking its responsibility for a strategic role that only it can fill.

Boris is the only one with a brain

I have not yet decided whether I shall renew my membership.  I’m not even sure if there is any future in the UK for me.  Brexit was a great opportunity which has been sabotaged, perhaps fatally.  Britain may well become a tourist destination, fascinating for the way such a small nation led the world for centuries.  We are being led by weak, ineffectual, self-serving, out-of-touch and out-of date politicians.  As the Conservative Party is dying, it is dragging Britain down with it.

UK Drugs Policy Equivalent To A Grenfell Tower Tragedy Every Fortnight, Yet Ministers Prescribe More Of the Same.

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The scandal that is UK drugs policy deepened last month as the Home Office published what must be one of the most irresponsible government reports ever.

UK Drugs Policy Kills As Many People Every Fortnight

The 2017 Drug Strategy adds nothing of any significance to the same document published in 2010. Since then, deaths from drug overdose have reached an all time high of 2,479 (latest 2015 data). There has been an explosion in highly toxic new psychoactive substances and the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 has increased harms, deaths, associated crime and potency, exactly as was predicted, warnings the government chose to ignore.  The government has refused to consider or take any expert advice on introducing legal access to medical cannabis, something that virtually all other modern democracies are moving forward on. Its continuing policy on cannabis defies scientific evidence and real-life experience from places where reform has been implemented.  It also supports and encourages the criminal market, encourages street dealing, dangerous hidden cannabis farms and the production of poor quality, low-CBD, so-called ‘skunk’ cannabis.

Do not doubt that this dreadful toll of death could be drastically reduced, at least halved, by a more responsible, progressive and evidence-based policy.  We should treat those with the disease of addiction humanely, not criminalising them for their drug use, prescribing pharmaceutical heroin where necessary, introducing drug consumption rooms and giving far more weight to harm reduction rather than the unrealistic and ideological pursuit of abstinence.  That would deal with the problem of drug deaths but millions more could have their lives improved, billions in public expenditure could be saved and many divisions and causes of conflict in our society could be swept away by a new approach to drugs policy in general.

Sarah Newton MP, Minister of State, during the drugs debate

The subsequent drugs debate in Parliament exposed the brazen dishonesty and deceit of Home Office ministers. The home secretary, Amber Rudd, couldn’t be bothered to show up so it was left to Sarah Newton, MP.  Her performance consisted only of lies, deceit and trickery, the like of which I have rarely seen before.  For many years, the Home Office has been systematically misleading and misinforming the public about drugs but here was a minister, clearly, deliberately and without compunction, misleading Parliament.  As with so much of the wickedness enforced by the Home Office, Ms Newton is now beyond redemption.  There can be no doubt at all about the depth of her dishonesty and the effect on the lives of millions of people should, surely, amount to a very serious crime.  Its consequences are far, far more serious than the failure of national and local government that led to the Grenfell Tower tragedy but they are caused by the same mindset of arrogance, prejudice and refusal to listen to expert evidence.

If there is any reason behind what comes out of the Home Office on drugs then it is most certainly corrupt.  It may not be plain brown envelopes changing hands but at best it is negligence, failure to act responsibly and in the interests of the public. This is corruption and there is no doubt it is firmly embedded amongst Home Office civil servants.  Their reputation is in the gutter: other government departments, universities and research institutions, drug licence applicants and holders, politicians – they all report stubborn, intransigent, uncooperative conduct.  While giving evidence to a Parliamentary Committee a year or so ago, I was nervous about how trenchant was my criticism of the Home Office.  I needn’t have been.  Every member of the panel nodded and agreed with me that Home Office is impossible to deal with.

Nothing can absolve ministers of their responsibility but after nearly 40 years I have seen many of them come and go while the Home Office remains exactly the same.  There is a culture amongst the civil service that resists any move towards any drug reform using whatever methods it deems necessary.  This is nothing less than subversion of our democracy and it is senior civil servants engaged in this treachery.

There is blood on the hands of Sarah Newton, Amber Rudd and, of course, the former home secretary, Theresa May.  That’s on the top of the misery, deprivation, violence, poverty, crime and ill health that their policies cause.

