HASC drugs inquiry – a stitch-up in the making?

Are we about to be sold down the river? Last year it was announced there would be a Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) investigation into drug policy which would be free to look at all the options. The committee asked for written submissions and earlier this year I, along with many other people, sent in our observations which were duly published – you can see them all here (PDF document).

It was a little strange perhaps that the first – and most high profile person – called to give evidence in favour of law reform wasn’t an expert,  but a famous personality in the shape of Sir Richard Branson, head of the Virgin group.

The big problem is the committee hasn’t given any indication of its timetable, or really even who it intends to call for evidence, so we don’t know much about what they are planning to investigate. Actually, the committee did announce the name of one surprise “expert” they intended to call which raised a few worried eyebrows at the time; Peter Hitchens, the Mail on Sunday columnist well-known for his rabid prohibitionist stance.

But last week the chair of the committee, Keith Vaz, came out with a statement which if we take it at face value, would seem to indicate the whole HASC investigation is a stitch-up. The HASC website announced two more sessions last Thursday:

The first panel will be Russell Brand and Chip Somers, the Chief Executive of the Charity Focus12 which helped Russell Brand overcome his addiction. The Committee will be questioning Russell Brand about his own experiences and about his latest project, a documentary of the nature of addiction and how it is viewed by society.

and

The second panel will be three critics of the decriminalisation of drug use. Peter Hitchens is a journalist who is currently working on a book entitled ‘The War We Never Fought – Britain’s non-existent war on drugs.’ Kathy Gyngell is a fellow of the Centre for Policy Studies. She has written extensively on the use of methadone maintenance and successive governments drugs strategies. Mary Brett is the trustee of ‘Cannabis Skunk Sense’ whose mission is to raise awareness of the continuing and growing threat to children, teenagers and their families, posed by cannabis use.

It’s worth mentioning in passing that Kathy Gyngell was allowed to submit two written submissions to the committee – items  01 – “CPS” and 116 – “Centre for Policy Studies”. That aside, it’s legitimate for the committee to hear from the people who this blog often calls “the usual suspects”, they are after all prominent prohibition campaigners who feature large in the ongoing debate, or it would be if the same opportunity were given to us – the law reform campaigners. It’s also right to hear from people like Russell Brand who have come through bad times with drug addiction and from the people who help.

My concerns are not about who is invited to these sessions, it’s why they have been.

What makes this sound somewhat like a stitch-up is the comment from Keith Vaz which accompanied the announcement on the website. Keith Vaz said:

Hearing from those personally affected by drugs use is essential to our inquiry. I welcome Russell Brand’s openness about his addiction and recovery. I hope that his experiences will help us understand the nature of addiction and the impact that it has on addicts and those around them

We’ll come back to this later, of more concern was the comment about the second session and the reason he gave for inviting the prohibition lobby:

We have heard previously from those who support the decriminalisation of drugs. I look forward to hearing from those who oppose this measure. Drug education and treatment are widely accepted as being vital to preventing and tackling drug use and addiction, but there is still a great debate about how we deal with supply and just how effective a deterrent legislation is for those who take drugs.

There is so much about this comment that is worrying for anyone hoping for a fair, thorough and objective assessment of the situation. Firstly

We have heard previously from those who support the decriminalisation of drugs

The committee has heard from Richard Branson and a few others who have supported law reform, but it has hardly heard the entire argument nor has it looked at the full range of options available. Yet this seems to be the opinion of Mr Vaz who now wants to hear from those who oppose “decriminalisation”. He is also apparently still thinking of “drugs” as being a single issue, as if all “illegal” drugs are the same in nature and – somehow – different from “legal” drugs and therefore there can only be one approach for dealing with them all.

The second part of that statement also shows a worrying lack of ability to think flexibly and objectively about the options. When he says

Drug education and treatment are widely accepted as being vital to preventing and tackling drug use and addiction,

He seems to be assuming that all use is abuse, that all drug use leads to addiction and the only option is to prevent people using drugs at all. In this Keith Vaz is demonstrating a prohibitionist mindset which is quite unacceptable for someone heading a supposedly objective investigation into the future of prohibition. It is a very legitimate question to ask if drug use wouldn’t be better managed than repressed? He seems unable to comprehend such a  concept – other than, of course with alcohol which he probably doesn’t see as a “real” drug anyway.

The last part is perhaps interesting:

but there is still a great debate about how we deal with supply and just how effective a deterrent legislation is for those who take drugs.

That of course is the main point he’ll be hearing about from the prohibitionists; that the law should be applied with more vigour and the reason prohibition has failed is because we haven’t been authoritarian enough.

This brings us to the first session featuring Russell Brand and the question about actually asking drug users how they feel about all this. Because whether or not Transform or CLEAR or anyone else is going to be invited to give evidence on behalf of drug law reform, the committee hasn’t looked at the group of people most affected by it all; the consumers. Thing is, there are rather a lot of them and the vast majority are not addicts.

What they are doing is looking at people like Russell Brand; people who got into trouble with their drug use and turned to charities for help to beat the addiction. While this is a valid aspect for the committee to look at, it doesn’t reflect the vast majority of drug users experience. It especially doesn’t reflect the vast majority of cannabis users experience and it’s what to do about cannabis that is the elephant in the room for this investigation.

It is a fact that the vast, vast  majority of drug use is non-problematic, that extends to poly drug use of “party” drugs and psychedelics.; most wreck-heads come down to earth after a year or so of overdoing things, perhaps sometimes all the wiser for having learned their limits. Indeed it’s true to say that the vast majority of recreational drug use is done for fun and remains fun, despite the lurid reports in the gutter press tabloids.

