Home Affairs Committee - Drugs: Breaking the CycleWritten evidence submitted by Jonathan Ford (DP119)

Introduction

1. This is my submission to the Home Affairs Committee on Drugs Policy.

I am Jonathan Ford. I am a working man who has held a variety of responsible positions including Civil Servant and Ships Captain. I am writing this submission mainly in regard to much needed reform of legislation in relation to possession of Cannabis. However, I do feel that the reforms I suggest would lead to much reduced usage of harmful drugs such as Heroin, Cocaine and Alcohol.

Summary

2. Current policy is a financial and social disaster leading to huge problems with criminality, poor health and gang violence. Policies of taxation and regulation would be far more effective from every angle.

Is present policy fiscally responsible?

3. I believe that the current policy is not at all financially responsible and is a contributing factor to the current poor state of the UK economy. The IDMU report Taxing the UK Cannabis Market shows quite clearly that the economy could be £6.7 billion better off with a “tax and regulate” policy in place.

Is policy grounded in science, health, security and human rights?

4. Although current policy seems to be flying in the face of strong scientific evidence, I think that all that needs to be done is for the government to start heeding the advice of the ACMD rather than sacking people it disagrees with. Even the slow moving NHS are beginning to realise this with their report A summary of the health harms of drugs. This report shows how the health harms of cannabis are far below the harms caused by just about all other drugs used for recreational purposes, both the illegal ones like Heroin and the legal ones like Tobacco. It shows that Cannabis is markedly safer than many popular over the counter products, such as “Red Bull” which are not even commonly regarded as drugs.

5. There is now a huge body of irrefutable evidence showing the effectiveness of Cannabis as a medicine and with the discovery, in recent years, of the Endocannabinoid System within our bodies it seems that Cannabis was designed specifically for us to use for the treatment of a huge number of illnesses including so many There are now literally hundreds of peer reviewed, scientific studies that prove the efficacy of cannabis in the treatment of MS, Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, muscular spasm and a host of others. The US organisation NORML has issued a report Emerging Clinical Applications For Cannabis & Cannabinoids. A Review of the Recent Scientific Literature, 2000–11 which clearly puts all this across.

6. I myself suffer from internal muscular spasms that, apart from being extremely painful, render me immobile and unable to move. I have on occasion been able to use proper medical Cannabis and the effect it had on releasing my muscular spasm was so pronounced that I was even able to do some sparring at the local gym so I can personally testify to its effectiveness.

The criteria used by the Government to measure the efficacy of its drug policies

7. Unfortunately the Government seem to be paying far too much attention to the gutter press when formulating policy and measuring its effects. I feel also that the quality of advice received from the ACMD could well drop with current procedure of replacing independent minded advisers with “Yes Men”. You should be listening more to people like Professor Les Iversen, a true academic, than to self-appointed “experts” like Mary Bell.

8. The IDMU report Taxing the UK Cannabis Market, that I mentioned previously, also shows that current policy is costing the UK £500 million per annum in legal system costs alone, I feel that this huge amount of resources could be put to much better use, we could even have Police patrols back on the street.

The cost effectiveness of different policies to reduce drug usage

9. The huge sums currently going to prop up prohibition are currently going to waste. The policies followed in many other countries such as Holland and Portugal are producing much better results with much reduced use of Heroin etc. One of the big arguments put forward for prohibitionist is that it “protects the youngsters”, however, this seems not to have been borne out in practice. It is in the area of supply to youngsters and children that the prohibition of cannabis has been most destructive. Under the current regime anyone, of any age, may purchase cannabis so long as they have the cash. In countries with a more enlightened approach, such as the Netherlands, there are provisions for legally supplying cannabis to mature adults. Anyone who looks like they may be under-age will be asked for I.D. before any transaction can be made. Add to this the factor that a regulated cannabis trade sells ONLY cannabis and does not try to trick its customers into buying heroin etc as happens so often in the UK the result of this is that in Holland, for example, the underage use of cannabis is much lower than the UK and the use of heroin in all age groups is far less. Cannabis use in adults is about level with the UK but those adults get a healthy well produced product with none of the poisonous bulking agents used by unscrupulous dealers in the UK.

The extent to which public health considerations should play a leading role in developing drugs policy

10. Health really should be the prime consideration when developing drugs policy. The overwhelming evidence is now that Cannabis is by far the safest intoxicant to use recreationally, including all the drugs both legal and illegal Current policies affect people’s health disastrously with poorly produced contaminated Cannabis often being used and this can potentially do a lot of harm. The NHS itself would benefit immensely if people were allowed to use Cannabis and grow it for themselves, with obvious benefits both for the patients using the Cannabis and other patients who would benefit from the freed-up resources

The relationship between drug and alcohol abuse

11. These are one and the same thing, Alcohol, or to be more precise Ethyl Alcohol, being one of the most addictive and poisonous drugs available.

The comparative harm and cost of legal and illegal drugs

12. These oft-used terms are, in fact, quite misleading: it is not the Cannabis that is illegal, it is the act of possessing it or selling it. If someone were to blow Cannabis smoke in you face and you breathed it in you would not be breaking the law. It really is quite obvious that the personal and social harms caused by the legal-to-possess Alcohol than the illegal-to-possess Cannabis so I would like to know why Alcohol (and tobacco) are not controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

The availability of “legal highs” and the challenges associated with adapting the legal framework to deal with new substances

13. These new “legal highs” are purely a product of prohibition and will disappear just as soon as we return to a more sensible approach. Synthetic Cannabinoids, manufactured to avoid the laws against Cannabis are proving far more harmful than Cannabis itself, I can personally confirm this as, out of desperation, I tried a packet of some of this synthetic Cannabis, it did not have the required effect on my muscular spasms and made me feel sick.

The links between drugs, organised crime and terrorism

14. The current laws have given the huge market of Cannabis directly into the hands of gangsters, giving them a huge revenue of £6 billion upwards, which goes very often into activities very harmful to society such as terrorism. The present situation is untenable with huge numbers of people suffering because of the violence and gang warfare caused by prohibition. The huge black market has led to the modern phenomenon of indoor grow houses where the equipment is often poorly installed with fires occurring, the gangs use slave labour to tend the farms. I feel it would be far better to have this market legitimised so that the country as a whole will benefit.

15. I would like to see more heed being paid to the recommendations of the Select Committee in 2002 (The Government’s Drugs Policy: Is It Working? HC 318, 2001–02) and the Justice Committee’s 2010 Report on justice reinvestment (Cutting crime: the case for justice reinvestment, HC 94, 2009–10).

16. We really need to take long hard look at what the situation has become through prohibition. The UK can genuinely turn the corner and go forward to a brighter, happier and more affluent society once we turn our back on the disastrous policy of prohibition. I look forward to, one day, applying for a job at the newly created DOCRE (Department OF Cannabis Regulation).

January 2012

Prepared 8th December 2012