Change is inevitable but only after many more have died and others have had their lives blighted or ruined by this oppressive, unjust persecution. Although the drugs debate was once again sparsely attended, it was better than the last time the subject was discussed and more MPs from all parties are at last beginning to see the light. The Labour Party remains disgraced.  Its record is even worse than the Conservatives and despite some positive words from Corbyn about medicinal cannabis, this is not reflected in policy and flatly contradicted by John McDonnell.  Diane Abbott, as shadow home secretary, was truly pathetic in the debate and she offered no real opposition at all to the government.

From the campaign point of view it’s very disheartening but reformers should not despair.  We are making steady progress, not just among MPs but also within the media.  Even the Murdoch press, the Mail and all the tabloids have changed their position.  The darkest time of the night is just before dawn and I do believe that shortly we will see the first glimmers of light.  We are on the cusp of change and legal access to medical cannabis will almost certainly come first.

New Drug Strategy Promises More Death, Misery And Ill Health For UK.

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The long overdue update to the UK Drug Strategy is published today by the Home Office.   A copy may be downloaded here.

Sadly, as expected, it is nothing except more of the same.  It offers no new ideas worthy of any note and reinforces the failure of existing policy by further embedding an approach which has already been conclusively proven not to work.

The UK has become increasingly isolated in its approach to drugs policy and now that both Ireland and France are moving towards decriminalisation we are unique amongst modern democracies in maintaining an approach based on nothing but prohibition.  We now stand closer to countries such as Russia, China, Indonesia and Singapore.  In fact, the only thing that separates us from countries with such medieval policies is that we do not have the death penalty for drug offences.  Otherwise our policy is just as repressive, anti-evidence, anti-human rights and based on prejudice rather than what is proven to work.

From Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s introduction, through sections based on repetition of the original strategy, ‘Reducing Demand, Restricting Supply and Building Recovery’, the document is more of the same old platitudes, bureaucratic doublespeak and meaningless civil service and social worker jargon.  It offers nothing but despair to those wracked by addiction, desperate for the proven medical benefits of cannabis or suffering from the tremendous social problems caused by prohibition.  In every respect it mirrors the government’s approach to housing which has led to mass homelessness, depravation and the Grenfell Tower disaster.  It is yet another inadequate response imposed by a government which is out of touch and wedded to policies based on ideology rather than evidence.

UK Government Policy

Current UK drug policy has already led to the highest ever rate of deaths from overdose. Deaths from heroin more than doubled from 2012 to 2015, yet there is absolutely nothing offered in this document that might change this – as if existing policy is quite OK.  Similarly, in what would be farcical humour were it not so tragic, the government seeks to portray the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 as a success.  It trumpets the closure of hundreds of retailers and websites and end to open sales but it doesn’t even mention the burgeoning new criminal market which has led to a massive increase in harm and products which are more potent but also more inconsistent and unpredictable.  All the experts (except those appointed by the government) agree that this new law has been a disaster.  Just like Grenfell Tower, this is government enforcing policies which significantly increase danger and harm without any regard at all to evidence or public opinion.

As before, this strategy doesn’t even consider harm reduction, it offers only a puritanical, moralistic approach based on abstinence.  It fails entirely to recognise that 95% of all drug use is non-problematic, without causing harm to anybody.  It is entirely focused on mis-use and blind to the great benefits, often therapeutic but also simply of pleasure, enjoyment and recreation that many people gain from safe drug use, just as most people do with that most dangerous drug of all, alcohol.  These people, the vast majority, are completely ignored by their government.

By its own title this is a drug strategy, not a drugs strategy. It treats all drugs and all drug users the same, whether they are a prisoner serving a long sentence without access to education or rehabilitation, a ruthless gangster engaged in human trafficking, an affluent clubber, humble festival goer or a multiple sclerosis patient who grows a few cannabis plants for pain relief.  It is a travesty of government, failing entirely to meet the needs of the population.

It also contains some of the most extraordinary factual errors and contradictions.  “Most cannabis in the UK is imported”, it states in defiance of the evidence that the UK has been virtually self-sufficient in homegrown cannabis since the 1990s, even to the extent where we are ‘exporting’ to other European countries.

