Home Affairs Committee - Drugs: Breaking the CycleWritten evidence submitted by Chris Stevens [DP017]

I am a 59 year old, retired civil servant, father of six. I worked for 30 years for the Ministry of Defence (MoD). I consider myself well educated, law abiding citizen and well read on the effects and benefits of the cannabis plant. Over the last few years my physical well being has slowly deteriorated and I am in constant pain in my joints and back. I feel I have been let down by the NHS. The medicines I have been given have only worsened my condition and I stopped taking them after a second misdiagnosis. After a lot of research I decided to try cannabis tincture. It worked. My blood pressure is stable, my anxiety has reduced, my insomnia has gone and my joint pain is now bearable.

I have not seen a doctor for a long time and I don’t need regular blood tests as I did when taking prescription medicine. I am saving the NHS a considerable amount of money and I am feeling well.

But that makes me a criminal. I use a whole plant cannabis extract which, apart from the Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): Cannabidiol (CBD) ratio, is exactly the same as the government approved product called Sativex (Nabiximols). I have asked for Sativex so that I can legally enjoy the health benefits of cannabis and get the CBD content I need for pain relief, but have been refused on applicability and cost grounds. I have no wish to break the law but I have to.

There are hundreds of thousands of people like me and hundreds of thousands more who have no idea of the benefits of this plant or are scared of it because they have been brainwashed by the “reefer madness” hysteria prevalent over the last 60 years and the brutal judicial repression that is still taking place today.

Is present policy fiscally responsible?

No. There is a report called Taxing the UK Cannabis Market at the following link. This gives a breakdown of the financial opportunities and benefits as an alternative to the current failed, expensive policy of prohibition.1

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

Science

No. The Government continues to ignore, misinterpret or cherry pick the recommendations of its own advisory body on drugs, I have written evidence of this from the HO. If it is unable to do the former it just sacks highly respected members for telling the scientific truth.

By decoupling Industrial hemp (low THC) from that referred to as a “drug” (high THC) the government could easily kick start a new multi million pound, carbon negative, industry. This country desperately needs this at the moment, something my children and grandchildren need for their future. Allow farmers to grow without the current restrictions and the industry will evolve naturally.

Health

At a conference at GW Pharmaceutical’s, Professor Hartung, Chair of Neurology at Heinrich-Heine University, announced that Sativex, the concentrated cannabis medicine has “… limited relevant adverse effects and—particularly reassuring—the drug does not appear to lead to withdrawal effects if patients suddenly stop using it.”

Dr Geoffrey Guy, Chairman of GWP is quoted as saying:

“My professional view of cannabis as a substance is that it appears to be a remarkably safe substance in comparison to most medicines prescribed today. The more I learn about this plant the more fascinated I become. It has multiple effects of therapeutic interest, many of which are now being validated by the enormous growth in basic cannabinoid research.”

So even the government’s approved cannabis farmers have decreed it a safe and remarkable plant. And yet we are still denied risk-free access to it.

Security

Cannabis prohibition creates a £6 billion criminal market. This criminal market involves well organised gangs from E-Europe and Vietnam. Their trade is as ruthless and faceless. Illegally trafficked people are “enslaved” to run the illegal “cannabis farms”.

The underground drugs trade is also supporting terrorism eg 90% of street heroin still from Afghanistan.

Human Rights

Despite the current failed war on, otherwise law abiding, citizens of this country, people continue to exercise their right to treat themselves as they wish—look at this on Amazon.co.uk:

#1 Bestselling in: Reference>Dictionaries&Thesauri>Subject Dictionaries>Gardening

#1 Bestselling in: Science & Nature>Food&Farming>Reference

#1 Bestselling in: Home & Garden>Gardening>Garden Styles>Sensory&Therapeutic Gardens

& Position 2241 overall in the Amazon books category.

This has been the case for quite some time. That’s an amazing achievement for a gardening book called “Marijuana Horticulture: The Indoor/outdoor Medical Grower’s Bible”.

In addition to this many large cities and towns in this country have a thriving hydroponics shop or business and there are many businesses specialising in selling a range of viable cannabis seeds. Also the internet, especially Ebay, offers everything needed for year round home cultivation.

