03 Jul HASC Drugs Inquiry. Cannabis Is Not the Same As Heroin!

The latest session of oral evidence was mainly about drugs in prisons although the final witness was Ken Clarke MP, the Lord Chancellor and Minister for Justice. His astonishing attitude that “we are losing the war on drugs” but that he’s not prepared to consider an alternative approach is very disappointing. See here for The Independent’s coverage.

Clarke had a reputation as a libertarian but clearly he’s grown out of that. His remarks were just ridiculous. Many politicians are frustrating about their attitude to the drugs debate but I’m sad to say that Ken Clarke must now go down simply as stupid.

All in all, it was a pretty turgid session which you can watch here from 12:22 onwards. At 12:36:30 Keith Vaz makes a very strange remark about cannabis which exposes how very little he understands.

I have written to Mr Vaz again. I will continue to monitor the inquiry and represent the interests of CLEAR members and supporters.

Dear Mr Vaz,

I continue to follow the inquiry closely both personally and on behalf of the members of CLEAR.

I was concerned at your remarks during today’s session about cannabis and prisons. Forgive me but it appeared to show a lack of understanding about cannabis.

I believe that cannabis is not a problem in prisons. Most cannabis has a very strong and distinctive smell so is very easy to detect. The idea that prisoners could get away with smoking it in their cells is unlikely. Also, since drug testing was introduced I believe one of the great problems with drugs in prison is that those who might have used cannabis have started to use heroin or crack cocaine. This is because urine or blood testing can detect cannabis for several weeks after use whereas heroin or cocaine is undetectable within 48 hours. This is because heroin and cocaine are toxic to the body and so are excreted quickly. Cannabinoids, on the other hand, are substances that occur naturally within the body and are compatible with our biochemistry so they are not excreted as quickly.

This highlights a fundamental issue which is of even greater concern. All drugs are not the same. Indeed cannabis cannot be compared to any other drug that is “controlled” under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (MoDA). It is, in fact, a combination of over 400 ingredients including cannabinoids, terpines and flavonoids whereas all other drugs are just one compound. Also, no other drug has the same wide range of proven therapeutic applications.

It is simply unrealistic, impractical and inappropriate to seek to control cannabis in the same way as other dangerous, harmful and addictive substances.

in turn, this highlights another point which I have already made but which needs urgent attention. Not one word has been mentioned about the medicinal use of cannabis even though the reality of this is now recognised by a huge amount of scientific evidence, the Sentencing Council and the Appeal Court. It will be a serious failure if the inquiry fails to take evidence and consider this important subject.

Finally, I refer once again to your own words: “Hearing from those personally affected by drugs use is essential to our inquiry”. Where then is the evidence from the millions of British citizens who use cannabis non-problematically, particularly the hundreds of thousands who use it as medicine?

If you wish, I could assemble a representative group of cannabis users, both medicinal and recreational, to give evidence to the inquiry. Please let me know if this would be helpful.

Kind regards,

Peter Reynolds