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Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Cannabis Law Doesn't Affect You? - Sure?

Citations from video:


Peter Reynolds
Sarah Martin
Left Foot Forward
Ewan Hoyle
Nuff Said

Reform Sites:

Drug Equality Alliance
Independent Scientific Community on Drugs
The Beckley Foundation
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
Students for Sensible Drug Policy
Lib Dems for Drug Policy Reform
Drug Policy Alliance


UK spending £19billion on the "War on Drugs"
Wootton Report 1968
Shafer Report 1972
Estimating Drug Harms, A Risky Business
Cannabis Classification and the Public Health 2008
The Beckley Foundation, Cannabis, Moving Beyond Stalemate 2010
The Classification of Cannabis Under the MDA 1971 2002
Peter Lilley; Cannabis, a Conservative Case for Change 2001
The LeDain Commission Report 1970
The Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illict Drugs 1972
Cannabis, Our Position for Canadian Public Policy 2002
Cannabis in Costa Rica: A Study of Chronic Marihuana Use 1980
Ganja in Jamaica: A Medical Anthropological Study of Chronic Marihuana Use 1975
The La Guardia Committee Report 1944
Lancet Harm Scale
*Quote from 2006; HM Government Evidence Session, Drug Classification: Making A Hash Of It?
*List of reformers at Transform

£800million spent on Alcohol Advertising:
Source 1
Source 2

The Union; The Business Behind Getting High film

Dr. Lester Grinspoon, Professor Emeritus of Harvard Medical School;
His Site; Marijuana Uses

*Pathways to Problems Report

*Liberal Democrats for Drug Policy Reform poll: 70% wish for regulation

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Proposition 19 & the Wild West

So, Proposition 19 has been and gone and the road to marijuana regulation was missed by the Californian populace.  Some may see this as a loss for harm reduction and regulation, and without wishing to sound like a dribblerly politician who emphatically pronounces victory as he cleans out his desk and pets the office fish one last time before being removed forcibly from office;

“I told you I won!  Please let me stay, just for one more day?”

“No, but here’s your fish.  Enjoy.”

…this is by no means a step back in the effort for regulation.  To understand why, you have to understand the “cannabis fraternity” of America.  The situation in the UK and California are leagues apart, we’re humming on the same issues, but we are not whistling the same tunes.

The UK is now firmly the proverbial wild west with cannabis in a literal sense, it has become as feral as prohibition America in the 1920's, we have the same degree of gang involvement, (although maybe not as high profile but no less dangerous) and we have the same by-products of the health fallout and distinct lack of health education. Not to mention the crucial point of quality control on the substance itself.

In California, and North America in general, marijuana is not the enigma that the UK still loosely tries to portray.  The substance is so mainstream that all other arguments in the debate are futile.  The stance of “It’s here, it's prevalent, how are we to deal with it” is now the full debate.  This is also true of the UK, but we still chose our best King Canute act.

For decades, California has been the unofficial home of marijuana, and its leap into medicinal cannabis was somewhat abused.  Many true medical campaigners, although pleased access was granted to non toxic mediation, many felt that the Californian model didn’t do any favours for anyone but the actual state itself.  Todd McCormick, (a prolific figure amongst medicinal cannabis campaigners who served 5 years in prison despite defeating numerous different cancers with cannabis) spoke of the mockery of the Californian model recently.  The ease and malaise of the prescribing doctors of California may have diminished respect for the true issue of medical use.  This is purely the result of a lazy attempt of regulation due to the politics that inevitably run alongside of the subject.  It’s also worth noting that indolent regulation has not fully appeased the gang problems of California.

The reason the marijuana proposition was not passed is not due to a left and right issue of political gesticulation, it’s not based on health and related campaigns, it was based purely on who gets control of cannabis and the profits.  When the Tea Party and Sarah Palin (perhaps one of the furthest right in the U.S) back the regulation of cannabis, you know this is no longer a battle of politics, this is a battle in capitalistic terms.

Abstainers of the vote included:

The student vote who didn’t care one way or another, being de facto legal anyway, they did not see it as any degree of change.

