Home Affairs Committee - Drugs: Breaking the CycleWritten evidence submitted by Stuart Warwick (DP178)

1. My name is Stuart Warwick, I’m 38 and a Microsoft certified professional. I have worked as a systems administrator for Oxford University and run my own IT company.

2. I was forced to give up work due to stress, and during my recovery I found that cannabis was a far more effective medicine than the prescription medication I had been taking. Very quickly I stopped taking the prescription medication and relied solely on Cannabis, and my recovery was much faster, and with no negative side effects to deal with.

3. Since then I have devoted much of my time to researching the benefits and harms of cannabis and cannabis prohibition, I joined the Legalise Cannabis Alliance and from there joined the Cannabis Law Reform Party (Clear),1 and campaign for a regulated and controlled recreational cannabis market, and for the full medical and industrial exploitation of the cannabis plant.

4. My submission will be focused on the issues with cannabis policy, as this is my area of experience. For about five years I grew my own cannabis, I researched different growing techniques, different strains and their effects, lighting and ventilation as well as disease and pest control. I have advised and assisted others in setting up and maintaining their own personal grows. I made the choice to stop growing when I decided to become more active in campaigning, for obvious reasons. So while I am not a doctor or scientist, I believe and hope that the information I have will be of benefit to you.

Summary

5. Ever since its inception the war on drugs has been nothing more than a war of attrition, costing the tax payer billions of pounds whilst gifting billions of pounds to criminal and terrorist groups. It has also deprived people of a valuable medicine, criminalised thousands of otherwise innocent people and has completely failed in its objectives to reduce cannabis use and supply.

6. You cannot prohibit something that is in such high demand, it has never worked and it never will. A regulated and controlled recreational market is the only sensible way forward, coupled with better education and support. We shouldn’t still be discussing the possibilities of exploiting the medical and industrial benefits of cannabis, the evidence to support these arguments has been available for years. We should be making full use of this plant’s medical and industrial benefits now, and it’s criminal that we are not.

Information

7. I’ve never written to a Select Committee before so I apologise if I get the format wrong.

Growing my own

8. There are several reasons I decided to grow my own cannabis:

8(i)I was unable to get cannabis (the most effective medicine I had found) on prescription.

8(ii)At the time there was a massive increase in the amount of contaminated cannabis available on the market. Substances like powdered glass and sand were added to the cannabis to increase its value, this earned the contaminated cannabis the nickname “grit weed”,2 however it’s fairly easy to spot and avoid, so microscopic industrial etchants began to be used instead. Unlike the glass particles these tiny silicon particles are small enough to enter the lungs, and once there your body has no effective way to remove them. Growing my own eliminated this problem.

8(iii)A lot of cannabis is grown in rented properties without the knowledge or consent of the landlord, these properties are then converted to accommodate the grow causing massive amounts of damage to the property. Electricity is also stolen in a way that puts not only the property at risk, but also the lives of anyone who enters that property. Growing my own would not support this activity.

8(iv)With many of these cannabis farms people are trafficked into the country to look after them. These people pay huge sums of money to criminal and terrorist groups to smuggle them into this country, only to find they are locked into a property and forced to grow cannabis. The properties are often booby trapped not only to prevent rival gangs and law enforcement gaining entry but to also stop the grower from escaping. Growing my own would not support this abhorrent crime.

8(v)As with all illegal drugs, the cannabis market is controlled by criminal and terrorist groups who use it to fund their activities. Unless you know exactly where your deal has come from you have no idea whose pocket you are lining and what they will use your money for. Growing my own would not support these groups in any way.

8(vi)Most cannabis is grown for profit and is not left to mature fully and as a result deals are of poor quality. Also street deals tend to be underweight and damp rather than dried. Growing my own eliminated this problem completely.

9. I believe there are three main areas of use that policy should cover.

Medical

10. The fact that we are not exploiting the full range of medical benefits offered by the cannabis plant should prove that the current strategy has no grounding in science, health, human rights or indeed common sense.

11. Having read the 2010 drug strategy I can see no provision for medical use or even any realisation there could be a medical use for cannabis. I fail to see why medical cannabis use is still a criminal issue when the weight of evidence for the benefits of medicinal cannabis use is overwhelming.

12. Dr Todd Mikuriya MD, former Director for the Institute of mental health in the USA has claimed that in over 15 years and 10,000 patients there are over 200 different medical conditions that react favourably to treatment with cannabis.3 He is by no means alone in these views among the medical profession.

13. Research done by Harvard medical school has strongly suggested that cannabis can reduce the growth of tumours in most common cancers.4

14. Sixteen American states and Washington DC have legalised cannabis for medical use, and no longer criminalise some of their society’s most vulnerable people.5

15. From personal experience during my recovery each of the different anti-depressants I was prescribed gave me a side effect that worsened my situation rather than improved it. When I tried cannabis I found that it eliminated the symptoms of my depression and stress levels and allowed me to focus on the problem, rather than focus on the side effects. The anti-depressants I was prescribed only “patched” over the problem, and as soon as the medication wore off the symptoms returned, in contrast because the cannabis allowed me to deal with the problem, when the cannabis wore off it was like hitting a big reset button, and it was just a case of waiting for the symptoms to build back up again, giving me more time to deal with and better manage the cause of my problems.

16. During my time campaigning I have met many people who use cannabis to alleviate or treat the condition they suffer from. It’s by far one of the most effective treatments for Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and while it may not cure the condition as far as I know, it’s amazing at helping deal with the symptoms. The difference in some sufferers is like night and day, from struggling to walk one minute to walking, and even skipping, after half a joint.

