Home Affairs Committee - Drugs: Breaking the CycleWritten evidence submitted by Robert Young (DP083)

1. Introduction

My name is Robert Young. I am 35 years old and I have been an addict of one description or another since the age of 14. I am currently 13 months sober, 10 years clean of heroin and five years off prescription medication notably benzodiazepines. Currently I smoke cannabis which one can say has just about saved my life. I can lead a full and productive life while smoking cannabis and it doesn’t control me like other drugs have. Any prescription medication I have ever tried has always lead to physical addiction which is not good.

2. Is present policy fiscally responsible?

According to the IDMU report1 this is the most up to date authoritative evidence available. The cannabis market in the UK are making a large amount of money £3 billion per year is the lower end of the scale, £12 billion being a more realistic amount. If prohibition continues down the road it has for the last 87 years this amount will continue to rise year after year, rethinking drugs policy just for cannabis can have a massive impact on the criminal underground, their £6–12 billion would be put in to the UK economy instead of the criminals own pockets. so to answer the question above NO as we allow criminal organisations to make this profit instead.

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

Alcohol, tobacco, prescription drugs, medicines you can buy over the counter and even energy drinks, cannabis is far less harmful than any of the mentioned substances, the latest findings from the NHS suggest this.2

Prohibition of cannabis has a dramatic knock on effect on the user and not the criminal gangs involved in its commercially grow operations, the grower will usually be an illegal immigrant working for the gangs, normally against his will, from the grower we then move on to the dealer, this could be anyone from a 12 year old to your OAP, they will sell to anyone willing to buy the product regardless of age, or taking in any consideration of the health of the buyer, making cannabis a legalised market would take away all the down sides to the illegal market, lets us talk about the medical benefits of cannabis, there is now hundreds of peer reviewed, scientific studies that prove the efficacy of cannabis in the treatment of MS, Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, spinal injury and a wide range of other conditions3 when put through regulated system cannabis as medicine can have a dramatic effect for the disabled user, giving him/.her another chance of life, without the fear of conviction, a medical user of cannabis has enough to cope with his/her illness never mind the added pressure of a police raid, being dragged through the courts, named and shamed in the media, thrown out of a job, evicted from their property, and banned from travelling to certain countries, all this for using cannabis for a medical reason, prohibition of cannabis is a criminal act.

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

Most of the answers submitted to parliamentary questions to the Home Secretary suggest that the government does nothing to measure the effectiveness of its drug policies. Both the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee have previously commented that drugs policy is run on the basis of ministers’ opinions rather than evidence. Not only that but any time you ask an official they seem to like giving out already prepared statements, as if they don’t know themselves what’s actually going on. But when looking for yourself all you come across is people who have been in office saying that its failed and has been like it for many many years.

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

The Government use the ACMD to base their drugs policy, the panel was chaired by Professor David Nutt who was sacked back in 2009 for publically saying cannabis, LSD, and ecstasy were less dangerous than alcohol, and then in 2010 Professor Les Iversen was given the job of chief drugs adviser, he openly spoke about the medical benefits of cannabis at the British Pharmacological Society http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7wZpt22Kpo both professional men in the field of science, and both being ignored by the Government.

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

IDMU report4 £500 million is spent every year on the criminal justice system for cannabis alone of which £200 million is for police costs. In 2009/10 Drug offences accounted for 5% of offences as a whole, of which based on 80% of drug offences being cannabis-related, cannabis offences would represent approximately 4% of the annual total. In 2010 the Ministry of Justice Budget was £9.5 billion and the Police budget was approximately £5 billion. The costs of police time and resources relating to cannabis offences vary at the lowest end from as little as £10–£20 for a street-issued warning up to over £1 million for multi-handed conspiracy cases involving large scale import or supply involving extensive surveillance and investigation resources. Arrests for possession on the street fall at the lower end of the spectrum, issuing of warrants and searches of Premises usually involve 5 or more officers, with cultivation cases probably among the more expensive usually involving more officers, requiring photography and/or video recording, storage and/or disposal of plants and equipment and more detailed forensic and expert evidence. Based on the presumption that 4% of police caseload relates to cannabis offences, and an annual police budget of £4.8 billion (2010–11), the potential annual savings from police funds would be in the region of £200 million.