Then we have the actual cannabis community; feeling protective over the plant due to the rocky history with politics and big business, saying no to prop 19 was a vote for personal empowerment and to deflect big business away from marijuana.  Proposition 19 was also seen as path that would directly effect product quality detrimentally, and consequently, health.  The whole debate was indeed turned on its head and fragmented.  When viewed from the polls of 46.2% for - 53.8% against, this paints one picture, but when on the ground and embroiled in the issue, the disjointed cannabis community were the breakers of Prop 19 - it was seen as not good enough by a weighty portion of voters.  Not to mention a conflict of interest for existing cash croppers.

Cannabis in California and North America tends to be viewed cheekily and many users are blazon in their use, celebrity culture also surrounds cannabis.  Marijuana is talked about openly, and therefore, is not feared and perspective has been reached on responsibility of user.  Although many would not consider marijuana a problem in North America, the fragmented laws and lack of regulatory consistency may be the point of contention and harm.

Comparing the UK to this, and the distinct lack of understanding due to the cries of “heretic” any time it's up for discussion and debate, the consequences are tragically inventible.  We have entered the dark ages, and as said, the UK is now the wild west.  Due to the UK’s totalitarian ethic with cannabis, information has been the casualty.

What is the specific difference between California and the UK?  Well, to know cannabis is to know how to reduce potential harm.  Basic emplacements are needed.  In essence, California have a quasi age check system through their less than perfect model, and any user will be aware of simple factors;

  • Dosage
  • What strain (there are thousands)
  • What THC and CBD content
  • Harvesting traits
  • Ingestion methods and potency therein.

If you do not know these factors, then you do not know cannabis; therefore, you should not ingest.  I ask, how many in the UK are actually aware of these simple measures?  California, to a degree, have always had this baseline knowledge, and certainly have with their current existing system.

It is also interesting how we talk of the same subject with our American cousins, but each country has differing media weapons.  The UK focuses mainly on the word “psychosis” whereas America’s version is that marijuana kills brain cells, this is mainly due to the Rupert Heath study on monkeys in 1974.  [8 minutes in]

The Heath study turned out to be a tragic exercise in trying to make the facts fit the picture as opposed to the actuality of scientific study; the monkeys tested were starved of oxygen to achieve the desired and decisive result.  Pseudo-science is transatlantic.

So, it is a strange world we live in where social perspectives are awry from all manner of outlooks, California rejected a model of regulation due to it not being good enough while the UK adopt the burying of the head stance.  Neither are perfect, but at least the former model of California addresses personal harms of users and abates accordingly - and dare I say it - act as grown ups.  Whereas the UK’s method of full and undulated prohibition adds exponentially to the potential harm.

If there is one thing that can be agreeable, it is that big business should not get a hold or be involved in cannabis, this is not a wise move for anyone.  So, proposition 19 has failed, and for some strange angles of reason; unless of course, we negate the power of the alcohol lobby… I wonder.  I wonder...

One thing is for sure though, when the UK paper - The Daily Mail - put out a well reasoned, logical and progressive piece for regulation, you know change is coming.  The lessons to be learned from California is to get regulation right and you won’t have to mop up the insidious loose ends of half measures.

Perhaps Britain is set to lead the way after all...

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Although I'm Not One For Posting Videos...

... I think I better post this one.  Especially given my dialogue with the Home Office, and moreover, the Schedule 1 rating of cannabis (meaning it is deemed of no medical value to the Government).

(Excuse my embedding skills, I did warn you I was as accomplished with web stuff as a pigeon after a beating, I can peck and coo, but that's your lot)

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Good News & Bad News; Part 2

To pick up where I lucidly left off, in part one of this tale, I spoke of how events conspired against me and how with a healthy self-awareness I was fully aware of my portrayal of image; I was about to step foot into my doctor’s appointment to see if I was sans liver.  Had prescription drugs led me to an early grave?

I had sweated on the harms prescribed medication for decades, the culmination of paranoia was to hit me all at once as I ambled down the lengthening corridor.  On the other side of this doctor’s appointment I was either going to receive a new lease of life or I was to face my demons down like an angry farmer with a shotgun and special brew cocktail.