But most importantly it is also true that the vast majority of drug use is recreational cannabis use, which while it is perhaps not totally without downsides is really as safe as drug use can be for the overwhelming majority of users, certainly of adult users. We all know the arguments regarding the comparisons with drinking or tobacco and that in many respects – at least for adults – cannabis is a pussy cat amongst drugs.

Cannabis is also used by many more people than any other drug, there are literally millions of cannabis users. This is no small minority section of the population, alienated from the mainstream, cannabis users come from every background, every profession, every age and every class. Cannabis use is an established part of our culture, it isn’t going to go away.

When considering what to do drugs and drug use, cannabis is a very special and distinct issue, affecting an order of magnitude or more of the population than any other drug use.

Yet we see no proper investigation of this by the HASC, it really is as if an elephant is crashing around the room which everyone pretends they cannot see because they don’t want to acept it’s there.

This can only be for one reason; what we’re seeing with the HASC drugs inquiry is a stitch-up. What I expect to see as a result of all this is a general support for the present drugs policy, possibly with some recommendation to make SATIVEX more available as the officially approved version of cannabis for medical users – perhaps along with some way to twist the law a bit to allow it to be put into a different classification under the misuse of Drugs Act.

I hope I’m wrong, but somehow I doubt it. Sadly Keith Vaz has a record of support for a hard-line prohibitionist stance toward cannabis. In 2003 he did support the reclassification of cannabis to class C, but then he supported the move back to B in 2008. Also in that year he supported a motion to ban the sale of seeds and as recently as 2011 he showed his support for keeping cannabis as class B. He has a history of voting against drug law reform.

 

 

 

 

31 thoughts on “HASC drugs inquiry – a stitch-up in the making?

  1. It is vital that this inquiry is fair and examines the real issues. We must ensure that Vaz can not get away with spinning it to his own and the government’s secret agenda.

  2. There are a herd of elephants in the room when it comes to this debate.
    Dan Ford raised a good point a while ago.
    How would somebody caught with sativex be prosecuted ?
    Would the criteria in the 1971 act still apply ?
    Looking back through my extensive but futile letters to the home office i notice that they used to say “cannabis in all its forms” when referring to it.Six months ago that changed they now say “raw cannabis” sometimes “raw herbal cannabis”
    Given this rather childlike dishonesty and the fact that GW has to state the ingredients of its products would it be possible either by stealing some cuttings or breeding some seeds to clone the sativex plants so that when sativex is downgraded so can this grade of cannabis??
    I have already thought of a name for the seeds we could call them sativex seeds and as long as it said that on the label growers would in fact be growing sativex.
    You dont see many people going to jail for possession of prescription drugs

  3. All valid observations Derek.

    Just to let you know: Transform have been invited to give evidence on May 1st. Im not sure at this point which of us will be doing it (Either me or Danny) and I also dont know who else has been invited.

    Not hugely confident it will amount to much tbh, despite initial optomism. The last on Vaz helmed on cocaine was basically a waste of time. But we shoudl wait and see. My guess is that the best we can hope for is a call for a royal commission (or similar) on alternatives

  4. Heres a link to the transcript in the House of Lords from March 2011: Drug Use and Possession: Royal Commission
    Question for Short Debate

    (about halfway down the page)
    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201011/ldhansrd/text/110309-0002.htm

    Asked by Lord Norton
    and contributed to by a fair few Lords that seem to know what they’re talking about.
    And of course the usual party line crap from

    Baroness Neville-Jones in response:

    ” I did not say that we would not look at anything; I said that we were going to base our current policy on constant evaluation. We understand that we need to look at how successful our policy is being. We do not believe, on the basis of the strategy that we wish to pursue, which has new elements to it, that the moment has come for a thoroughgoing review, but we are going to continue to evaluate the effects of our policy. I hope that that will convince noble Lords that we are not going into this absolutely blindly.”

    Is what the government is doing at the moment (Vaz) instead of having a Royal Commision? or a step towards one? Or never going to happen?
    And if not, is it because a Royal commision would show the truth as to why government refuses to see sense on the matter of drug control/regulation etc..?

  5. How can you complain about two submissions from the evil kathy Gyngell when you participated in carpet bombing the Inquiry with identical submissions on cannabis almost all quoting the same naff sound bites and reciting the same misdirection for the Inquiry to fall into? I refute completely that cannabis is a special issue at all, the pussy cat indeed.

    The real issue can never start with a drug, what we must do is explain how the whole issue has been fetishised into a drug issue where drugs are indivisibly illegal irrespecive of outcome. That’s it, its not about cannabis, its about people, how we regulate persons with respect to drugs – sadly I don’t see any awareness of the liberty issue in any Clear submission and the decision to ask members to trot out the usual hyperbole en masse was disrespectful to the Inquiry and ill-conceived.

    As far as Transform are concerned, they have certainly earnt a place at the table but I am deeply concerned about the way they have misused language and legal terms and refused point blank time after time to address this. Quite simply their otherwise excellent work lacks the key credentials to cut the mustard, and they have ignorred key liberty values as well as making strong enough representations and complaints about contemporary issues around criminal justice as well as drug testing and the creeping secondary discrimination being waged against drivers, workers, public housing tennants and parents with respect to even the most peaceful of drug users. What needs to be understood is that the proper threshold for interference into liberty is lost via the reversal of reality that Transform uncritically recite and Steve time after time refuses to accept. It is an outrage that this Inquiry looks like a stitch up so far, yet its not over till the fat lady sings. I won’t be satisfied unless I get to tell the world that the whole terms of reference are wrong, yes they are. Legal and illegal drugs do not exist, and the belief that they do is the central plank of policy – for any group to continue to work in the parallel universe of ‘illegal drugs’ is highly problematic.

