12 Jun West Yorkshire Police, Cannabis, Politics And Misconduct

WYorks police logoIn a thinly disguised propaganda effort, setting out to demonise cannabis and cannabis users, West Yorkshire Police landed themselves in a great deal of trouble this week. A complaint has been submitted which will almost certainly have to be escalated to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

Clearly the police have a duty to enforce the law as it presently stands. However, they have no role nor any qualification to advise the public on matters of health or science. When they misinform the public, distort evidence and present a one sided view they are engaging in politics and that is forbidden under police regulations.

From Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Britain’s most senior police officer, to individual coppers speaking to local newspapers, this sort of propaganda, which amounts to misconduct, goes on virtually every day. It has to stop and CLEAR will not rest until it does.

It is not the police’s role to support a failed and irrational government policy by engaging in propaganda and those officers or police employees who do so must face the consequences.

—– Original Message —–
From: Peter Reynolds
To: [email protected]
Sent: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 5:58 PM
Subject: Complaint concerning West Yorkshire Police website

Dear Sirs,

I wish to make a complaint concerning material published on your website and the conduct of the police officers and staff responsible for it. The material is published at the following URLs:

‘Cannabis and Legal Highs Live Web Chat’ – http://www.westyorkshire.police.uk/drugswebchat

‘Cannabis and Legal Highs Live Web Chat – Additional Material’ – http://www.westyorkshire.police.uk/contact-us/online-discussions/cannabis-and-legal-highs-web-chat/cannabis-and-legal-highs-live-web-ch

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, of 42-46, Bethel Street, Norwich, NR2 1NR. For the purposes of correspondence, please contact me via email.

My complaint is that this webchat event and the material published about it is a propaganda exercise involving the distribution of inaccurate information which is false and misleading. This is apparently a deliberate strategy to extend the police’s role beyond law enforcement into politics and is in breach of schedule 1 of the Police Regulations 2003 which amounts to misconduct.

“A member of a police force shall at all times abstain from any activity which is likely to interfere with the impartial discharge of his duties or which is likely to give rise to the impression amongst members of the public that it may so interfere; and in particular a member of a police force shall not take any active part in politics.”

I have attached a schedule of the inaccurate and misleading information published.

I am a victim of this misconduct and the misuse of police resources to promote myth, prejudice and propaganda about cannabis and hatred of cannabis users as a social group. I am also acting on behalf of more than 20,000 registered supporters of CLEAR who are victims of this misconduct for the same reasons, particularly those who need cannabis as medicine for the treatment of conditions such as MS, Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, spinal injury, epilepsy and chronic pain.

The webchat itself was moderated in an entirely dishonest fashion. I know this because I and several members of CLEAR tried to participate in the discussion but our questions and comments were censored and ignored. Those very few questions that were published were answered inaccurately or evasively. The deliberate manipulation of the discussion was a political act.

In manipulating this webchat and publishing inaccurate and misleading information the officers and staff concerned have acted dishonestly, without integrity, fairness and impartiality. They have abused their powers and authority by making statements which, as police officers or staff, they know that the public is likely to believe without question. They have also acted in a way that discredits the police service and will undermine public confidence.

I accept that police officers have a duty to uphold the law as it presently stands, It is however entirely improper for them to engage in politicking, scaremongering, the promotion of myth, prejudice and propaganda. Neither should they have any role in providing health or scientific information,. The public are likely to be alarmed by the information published which is clearly intended to cause fear, consternation and hatred of cannabis users as a social group.

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.

Please acknowledge receipt of this email.

Yours faithfully,

Peter Reynolds

Complaint concerning West Yorkshire Police website
Schedule of inaccurate and misleading information
Peter Reynolds 12th June 2013

From ‘Cannabis and Legal Highs Live Web Chat’ – http://www.westyorkshire.police.uk/drugswebchat

Chris Joyce:

Good evening and welcome to the live web chat on the subject of ‘Cannabis and Legal Highs’. My name is Chris Joyce, the Force Crime Prevention Officer, and tonight I am joined by Helen McAuslane, a Public Health Specialist, and Bryan Dent the Force Drugs Co-ordinator for West Yorkshire Police. Are you worried about anyone you know who may be using Cannabis or other drugs? Are you aware of the health implications that Legal Highs could cause? We look forward to receiving your questions over the next hour or so.

Monday June 10, 2013 6:58

Ron:

What health implications do you associate with Cannabis and certain ‘legal highs’?

