I’m not an anarchist, but I’ll be honest I’m one of these people who have very little respect left for politicians. It wasn’t always so, for most of my life from late teens to late 40′s I was always a member of a mainstream political party, I was one of those people who would trudge around streets stuffing leaflets through letter boxes and I believed, deeply and sincerely in the democratic process. But over the past 10 or 15 years, my faith in the system has been seriously undermined by the type of people we’ve been stupid enough to elect to office. One such person is Anne Milton, the Minister in charge of the Dept of Health. She is willing to toe the party line and to write the most ignorant rubbish in defence of it.
What all this is about is my request to the government that they run a campaign aimed at cannabis users to encourage safer methods of use. The most obvious advice they could give to cannabis users is not to smoke with tobacco, I am asking them to run something similar to TokePure. Now it’s important to understand what I’m asking for, I am not asking for any cannabis law reform here, I am not asking even that they encourage the use of pure cannabis as such, I would settle for them to run a negative style campaign to discourage the use of tobacco with cannabis, but they won’t even do that. Why won’t they? because of boneheaded insistence on a “just say no” approach to drug use. I thought the world had long ago moved on from such madness, but it seems not.
To recap: I first wrote via my MP (Simon Wright, Libdem Norwich South) to the Home Office to suggest a toke pure style campaign back in July 2011. After a very slow turning of wheels I finally got a reply from Ann Milton of the Dept of Health – which has taken over from the Home Office for such issues - in September (read it here). As expected the reply was an emphatic “no”, simply repeating the standard issue reply they always send out which included:
Cannabis is a controlled drug under the misuse of Drugs Act 1971. It has a number of acute and chronic health effects, such as the possibly of developing mental health problems, and remains a controlled drugs for good reasons. This view is based on the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs 2008 report Cannabis Classification and Public Health, which is available at www.homeoffice.gov.uk (enter the document title in the search bar and follow the links)
and pointing out that Frank will be running various cannabis campaigns, but there is not to be one centred on safer use.
So I replied, explaining the very obvious reasons why getting cannabis users to drop the tobacco would be a good idea, supporting my case with reference not only to population studies of cannabis users but also to information put out by her own department. I received a reply in November (here) which contained the idiot quote of the year:
If, as Mr Williams suggests, we were to advocate that people smoke cannabis without tobacco, we would be … putting people at risk of harm.
There can be no doubt that whatever the harms cannabis may present, mixing it with a known highly addictive carcinogen is going to add greatly to those dangers. How she could write a sentence like that is frankly beyond comprehension. Clearly Anne Milton has very little idea of the issues at hand and is simply repeating the party line. I don’t believe for one moment that she is really that thick, she must be aware that she is basically lying and that I find deeply disturbing.
So I wrote back via my MP and asked for a meeting to discuss it, not really expecting a positive outcome. Today, I got a reply, I was right:
Thank you for your further letter of 15th december on behalf of your constituent Mr Derek Williams of [address] about the “Toke Pure” campaign and policy on cannabis and tobacco.
I had made it clear I was not making any comments regarding cannabis policy and that I was simply asking for a safer use campaign aimed at cannabis users, I don;t know how much clearer I could make that.
There is very little I can say in response to the points Mr Williams has raised that has not already been covered in our previous correspondence.
Except of course, she hadn’t addressed any of my points in the previous correspondence, she had only stated her official position.
The government’s position is very clear, that regardless of whether cannabis is smoked with or without tobacco, it is a harmful drug and should not be used.
Whether or not that is true, it is used by millions of people, a fact she doesn’t seem to fully appreciate
Cannabis can damage both physical and mental health and it would be irresponsible for anyone to suggest there is a “safe” way to smoke cannabis
I think what really annoys me is the apparent inability to grasp the concept of “safer”, or if you prefer, “less harmful”, or of “reducing the harm”, I had never asked her to say using pure was a “safe” way to use cannabis. This is odd though, because she does seem to understand what I’ve been trying to say:
I am not convinced of the value there would be in having a meeting to discuss this further. The Tokepure argument is clear – that people should be advised that smoking cannabis and tobacco together is more harmful than smoking cannabis without tobacco – as is the government’s position - that cannabis and tobacco, whether smoked together or separately are dangerous and should not be used.
Read that a few times, it is another astonishing sentence from the minister, are the two positions mutually exclusive? I don’t think they are, just what planet is she living on?
As previously stated the best way to minimise the harm caused by cannabis. with or without tobacco, is not to smoke it. We do not agree with Mr Williams’ view that people will not stop smoking cannabis and we are taking steps, outlined in the drug strategy, “reducing demand, restricting supply, building recovery Supporting people to live a drug free life” to ensure people are better informed about the harms of using cannabis and can make the choice to not to start or to stop using cannabis.
So what to make of this? The only policy this government will entertain with regards to cannabis use is to tell people to stop and they believe they can do it, really, they believe that. So these politicians have no intention of providing harm reduction information to the millions of mostly young people who chose not to listen to the simplistic message they put so much faith in. Her very own department of health has issued advice on the health effects of drugs which make it perfectly clear that tobacco is far more dangerous than cannabis in terms of lung damage and addiction, she must know that her position is indefensible.
Anne Milton is wrong, people will always be using cannabis and if she thinks otherwise she is suffering some form of delusion. In refusing to run this obvious campaign she is withholding some important health information, using political dogma as the excuse.
I respect people like Anne Milton, just not very much, that’s all.
Sunday 5th Feb – my reply