Home Affairs Committee - Drugs: Breaking the CycleWritten evidence submitted by Chris W Hurd (DP114)

1. Introduction

I am a 28 year old resident from Indiana, U.S.A. I have lived in England since July 2008. Since immigrating to the U.K. I have gained a greater appreciation for the way that various political systems work, and although I can not legally vote in England I do have very passionate debates with friends, family, and co-workers regarding governmental policies. My opinons are respected as I am earning the same wage and paying the same taxes as my peer’s. Growing up in Indiana, which has quite strict laws in regards to Cannabis, I have seen the struggle of friends and loved ones through very harmful pharmaceutical drugs to combat pain, but opened up a whole host of other problems within the body, that herbal cannabis would not have done. I have travelled to and through many of the 16 states that have legalized medicinal cannabis and have seen first hand the many benefical therapeutical benefits of this natually occuring, easily grown plant. While visiting these states (mainly Michigan which borders Indiana to the north) I have seen the paranoia associated with cannabis greatly reduced due to the fact that (a) those consuming vaporized herbal cannabis, did so without the fear of having their door kicked in, or being prosecuted through the criminal justice system and (b) quality was assured to medicinal quality standards and no harmful additives were used to bulk out the product. I also work as a support worker for adults with disabilities and I have seen the benefits, whether I agree with the illegal use or not, of cannabis to those who are in excruciating pain and have not felt the relief from modern and conventional pharmaceutical medications which have often lead to greater dependency and tolerence requiring higher and higher dose’s leading to greater detrimental impact of organ’s and vital bodily process’s all of which Cannabis does not come close to having the same impacts. Currently I only use cannabis when other forms of pain relief do not work; however, I would appreciate the ability to discuss with my doctor the use of cannabis for my chronic back pain that I have lived with since I was 15, as it has been the most beneficial way of alleviating my pain.

2. Is present policy fiscally responsible?

According to the IDMU report this is the most up to date authoritative evidence available.1 The illegal cannabis markets in the UK are making a massive amount of money £6 billion per year is the lower end of the scale, £12 billion being a more realistic amount. If prohibition continues in the path it has for the last 40 years this amount the criminal gangs are earning will continue to raise 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.

If you look at the cost in the UK regarding illegal drugs on releases website you can clearly see for yourself the cost associated with enforcing our current policy.2

In my opinion a dealer on the street does not pay any taxes and collects all the profits and will not be prosecuted to the same extent as a small time grower for personal use. Currently Illegal personal use growers pay taxes on legally purchased seeds, all grow equipment, and if electricity is not dangerously bypassed then they pay to the government taxes on this as well. Everything in this process is legal. The only thing illegal about a personal use home grown operation is actually putting a legally bought seed into soil, and yet in the eyes of the law they are committing an offence that is reprimanded with a harsher sentence than the tax evading dealer on the streets. How is this a logical way to use MY hard earned tax money that I willing give to you with every paycheck and every luxury VAT item I buy?

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

I believe that the current policy is not grounded in scientific fact. When cannabis was recently reclassified in 2008 this was against the recommendation of professor David Nutt and other scientific advisors that the government had set up to give recommendations relating to scientific drugs policy’s. How is ignoring scientific opinion, regarding policy, a just law based on scientific evidence? You can’t pick and choose which policies you want to implement based on public opinion and then claim that it is a just law! Compared to alcohol, tobacco, prescription drugs, medicines you can buy over the counter and even energy drinks (keeping in mind that there is not a single age restriction on caffeine based products), cannabis is far less harmful than any of the mentioned substances, the latest findings from the NHS suggest this 3

The medical benefits of cannabis, of which there are 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 conditions.4 As you’re aware the home office has given a license to grow cannabis to G.W. Pharmaceuticals, thus creating a monopoly. You can not claim to be a democracy when you’ve exclusively aided in creating a monopoly which is completly against the free market design. It is extremely hypocritical to say that we the government can grow cannabis; however, you the people are not allowed to.

I feel that, as stated in the Report of the Global Commission on Drugs Policy’s report of June 2011 states:

“The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world. Fifty years after the initiation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and 40 years after President Nixon launched the US govornment’s war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed.”

I am sure you are familiar with the Report of the Global Commission on Drugs Policy’s report of June 2011 so I will not quote it back to you, however I will provide you with the aims and objectives of CLEAR below.

4. To end the prohibition of cannabis

Prohibition is a big, dumb, and very expensive failure. It is brutal. It puts prejudice before people. The “war on drugs” is responsible for more death, destruction and despair than any other war. History has shown that prohibition creates far more problems than it solves. In the 21st century we should expect far better solutions from our policy makers and governments.

5. To promote as a matter of urgency and compassion the prescription of medicinal cannabis by doctors

No reasonable human being can deny another relief from pain, suffering or disability. There is no rational argument against permitting access to medicinal cannabis for those who need it. The fact that the British government and the deeply rooted bureaucracy of the Home Office stand in the way is a deep and lasting shame on our nation.

6. To introduce a system of regulation for the production and supply of cannabis based on facts and evidence

Authoritative research from the Independent Drug Monitoring Unit proves that a cannabis tax and regulate regime in Britain would produce a boost to the UK economy of at least £6 billion per annum. That’s based on a cannabis tax of £1 per gram, massive savings in law enforcement costs but allowing for the cost of administering the system and providing additional healthcare and education services. All the evidence and experts agree that a responsibly regulated system would also reduce all health and social harms.

7. To encourage the production and use of industrial hemp

The prohibition of cannabis has caused huge damage to our society, environment and economy by preventing the cultivation of hemp. Although the industrial strains of the plant have no psychoactive potential, the absurd level of control has effectively destroyed its value as an agricultural crop. With that we have lost the most efficient producer of biomass in the natural world, the strongest natural fibre, a better fabric than cotton, a better paper than wood and one of the most ecologically important activities on the planet.

8. To educate and inform about the uses and benefits of cannabis

Prejudice is based on ignorance. In the case of cannabis there is also deliberate misinformation. It started with Randolph Hearst, the media, timber and oil magnate of the 1930s and it continues today with the vested interests of alcohol, tobacco, Big Pharma and, yes, media, timber and oil. The truth about cannabis is clear and we have to spread the truth in the face of ignorance and lies.

January 2012

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

2 www.release.org.uk/campaigns/cost-in-the-uk

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

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

Prepared 8th December 2012