Monday June 10, 2013 6:58

Chris Joyce:

Hi Ron……the health implications associated with Cannabis tend to centre around mental health issues, for example – paranoia and anxiety, and there is some evidence to suggest more serious long-term mental health issues. There are also risks similar to those associated with smoking cigarettes, such as lung cancer and breathing difficulties. In respect of legal highs, there are a number of health implications around mental health and risks with increased heart rates and blood pressure. However, the big issue is that the long-term impact of legal highs on an individuals health are not yet known,

Monday June 10, 2013 7:03

This is highly selective information and contains nothing about the positive health benefits of cannabis as medicine or as a supplement to the body’s endocannabinoid system. These benefits are now well now well established in peer reviewed scientific evidence. Two good sources of such information are:

Emerging Clinical Applications For Cannabis & Cannabinoids. A Review of the Recent Scientific Literature 2000 – 2011, NORML, 2011. http://norml.org/component/zoo/category/recent-research-on-medical-marijuana

Granny Storm Crow’s Medical Marijuana List, 2013

/wp-content/previous/media/uploads/2013/03/Grannys-List-January-2013.pdf

The risks of smoking cannabis are far less than the risks of smoking cigarettes:

Tashkin et al 2006 http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=large-study-finds-no-link

Pletcher et al 2012 http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1104848

Publishing information only about the negative health implications of cannabis is a political act which amounts to misconduct.

Sue:

What can be done to help someone who has smoked cannabis all their adult life and won’t admit that it is causing a problem? Is it a Police issue?

Monday June 10, 2013 7:06

Chris Joyce:

Hi Sue…….it is a Police matter, as users keep the suppliers in business and associated criminality does affect whole communities across West Yorkshire. To get help for someone using Cannabis you could go to websites such as www.talktofrank.com where you can access additional information about free and confidential local services that are there to support the user.

Monday June 10, 2013 7:09

RP:

I trust you are going to address the damage (economic/social/personal) caused by Britain’s favourite ‘legal high’, alcohol. Certainly more harmful than cannabis.

Monday June 10, 2013 7:10

Chris Joyce:

Hi RP…….we certainly acknowledge that alcohol is a major issue in terms of the impact that it causes to both individuals and the wider community. Alcohol related issues do have an impact on health and the local economy. We do not wish to underestimate the problems associated with alcohol and we will definitely run a future web chat on this subject to discuss in more depth.

Monday June 10, 2013 7:13

dan:

do you believe that legal highs are more dangerous than cannabis

Monday June 10, 2013 7:13

Chris Joyce:

Hi Dan……..we definitely believe that Cannabis is harmful. The problem with legal highs is that there are many unknown ingredients and people are consuming such substances not knowing what they are taking. This makes legal highs potentially very dangerous.

Monday June 10, 2013 7:15

Sue:

I am concerned about my adult son who has been smoking cannabis since he was in his late teens and suffers from aggression and paranoia – he’s an intelligent man with a young family so do I have to stand back and watch my grandchildren and his wife suffer from his mood swings?

Monday June 10, 2013 7:17

Chris Joyce:

Hi Sue……..we’re extremely sorry to hear about the circumstances you have described and can fully understand your concerns. Your comments demonstrate some of the dangers associated with Cannabis use and the negative impact it has on your son and your wider family. As well as the talktofrank website, you could also talk to your GP in confidence and obtain further details on local services that can help your son and provide support for your family.

Monday June 10, 2013 7:20

Peter Reynolds:

Surely the actual risks of mental health problems with cannabis are tiny? According to NHS data alcohol is six times more likely to cause mental health problems.

Monday June 10, 2013 7:21

Chris Joyce:

Hi Peter…….we are not disputing the potential impact on mental health that alcohol can cause and we will run a web chat on alcohol concerns in the near future. It is well accepted that Cannabis has an adverse affect on the developing minds of young people and certain strains of Cannabis have a higher THC content that is potentially more harmful.

Monday June 10, 2013 7:24

James:

should drugs ever be a police issue? surely its a public health issue?

Monday June 10, 2013 7:26

Chris Joyce:

Hi James……..tackling the issue of drugs is a very complex matter that requires the involvement of several partner agencies, including law enforcement agencies, public health, local authorities and policy makers.

Monday June 10, 2013 7:27

Daniel Jones:

Some say that legal highs, and cannibis especially often lead on to ‘harder’ drugs. Is this born out by figures or is it more an urban myth to ‘put the kids off’?? Thanks, Daniel

Monday June 10, 2013 7:28

Chris Joyce:

Hi Daniel……..only a small percentage of Cannabis users go on to try harder drugs. Although, buying Cannabis may expose people to harder drugs and result in experimentation.

Monday June 10, 2013 7:30

Guest:

I have neighbours at back of me and my house smells of cannabis it’s coming throught the wall’s what do I do.