Thoughts fly while rationality fleas.  The mind raced:

“Pull yourself together Jason, take it how it comes.”  I mumble internally on the broken mantra.  Then, untamed thoughts take over; I didn’t want to face surgery, I didn’t have the pyjamas for one thing.  What if I needed dialysis?  The mind takes over like a feral beast with the horn:

“Right Jason.”  My mind starts to rattle in my head and I subliminally talk to myself, “Roll call, who’s present for this appointment?; Rationality?  Hmm, it’s weak but present.  Fear?  Check.  Terror?  Very present.  Poise?  Poise?  Anyone seen poise?  As I thought, awol.  How about… a sense of calm?  No, that left some months ago didn't it.  OK, please tell me a serene sense of perspective has turned up?  No no, that eloped with poise, now I remember.  So, just fear and terror are present.  Good good.”

If you can’t follow the inner workings of my mind, just know I was as scared as a drummer when faced with a proper musical instrument, I knew what I had to do, but I was just not equipped to deal with the situation.

Knock Knock:  “Come in Jason”  The appointment was off to a good start, right until I broke out in a terminal sweat and went the best shade of red this side of a Dutch “special” district.  Fear was tangible and lodged in my throat.

“So Doctor, what’s the score, am I giving my best to Elvis anytime soon?”

“Jason, you’re ok, results are good, you've nothing to worry about.”

Try and fathom the weight that was  - not only lifted - but flew from my shoulders.  It was comparable to angels on my epaulettes, a true feeling that will not be forgotten.  Perspective can be obtained from moments like this, life has a funny way of grounding you and making you appreciate what really matters.

“So, Jason, would you like to try anti depressants?”

“But, I’m not depressed Doctor, I’ve just had a bit of a rough ride lately.”

I could not very well pour over the details to the doctor of how I am locked in a literal battle with my own government, this would not endear me to any sane person.  Especially, given the fact… I had to broach the subject - THE subject.

“Jason, they’re muscle relaxants, they could help you seeing as you’ve dwindled your painkillers down completely.”

“Well, actually doctor, seeing as you’ve mentioned it, have I got your complete confidence in this appointment?”

“Of course Jason.”

I trust this doctor, even though this is my second time of seeing him, he had displayed more understanding than most of my previous Doctors; I am almost sure I saw a Dr. Shipman once.

“Well Doctor, I have found something that is a literal miracle and helps me more than I can say.”

The doctor shifted in his seat, did he think I was some new super chemist that had discovered a cure for CFS?  No, he knew where I was going…

“Oh right.”

“Yes Doctor, please know I do know what I am talking about, I’ve studied this inside out and have been in contact with the leading professors in this field.”

I can feel myself stumbling, my wile mind decides to break down once more, knowing I am desperate to make a good impression, it decides to vacate and leave a cymbal clapping chimp in its stead:

“Honestly, I know what I’m talking about Doctor, I take cannabis.”

It was at this point I heard a crash of thunder and 1920’s radio play suspense music.  I had outed myself once and for all.

“Oh.  I see.”  the Doctor said while tapping computer keys at his desk.  A brief spell of silence began to deafen me.  Like any compulsive talker who is afraid of silence, the mouth engaged… the mind didn’t:

“Yes, doctor, have you heard of Dr. Lester Grinspoon; Professor Emeritus of Harvard Medical School? My first port of call when name dropping.  Argue with me?  Sure.  Argue with Dr. Grinspoon?  Best of luck.

“No, who’s he, is he in this country?”

Damn it!  Denied, my GP was decidedly un-bowled over.

“How about Professor Nutt?”

“And he is?”  

“Come on Doctor, you don’t know Professor Nutt?  The sacked government adviser?”

“He was sacked?”

Well, thank you very much Professor Nutt, way it go to speak the truth, talk of science, and get thrown out of a democratic position of influence.  Thanks for that, lot of good you’ve done me today.

Last ditch effort:

“Ok Doctor, how about Dr. Ben Goldacre?”  Dr. Ben is always a good one to reach for when dispelling cannabis pseudo-science.

“Is he a specialist?  When did you see him Jason?”

“He writes for the newspapers and stuff.”  Even as I said this I could fully understand the image of madness I was portraying.  My “special friends” where an American professor, a sacked government adviser and a man who writes for the newspapers.  I may as well said I knew Captain Jack Sparrow, Jerome from off the telly and Jeremy Beadle.  Strike one.

“The point is Doctor, I’ve not stumbled into cannabis lightly, I’m well burst on the subject.”

