Complaint To The Information Commissioner About An FOI Request To The Home Office Concerning GW Pharmaceuticals
I wish to make a complaint concerning the Home Office’s refusal to provide information in response to a FOI request, Home Office reference 20870.
I make the complaint on my own account but also in my capacity as the Leader of Cannabis Law Reform (CLEAR), a UK political party.
The FOI request was for a copy of licence(s) relating to GW Pharmaceuticals and cannabis and all secondary requirements such as fees, terms and conditions, etc.
The Home Office refused my initial request on the grounds that the information was exempt from disclosure because, in summary, it might damage GW Pharmaceutical’s commercial interests and might make it vulnerable to crime.
I requested an internal review of this decision which resulted in confirmation of the original decision with some minor adjustment of the exemptions cited.
Copies of all correspondence between the Home Office and me are available at the following URL: http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/details_of_gw_pharmaceuticals_li
1. My complaint is that the Home Office’s refusal to provide this information is part of a much larger and more significant policy of secrecy, subterfuge and deception concerning cannabis, particularly its use as medicine.
2. I submit that the Home Office’s refusal to release this information is in order to cover up its dishonest and corrupt relationship with GW Pharmaceuticals and its policy of public disinformation about cannabis and its medicinal benefits.
3. The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 provides for the Home Secretary to issue licences for “special purposes” for the production of cannabis. The Home Office claims on the one hand that this refers to “research” and implicitly is not for commercial purposes. However, the response to the FOI request makes it clear that the Home Office accepts that GW Pharma’s production of cannabis is for commercial purposes. Furthermore, GW Pharma promotes the sale of its cannabis medicine “Sativex” to an international audience in conjunction with its commercial partners Almirall, Bayer, Neopharm, Novartis and Otsuka.
4. The reality is that the Home Office has granted an unlawful monopoly of medicinal cannabis to GW Pharma and seeks unlawfully to prevent any other company or person engaging in the production of cannabis for commercial and/or medicinal purposes. I know this through first hand experience of applying to the Home Office for such licences.
5. Furthermore, the Home Office is engaged with GW Pharma in a disinformation campaign which falsely asserts:
a) that there is “no medicinal value in cannabis”
b) that Sativex is not cannabis but an extract of only two components of cannabis, namely THC and CBD. In fact, Sativex is pharmacologically identical to the cannabis plants from which it is made and contains all the cannabinoids, flavonoids, terpines and other compounds that occur naturally in the plant
c) that Sativex does not produce the euphoric effect associated with cannabis. In fact, the Sativex summary of product characteristics (SPC), a statutory document, states that “euphoric mood” is a “common” side effect.
6. The Home Office has explicitly stated its intention to re-schedule Sativex, dishonestly, as something other than cannabis, which is an entirely false distinction.
7. The Home Office is, in fact, sustaining GW Pharma’s commercial interests by using the criminal justice system, the police, the CPS, the courts and the prisons and probation services as publicly funded enforcers of an unlawful commercial monopoly.
8. The refusal of this FOI request, for the reasons stated above, is very much against the public interest and is indicative of a deeply dishonest and corrupt policy.
I would be grateful if you would deal with this complaint at your earliest convenience. I shall be happy to provide any further information required or to give oral evidence in support.