Monday June 10, 2013 7:30

Chris Joyce:

Hi Guest…….you could either dial 101 and report it directly to the Police, discuss this with your Neighbourhood Policing Team or if you wish to remain anonymous you can report the matter to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Monday June 10, 2013 7:31

Anonymous:

Our perceptions in Manningham are that drugs are rife but is this the case? We keep hearing from police of good success stories, is this making an impact into the problem and will it ever go away?

Monday June 10, 2013 7:33

Chris Joyce:

Hi Anonymous……….during 2012 West Yorkshire Police and partners agencies discovered 955 Cannabis Farms across the county, which has had a positive impact on many communities and in the disruption of the drugs trade. We continue to proactively address drugs issues and listen and act on the intelligence that communities provide.

Monday June 10, 2013 7:35

Peter Reynolds:

Many, many people use cannabis as medicine and it is now legal to do so in most of Europe and America. What is your view on this?

Monday June 10, 2013 7:36

Chris Joyce:

Hi Peter……..we are aware that certain European countries pursue a decriminilisation model and that certain States in the USA have a legalisation model. Here in the UK we work to the law set by the Government and as we chat Cannabis remains illegal.

Monday June 10, 2013 7:38

A:

How do you report a known drug dealer while remaining completely anonymous?

Monday June 10, 2013 7:39

Chris Joyce:

Hi A………if you would like to remain anonymous in reporting a drug dealer you should call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. We would encourage anyone to do this who may have such information.

Monday June 10, 2013 7:40

Prim:

I have seen people getting violently ill from legal highs. How can they be legal? cannabis is all natural and does not give such side effects. Alcohol can cause paranoia and mental problems, yet it is legal? ???

Monday June 10, 2013 7:41

Chris Joyce:

Hi Prim……..legal highs are substances which often mimic illegal substances and although they are legal they are indeed potentially very harmful. The legislation covering the Misuse of Drugs Act does not currently account for many of the large numbers of so called legal highs saturating the market.

Monday June 10, 2013 7:44

Blodwyn:

How do you propose to promote a harm reduction approach in relation to legal highs as the just say no method has been proven clearly not to work?

Monday June 10, 2013 7:44

Chris Joyce:

Hi Blodwyn………it’s important that everyone is fully informed of the health risks associated with legal highs. The easiest to protect from harm is to obviously not take any at all. The Leeds Club Drug Clinic provides a useful website with useful information on harm reduction – www.leedsclubdrugclinic.com – it also provides information on what to do in an emergency if someone has got into difficulties from taking such substances.

Monday June 10, 2013 7:49

Chris Joyce:

We are currently experiencing high levels of questions/comments and are attemtping to get through as many as possible…….thank you for your patience.

Monday June 10, 2013 7:51

Sid:

What do you do if you get sick of going out in your own garden and after suffer the smell from others from other houses smoking it, same when stepping out to work and throwing up cause some people’s smoking it, making people like us who gets headaches, heart pulpatations, heart rate starts to raise etc, then complain and be told they can smoke it in their own grounds. As a adult I think it’s orful and its affecting me and my kids too. This is every day and its also emotionally effecting us as a family. I’ve had people say my eyes are glazed, not surprised.

Monday June 10, 2013 7:52

Chris Joyce:

Hi Sid……..the use of Cannabis, whether in a private garden or a public street is illegal. it is illegal to possess Cannabis anywhere and you should have no hesitation in reporting this to the Police.

Monday June 10, 2013 7:54

Kate:

Are you going to acknowledge the fact that prescription drugs are far more harmful than cannabis?

Monday June 10, 2013 7:57

Chris Joyce:

Hi Kate…….any drug can be abused including prescription drugs if not taken as prescribed. It is acknowledged that any addiction can become harmful whether prescription or illegal substances.

Monday June 10, 2013 7:59

Chris Joyce:

We have been absolutely inundated with your questions and comments tonight and apologise for not been able to respond to all of them. We will review all unanswered questions tomorrow and post a summary update on the key themes on the Force website within the next 24 hours – www.westyorkshire.police.uk . Such has been the interest that we will repeat the web chat on the same subject area on Monday 17th June at 19.00. Many thanks for your contributions tonight, we very much appreciate it.

Monday June 10, 2013 8:13

From ‘Cannabis and Legal Highs Live Web Chat – Additional Material’ – http://www.westyorkshire.police.uk/contact-us/online-discussions/cannabis-and-legal-highs-web-chat/cannabis-and-legal-highs-live-web-ch

Cannabis and Legal Highs Live Web Chat – Additional Material

On Monday 10th June 2013 West Yorkshire Police hosted an online discussion on the subject of ‘Cannabis and Legal Highs’.