“Well, we’ve only got 4 minutes left Jason so I can’t get too far into this.”

Ok, quick, find the most eyebrow raising facts and myth busting  material you can muster - this is what ran through my mind.  Unfortunately, what came out of my mouth was something to the effect of:

“Cannabis.  Um.”

THINK YOU MAD MAN THINK!  What was I doing?!  Come on Jason, you practically do this for a living now… wheel out something, anything, you can do it:

“… Don’t worry doctor; To prevent one case of psychosis, it would be necessary to stop at least 2,800 men aged 20 to 24 from smoking the drug heavily, or 4,700 men aged 35 to 39. For women, it would be necessary to dissuade at least 5,470 smokers in the younger age group, or at least 10,870 in the older one.

For light cannabis use, a single case of psychosis would be prevented only if more than 10,000 young men or nearly 30,000 young women were to stop smoking the drug.”

It would be nice to have a copy and paste feature in the cerebral cortex, but as I am without this facet, (and possibly will be until the robots invade) I unfortunately didn’t muster this great statistic.  Once more, I was let down as I murmured something about young men.  Then, some old rhubarb about smoking, what was I doing?!  I was arguing with myself!  I knew this.  WHY?!  I loath myself, I truly do.  I was but one step away from setting up my own prohibitionist website right there in the surgery.  Why was I doing this?  Strike two.  Over to my partner, I’ll let her field one as I am in breakdown.

“Doctor?”  My partner started.  Thank you, finally I can give myself a break and plan the self-flagellation that I truly deserved.  She continues, “I’ve seen Jason recover and achieve a standard of living unparalleled on cannabis, it really works and, although I would never tell you your job, cannabis is so much more than the news headlines that dictate perspective in this country.”  She was doing well bless her, knock one out the park for me Babe.  She continued, “For example, when he was on just painkillers, he had no standard of living, with cannabis, he can actually live!  And, it’s not going to kill him.  Plus, over the last few weeks, he’s been in his room until the late afternoon…” It was at this point the sirens went off in my head once more; I had just admitted to using cannabis, and my girlfriend had outed me as being in my room for long periods of time.  THANKS BABE!  Nice one.  Good work.  I jump in quick to retrieve the wild thread of conversation:

“That’s because my parent’s place is open house, I need to have rest and quietude for when I’m working on things and in study.  I’m not IN my room per se, I’m merely using it as an office.”

“Jeremy Kyle?”  The doctor asked with head on the tilt.

“NO!  I don't watch that.  And I’m not on FaceBook either!”  Great, can I get me a stereotype?  Yes, yes I can.

So, within ten minutes I had gone from grounded & studied individual who loved to learn and milk life for what little I can get out it, all the while I tackle my government head on, to a drop out layabout who loves to watch narcissistic talk show hosts with a penchant for lie detectors.  A text book appointment.  Strike three.

And then came the killer blow, the doctor spoke hurriedly as my time was up:

“Relax Jason, I will have to put this on your records, I won’t put that you watch Jeremy Kyle though…”

“I bloody don’t!  I watch BBC Parliament.  Honest.”

“Sure you do, anyway Jason, I will have to put on your notes that you use cannabis.  Is that OK?”

“That’s fine doctor.”  It was at this point I saw a giant word on the pc monitor, my notes were in full view, like a moth to a beacon, I read the word:


Perfect, you couldn’t write this stuff.  I’m in the doctors office, having a breakdown due to thinking I was going to die or lose my liver.  I have just had a mini breakdown in the form of a verbal fit, my girlfriend just outed me as a recluse who lives in a cupboard until early evening, and I have the word Anxiety emblazoned on my medical notes.  I could see the cannabis headlines already.  Then came the hammer blow:

“I know plenty of other patients that use cannabis, Jason, it helps them also.  The only real concern with it is the mental health issue.”  Seeing as I fielded that one already, I was sitting confident and was beginning to relax.  The Doctor finished,  “Jason, the other patients I know that use cannabis do not concern me with the mental health aspect… but you, it does concern me.”  