  6. Subshine band wrote:

    >>
    How can you complain about two submissions from the evil kathy Gyngell when you participated in carpet bombing the Inquiry with identical submissions on cannabis almost all quoting the same naff sound bites and reciting the same misdirection for the Inquiry to fall into?
    >>

    Beg pardon? I made one submission and this site asked others to make their own comments. No-one told people what to write, if they made the same points as me that was because they were the points they wanted to make.

    The fact that few made the points you thought they should have made says more about you’re take on the world maybe?

    And frankly compared to just about every drug, cannabis is indeed a pussycat, it has no overdose potential and causes remarkably few serious problems for the vast majority of users. I’m not sure what point you’re making there to be honest.

    I’m aware of the “illegal drugs don’t exist” argument and it is pedantically true. However, to keep banging on about it doesn’t help convince people your are right; the concept of an “illegal drug” is understood by most people and has a commonly accepted meaning.

    The drug laws do try to control people rather than drugs indeed and the whole object of my submission was that prohibited drugs are not controlled drugs, which is pretty close to the point you’re making if you think about it.

    But you can control drugs, the way to control a drug is to control the trade in it.

    There are many aspects to this debate, not only the one rather narrow view of liberty you seem to think is paramount. If we want to be a part of this debate, we have to talk about the issues being discussed, not the ones we might like to be discussed.

  7. You say the term ‘illegal drug’ is widely understood and has a commonly accepted meaning. It is widely misunderstood and nobody understands it’s meaning as it has no meaning. I suppose you mean drugs that it is currently illegal to possess and supply etc. Well you may, but the (mis)understanding allows the reversal to slip in so that we try to apply a regulatory scheme that is outcome based (human) via discourse in what to do about a list of ‘fictitiously illegal objects’. You have lost all connection with the key starting point, the threshold for interference into personal liberty.

    When you say you can control drugs by controlling trade, at what point are you controlling drugs and not the traders and users? Do you mean you would regulate the trade in all drugs?

    I think my objection to polling the Inquiry is better framed in terms of content of the submissions rather than the carpet boming point. I agree as a campaigning strategy it might of assisted, but you have to set that off with the realisation that the Inquiry really needs a few key concepts to be acknowledged, and they are not under the mass of faux concerns about cannabis. The subject can never be cannabis at the level needed to enter this conversation usefully. Of course probably all drugs can be used responsibly, we start with the idea of a private life and free thought and when it can be circumscribed.

  8. Sunshine

    >>
    When you say you can control drugs by controlling trade, at what point are you controlling drugs and not the traders and users?
    >>

    Drugs can be controlled by regulating the trade in lots of ways – strength, purity etc. Or simply by insisting the contents of the tin are what it claims to be on the lable.

    Controlling the traders? Yes, why not? What’s wrong with that? Again, making sure they sell what they claim to be selling, perhaps even making sure they know a bit about what they’re selling, to make sure they are fit and proper people to be involved in the trade.

    Controlling the trade – all aspects of it – is real drug control. I would argue that’s setting the consumer free, or at least protecting his rights.

    >>
    Do you mean you would regulate the trade in all drugs?
    >>

    Now you see, that’s the sort of question that gets silly. I’m not suggesting a one size fits all solution in detail. Different substances need different levels of control and regulation. But I think it’s fair to demand that a jar of coffee should contain coffee and if it claims to be 250grms, it should be 250 grms.

    Controlling the commercial trade in goods is supporting individual liberty because it stops people getting ripped off and exploited. Allowing an unrestricted free for all is no way to protect freedom.

    One of the arguments the prohibs would use of course is that drug use undermines the ability to make truly free descisions. To an extent some drugs clearly do that – is a tobacco addict really excercising free will when he smokes? Is a heroin addict excercising free will when he spikes up? Beware taking a simple black and white approach to this – or any other – complex social issue.

  9. Derek – I don’t think you understand the central point of my thesis. I am asking what you are talking about when you say you can control drugs – this is impossible, you can only control human action with respect to drugs, and what you are actually controlling is what drugs do, not what they are. If we keep thinking its about objects we will never unravel what is actually going on here, for a start we tend to allow absolutes to become normative through objectification thus hinderring the development of progressive thinking towards outcome-based regulation. Try to avoid ever referring to policy on objects, but always bring it back to the person and their connection with the object. You cannot actually do this in truth “Drugs can be controlled by regulating the trade in lots of ways – strength, purity etc. Or simply by insisting the contents of the tin are what it claims to be on the lable.” Yes its obvious what you mean here, but of course its human actions again you are regulating, it gets more and more important when this familiar reversal of reality ends up with people ascribing the drug with legal agency rather than the protagonist concerned. It’s never pedantic as you think – it why human rights do not exist for drug users, they objectified them.

    I have no complaint about necessary controls on drug traders, I would like to see a margin of freedom free from regulation where possible, and the width of that margin for all private concerns is the degree of autonomy we give ourselves as human beings defined through the proportionate threshold for interference into liberty. Remember this is never about drugs, it is about the mindstates they facilitate – its the mind that is being controlled, the mind is the tiger and the cat. What’s important is that we understand that the use of any drug is permissible as long as it doesn’t cause harm – how we regulate the supply of drugs is secondary in this sense, we must start from rescuing the subject of the free thinking person being able to legally be themselves with whatever inner chemistry they choose – this is not a negotiable space, it is the definition of the true self to be able to have a communion with other wordly and universal pathways, its never the business of others, its inalienable divine birth rights that as a living conscious human being you have the right to exist peacefully with others without hindrance as to your destiny or way of being without good cause.