Unsurprisingly, the report states “We have no intention of decriminalising drugs” but then makes the dubious assertion that “Drugs are illegal because scientific and medical analysis has shown they are harmful to human health.”  This is simply unsustainable in face of the facts about harms caused by legal substances such as alcohol, peanuts and energy drinks.  It is also inconsistent with the stated purpose of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 which is about misuse “having harmful effects sufficient to constitute a social problem.”, nothing to do with individual health harms.

The report fails at all to consider the negative effects of current policy and how prohibition rather than drugs themselves is actually the cause of most harms connected with drugs. It doesn’t even mention the worldwide revolution in the medical use of cannabis or that one million UK citizens are criminalised and placed in danger of criminal sanctions or contaminated product simply for trying to improve their health.  Neither does it mention drug testing, a proven method of reducing the harms of club drugs, now being supported by many police forces at festivals.

This report really is as empty, ineffectual and useless as anything produced by this already tired and discredited government.  The parallels between Grenfell Tower and a government which actively maximise the harms of drugs through its policies are extraordinary.  Thousands are dying every year because Mrs May and Mrs Rudd won’t listen to evidence.  They pick and choose whether to accept the advice of their own Advisory Council based on political convenience rather than facts and while the Council includes eminent scientists it also includes specialists in ‘chocolate addiction’ and evangelical Christian ‘re-education’ of gay people.

Whether it’s determining the inflammability of building materials or the relative potential for harm of different substances, what is clear is that this government is more concerned with dogma, vested interests and old-fashioned prejudices than the safety, health and wellbeing of the population. This Drug Strategy is a recipe for failure, for continuing exactly as before.

Theresa May’s Government. A Very British Farce.

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What Could Be More Ridiculous?

That our Queen should be subject to the humiliation of delivering today’s speech is beyond forgiveness.

Mrs May brings our nation and the Conservative Party into deep disgrace.  There is no other period in modern history when we have been so rudderless, utterly without leadership and no prospect of anyone capable of taking charge.

An Absence Of Leadership

Corbyn’s campaign was inspirational. I take my hat off to him, salute, bend my knee, acknowledge as gracefully as I can that he was magnificent.

He made best use of Theresa May’s dreadful mistakes and charmless persona and the result was a triumph, if not a victory.  It was very close to the result I wanted.  In late May I wrote ‘The Best Election Outcome Is A Tory Government With A Weakened Theresa May.’

The prospect of doing a deal with the DUP, a party of socially retarded bigots with links to loyalist terrorism, is disgusting.  It throws into sharp focus the equally disgusting attacks on Corbyn for his efforts at peacemaking.  But even that is failing.

Mrs May is, beyond doubt, incompetent as PM.  The important issue is who can provide desperately needed leadership?

 

Written by Peter Reynolds

June 20, 2017 at 10:11 pm

Why Is CLEAR Supporting Lord Monson In His Campaign Against So-Called ‘Skunk’?

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Lord Nicholas Monson

Lord Nicholas Monson

CLEAR’s first and overriding objective is to end the prohibition of cannabis.  The tragedies that have struck the Monson family demonstrate all too clearly that prohibition of cannabis is futile.  Not only does it not protect people from harm, it actually maximises the harms and dangers of the cannabis market.

Nicholas Monson’s eldest son, Alexander, was arrested in Kenya in 2012. allegedly for smoking cannabis.  Toxicology reports found no evidence of cannabis in his system. According to both a government and an independent pathologist he died from a fatal blow to the back of his head while in police custody.  Clearly, it was the law against cannabis that led directly to Alexander’s death.

Nicholas Monson with his son Rupert

Just three months ago, Rupert, Nicholas Monson’s younger son, took his own life after a descent into depression and psychosis in which the excessive consumption of so-called ‘skunk’ was clearly a significant factor.  Rupert himself said that he was addicted and there is good evidence to show that cannabis without CBD is more addictive.  It is well established from research as far back as the early 1990s that approx 9% of regular users develop dependence which produces real physical withdrawal symptoms: insomnia, lack of appetite and irritability, sometimes a headache.  For most people these are easily overcome within a week or so but not for everyone.  Most importantly though, cannabis in the early 1990s contained, on average, half to a third as much THC as it does now and always a healthy buffer of CBD.  The addictiveness of so-called ‘skunk’ with zero or very little CBD, is several times greater than the cannabis available 20 to 30 years ago.