The event was hosted by Chris Joyce, the Force Crime Prevention Officer, Helen McAuslane, a Public Health Specialist, and Bryan Dent the Force Drugs Co-ordinator for West Yorkshire Police.

The full discussion can be viewed here however, there were additional points raised during the discussion that the hosts were unable to respond to due to the sheer volume of comments, and the range of subjects covered.

Below is an summary of some of the additional comments that were posted, and responses.

There were a number of questions last night regarding Alcohol.

The Police & partners all agree that alcohol causes serious harm to both individuals and West Yorkshire Communities. The police will probably concede that alcohol does cause as many harms to communities including harms to health as cannabis and legal highs. This does not mean that cannabis and legal highs are harmless – they are not – both substances cause harms along with alcohol.

This is a false statement which is grossly misleading. Hospital admissions for alcohol reached 1.2 million in 2012, admissions for cannabis were 1003. In 2012, according to NTA records, there were 108,906 people in treatment for alcohol and 15,194 for cannabis. There are vastly more harms associated with alcohol use in terms of violence and anti-social behaviour as well as health.

It is a matter entirely for the Government as to what substances are controlled by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. The government has made the decision that alcohol will not be included under the Misuse of Drugs legislation, but will be regulated and controlled in other ways.

The police and partners do work together to minimise the huge problems caused by alcohol. There are many schemes throughout the county which involve police working alongside partners to minimise harmful effects by those consuming alcohol. Most people do consume alcohol in a sensible way.

Police always take every opportunity to educate, especially young people about the dangers of alcohol.

In respect of Cannabis :

Medical cannabis is illegal in most countries including the UK, some governments allow for the use of low does synthetic cannabinoids for chronically ill patients.

This is a false statement. In Europe, only Ireland denies access to all forms of medicinal cannabis. Only the UK and Ireland deny access to herbal medicinal cannabis. Every other country in Europe permits doctors to prescribe herbal medicinal cannabis and under the Schengen Agreement residents of those countries may import up to three months supply into the UK and possess and use it without restriction.

Medicinal cannabis is also available in Israel and in 18 US states which include the majority of the US population.

Those who support the use of medical cannabis suggest it can be good for relieving symptoms associated with pain , including that associated with some cancers, nausea & vomiting, loss of appetite and weight loss and Multiple Sclerosis & other neurodegenerative disorders.

This is misleading and blatantly distorted for propaganda purposes. As referenced above, there is a vast quantity of peer reviewed research which does much more than ‘suggest’ medicinal benefits from cannabis.

Sativex is a licensed cannabis based medication which can be prescribed by a medical doctor for relief with spasticity symptoms associated with MS. It is a controlled drug which means that only those prescribed can legally possess Sativex.

This is a misleading statement. Sativex is an whole plant extract of cannabis which is pharmacologically identical to the cannabis plants from which it is made. Doctors may prescribe it for any condition that they see fit.

To possess cannabis is illegal.

This is misleading. British residents may possess Sativex if prescribed to them and EU residents may possess any form of cannabis prescribed to them.

In terms of should cannabis be legalised ? -this is a matter for Her Majesties Government. Cannabis is not a harmless substance which is why the Government has categorised it as a Class B drug.

There is a body of peer reviewed research available on cannabis :

Cannabis and Health

The Royal College of Psychiatrists (www.rcpsych.ac.uk) refer to several large studies that have looked at the links between cannabis use and mental health . There is a growing body of research that suggests there is a link between cannabis use and mental health problems and that this is particularly a problem for young people.

The types of mental health problems thought to be associated with cannabis use are:
• Depression
• Anxiety
• Schizophrenia

It has been suggested that this may be because people with mental health problems are more likely to use cannabis, however a large study of children in Australia found that children who had depression were not more likely to use cannabis than anyone else. They also found that young people who smoked cannabis daily were five times more likely to have depression and anxiety in later life .

A paper published in 2008 by the Lancet medical journal reports a Swedish study that followed 50,465 Swedish men over 15 years and found that those who had used cannabis frequently before the age of 18 years were nearly two and a half times more likely to be diagnosed with Schizophrenia . The same paper reports that the evidence of effects the found relating to depression is mixed but this may be because the published trials are of poor quality rather than because there isn’t a link.

Mental health problems associated with cannabis use seem to particularly be an issue for young people, which is thought to be due to the brain still developing.