    You are on tricky ground when you say we should accpet restrictions for our own good where our health is concerned – think long and hard on this, I am all for good neutral education, but if it ends up with compulsory Thia Chi and a fish and chips licence, forget it – the govt and not benevolent, the drug use policy is a harm maximalisation model for users on both sides of the artificial divide. Health has little value for this state, it is about profit. Health is supported to make profit.

    I think you completely misunderstood me when you replied “that’s the sort of question that gets silly. I’m not suggesting a one size fits all solution in detail. Different substances need different levels of control and regulation.” You are stuck on the objectification paradigm, I wasn’t even suggesting the same regulatory structure for users of all kinds of drugs, save the point about rescuing the proportioanate threshold for interference into liberty – you regulate people with respect to their outcome with drug use. Once certain drugs are shown to be widel misused then of course you regulate their supply to address that generic concern, perhaps through refusing access to certain groups of people who misuse or who are likely to misuse – we must start from neutral and fair principles because then much of the current harm caused by certain drugs will be reduced anyway. I would caution against the notion of ‘addiction’ negating free will, people choose to do stuff you know, you may not like their choices, but your personal context is different – we cannot legisalte for greediness and chocaholicasism.

  10. you say –

    “As far as Transform are concerned, they have certainly earnt a place at the table but I am deeply concerned about the way they have misused language and legal terms and refused point blank time after time to address this. Quite simply their otherwise excellent work lacks the key credentials to cut the mustard, and they have ignorred key liberty values as well as making strong enough representations and complaints about contemporary issues around criminal justice as well as drug testing and the creeping secondary discrimination being waged against drivers, workers, public housing tennants and parents with respect to even the most peaceful of drug users. What needs to be understood is that the proper threshold for interference into liberty is lost via the reversal of reality that Transform uncritically recite and Steve time after time refuses to accept.”

    Thats hardly fair. Ive listened, taken seriously, discussed at length with you and others, and indeed agreed with a lot what you say in principle – many times. Where I differ is in the political priority you give that particular strand of analysis. You see it as the key to unravelling the wider injustices. I dont share that view – I think its useful in certain contexts. That doesn’t mean I think its incorrect, just that I dont share youre view that it should be a key political platform or that it is an especially useful tool in leveraging the change we all want to see. There are a plurailty of voices seeking change – its both unsuprising and probably a good thing that there are different lines of attack.

    I dont agree with everything that Derek says, or release or UKDPC or Beckley or *insert organisation or individual*, but belittling those that dont share your precise agenda in every way, isnt helpful.

    BTW Transforms evidence session has been postponed

  11. @Sunshine; The intellectual, ‘moral’, social and economic arguments for the removal of sanctions against a person for possession/production etc. were won long ago. Public opinion is, almost, the only way in which the law(s) will be changed – barring a detailed legal case that either destroys the veil of ‘legality’ in home or UN law for the ‘justified’ removal of our liberties. The emotional argument has to be won to turn public opinion – e.g. when the Sun ran their campaign against Mephedrone, it was all about a “ban” – they did not frame it as ‘lets remove the civil liberties for persons in possession of substance X because of Y reasons’. They objectified the substance purely because of the easy emotional reaction it evokes – make the substance seem dangerous and scary, but not how and why a person may choose to use it, and you have simultaneously created an emotional response which separated a persons free actions from this external existential threat and created an easy ‘fix’ via the ban. This is far removed fro the reality of what individuals choose… but just look how effective it was.

    People don’t rationalise in terms of legalese (as much as I wholly agree with your statements and conclusions) – so, the real question is, how do we frame our argument in such a way as to evoke the same outrage at the loss of our civil liberties (as the prohibs do so effectively to remove them) to get the public to think in terms of the restrictions that have been placed on our liberty by the misappropriation of power and 40 years of deliberate mis-wording? I don’t know the answer to that.. but it appears that starting with the legalese is one step too many for the general public :-(. Once the walls come tumbling down, it will be the next logical and needed step.

    Ultimately, you are correct, this is all about liberty – the health/medical considerations are all a by-product. Governments rationally weighed up their need to control our liberty and thoughts with the harm their policies bring, and decided that the collateral damage was acceptable. To move forward we must turn their arguments against them. The government says that “drugs are illegal because they are harmful” – show the public that drug use isn’t necessarily harmful and the public will begin to question why they are ‘illegal’. Show the public that making drugs ‘illegal’ makes their use/production more harmful and they might ask for them to be made ‘legal’.. that is when your argument will be most powerful.. But to get there we have to frame it in emotional terms – just like Santos/Perez are framing their discussions with the death/destruction ravaged on their countries, for what is ultimately as you state, a civil liberty issue. We have to start somewhere – and I think that is by turning the public mindset over to your way of thinking, but through emotional rather than legalese means.

  12. I would just like to say what a great article. I find it really worrying that the words of people like Gyngell et al are treated as evidence rather than hearsay.

  13. @Jake – the question is what is the mechanism for upholding the state’s persecution of peaceful drug users? How do they get away with preserving monopolies for privileged drug dealing causing real harm? Given the moral/science arguments support fairness and equal treatment are won, how is it that things are just getting worse and worse for users of some drugs?