17. A friend of mine who has a replacement hip uses it to alleviate and manage the pain and discomfort he suffers. I know people with fibromyalgia that use it to combat the muscular aches and pains they suffer. I’ve met people who are undergoing treatment for cancer who use cannabis to negate the effects of the treatment, increasing appetite and mood. So not only can we use it as a medicine but we can also use it to negate the harmful effects of other treatments as well.

18. These points only begin to scratch the surface of the evidence in support of the benefits available from medical cannabis use. It also starts to highlight the problem that the only time public health considerations have played a part in developing the drug strategy is when dealing with the minority of users who experience problems, and the health considerations of everyone else are not only completely ignored, but the people themselves are criminalised.

Industrial

19. As with medical use the industrial benefits of cannabis are enormous. It’s the strongest natural soft fibre known to man, and can be used to make over 5000 different textile products. Over 25,000 products can be made from its cellulose, including cellophane, dynamite and biofuels.6

20. At the moment we don’t have a viable alternative to fossil fuels, and as recent events have shown the risks being taken to access oil are just staggering, and when something goes wrong the environmental damage is considerable and effectively irreversible.

21. Cannabis is one of the best sources of material for bio fuels because of its high cellulose content, and while the jury is still out on if it will be able to solve our fuel crisis alone, it certainly should be able to massively reduce our usage of fossil fuels in favour of an environmentally friendly and renewable energy source.

22. As this plant can be grown almost anywhere you have the opportunity to give almost every country the ability to grow its own fuel, so that they are not dependant on a minority of countries for their power.

23. Again like medical use these only begin to explain the massive benefits of cannabis as an environmentally friendly and renewable source material for industry. There is no mention in the 2010 drug strategy for any type of industrial use, which would not only suggest the policy has no grounding in any science outside of the possible harms caused to users, but also that it can also not be described as fiscally viable. Enforcing the policy costs huge sums of money, and yet ignores a legitimate way to balance out that cost, and even get an extra income boost.

Recreational

24. The 2010 drug strategy doesn’t make any allowances for recreational cannabis users who don’t experience any problems, apart from criminalising them. This is diametrically opposed to the report from the global commission for drug policy, which recommends that we should end the criminalisation, marginalisation and stigmatisation of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others.

25. When you look at the comparative cost and harms between legal drugs and cannabis, you have to wonder what science the current policy is based on. Tobacco and alcohol kill tens of thousands of people each year in this country and yet they are regulated, controlled and taxed. Cannabis has killed no one, ever and yet has been described by politicians as a “lethal and toxic substance” and is prohibited.7

26. The main harms associated with cannabis are caused by prohibition. Just the fact that you have it on you makes you a criminal and if caught in possession, could have lifelong consequences for someone who is otherwise a law abiding citizen.

27. The problems with contaminated cannabis are wholly a result of an uncontrolled and unregulated market. With such a market you also have no control what so ever about who it is supplied to, and so have no effective way to keep it out of the hands of children.

28. Cannabis is the most widely used illegal recreational drug, prohibition has failed to stem the supply and has certainly not reduced demand. You cannot prohibit something that is in such high demand, and to continue trying even though it has failed is nothing short of madness.

Recommendations

29. Medical use:

29(i)Patients should be able to get a prescription for cannabis, which can be filled at a registered and licensed outlet.

29(ii)Patients who are able to and wish to grow their own can be given a license from the NHS specifying the amount they are allowed to grow, if they are found to be selling or otherwise distributing their medical cannabis they should be treated exactly the same way as someone doing the same with any controlled prescription medication.

29(iii)More research should also be done into the wide range of medical benefits of cannabis, and what other conditions it can be used to treat or cure.

30. Industrial:

30(i)Abandon the restrictions on the industrial uses of cannabis, and encourage much more research into its industrial potential.

31. Recreational:

31(i)Introduce a regulated and controlled market for recreational cannabis, this will not only safeguard users from the harms associated with the black market but it will completely cut the funding to large criminal and terrorist groups. It will also generate a net profit to the taxpayer of roughly £6.7 billion per annum.8

31(ii)Allow the licensed cultivation of four to six plants for personal use, personal grows should be examined to ensure they are safe as part of the license.

31(iii)Issue cultivation licenses for larger grows that are intended for supply to licensed outlets.

31(iv)Cannabis can be sold in a number of ways. for example through specially licensed “coffee shops” or outlets that are currently licensed for the sale of alcohol and tobacco can have their licences extended to cover cannabis.

31(v)Like alcohol and tobacco, cannabis should only be sold to adults and selling to someone under the age of 18 should carry the same penalties as selling them alcohol or tobacco.

February 2012

1 The Cannabis Law Reform Party www.clear-uk.org

2 Gritweed: contaminated cannabis www.gritweed.co.uk

3 The Union: The business behind getting high http://youtu.be/6jO_ncXj7RE

4 Marijuana Cuts Lung Cancer Tumour Growth In www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070417193338.htm

5 16 Legal Medical Marijuana States and DC http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000881

6 Popular mechanics: New billion dollar crop www.globalhemp.com/1938/02/new-billion-dollar-crop.html

7 A summary of the health harms of drugs www.nta.nhs.uk/uploads/healthharmsfinal-v1.pdf

8 Taxing the UK cannabis market http://clear-uk.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/TaxUKCan.pdf

Prepared 8th December 2012