16 Nov How to Respond to MPs’ Standard Approach on Cannabis

Andrea Gomes André Gomes

During the build-up to the cannabis debate that took place on Monday, 12th October, we asked CLEAR members to contact their Members of Parliament (MPs) to ensure their interests were properly represented.

Many of the responses received were much the same as we have been seeing for years.

There are standardised paragraphs used on the subject of cannabis, the same even from different parties. Besides the typically embellished and politically neutral answers, I have identified four recurring points that are perceived as strong evidence against cannabis legalisation (or even rescheduling). I have also compiled some evidence that anyone with internet access (including MPs, they are humans too!) can find:

1. Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) evidence provides “clear scientific evidence” for current drug policy.

  • ACMD reports have proven to not be clear in their decision-making, and their reports have frequently been ignored by the government: in 2004 cannabis became a class C drug, yet was moved into the B category against the ACMD’s recommendation.
    Drugs, Breaking the Cycle – Home Affairs Select Committee
  • Recently, the ACMD has stated that Theresa May’s Psychoactive Substances Bill is intrinsically unenforceable.
    The Guardian
  • The 2008 ACMD report on cannabis points out the “urgent need” for more information on cannabis use patterns; the ACMD acknowledges the lack of understanding from the consumer side as to why cannabis is being used.
    Cannabis: Classification and Public Health (ACMD)

    Any governmental attempts at regulating drugs in a prohibitionist mind-set have been resounding failures at reducing harm or reflecting public opinion. Although the ACMD is not concerned with medical use, cannabis’ reclassification would allow for greater tolerance of research.

2. “Cannabis in its raw form has no medicinal purposes“.

  • Research into the “entourage effect” shows how cannabis’ therapeutic effects are maximised through whole plant medicine. This can only be obtained by vaporising/smoking cannabis herb and concentrates which contain a variety of helpful cannabinoids and terpenes.
  • ‘Juicing’ raw cannabis has been proven from several sources to have medicinal healing benefits without getting the users “high”, which seems to be one of the issues with cannabis’ legalisation.
    Washington Post
    Leaf Science
  • Legalisation of the raw form of cannabis in some countries has allowed for further research into our endocannabinoid system and the development of drugs that would benefit the whole of society.

Medicinal cannabis in its raw form has been legalised in several states in the US as a form of additional treatment; it is an alternative that should be available for people to explore. It is not and should not be seen as a panacea; it would be unwise to ignore other treatments and replace it solely with the use of cannabis. Yet modern medicine has the duty of using all in its means to mitigate an individual’s pain and suffering. If pharmaceutical drugs such as Oxycontin or Adderall are so willingly prescribed and distributed, why can’t an alternative that is less harmful and/or addictive be used?

3. Generic statement on how Sativex is sufficient in responding to cannabis needs“.

  • Sativex is a flagship product that demonstrates how regulation can create a fully licensed and beneficial pharmaceutical product. However, it is extremely expensive and consequentially inaccessible product to many, and is wrongfully perceived by prohibitionists as a sufficient answer to the desires of medicinal cannabis patients. This product is used by a tiny minority, unlike the raw form of cannabis, which is used by over one million people medically, at least once per month.
  • Nonetheless, Sativex has had proven results in complementing multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and cancer pain relief .
  • Sativex is not recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in England, even though it has been given the green light in Wales.
    The Telegraph

    Market liberalisation would allow for more products to be available for patients, lowering prices and increasing customisation of treatment. The economic benefit that would arise from this regulated product would also benefit the country as a whole.
    CLEAR – Taxing the UK Cannabis Market

4. “UK approach to drugs is the prevention of use and rehabilitation above all. Young people are at most risk and must be protected“.

  • Colorado’s crime rate has halved since legalisation of cannabis and generated a surge of employment and revenue in legalised states.
  • A focus on education (especially at a youth level) that provides full information of both legalising and prohibiting arguments allows for younger people to make their own judgements instead of promoting thoughtless obedience. Reducing drug enforcement expenditure and re-directing efforts towards social and public health infrastructure has resulted in individual’s greater understanding of drugs and reasons for choosing not to use them.
    The Economist
  • The use of cannabis at a young age leading to lower IQ levels or brain size shrinkage has been disproved.
    Psychology Today
Portugal’s decriminalised drug system has demonstrated that a different approach for illegal substances can reduce the number of drug related social pathologies and general drug use (CATO). This point also stands on the frenzy of drug taking that is expected to occur after any relaxation of laws. But consistently that’s been seen to not be the case; total drug use fell in Portugal, and just because something is legal, doesn’t mean people will suddenly be convinced to use cannabis.

If your MP brings up any of these points, remind them that the truth is not as clear as they think it is; there is growing evidence that the War on Drugs has failed, and alternate drug systems help the country and its people more than prohibition. Logic and reason are our best tools to shape public opinion with cannabis, and we must use them wisely to refute these sensationalist claims.

André Gomes

André joined CLEAR as an intern in August 2015 and has been assisting us with the news feed, along with other projects, including the CLEAR database. He is Portuguese and currently studies Politics at the University of Bath.