Crushed.  Like a juggernaut into my chest, this hurt.  I have never, EVER had my faculties questioned.  My loved ones hold a confidence and respect for my mind, it’s the only part of me that seems to not be broken, but in ten minutes of this doctor’s appointment I was all set to star in the remake of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, only with more pants and less cohesion.  I didn’t even bother to try and come back from this, once the onus of insanity is placed, there is not a single thing that you can do to come back from that, every action and reaction will take on connotations of madness simply through being.  This is, perhaps, not a coincidence of cannabis as a contested issue.  The one weapon that is wielded on cannabis is the psychosis issue, the madness, the insanity.  So, how does one ever clear a name from this folly of absurdity?  You don’t, you can’t.  You can speculate madness far easier than you can prove sanity, place a label, and outlooks will conform - stigma will forever linger - no matter how much proof is presented to the contrary.

So,  I left the appointment with relief in one hand and self-loathing in the other.  My doctor was good though, and I do really like him.  He also promised to look up Dr. Lester Grinspoon, this was all I could ask for all things considered.  I did briefly ponder that although law may change, will stigma and stereotype follow suit, or is that to be another battle entirely?  Will hyperbole ever rescind enough for a fair trial of cannabis in the UK?

I did walk out with a new lease of life though, this is perhaps the most important thing.  I had had to address an early demise, so, perspective has been reached and clarity of thought is certainly apparent.  With this said, and with my life addressed as fragile - as indeed all life is - I am fully prepared to fight for what I believe in, life’s too short to hold back.  All or nothing.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

An Open Letter & Reply to the Home Office - (& an appeal to the UK)

(UPDATE 09/10/10- Within a week, this blog has had nearly 6000 hits.  Thank you all so much; your word of mouth is working!  Please know this means so much to so many of us.  Please keep up the good work, we've a way to go yet.  You're all hailed as heroes I assure you.  Yours humbly, Outlaw- Jason)

In a response to a letter of mine, the Home Office has reiterated the Government’s position of medicinal cannabis users: "not in the public interest".  Below is my open reply to the Home Office.

Myself and other medical campaigners receive little recognition.  We are the cause that doesn’t need donations of money, we simply need a contribution of united noise.

In a Charge of the Light Brigade moment, and like a badger chewing on its own leg in desperation to escape a trap, I emotively ask my fellow countrymen to address if we are of public interest?  I invest my faith in the UK, please, make a noise for us.

If you would support myself, or an M.S sufferer, a cancer patient who can actually get through chemotherapy with a better standard of living, an AIDS patient, we are all real, behind closed doors and classed as outlaws.  We are at risk of 5 years imprisonment for using what is comparatively the safest and most effective medication for us.  Please address this archaic law.  Email, forward, tweet, blog, FaceBook, YouTube, write, - please - just go to bat for us?

We're not Outlaws, we're simply suffering.  If you do support this plight, become one with us, stand up, be an Outlaw too.

#decriminaliseUK          #imanoutlaw

An Open Letter and Reply to the Home Office.

Thank you for your reply on behalf of the Deputy Prime Minister dated 17th September; subject matter - the medicinal cannabis users of the UK.

I have suffered debilitating illness since the age of 8, I’ve largely been housebound for the duration.  I have taken the pharmaceutical route with some trepidation over this period.  My case is not uncommon, there is a large proportion of society that suffers from M.S, AIDS, Cancer, CFS, M.E, Fibromylagia, Arthritis and many other ailments that are also left in the wilderness with treatments.  The human costs of the current law regarding medicinal cannabis users is still not resonating in the UK it would seem.  Many of the pharmaceuticals prescribed are as detrimental to health as they are of benefit.  I can unfortunately play full testament to this; it is with some irony I received the Home Office’s reply at this time.  I have just undergone tests to see if my liver is still functioning.  The heavy years of prescribed medication have taken a toll on my body.  I will spare the futile attempt of describing what it is like to address your own mortality and how this also effects the loved ones around you.  This is my personal pound of flesh to cannabis prohibition.

Although I would never be so crass to insinuate I represent the thousands of medicinal users of cannabis in the UK, I do try and advocate a collective period of reflection on their behalf.  The UK still remains a country that upholds democratic ideals, it is for society to decide what is fair and moral, and it is this vein I reply to the Home Office’s letter.  I ask; is the current law ethically correct?

