07 Oct As 2012 Draws To A Close, Are We Any Closer To Ending The Prohibition of Cannabis?

The Choom Gang

A month from today the US elections take place. Common sense dictates that Obama will be re-elected because there is no rational alternative. Even though his record on cannabis is disappointing and suggests great hypocrisy, I haven’t (quite) lost all faith in him.

It looks more than likely that cannabis will be fully legalised for adults in Colorado and Washington. It’s also on the ballot but looking less likely in Oregon and there are medical marijuana schemes up for voting in Arkansas, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The momentum is going our way. There can be little doubt that an end to the prohibition of cannabis is coming soon.

In just a few days, on October 16th, the US Court of Appeal for the DC circuit will hear oral evidence on the medicinal benefits of cannabis. It is the first time in 20 years that the scientific evidence regarding the therapeutic value of cannabis will be reviewed by the courts, despite 17 states now regulating medical marijuana.

In Britain, before the end of the year, the HASC drugs inquiry will make its recommendations. There is a suggestion that Keith Vaz is considering one more oral evidence session but he has trouble afoot personally and I would guess that we are heading straight to the committee’s final report. Nevertheless, I have written to him, yet again, asking him to call me to give evidence and pointing out, yet again, the two glaring omissions in the inquiry:

1. No evidence heard from non-problematic drug users.

Mr Vaz said at the beginning of the inquiry “Hearing from those personally affected by drugs use is essential to our inquiry”. However, the vast majority of drug users, particularly of cannabis, experience no ill effects nor cause any problems to society and no evidence has been heard from them at all.

2. No evidence heard on medicinal cannabis

The medicinal use of cannabis is the single issue most often referred to in all the written evidence to the inquiry yet not one question has been asked and not one witness has been called. There is now irrefutable proof of the value as cannabis as medicine. That cannabis remains in schedule 1 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations in defiance of science and common sense is absurd and a direct cause of harm to many British people.

Keith Vaz

However, whether or not any further witnesses are called, if, given all the evidence, the committee does not recommend some degree of reform then it will be a laughing stock.

Derek Williams and I attended the inquiry’s conference on 10th September along with about 200 others. I remain convinced that the main purpose of the conference was to mollify those who had made written submissions and had not been called to give oral evidence but it was better than I expected. The opening presentation from Major General Jose Leon of the Colombian Police was an excellent example of the utterly delusional policy of prohibition and how it can result in oppressive and violent actions which cause far more harm than they prevent. Thankfully, some excellent common sense came later, particularly from Professor Alex Stevens of the University of Kent and Dr Leal da Costa, the Portuguese health minister.

Derek Williams, Simon Chorley and The Cannabis Geek at the HASC Drugs Inquiry conference

If what transpired at the conference is representative of informed opinion then reform is inevitable. There was some support for existing policy but it was in a tiny minority. Keith Vaz promised in his opening speech that the minutes of the conference would be published. Nothing has appeared yet but I now have it from the committee office that they will be published with the final report.

The oral evidence sessions were carefully managed. Although there were valuable contributions from David Nutt, Tom Lloyd and Danny Kushlick, there was a disgraceful bias in who was called. In particular, the decision to give time to the extremist views of Mary Brett, Kathy Gyngell and Peter Hitchens was outrageous. To balance their contribution required evidence from those who advocate a completely unregulated approach to drugs policy, a position that CLEAR would consider irresponsible.

The balance of the written evidence points to even more radical reform than suggested by the conference. Vaz must argue for some change. If he fails to do so he may be appeasing his political masters but it will be career suicide.

Theresa May

Of course, whatever the final report recommends, it is quite a different matter whether the government will act on it. The hypocrisy and dishonesty of Cameron and the inane stupidity of Theresa May don’t bode well but they are both without real integrity and will soon change their position if self interest requires it. What happens in the US elections may have a big impact on the government’s thinking.

Will Obama finally deliver for the Choom gang? When he is re-elected, will he back off on the federal assaults on states’ rights for medical marijuana? Will he allow the DEA to trample over the Colorado and Washington electorates?

It remains to be seen but I do think we should stay optimistic. The momentum, the winds of change are in our direction and reform is inevitable.

Also, in the next few weeks, the new Dutch coalition government must reach agreement on the wietpas. Already its implementation in Maastricht and other southern towns has led to an increase in street dealing and associated crime. It would be madness to continue this crazy policy and I have faith in the Dutch people. Tolerance, common sense and rationale are deeply ingrained in their national psyche and I expect to see this policy reversed.

Frank Jensen, Mayor Of Copenhagen

Just this week, the mayor of Copenhagen came out with an extraordinary statement saying “What we now need is a paradigm shift in our perception of cannabis.”. Yet another sign that opinions are changing at the highest levels and reform is inevitable.

Professor Terrie Moffitt

Science is advancing too. Recent studies confirm that CBD does offer powerful anti-cancer effects and a clinical trial is underway into the use of the cannabinoid dexanabinol for treating tumours. Professor Terrie Moffit of the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, said in August “cannabis is safe for over-18 brains”. GW Pharma is rapidly advancing its product pipeline and developing cannabis-based medicines for diabetes, pain, gastrointestinal disease, cancer, epilepsy and psychiatric disorders. The disinformation campaign that seeks falsely to distinguish Sativex from cannabis is unsustainable. It is absurd that cannabis remains in schedule 1 of the Misuse of Drugs regulations with ‘no medicinal value’. Both British and US governments maintain this blatant lie without compunction. An enormous amount of anecdotal evidence demands that proper studies are undertaken into the use of cannabis oil as advocated by Rick Simpson.

As you will be aware, I am standing as the CLEAR candidate in the Corby by-election. We don’t expect to win but we do expect our campaign to move our cause considerably further up the political agenda. We aim to raise awareness of the medicinal benefits of cannabis and the grave injustices caused by the present laws to those who need it as medicine. We also expect a similar increase in awareness of the financial and social benefits and reductions in harms that would be achieved by legally regulated availability for adults.

We do need financial support for the campaign. It is an expensive business. We need cash for printing leaflets, organising events and even paying for petrol. Each time I travel to Corby it costs over £100 in petrol alone and we really need to be able to offer canvassers their travelling expenses. Please give what you can. Every fiver makes a difference. You can donate by clicking here.

So, with all these developments, are we any closer to reform?

We know beyond doubt that cannabis can be an effective medicine for a wide range of conditions. It is also, for adults, a very safe way of enhancing life, a pursuit that is inherent to human nature and deserves no criticism provided it is done responsibly.

Recreational and medicinal use are not separate things. There is a continuum where each merges into the other. The psychoactive, mood-changing effects of cannabis can help with illness and disability. Cannabis can also be regarded as a nutritional supplement. Endocannabinoid deficiency increasingly looks like a cause of many conditions and diseases. The fact is that cannabis is good for human beings in moderation and used responsibly. For those who need it as medicine it is sometimes a necessity and we must fight for these people however difficult it may be.

I do believe that we are moving towards reform and although I expect there will still be more setbacks, things could start moving very quickly, very soon.

As ever, CLEAR will continue to keep you informed and to fight for an end to prohibition. Please give what you can towards the Corby by-election campaign. You can also now order stickers, wrist bands and leaflets online.