    There is nothing wrong with courting public opinion, but we should also be mindful that we live in a society that doesn’t just grant power to democratically elected parties, but also seeks to apply the Rule of Law and human rights considerations to policies, to ensure that there is no abuse of power and minorities are respected. I sought to bring this to the attention of the courts, but to date they have put their fingers in their ears and had childish tantrums and most pointedly not addressed a single salient issue. If you stop and think about it, it’s hardly surprising that controlled drug users have no rights, they are after all involved with supposedly ‘illegal drugs’, and that creates an indivisible wrongfullness irrespective of what they do with the drugs – human rights don’t apply because we are not apparently dealing with people, but objects. Drug users are like slaves because they have no status by merit of their association with an illegal object. Its a complete lie of course, objects can never be illegal, but the insistence by many reformists like Clear and Transform that we stay in the same framework as the myth means that we are trapped forever in a hopeless misunderstanding of the situation. We end up talking about de-criminalising the temporarily illegal substances formerly known as legal highs and wonder WTF we are talking about – objects are not subject to law!! I know the problem is couched in terms of a ‘war on drugs’, mephedrone etc and that is why we must frame the response differently. We must start from the premise that we do accept people peacefully doing stuff that doesn’t cause harm, in the same way we do for responsible drinkers – but it isn’t really about alcohol control or cannabis or whatever drug, it is about the idea that humans seek drug induced effects, and it is the market for effect that is to be regulated based upon the outcome of the effects. It is a silly argument to say that because the public believe it we should carry on giving the misinformation. When people talk about a war on drugs, illegal drugs, regulating drugs, legalising drugs it is in truth about the most offensive and unhelpful thing they can say. It reduces you to an object, a slave with no rights and indivisibly illicit as a person. It is the entire basis for the oppression of people and the protection of harmful drug dealing to imagine that we have legal and illegal objects when we have a person based misuse law, not a good/bad object law. This is not legalese, its saying stop degrading people through objectification, if we started calling some classes of persons ‘it’ we would see what we are doing. Stop thinking drugs and think of people and drug effects. I don’t agree we can possibly respond to a comment about drugs being illegal by sensible argument about why they shouldn’t be because you are immediately talking nonsense, the way to engage the public must be to show that drugs have uses, people like them and that is a basic right to experience the effects of drugs peacefully. I do know what you mean that this isn’t easy, but we have got nowhere talking about controlling drugs when we should be talking about controlling people. Human stories will engage the public about the paradox of consequences of prohibition, but we do need to get the context sorted out, because if you are concerned with an ‘illegal drug’, well there is not much anyone can do for you is there? We don’t even need a new law, we need the one we have administerring properly.

  14. @sunshine: “Given the moral/science arguments support fairness and equal treatment are won, how is it that things are just getting worse and worse for users of some drugs?” is directly related to “what is the mechanism for upholding the state’s persecution of peaceful drug users?”. The arguments haven’t yet been won in the court of public opinion. To me, it seems that only two things affect public policy; ideology and overwhelming public opinion. Public opinion generally only effects maintenance of the status-quo (or return to what they believed it was). Ideology comes from the elite, and they will expend exorbitant effort to push their beliefs through, even if that means bald faced lies i.e. Iraq. Even if it is opposed by overwhelming public opinion, that is just a second thought of how to re-frame the issue to make it acceptable… pre-emptive war in Iraq is unacceptable.. ok, they can nuke us in 45 minutes.. theeere’s the support. Plans to privatise the police… re-frame as ‘outsourcing’ and ‘cost saving’. All BS.

    I truly understand where you are coming from and I agree with you – I even submitted some FOI requests to the ACMD (http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/body/acmd / http://www.clear-uk.org/what-the-acmd-doesnt-know-and-cant-define/) to try approach it from another angle (still waiting on an internal review and don’t have the time to chase it up right now). My thought being, if they had a definition for ‘misuse’ and non-harmful recreational use fell outside of this, there would be good cause for a reassessment of the application of the MoDA. But as you said, after they “put their fingers in their ears and had childish tantrums ” a new, or additional, approach is required. The liberty argument, whilst the most poignant and the only ‘real’ issue regarding peoples right to take drugs, is not yet acceptable in the court of public opinion. I wish I knew a way to force it there.. but the laymans response is ‘but the newspapers show drugs kill’, or ‘I had a friend who had X problems with Y drug so its a bad idea to make it legal’. Elite agendas have worked too well to quash the idea of liberty in the country – just look at the limp responses to the digital surveillance bills being proposed. Liberty here feels very much like something that people will take for granted up until the day they realise they have none…

    That is why I feel (and of course I may be wrong), that the way to progress the ‘drug issue’ to the point of liberty is first to play the powers that be at their own game. Back them into a corner with our emotional and scientific evidence so that their claims are so outrageous that the public begin to question and realise the liberty issue. Then.. then we will be able to push the truth far more easily. But we have to get there, the legal route has failed in this country, (some)politicians are waiting until they have enough public opinion to tell the truth about ‘drugs’ without worrying about their job 4/5 years down the line.

    I did have one idea of how to expose the liberty issue – run a campaign such as ‘Alcoholics/smokers, and the off-licensees who sell them alcohol/tobacco, should go to jail’, then, when public outrage begins and politicians respond just flatly ask them ‘so why do it for Heroin addicts?’. Reverse the objectification to clearly illustrate its absurdity. Of course, if our movement had a couple of million pounds to spare this would all be a lot easier…

  15. Derek wrote:

    “What I expect to see as a result of all this is a general support for the present drugs policy, possibly with some recommendation to make SATIVEX more available as the officially approved version of cannabis for medical users – perhaps along with some way to twist the law a bit to allow it to be put into a different classification under the misuse of Drugs Act.”