Here’s an indication of the scale of the market2—over 100 hydroponics shops in the UK.

These businesses are not supported by the activities of Vietnamese or E-European gangs. They are supported by people who’s human rights have been denied. They are supported by hundreds of thousands who daily risk there liberty and reputation to grow and harvest a clean, safe, proven and effective medicine which they consume in their own homes to the detriment of no-one. There is no victim so how can there be a crime? There is a massive and growing demand because ordinary, law abiding, peaceful people like myself are slowly waking up to the lies and subterfuge they have been subjected to over the last half century.

Cannabis, statistically, does very little, if any, harm (see references below). In the case of cannabis, the overwhelming majority of harm results from the destruction of families, the imposition of a criminal record, the denial of employment prospects and the denial of safe and effective medicine to genuinely very sick people caused directly by the brutality of our judicial system. A system which shows no sentencing consistency at all from judge to judge from county to county, from country to country, a situation exacerbated even further by members of the judiciary basing their decisions on, largely misinformed, personal opinion. I have written to one particularly merciless judge in Sheffield called Goldsack complaining about his appalling and malicious treatment of those brought before him for personal cultivation of cannabis. I received no response. When judges are appointed they swear on oath to uphold the law and apply their vicarious duty of mercy in all their judgements. But in the majority of cannabis cases mercy goes out of the window. Paedophiles and rapists receive far less punishment than people who simply grow a few plants. Those not incarcerated for cannabis use, even though judges know they need the plant to maintain their health, are warned to stop growing or using or they will face a custodial sentence. What a disgusting and immoral stance to take in a civilised society.

Enforcement of unjust laws regarding cannabis has undoubtedly caused more harm than cannabis itself. Cannabis is much less harmful than many other substances in less restrictive schedules, like morphine and cocaine, not to mention the unscheduled legal mass killers, and origin of enormous social and financial harm, tobacco and alcohol. See references below for further info.

References

http://www.nta.nhs.uk/uploads/healthharmsfinal-v1.pdf: NORML summary of recent cannabis research

http://clear-uk.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Grannys-List-July-2011.pdf: Granny Storm Crow’s Medical Marijuana Reference List—2011—>500 pages of internet references

www.nta.nhs.uk/uploads/healthharmsfinal-v1.pdf: A Summary of The Health Harms of Drugs–NHS

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

Accordingly to a certain James Brokenshire the measure of success is the increasing degree of adulteration of street cocaine and the devastating consequences on its users. An amazingly cruel and ignorant opinion which demonstrates an appalling contempt for the well being of the citizens of this country. I hope this review will take into account this contemptuous ignorance displayed by Brokenshire, May, Henley, Dorries et al, and ensure that anyone tasked with proper enforcement of the MoDA is fully educated and imbued with the science and facts of cannabis.

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

Instead of ignoring, cherry picking and distorting the advice of their experts (or sacking them) the government should talk to the real experts—us. At the very least they should ensure that their appointed advisers do this. There are hundreds of thousands of educated, experienced, responsible and very knowledgeable “drug” users out here.

Whether drug-related policing and expenditure is likely to decrease in line with police budgets and what impact this may have

The IDMU report states that £500 million is spent every year on the prosecution of cannabis users. Of this £200 million is for police costs. Every day in the media there are reports of police raiding cannabis “farms” or “factories” along with DC Snodgrass spouting cod science about the misery caused by cannabis etc. Most of these raids arise from “intelligence” from the public making for soft targets and very easy brownie points for the police.

Their time could be better spent chasing real criminals with real victims. But the bottom line is that the financial input into policing is making no impact whatsoever on the supply of cannabis other than ensuring poor quality and higher street prices which in turn is encouraging organised crime, people trafficking, electricity theft and property destruction.

Legalise and licence and save £500 million per annum, receive £3 billion in tax per annum and create new businesses and up to 100,000 jobs. Especially if the opportunity to cultivate industrial hemp, as a cash crop, is encouraged by removing the ridiculous limitations currently placed on farmers. A quick and easy win/win for you.

