Home Affairs Committee - Drugs: Breaking the CycleWritten evidence submitted by Richard Spooner (DP023)

Hi, my name is Richard Spooner, I am 33. I am currently unemployed, my profession is catering. I live in Aston, Birmingham. I am a smoker of cannabis, I have also grown cannabis in the past (and received a criminal conviction for doing so). I currently use cannabis to treat a few conditions, they are: asthma, depression, back pain and as of the past two weeks I have been using it to treat the pain I have as a result of breaking my metacarpal bone. I used to use inhalers for my asthma, I have tried medication for depression and I would have used painkillers for pain. I now use none of the above, I don’t need to pay for these prescription drugs (that come with side affects), I can use cannabis to treat all my conditions (which doesn’t come with side effects).

1. Is Present Policy Fiscally Responsible?

I believe that current policy isn’t fiscally responsible. Criminals are making cash hand over fist, at least £6 billion a year!1 This money has been generated yearly for an awful long time, not only has this money not been going into the hands of the UK population, but the government has spent/wasted untold money trying to enforce, unenforceable drug policy. It’s a losing battle.

2. Is Policy Grounded in Science, Health, Security and Human Rights?

I believe that the UK Government currently ignores the advice given with respect to cannabis prohibition. The Advisory Council on Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) has asked again and again for decriminalisation of drug possession2 (cannabis being one such drug), yet the UK Government ignores this advice. Not only does the UK govt ignore advice given to it by independent bodies, but it goes ahead with steamrolling in new laws, such as when the UK Govt ignored the advice of the ACMD and outright banned Mephedrone. The choice to ban mephedrone wasn’t based on science, health, security or Human Rights but more on knee jerk reactions to sensationalist media reports3 by politicians fearing losing votes or fearing bad publicity in the media. There are mountains of peer reviewed studies4 5 that confirm the efficacy of cannabis in treating many ailments, with this in mind the government still lies about cannabis by stating “cannabis has no medicinal value” (James Brokenshire MP, 2011). The current drug policy is a sham, it aims to protect people, this couldn’t be further from the truth, currently all a child needs to buy any form of drug is a £10 or £20 note. My Human Rights have been trampled on more than once by the police invading my house or arresting me for my personal beliefs, many more of my Human Rights have been violated as well.

3. The Criteria used by the Government to Measure the Efficacy of its Drug Policies

I wasn’t aware there was a criteria used to measure the efficacy of its drug policies. If there is a criteria to follow, then the government clearly aren’t following it. Anyone with an ounce of sense can see that drug policy is causing untold misery to thousands if not millions of people in the UK on a daily basis. I thought that the government just followed media and lobby groups with regards to drug policy.

4. The Independence and Quality of Expert Advice which is being given to the Government

I believe the government is being given sound impartial expert advice by the ACMD, but even though this is the case the government constantly ignores the advice of this body. Professor Nutt was sacked from the ACMD for expressing his views that cannabis, ecstasy and LSD were all safer than alcohol, a fact confirmed by the Office of National Statistics6 and the National Health Service (NHS).7 So why sack a man that is telling the truth and then carry on lying about drugs and their harms? Also Les Iversen (the Chief Drugs Advisor) has highlighted the medicinal benefit/potential of cannabis.8 As I stated, the peer reviewed evidence is being ignored by politicians for fear of losing votes or the having the media jump on their backs, at no point is the government thinking about the UK populace.

5. Whether Drug-related Policing and Expenditure is Likely to Decrease in Line with Police Budgets and what Impact this may have?

Cannabis related offences alone costs the criminal justice system £500 million a year.9 Huge savings could be made if cannabis (and other drug) use was decriminalised. The amount of police resources wasted on apprehending cannabis users is staggering, this money could be spent bringing murderers, rapists and paedophiles to justice, instead of harassing a person for a crime that has no victim. Approximately £200 million would be saved annually by not prosecuting cannabis users, even more money would be saved if you consider decriminalising other drugs such as MDMA, LSD and magic mushrooms.

6. The Cost Effectiveness of Different Policies to Reduce Drug Usage?

Year on year the UK government has endeavoured to try and limit mans use of illicit drugs, including cannabis, and year on year drug use has risen.10 Humankind has been using cannabis safely and effectively for over 5,000 years, only in recent times has government tried to stop this from happening, to no avail. Countries such as Portugal and Spain have seen the errors of their ways and have decriminalised cannabis—and other drugs—results have shown that instead of cannabis use increasing it has actually decreased. So I would say that the current policy is not cost effective, and it amounts to burning tax-payers money.