7. The cost effectiveness of different policies to reduce drug usage?

Cannabis has been used by man for over 10,000 years, Governments have been trying to stop its use by man for the last 100 years, the cost of trying to stop its use will continue to rise year after year whilst the use of cannabis under prohibition will also continue to rise, evidence proves that where countries such as the US, Holland, Portugal have either de-criminalised, legalised for medical use and is regulated, cannabis use decreases, particularly amongst children. Evidence also proved that when cannabis was downgraded to class C in 2004, cannabis use actually increased the first year, but then went down every year, but since being upgraded back to class B it use has dramatically increased, especially in the young.

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

The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 says that it’s about the “misuse” of drugs “having harmful effects sufficient to constitute a social problem”. It’s not your health the government is concerned with; it’s about preventing a “social problem”. Does using or cultivating cannabis cause a social problem? A social problem is a condition that at least some people in a community view as being undesirable. Everyone would agree about some social problems, such as murders and traffic deaths. Other social problems may be viewed as such by certain groups of people. Teenagers who play loud music in a public park obviously do not view it as a problem, but some other people may consider it an undesirable social condition. Some non-smokers view smoking as an undesirable social condition that should be banned or restricted in public buildings. So if a cannabis user is using cannabis or growing cannabis in the confinements of his/her own home does this make for a social problem? My answer is no.

9. The relationship between drug and alcohol abuse?

Under any measure of testing the majority of illegal drugs are less dangerous the currently legal, pushed and worshipped by some drug alcohol!! 2010 saw over 1 million hospital admissions relating to alcohol where cannabis sees less than 1,000 every year. If you adjust those figures and go as far as to say there are 75 million people in this country you can see even if everyone in the country smoked cannabis there would be less than 25,000 hospital admissions a year compared to over a million and rising all the time with alcohol.

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

In reality a drug like heroin costs less than paracetamol to produce but due to prohibition the prices and quality are terrible. One would never advocate a heroin addiction but in reality prohibition takes what is essentially a bad social habit and turns it into something 1,000 times worse. The only health side effect also of long term heroin use is constipation but again due to prohibition addicts are made to feel like scum. If we carry on treating them in such a way please do not be surprised if they behave like dirt!!

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

New legal highs make a mockery of drugs policy. New names come out on a weekly basis that can cause far more harm than cannabis could ever cause. Synthetic cannabinoid’s, manufactured to avoid the laws against cannabis are proving far more harmful than cannabis itself. Outrageous reactions are made on the basis of Daily Mail stories, not science or medicine. IT is prohibition which is the cause of these new legal highs and nothing else.

12. The links between drugs, organised crime and terrorism

It is obvious to see the links between cannabis, organised crime, and terrorism; it is a gold mine for the criminal gangs, not just here in the UK but on a worldwide scale, the amount of illegal immigrants being imported into the UK is very disturbing, the criminal organised market is better run than the banking system, you never see the criminal gangs asking for bail outs, it’s a vast and organised company, a company that will not be taken down by the drugs policy that is in place today, the amount of money terrorists groups make from cannabis and other drugs is their main form of income, taking control and regulating that supply chain would have a dramatic effect on the criminal underworld, take control of their product. The quality of cannabis from the criminal market is usually of very poor quality, not grown in the right environment, not grown for the right amount of time, not dried to the required standard, not cured at all, and often sprayed with some form of weight gaining substance, usually glass, thus causing more harm than good., Children as young as 10 are now being groomed as dealers to deal to the young generation of users, this must stop, prohibition has not and will not stop this from happening. We need change now or we are just letting terrorism and crime prevail.

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

When other countries develop their own policies, such as Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, also under the Schengen agreement a person travelling within the European zone can import and use his prescribed medication, so If a person has been prescribed cannabis of any kind from his doctor in a European country where cannabis is used for medical reasons that person can bring it into the UK and use his medication, while a British medical user can get locked up for doing what another human being is doing. Why can’t Britain follow the sensible route the rest of Europe is taking.

January 2012

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

2 http://www.nta.nhs.uk/uploads/healthharmsfinal-v1.pdf

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

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

Prepared 8th December 2012