    Something along these lines seems to be being discussed between the Home Office and the ACMD.

    This is a March 9th 2012 letter from Home Secretary Theresa May to the ACMD in which she announces her plans to ‘consolidate the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001’:

    “Finally, I am also conscious that the ACMD provides advice on changes to regulations made under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. In the next period, we will be making the legislative changes to regulate the cannabis based medicinal product ‘Sativex’ and consolidate the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001. It is anticipated that the ACMD will be consulted further on the final proposed changes.”

    http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/alcohol-drugs/drugs/hs-acmd-priorities-2012-2013?view=Standard&pubID=1012564

    A relevant 17th Jan 2011 letter from the Les Iversen to James Brokenshire MP regarding the ACMD’s plans for Schedule 4 Status for CBMEs can be found here:

    http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/agencies-public-bodies/acmd1/sativex-letter?view=Binary

    It’s worth bearing in mind here, if such a move does go ahead, that the cannabinoid profile of Sativex (1:1 THC:CBD) is broadly comparable to bog-standard Moroccan, Lebanese or Afghan hashish. Moreover, every other plant being grown for hashish in those countries has precisely this balanced 1:1 THC:CBD cannabinoid profile, (as it is genetically determined by the co-dominance of the genes for CBD and THC… the other plants in the fields will either be pure THC or pure CBD chemotypes)

    Also, this year several cannabis seedbanks have released 1:1 THC:CBD strains (because the genes are co-dominant, such plants are really very easy to breed for) which were created by simply crossing a pure CBD parent to a pure THC parent. The resulting offspring that grow from the seeds will all be 1:1 THC:CBD plants.

    Hope that’s of use!

  16. Jake – are you saying the HASC cannot understand the issue or unwilling to listen? The truth about drugs is simply the truth about humanity.

    @RteveRolles – You and Danny should be at the Inquiry with your Blueprint and the Drug Equality Alliance http://www.drugequality.org should show how it can be implemented without new primary legislation. Do you know why your attendance was postponed?

  17. Angus – interesting, thanks. First sorry your post was delayed going online, it was because you added two links, which the anti spam filter catches.

    I agree with most of you post, but this bit

    >>
    (as it is genetically determined by the co-dominance of the genes for CBD and THC… the other plants in the fields will either be pure THC or pure CBD chemotypes
    >>

    Not sure what you mean by that, expecially the last bit.

    SATIVEX is actually a blend of two strains, something of course which would be possible for commercially avaiable cannabis, there’s no need to grow specific plants.

  18. This C’tee is not bound to follow what the home office initiative to to profit from cannabis. Franky the discussion about cannabis is a massive distraction from what needs to be understood – that is the proper application of the law, neutrally, proportionately.

  19. @Sunshine band

    >>
    Franky the discussion about cannabis is a massive distraction from what needs to be understood – that is the proper application of the law, neutrally, proportionately.
    >>

    You really must learn to add “in my opinion” to statments like that, seriously you must because it is just your opinion, it is not fact.

    Also cannabis is not a distraction, it is at the heart of the drugs war. Without cannabis the war on drugs collapses, it becomes a massively expensive operation against a tiny minority. Cannabis enures it remains an operation against a large number of people, therefore profitable.

    Much as I agree with the spirit of your opinion, it isn’t what the debate is about where it matters.

  20. @Sunshine – they are unwilling. The specifics of implementation of laws are by no means beyond the HASC. But.. outcomes of such ‘inquiries’ will always be moderated based on vague ‘opinion polls’ or internal pressures, and any ‘wrong answers’ flooded with PR/obfuscation – but I’m sure your experience tells you that already?!

  21. @Jake – Steve and Derek’s comments reveal the current theme – pre-dissapointment, cyncism, low expectations. Yes these observations are founded on experience and the performance of this c’tee with it’s celebrity naffness as the Guardian reprts today – http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/lostinshowbiz/2012/apr/26/russell-brand-keith-vaz-select-committee.

    Does that make someone who believes in the possibility of other humans being potentially willing to do something unwise? You say they are unwilling, but that isn’t written in stone, what’s happening is that most reformists don’t have the content to stir or steer anything because we won’t say the truth, and are appologists for drug taking not advocates of it. Whilst it will likely go down like a lead baloon with many, the truth is that most drug use is not a disease or even a problem as the HASC found before.

    See if you can find much evidence before the c’tee that doesn’t whinge about some victim needing drugs or carp on about the colleral damage of the ‘war on drugs’ that offensive stupid expression. Harm reduction, necessity. You probably won’t find anyone talking about the central issue, which is (IMO Derek) the mind and rights of the human being, and how it is socially, legally and politically defined in modern Britain.

    Derek – I am not able to write anyone else’s opinion but my own so why you want me to caveat IMHO at the end of everything is pointless really because we are barely on a scientific discussion here. On cannabis – I still think we start from the user, not the substance and that user has a private life until it becomes untenable in terms of outcome, I am all for leaving all small operators alone and regulating commerce. We still have to get to grips with the point that adults should be able to access all kinds of drugs safely and responsibly, lots of kinds of drugs. We have to free the human mind to be able to experiment and research with drugs such as psychedelics and make informed choices about drug use.

  22. Hi Sunshine

    Have you acutally read this blog entry? Didn’t I make exactly the point that the vast majority of drug use isn’t a problem?

    Didn’t I make the point that consumers should be consulted?

    Your take on this is valid Sunshine and as I’ve said often on this blog I think you have a very interesting argument. But whenever you promote it you do so as if it is a proven fact and that undermines the case you’re making.