7. The Extent to which Public Health Considerations should Play a Leading Role in Developing Drugs Policy

I believe that there are no health considerations with regards to drug policy. Cannabis can treat multiple ailments, MDMA and LSD can treat such issues as Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, research into these areas is hindered by the government, again, not because of health concerns, but because of the fear of losing votes and the potential backlash from the media (not the people, the media).

8. The Relationship between Drug and Alcohol Abuse?

I don’t personally see a relationship between drug and alcohol abuse. Back when I was young I used to drink plenty of alcohol, I didn’t drink alcohol because I was using cannabis, ecstasy, LSD, magic mushrooms or other drugs, in fact when I have used other drugs I have had no need for alcohol. When I reached a certain age, I had settled on which drugs were the ones I wanted to take: cannabis, ecstasy, LSD and Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) being but a few. Alcohol didn’t make it onto my list, neither did tobacco (two legally available deadly drugs). There is no relationship between drug and alcohol abuse.

9. The Comparative Harm and Cost of Legal and Illegal Drugs

“Legal” drug deaths last year

“Illegal” drug deaths last year

Alcohol: 8,664

Mephedrone: 2

Tobacco: 81,400


Paracetamol: 98

Cocaine: 59

Tramadol: 54

Heroin: 487

Anti-depressants: 157

Amphetamine: 33

Benzodiazipines: 35

So clearly from these figures (from the Office of National Statistics) the harms that are most affecting society don’t lie at the door of “illegal” drugs, but firmly at the door of “legal” drugs. The costs involved with treating “legal” drugs is much more than “illegal” drugs, as confirmed by the Office of National Statistics and the NHS.

10. The Availability of “Legal Highs” and the Challenges Associated with Adapting the Legal Framework to Deal with New Substances

I don’t think that you will ever be able to have legal framework that will control legal or illegal highs, you can write all the laws you like, people will still break them and take drugs. People are only taking legal highs because the quality of street drugs is declining, they also take them because they can’t be arrested for them, which is an interesting point, people are taking these untested chemicals because the normal drugs that got them “high” are illegal and they fear persecution, therefore the government is playing their part in pushing drug users towards dangerous untested drugs with their policies and framework.

11. The Links between Drugs, Organised Crime and Terrorism

Obviously there are links between the above. Cash from one is funnelled into the other two. This in itself is causing untold misery to many people, again its current UK drug policy that puts this cash in the hands of criminals and terrorism, instead of the money from drugs being funnelled into drug education, the NHS, policing, and other productive community needs.

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

As stated above, the UK government, through its drug policy is helping organised crime and terrorists make money. Organised crime and terrorism spreads to other countries, this is facilitated by money generated from drugs, so no, the UK government isn’t helping its global partners, it is in fact contributing to the terrorist attacks around the world, and to organised crime.

13. 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).”

The only reason we have a drug dilemma is because of the current drug policy, the drug policy is causing the deaths, addictions and criminal funds that arise. There are alternatives to the current drug policy, as seen in Portugal, Spain and Holland, the problem is that government ignores these at every opportunity.

14. Summary

To summarise, it is current drug policy that is to blame for the current drug dilemma, it isn’t effective in the slightest, it is causing untold misery up and down the country. Children can get their hands on cannabis (or any other illegal drug), it is time that government looked at the alternatives available, there are many models to look at. £500 million could be saved tomorrow by changing the current cannabis policy today, if you go down the tax and regulate path with cannabis (and other drugs) you could generate a further £6 billion (potentially more once cannabis and other drugs are normalised), this could then be used in areas such as the NHS, education, community projects or merely to reduce our debt.

January 2012

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

2 http://transform-drugs.blogspot.com/2011/10/acmd-repeats-call-for-decriminalisation.html

3 www.deepdyve.com/lp/pier-professional/addicted-to-distortion-the-media-and-uk-drugs-policy-WH44uM74E0

4 http://norml.org/component/zoo/category/recent-research-on-medical-marijuana

5 www.calgarycmmc.com/

6 http://neurobonkers.com/2011/12/22/the-year-in-drug-deaths-and-data-fraud/

7 www.nta.nhs.uk/uploads/healthharmsfinal-v1.pdf

8 www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7wZpt22Kpo

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

10 Seizure of Drugs in England and Wales 2009–10 (and issues before this).

Prepared 8th December 2012