Home Affairs Committee - Drugs: Breaking the CycleWritten evidence submitted by Michael Williams (DP123)

1. Introduction

I am a regular cannabis user and would like to address the current drugs policy with regards to cannabis. I am doing so as in the past I have received cautions/convictions for possessing and horticulture/production of said drug and feel that I have been unfairly treated due to the nature of the current drugs policy. I have only been smoking cannabis regularly for about a decade since I left the Armed forces where I worked as a Radio telegraphist in the Royal Signals regiment.

2. Is present policy fiscally responsible?

I believe the current policy on drugs is irresponsible due to the amount of time and money wasted through the judicial system and due to the amount of police resources it currently demands, after reading numerous quotes from magistrates about how 50% of the current case loads each day are dealing with people being prosecuted for producing their own cannabis, apart from the fact that most of the equipment and seeds paraphernalia etc has been purchased completely legally and often there are no victims in the majority of these cases, millions of our hard earned taxes go towards gathering evidence and paying to put people behind bars at an even greater cost to the public purse for no other reason than to keep up the pretence that cannabis is a harmful drug and is dangerous to society, even the according to hospital admission statistics it is less dangerous than peanuts for example and has certainly never killed anybody. In times of austerity measures such as ours, surely the money wasted on these causes would be better spent on improving the NHS or providing training for the millions of unemployed, as well as the money that is wasted I believe the money that could be raised if cannabis were to be taxed and regulated as is with alcohol instead is being gifted to organised crime gangs, who not only use the profit to fund more criminal activity but quite often churn out a low standard of product causing further instances of a danger to public health far more dangerous than naturally cultivated organic cannabis itself. A recent report by the IDMU, Taxing the UK Cannabis Market and its conclusions.1 It is the most up to date, authoritative evidence available conclusively shows how much revenue we are literally gifting to the criminal underworld due to our own ignorance.

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

After many hours of research often leading to frustration and more questions rather than answers I am led to believe that the opposite may be true, if it were based on science, health and security then there would be no need for me to send this email, as far as science is concerned many recent and previous investigations into the effect upon an individual as well as a society has been undoubtedly proven to be less harmful than alcohol, tobacco and even energy drinks. Even as far back as The Wooton Report—1969 the investigation before the “Misuse of Drugs Act—1971” it was suggested that the law and its penalties for possession where far more damaging than the actual consumption of the drug itself and still over 40 years later and many reviews the government has refused to take heed of the advice of its own experts employed by the government unless that advice agrees with the politicians own personal misguided views which it often doesn’t and so is ignored. As far as health and security are concerned an ever growing library of research proving cannabis to be much less dangerous than many common prescription drugs and alcohol and tobacco but still nothing is done to reclassify these? All of this can only lead to what we currently have an abomination of human rights on the grandest scale, many years ago I was deemed worthy enough to protect our country as well as handling classified and sensitive information but when it comes to making a decision on what drugs I am allowed to consume even if they are none toxic and do no harm to others it seems I am not deemed responsible enough for that decision.

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

I think politicians can cherry pick whatever statistics they like even though there has been no clear signs that the cannabis problem shows no sign of disappearing now that people can educate themselves a lot easier due to an increase in information due to internet access but I do not think current statistics are a true reflection of the situation here in the UK at the moment, mainly due to the fact that people although often open to friends and family but when it comes to talking to figures of authority often a feeling of paranoia due to the illegality of the subject no matter how hypercritical the current laws may be, the only way to reconcile this would be to educate people in an unbiased way whilst explaining the importance of being earnest about the subject, but a rethink is definitely needed in the way we measure our success on the subject.

5. The independence and quality of expert advice which is being given to the government

I think the quality of advice from places such as the ACMD is of the highest quality but expansion and more research and clinical trials are needed using people who are willing to participate and are currently using cannabis to treat a number of problems, I think people who use cannabis instead of quite often aggressive and dangerous prescription drugs should be championed and allowed to state their case without fear of reprisal for doing so, but most of all I believe the Government should listen to their own advisors and follow the example set by other countries with successful drug policies in place such as Portugal, Switzerland, Holland. Maybe one day we would be able to lead the field in this subject rather than continuously lagging behind.

6. The relationship between drug and alcohol abuse

I think this is the point that frustrates me the most so I have forgone some previous points to answer this one as I feel I have answered some of the other points in my answers to some of the above questions.
Most people I speak to who have little or no knowledge of or about cannabis quite often forget that alcohol is also a drug and when I point out the comparative differences between the two can’t seem to believe why cannabis is illegal and alcohol isn’t. Due to the fact I do not drink anymore myself even though having quite a fondness for it since my mid teenage years until roughly my mid twenties I am increasingly amazed by the ignorance most people have on the subject, the more I learn about the dangers and harms caused by alcohol and the millions of lives that could be saved each year if only people where educated truthfully and protected through new laws such as raising the minimum price per unit as well being given the chance to opt for another less harmful drug without fear of breaking the law such as cannabis would be if the current policies were reformed we could have a much better educated society aware of all dangers and how to reduce these with regards to all drugs. If people really want to harm themselves they will find a way whether it be through alcohol, tobacco, crack, exercise or cannabis but by educating people and providing more services such as counselling at no extra cost or threat to current budgets the overall effect of changing current drug policies could only be better than the current situation we find ourselves in would it not?

7. The comparative harm and cost of legal and illegal drugs

This will be the last point I would like to comment on as it is the subject I have the biggest gripe with, how can cannabis remain illegal whilst tobacco and alcohol remain the opposite, recently Sativex a cannabis tincture has been licensed for use in conjunction with a number of ailments and although the ingredients and methods involved have changed very little since similar tincture where used years ago to also treat a variety of ailments it is being treated as some wonder drug even though it has ridiculous production costs and surely goes against the governments current stance that “cannabis has no medicinal value”. It leads one to believe that the reason this drug has been approved is due to the contributions that GW Pharmaceuticals has made to this and the previous governments over the years. It almost makes you start to think who benefits more from this the patients or the CEO and shareholders of the company?

8. Summary

Even though I have not been able to address as many of the points on this subject as I would have liked to I would like to say that I hope some of the points made by myself and no doubt countless others are taken on board this time around concerning drug policy reform, I think as with the subject of MP’s expenses are concerned, transparency is the key, I will be undertaking further research into the vested interest of the current cabinet with the help of FIR and the internet I believe it would be helpful to illustrate who in current government has current or previous connections to industries that may be endangered if cannabis where to be regulated, such as the Paper, Alcohol, Tobacco, Oil, Big Pharma and Energy as I believe this may go some way to explain why some people in our current government are happy to keep things the way they are now, unfortunately due to ease of accessing information I am hopeful that the public will demand justice to be done on this subject and others and to be treated with the respect we deserve, we are no longer as easy to fool as was in the days of prohibition and as recent public unrest around the world has shown will not put up with inequality and oppression of our freedom to choose.

January 2012

1 http://clear-uk.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/TaxUKCan.pdf

Prepared 8th December 2012