    Presentation is important.

  23. Yes, and yes, it is a fact that people are subject to law not objects. You seem to think that we are properly defined as consumers, that most feminised of terms and that we should start the discussion about the “pussy cat” of drugs, cannabis. Why not start thinking from the standpoint that here is someone, a rights bearing citizen, happily minding their own business perhaps they are on drugs, perhaps not…..next question?

  24. You have to allow people to be able to make choices, you can regulate it, but it has to be available – it being the full range of peaceful consciousness experiences that are available.

  25. Hi Derek,

    in a typical field of landrace hashish plants such as are grown in Morocco, Lebanon, Afghanistan, the Himalaya etc.

    50% of plants will be 1:1 THC:CBD
    25% will be pure THC
    25% will be pure CBD

    in genetic terms, this is because the genes for THC and CBD are co-dominant at the same allele —

    maybe you could think of it like this – there are only two places available in cannabis DNA for the genes for CBD or THC… either a plant gets two THC genes (pure THC), or two CBD genes (pure CBD) or it gets a mix – one CBD gene, and one THC genes, making it a 1:1 THC:CBD plant

    in other words, every other plant in a typical field of landrace hash plants has the same cannabinoid profile as Sativex

    and yet of course, only Sativex has any medicinal value!

    Derek wrote:

    “SATIVEX is actually a blend of two strains, something of course which would be possible for commercially avaiable cannabis, there’s no need to grow specific plants.”

    yes indeed, simply to grow a pure CBD plant, and a pure THC one – then make extracts from each and blend them – is well within the ability of most competent hobby growers…

  26. Hi Derek,

    sorry, what isn’t correct, exactly? could you be more specific?

    I’ve just had a read of the article you linked to – nothing in it contradicts what I wrote above

    which is fortunate, as I am very sure everything I wrote above is in line with the science (with the genetics, and with the simple Mendalian botany of breeding)

    if you have any doubts about the science of what I wrote above, as good a place as any to start is GW Pharma’s own book called ‘Medicinal Uses of Cannabis and Cannabinoids’ (ed. Guy)

    please can you explain to me exactly what it is you are taking issue with?

    n.b. – for the record, hashish and charas are made using all the plants in the field, or a large arbitrary selection thereof – hence why typically the cannabinoid ratio of most Moroccan hash etc. is something close to 1:1 … it balances out as an average

    with all due respect, I don’t mean this to be rude, but I don’t think you grasped what I put in my previous post — it doesn’t contradict the article you linked to in any way

    thanks,

    Angus

  27. Hi Derek,

    I’m still puzzled as to which bit of my post you were claiming ‘just isn’t correct’

    but if you have any doubts, you can have a look at a 2003 paper called “The Inheritance of Chemical Phenotype in Cannabis sativa L.” by Etienne P. M. de Meijer (then of Hortapharm) which is available online

    better still, have a look at GW Pharma’s book ‘The Medicinal Uses of Cannabis and Cannabinoids’

    perhaps I’m lucky in that my science qualifications cover all this area and make it pretty straightforward for me to grasp

    but to be honest, the science is only relevant here in so far as it points to the total absurdity of the proposed legal changes Theresa May wants to make

    Sativex is cannabis, and not just that – every other plant in a field of landrace hashish plants has the very same cannabinoid profile as Sativex

    all best

    Angus

  28. Angus

    Naturally grown feilds of cannabis will have a rage of genetic profiles, that is true. This will means there will be a variation of THC/CBD content from plant to plant. By harvesting the whole feild however, you will end up at a fairly constent ratio.

    Where you don’t have it quite right is to say 50% of the plants are pure THC, 50% are pure CBD.

  29. Hi Derek,

    sorry, but you’ve either misread or misunderstood what I wrote…

    where did I say “50% of the plants are pure THC, 50% are pure CBD.”?

    apologies if this has turned into an essay, but there it is

    for starters, my comments have been very specifically about the plants used to produce ‘cannabis resin’ in countries such as Afghanistan, Morocco etc. (as distinct from the types used for ‘herbal cannabis’ in places like Thailand or Malawi)

    you could call these ‘traditional hashish cultivars’

    as I said above, in a typical field of traditional hashish plants, say in Lebanon, there are consistently three basic types of plant – as regards their cannabinoid profile (i.e. three ‘chemotypes’)

    1. the 1:1 THC:CBD chemotype will make up about half of the plants
    2. another quarter or so of the plants will be the pure THC chemotype
    3. the other quarter will be pure CBD

    this is because the genes which code for THC and the genes which code for CBD exist at the same ‘places’ in cannabis DNA (‘place’ is an inaccurate way to put it but never mind)

    so anyway, think of there as being two places in the DNA which the THC and CBD genes are competing for — it’s an either/or situation… half the time you get a plant with one THC gene and one CBD gene, which gives you a 1:1 THC:CBD plant, another quarter of the time you get two THC genes i.e. a pure THC plant, the other quarter two CBD genes – i.e. a pure CBD plant

    so, as I said, every other plant in a field of pot in a hash producing country has the same cannabinoid profile as Sativex – 1:1 THC:CBD… they’re ‘Sativex plants’ if you like, and millions of them grow around the world every year

    and again, another irony is that during the production of hash, when the plants are pooled and sieved (or hand-rubbed, in the Himalaya) for resin, any one field would typically give you hashish with something close to Sativex’s 1:1 THC:CBD profile

    incidentally, what do you mean by ‘naturally grown fields of cannabis’?