Other health impacts of regular and or heavy cannabis use include:
• Impaired cognitive function
• Reduced ability to learn
• Reduced motivation
• Ill health associated with smoking such as smoking and heart disease
• Increased road traffics accidents if the individual drives after using

RoyalCollege of Psychiatrists. Cannabis and Mental Health.http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/expertadvice/problemsdisorders/cannabis.aspx (accessed 10th June 2013)
Patton G et al. Cannabis use and mental health in young people: cohort study (2002) British Medical Journal, 325:1195-1198.
Hall W, Degenhardt L. Adverse health effects of non – medical cannabis use (2009). Lancet. 374 (9698) 1383 – 91

Once again, this is highly selective cherry picking of evidence for propaganda purposes. This is the police engaging in politics and is misconduct.

The scientific evidence about cannabis and mental health is:

1. Hickman et al, 2009. A review of all published research so, by definition, not cherry picked. It shows that the risk of lifetime cannabis use correlating with a single diagnosis of psychosis is at worst 0.013% and probably less than 0.003%.

2. Hospital Episode Statistics. Count of finished admission episodes (FAE) with a primary diagnosis of mental and behavioural disorders due to use of cannabinoids (ICD10 code F12) and alcohol (ICD10 code F10)

Cannabinoids (F12)

2009-10 713

2010-11 799

Alcohol (F10)

2009-10 47,402

2010-11 47,287

Source: Hospital Episode Statistics (HES), The NHS Information Centre for health and social care.

There are three million regular users of cannabis (Atha et al 2011) and 31 million regular users of alcohol (NHS Information Centre 2009). Therefore alcohol use is six times more likely to result in admission for mental and behavioural disorders.

3. Frisher et al 2009. The ACMD commissioned a study by Keele University into the trends in schizophrenia specifically to test the claims in the media of a link between it and cannabis. It looked at almost 600,000 patients and concluded that “..the incidence and prevalence of schizophrenia and psychoses were either stable or declining” despite alleged increased use of allegedly more potent cannabis.

The Police cannot condone people purchasing illegal cannabis in the belief that the cannabis will improve their medical condition. As has been previously referred to there are prescription drugs available containing Sativex – this has to be obtained through a medical practitioner, not be obtaining it in the illegal form.

Every area in the West Yorkshire area have drug treatment agencies which can offer support to family’s who have members who consume cannabis. Click onto ‘ Talk to Frank ‘ on www.talktofrank.com & click onto ‘ find support near you ‘ to enter your postcode – this will display help/support near to you. There are medical services geared up to assist cannabis users and their families.

One participant in last nights chat states that there have been no deaths from cannabis use, inferring that it should be legalised. Whilst there may be no deaths directly caused by cannabis consumption – this does not mean cannabis is harmless – it is harmful.

From the adverse health effects caused by cannabis – deaths will have occurred where cannabis has been an indirect contributory factor.

Once again, this is misleading and clearly intended to cause alarm. It has no basis in evidence. The NHS document, ‘A summary of the health harms of drugs.’ confirms “no cases of fatal overdose have been reported, no confirmed cases of human deaths”. Attempting to distort this evidence is a political act and amounts to misconduct.

http://www.nta.nhs.uk/uploads/healthharmsfinal-v1.pdf

It is really difficult to attribute deaths directly with one particular drug, drug users often use other drugs at the same time, including alcohol and many drug users have often other health issues which impacts on their general well being and health . So I do not accept that just because there has been no recorded direct deaths from cannabis that it should be legalised. All evidence suggests that cannabis is unhealthy and causes harm to people.

It is absolutely false to state “All evidence suggests that cannabis is unhealthy and causes harm to people.” As referenced above there is a vast quantity of evidence that shows cannabis promotes good health and homeostasis.

THC content of cannabis has increased significantly over the past decade and now is regularly recorded between 18% & 23% – which impacts on the mental health of the cannabis user.

In respect of Legal Highs :

The problems with legal highs are that people who consume them do not know the contents of the substance they are ingesting. A number of legal highs do have different effects on different people, especially when they are consumed alongside other drugs including alcohol. The effects on some people can be disastrous and indeed lethal.
Just because they are legal to purchase does not mean they are safe to consume. Another problem with legal highs is that no one has any real idea if they are a gateway drug, or what the long term effects will be.

Just because they are not illegal, does not make them safe and some are undoubtedly as dangerous as illegal substances – which the legal highs are produced to mimic.

It is true that young people can receive conflicting messages regarding legal highs – this is why we work with our partners to give accurate information about substances and always state that although they can be purchased legitimately they can have dangerous side effects.

By giving these messages out with our partners we hope that we are making West Yorkshire a safer place and that people will feel safer too.