Home Affairs Committee - Drugs: Breaking the CycleWritten evidence submitted by Matthew Heenan (DP028)

1. Executive Summary

1.1 In response to specific committee consideration:

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

1.2 The UK government has had access to detailed reports on the relatively banality of cannabis for over 100 years.1 However, for reasons other than public health have misdirected resources to its counterproductive criminalisation.

1.3 Medicinal cannabis may be beneficial in the treatment of my clinical depression2 and I would value the opportunity to evaluate cannabis as an alternative treatment. To that end I travelled to Netherlands, had a consultation with a GP in Amsterdam3 and visited the Cannabis Bureau in The Hague.4

1.4 European countries, specifically Netherlands, adopting a medicinal cannabis approach see public health improvements and provide patients access to quality controlled cannabis products. This approach specifically breaks the link between cannabis and crime.

1.5 It is possible for a UK Citizen to receive quality controlled medicinal cannabis on ethical prescription in the Netherlands. However, that medicine can not be legally imported into the UK.

2. About the Author

2.1 I was born in Perth, Western Australia in 1964. I left school at 16 and joined the North Australian Prawn Fishing fleet rising to the ranks of Skipper Master Class V. While working in the Great Barrier Reef SCUBA Diving industry I met my English Rose and emigrated to England in 1990. In 2010 I took British citizenship5 to show commitment to my adopted country and strongly believing in the UK’s underpinning values.

2.2 As a proud citizen of this country it is my duty to identify policy that is against the underpinning values of this country. The status of cannabis as an illicit substance is such a policy that is wrong.

2.3 I am currently employed by a Japanese owned multi-national in the capacity of Quality, Environment, Health and Safety Manager. Although, my views expressed here are my own and reflect in no way on past, present or future employers.

3. Consultation with Amsterdam GP

3.1 I arranged, travelled and met with a Dutch GP at his practice in Amsterdam, Netherlands to discuss his view on medicinal cannabis. Dr Cambridge has agreed below is an accurate representation of his view.

3.2 Cannabis should never be a first line prescribed drug. However, if a patient fails to respond to traditionally prescribed treatment or experiences intolerable side effects, Dr Cambridge would consider prescribing cannabis if the illness fell within the Office for Medicinal Cannabis (OMC) grounds for use6 and was in accordance with Dutch medical ethics.

3.3 Dr Cambridge felt strongly cannabis should not be used for leisure as had experience of patients mental health being adversely affected by cannabis.

3.4 Dr Cambridge felt the UK would benefit by adopting a similar approach as Netherlands permitting Doctors to prescribe medicinal quality cannabis when in the best interests of the patients care.

3.5 As a suffer of clinical depression, having suffered a depressed scull fracture on a school camp as a child, using traditional medicine,7 I asked Dr Cambridge if he would prescribe me cannabis. He declined, but said if my UK Psychiatrist and GP, with full knowledge of patient history, recommended prescribing cannabis for me he would respect his colleague’s opinion and then prescribe.

4. Importing Medicinal Cannabis in to UK

4.1 It is possible to for a UK citizen to be prescribed quality controlled medicinal quality cannabis in the Netherlands. However, there is still be the issue of legally returning to the UK and residing there possessing a controlled substance. I contacted the UK Home Office requesting two licences:

1.Controlled drug import licence.8

2.Controlled drug domestic licence.9

4.2 All Applicants named on the application for a domestic licence must also obtain an enhanced disclosure from the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) which I duly applied for and received.10

4.3 However, the Home Office promptly and politely replied:11

4.4 “Please be assured that all applications received by the Home Office are reviewed impartially and objectively. However, the Home Office does not issue personal licences for individuals who wish to import drugs controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 unless they have been lawfully prescribed by their UK doctor and are not designated by being listed in Part 1 of the Schedule to the Misuse of Drugs (Designation) Order 2001. Cannabis is a controlled drug that is associated with a number of acute and chronic health effects, and prolonged use can induce dependence.

4.5 In the UK cannabis is controlled as a “Class B” drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, and is listed in Part 1 of the Schedule to the Misuse of Drugs (Designation) Order 2001 as a controlled drug to which section 7(4) of that Act applies, so that regulations which would otherwise allow medicinal use do not apply to it. Bedrocan,12 as a cannabis-based medicine, is treated in the same manner under UK legislation.”

5. The House of Commons Commissioned Report of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission, 1894–189513

5.1 I request the committee be aware of this previous commissioned report.

5.2 In 1895 a report was presented to the UK House of commons regarding ganja (cannabis) use in India.

5.3 “Ch1.9 The commission were especially enjoined to thoroughly examine the testimony in support of the commonly received opinion that the use of hemp drugs is a frequent cause of lunacy, and with this objective have made very searching inquiries.”14

5.4 The conclusion of the commission was to regulate and control the production, distribution and consumption of cannabis. When considering cannabis prohibition the report concluded:

5.5 “Total prohibition of the cultivation of the hemp plant for narcotics, and of the manufacture, sale, or use of the drugs derived from it, is neither necessary nor expedient in consideration of their ascertained effects, of the prevalence of the habit of using them, of the social and religious feeling on the subject, and of the possibility of it’s driving the consumers to have recourse to other stimulants or narcotics which may be more deleterious. The policy advocated is one of control and restriction, aimed at suppressing the excessive use and restraining the moderate use within due limits.”15

5.6 The report elaborates on control and restriction methods including taxation, cultivation retail etc.

6. Conclusion

6.1 Being denied access to medicinal cannabis because of dogmatic UK laws is wrong from a humanitarian perspective. Cannabis is a remarkably benign substance with proven medicinal properties. For the UK to deny citizens access to cannabis is wrong and counterproductive. However, this view is hardly new.

6.2 After more than 100 years of anti cannabis rhetoric and dogma, the debate is over. Please legalise cannabis that people may take advantage of its beneficial attributes without risk of criminalisation. Doing so will break the link between cannabis and crime and improve public health.

1 http://digital.nls.uk/indiapapers/browse/pageturner.cfm?id=74574854

2 www.furiousseasons.com/documents/potstudy.pdf

3 Time and date of meeting 09:40, 12 December 2011.

4 www.cannabisbureau.nl/en/

5 https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B7cbj2fqV6aYNDljZGU2ZDYtMTdjYi00ZTFiLThjMzEtNDYwNzQ4YjNiNDg0

6 www.cannabisbureau.nl/en/MedicinalCannabis/Doctorsandpharmacists/Groundsforuse/

7 (Venlafaxine 225mg and Agomelatine 25mg daily)

8 www.homeoffice.gov.uk/drugs/licensing/personal/

9 www.homeoffice.gov.uk/drugs/licensing/import-export/

10 Enhanced disclosure from the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) ref E0323483513.

11 Home Office Response to Licence request http://goo.gl/uk35W

12 www.bedrocan.nl/

13 http://digital.nls.uk/indiapapers/browse/pageturner.cfm?id=74574070

14 http://digital.nls.uk/indiapapers/browse/pageturner.cfm?id=74574118

15 http://digital.nls.uk/indiapapers/browse/pageturner.cfm?id=74574854

Prepared 8th December 2012