    the only part of the world where ‘naturally grown’ – i.e. wild – cannabis is used for drug production is in and around the Himalaya, and that very seldom, for ‘jungli’ charas — elsewhere only cultivated cannabis is used

    incidentally, cannabis cultivars traditionally used for producing herbal cannabis have consistently different cannabinoid characteristics from the types used for hashish/charas… i.e. traditional ‘ganja’ cultivars are all of the ‘two THC gene’ type — i.e. they will give you consistently high THC plants, with no CBD

    this is relevant to all the ‘skunk psychosis’ hysteria – which reading your blog over the years I’ve been left with the impression you might have bought into

    the Home Office’s FSS data from 2008 – 2011 for the UK shows that the average THC potency for ‘skunk’ over those years was 14% THC; during the same period traditional herbal cannabis averaged at 12.5% THC

    that’s only an extra 1.5% THC on average!

    and just to reiterate this: herbal cannabis almost never contains CBD; and it when it does show any (as South African cannabis can) it is is negligible quantities

    in ganja growing regions (such as Thailand, or South India) where the type of cannabis that has in the past traditionally been grown is seedless flowering tops such as are grown in the US these days, the overwhelming majority of plants in any one field will be pure THC chemotypes (two THC genes)… (there will be occasional exceptions, such as a commonly occurring THCV mutation etc.)

    there is a reason why CBD is very unusual in plants in ‘ganja’ growing regions, … this is because of a long history of selecting for potency. Unlike in hashish farming, where the seeds are all pooled together during the sieving process, in a ganja growing culture a seed from a particularly strong plant can easily be kept and deliberately used for growing… cumulatively, over the centuries, this has had the effect of selecting CBD out of the genepool… in addition to this, historically ganja growing regions have had farmers who specialise in breeding and producing seed

    and as said – this is all relevant to the the ‘skunk psychosis’ hysteria — far from high THC (pure THC, no CBD) cannabis being a new thing, it has been the defining type of cannabis in tropical Asia – in the ganja growing areas of Southeast Asia and India – for centuries

    in 1975, for example, the UK’s LGC recorded imported Thai cannabis that showed 17% THC

    were it not for the fact that hysteria around ‘skunk’ etc. is used to justify and push forward prohibitionist policy in the UK, the Netherlands, and elsewhere, this would all be irrelevant

    and obviously, aside from the disingenuous arguments put forward by prohibitionists, as it is, we all know this issue is something sensible adults should be allowed to make an informed choice on for themselves – like any other activity that entails risks – driving a car, drinking a coffee, swimming etc. — and that’s before we even get to the essential argument Sunshine Band is stressing about cognitive liberty

    anyway, rant over, I hope that’s clarified a few things

  30. If I may…

    Of all the information and discussion going on here about Cannabis being a drug, (which it isn’t), whether it should keep an ‘illegality/prohibited’ status, whether it is or not harmful, whether it should be regulated etc. etc. there seems to be one small, but major point being overlooked.

    I will by-pass the ‘clean-burning bio-fuel’, the ‘we’ve been growing and using this plant in this country for over a thousand years’, the ‘Cannabis Cures Cancer’ and the ‘Liberty to choose what you put into your own body’ issues and go straight for ironic happen-stance.

    The substances found in Cannabis were named Cannabinoids, after the Latin name for the plant. The Endocannabinoid system in the human body was also named after the Cannabis plant after it was found that the cannabinoids found naturally in the human endocrine system were, depending upon which was was being looked at, very similar or identical to those found in the Cannabis plant.

    These endocannabinoids are necessary for human development as they stimulate brain cell and brain stem growth, regulate mood and regulate the operations of the liver, kidney and other organs; not to mention, as I wrote before, also attack and force cancer cells to die. The Only cells in the human body that are negatively affected by these cannabinoids.

    I take it you are already aware of this.

    What you all have been stepping over, a true elephant in the room, is that these cannabinoids are also naturally present in human breast milk. They always were.

    Because of this I find it disturbingly amusing when I hear some prohibitionist spouting their propaganda about ‘keeping kids off cannabis’ and ‘cannabis is dangerous’, or my favourite, ‘why do you think they call it dope’. Being as it physically makes brain cells and neurological activity more prolific, I wonder why they do call it dope.

    So, the real question here is, are we now going to crack down on breast feeding and arrest every mother in the world as a drug-dealer if she dares to breast feed her child?

    The fact remains, that the cannabinoids found in cannabis are as natural to humans as breast milk. Is there anything in the world more natural than that?

    Note: For anyone questioning why I specifically wrote that Cannabis is Not a drug… Cannabis is a plant. THC, CBD, THCv, CBC etc. etc. are drugs. Poppies are flowers. Opium is a drug. Poppies are not Opium. No more than trees are Aspirin, Foxgloves are Digitalis, Tobacco is Nicotine, Apples are Cider or plastic is cyanide.

    Please also note that despite Opium-capable Poppies being listed on the Misuse of Drug Act list, they are freely and legally available to buy from local Garden Centres and grow in your own garden in full sight of everyone that passes by. Yet no one seems worried that half a dozen armoured Police Officers are going to smash into a house with a battering ram in the middle of the night just because some old dear has a few poppy flowers growing in her garden.

    The Law about drugs was put into place to protect Society. The efforts of trying to regulate that policy has been so mis-managed that the effects themselves have lead to the very problems and erosion of society that the Law was meant to prevent. Thus, it can be truly said that the Misuse of Drugs Act has proven to be a Misuse of Policing Authority to the point of tyranny and criminalisation of ordinary, non-criminal people throughout this and other countries.
    The policy has failed. So why still have it?

    End of rant.

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