The cost effectiveness of different policies to reduce drug usage

Current policies do not work and are not effective at all in reducing drug usage and, by default, are not cost effective. Legislate, educate, tell the truth and stop politicians deliberately spreading lies and deliberate misinformation in public arenas—that’s where the money needs spending if value for money (vfm) is to be achieved.

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

Public health considerations should drive drugs policy. But, currently, public health considerations are not taken into account at all. The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 says that it’s about the “misuse” of drugs “having harmful effects sufficient to constitute a social problem”.

Health, safety, education and protection of the young should be primary concerns. The current war on users is not achieving this in any way. Even FRANK is promoting myths and bad science. Kids aren’t stupid, when they hear lies about cannabis why should they trust advice on other more dangerous substances?

The relationship between drug and alcohol abuse

Alcohol is a drug, probably the most addictive, harmful, dangerous and socially pernicious drug there is. This is a spurious and false distinction and is very misleading. Alcohol and tobacco should be classified along with all others.

The comparative harm and cost of legal and illegal drugs

Drugs are not “legal” or “illegal”. What people do with drugs is made legal or illegal under law. Many so-called “illegal” drugs are in fact much less harmful than “legal” drugs such as alcohol and tobacco. It defies any form of sense or logic to not have alcohol and tobacco controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 as clearly they cause far more of a “social problem” than cannabis.

To use the excuse that they are traditional/cultural products and should be legislated for separately is pure sycophantic cow-towing to the powerful and influential tobacco and alcohol industries.

The harm caused prescription drugs should also be taken into consideration if comparisons are to made. For instance Paracetamol toxicity is the foremost cause of acute liver failure in the Western World, and accounts for most drug overdoses in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand—and yet we give it to infants with impunity (Calpol).

The impact of the transfer of functions of the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse to Public Health England and how this will affect the provision of treatment

So far the neither the Advisory Council on Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) nor the Home Office have managed to produce a legal definition of the word misuse. This casts doubt on the validity of the MoDA itself as no-one is able to define what qualifies as misuse or abuse.

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

Advances in molecular science guarantee an almost endless supply of new physioactive and/or psychoactive drugs. They will never be controlled by prohibition and make a mockery of current drugs policy.

If properly manufactured with proper controls most of those banned (eg ecstasy/Methylenedioxymethamphetamine) or naturally occurring highs (psilocybin mushrooms) are much safer than the legal alternatives.

The links between drugs, organised crime and terrorism

The cannabis market in Britain is worth at least £6billion, which the government has gifted to organised crime and terrorists. Illegal cannabis farms are producing a poor quality product, often with human trafficked labour and providing funding for other crime and terrorism—all a direct result of prohibition.

About 90% of street heroin still originates in Afghanistan despite the war. What are our security services up to?

Whether the UK is supporting its global partners effectively and what changes may occur with the introduction of the national crime agency

Spain, Portugal, Holland, Switzerland have developed, or are in the process of developing, their own successful policies. UK should do same.

What happens in the UK is that a large corporation is allowed to grow 20 tons of cannabis a year and market it across the world in liquid form, PCTs allow doctors to prescribe it (in contravention of Schedule 1) but only if they agree the £400 per month cost. Anyone else doing this risks a criminal record, a large fine, job loss and possible incarceration.

GW Pharmaceuticals, holders of this illegal monopoly have never been investigated by the Competition Commission.

Whether detailed consideration ought to be given to alternative ways of tackling the drugs dilemma, as recommended by 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)

All drugs should be legalised, taxed and controlled properly. Prohibition is the problem and causes most harm, prohibition is causing the “dilemma”.

I have had a friend commit suicide because of alcohol, I have watched loved ones die horrible deaths as a result of smoking tobacco.

I have never met or known anyone harmed by cannabis, or made violent.

Legalise, communicate, educate—treat all drugs as drugs including alcohol and tobacco and classify them according to harm—that is the only way ahead.

First step would be to allow GPs to prescribe Bedrocan whilst allowing small scale personal cultivation of six plants or one square metre to be reviewed after 12 months for people like myself.

January 2012

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

2 www.freeindex.co.uk/categories/industry/electrical_supplies/hydroponics/

Prepared 8th December 2012