It’s important to add that Rupert was also very badly failed by the dire state of mental health services. Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, a specialist provider of mental health and drug treatment services said that he needed to be admitted but a bed was not available.  It was just a few days later that he committed suicide.

Nicholas Monson has called for so-called ‘skunk’ to be made a class A drug but also for lower potency cannabis, with a maximum THC:CBD ratio of 3:1 to be made legally available through a regulated system.  Theresa May wrote to him after reading coverage of the story in the press.  She expressed her sympathy and said how she shared his concerns.  Importantly, she suggested that Lord Monson prepare a paper and a presentation to the Home Office on his proposals.  This is a tremendous opportunity towards introducing measures that will better protect vulnerable people like Rupert and also for wider reform of the cannabis laws that will reduce all the harms presently caused by prohibition.  Cannabis would be purchased from government licensed outlets just like alcohol and the aim would be to collapse the criminal market just like the market in dangerous, ‘moonshine’ whisky.

CLEAR does not agree that raising so-called ‘skunk’ to class A would be an effective measure.  It would be virtually impossible to enforce, requiring a massive increase in laboratory testing of cannabis and the supply of high potency varieties would simply be pushed underground. The price will go up and all the harms of a criminal market will be increased.  All the evidence is that drug classification or penalties have absolutely no effect whatsoever on consumption.  However, Lord Monson suggests that all personal cannabis possession should be decriminalised and police would focus only on dealers in so-called ‘skunk’.  There is a very strong argument that with high quality cannabis available legally, people would turn away from the black market.

Of course, we support the idea of legally available cannabis with a maximum THC:CBD ratio of 3:1.  This could be the basis of a system that could work very successfully. The product would be available only through a limited number of licensed outlets to adults only.  It would be supplied in appropriate packaging with detailed labelling of contents.  Possession of any cannabis not in this packaging would be reasonable grounds for it to be seized and tested.

Lord Nicholas Monson, Peter Reynolds

This will, of course, provoke outrage amongst many cannabis consumers, particularly those who grow their own but it would be fantastic progress.  It would usher in a far more rational, sensible regime where we could establish real data about harms and risks.  If appropriate, this could lead to the regulation of higher potency varieties.  Of course, we recognise that for medical use, a completely different approach to cannabinoid content is required and much higher potency may be necessary in some instances.

CLEAR is in the business of reform and this is the most likely path to reform that has ever emerged in the UK.  We are not in the business of promoting a cannabis market which enthusiasts and connoisseurs would regard as some sort of utopia.  The only purpose of any drugs policy must be to reduce harm and this proposal, if implemented, would massively reduce all the social harms caused by prohibition and reduce the risk of health harms.

Finally, it has to be said that, in typical fashion, a substantial part of the cannabis community has reacted in almost hysterical anger to Lord Monson’s proposals.  The only effect of such behaviour is to hold back reform.  We have been horrified and disgusted at the abuse directed at the Monson family.  It has shown cannabis consumers in the very worst light and demonstrated that some are so stupid that they damage the very cause they seek to advocate.  Nicholas Monson is a grieving father who, despite his agony, has seen the rational way forward and lent his energy and commitment towards reform that will benefit everyone.  We stand alongside him and we urge all cannabis consumers to consider these ideas carefully – and please, lend us your support!

Lord Nicholas Monson adds:

“The motivation for my campaign is to protect the young and vulnerable in particular from ingesting any substance whose contents can have a deleterious short or long term effect on their minds. To watch one’s son spiral into psychosis from a heavy usage of skunk is distressing to behold. Rupert’s psychiatric team put his psychosis down to skunk. This is unequivocal. Yes there are other psychoactive drugs around but skunk is what did for Rupert. It so happens that the remedy for skunk is a legalised and regulated market in cannabis where clear information is available. This should be applauded by the recreational cannabis community. Separately I have long supported the medical community’s initiatives to prescribe variants of cannabis with high CBD for people suffering from a wide variety of conditions.”

Written by Peter Reynolds

June 7, 2017 at 7:10 pm