The Home Office’s reply said: “The Government’s message is that cannabis is a harmful drug that should not be used.”  However, I would like to point out that this is a message that the Government cannot pertain to or back up with factual evidence.  This statement simply remains a “message”.  It is also worth noting that it has not gone amiss that (due to recent news events) the Home Office website has amended its comments with regards to cannabis harm, the website reiterated the Government’s point but no longer can this message be found on the Home Office’s website due to a swift edit.

At no point can the comparative harms of cannabis be used as damning evidence against it, when looked at in conjunction with other controlled and non controlled substances - and prescribed medications- cannabis is a largely benign substance that rates low in harm.  The harms that do come from cannabis are mostly due to abuse and the humanistic traits that come from this, when used responsibly and respected, the comparative harms of cannabis are negligible and this needs to be remembered.

In my own personal comparative harms scale, the pharmaceuticals that I have been prescribed outweigh cannabis exponentially.  As long as I use cannabis responsibly, (which is comparatively easy to achieve) I will suffer little to no consequence.  Like many medical users, I vaporise and limit my intake where I can so it remains an effective source of pain relief and solace.  Under current law, I am not credited with sense to titrate even though the prescribed drugs I have taken for 20 years are highly addictive and high in tolerance building.  Cannabis cannot pertain to anywhere near a similar level of tolerance, addiction, harms or toxicity.  Although I seem to have escaped this period of time with my life and liver, the same will not be true for many others in our democratic community.  If just one more person has to suffer due to this current law, then I propose it is not beneficial to society in any way.

The Home Office has explained the terms of obtaining a cannabis/hemp cultivation & possession licence:  “It can only be issued for research or other special purposes, provided that the Home Secretary is of the opinion it is in the public interest to do so.”

I would like to ask how I apply for a licence as I would like to submit an application.  My research is on going - and it is a simple equation - I am saving my own life in literal terms by using cannabis.  I have explored all options in my battle with illness and have spent a merry fortune on therapies as most of us have in this position, cannabis is the most effective method by a considerable margin, this is the message the Government needs to accept, and this is a message that most of the world has listened to.  I feel my case would also fall under the “Special Purpose” clause of obtaining a licence.  Is there a greater purpose than to ease suffering and to preserve life?  Are the lives of the disabled and suffering of public interest?

I am more than aware the apathy that has surrounded medicinal cannabis users in the UK, it is a plight that myself and other medical campaigners are having to fight with very little support.  We look to other countries and the public support that has been invested; America, Canada, a large proportion of Europe, they have all had weighty champions, public figures and media interest with regards to their infirm and cannabis.  An amnesty has been granted and many other countries have stepped up to the plate for the victims of this prohibition, but the UK has yet to step up to the crease; the consequence of this is that we, as noisemakers, are left with ever more increasingly desperate pleas.  

As stated in the Home Office’s reply, it is worth noting that cannabis has indeed been a schedule 1 drug in the UK for many years, this means: “Of no medical value”.  It is curious that the Home Office goes on to recommend Sativex, a spray derived from the plant.  Is it not an oxymoron that a schedule 1 substance is classified as having no medical value only for licensed drug to be made almost entirely from this plant?

The succinct reply to the recommendation of Sativex is that (mixed with the long and intrusive procedure that the Home Office have outlined that I would need to go through) it is notable that a near blanket boycott of Sativex has been in force in the UK with M.S sufferers (the intended recipients of Sativex) having increasingly lengthy battles to obtain this drug.  I stand little chance.  Also, I would like to point out that if I was to obtain Sativex, it will be at a cost to the NHS of £125 per spray, this equates to around £11 a day.  My autonomy with cannabis is of no cost to anyone but myself.

An overlooked point is the benefits of the therapy that comes with growing your own medication.  The peace of mind, the knowledge base and the quietude of gardening is a serene and helpful process in itself.  By cultivating one’s own medication, you can tailor strains for needs, ensure a source free from street contaminates that have been a result of prohibition, and sever criminal ties.  The increase of punitive measures from severing ties with the criminal element serves only to oppress and endanger further. 

On a very brief note with regards to my questioning of the comparisons of alcohol and cannabis in the Misuse of Drugs Act, The Home Office has said that alcohol falls outside the framework of control due to historical reasons.  Indeed, I know this also, the Freedom of Information acts that can be readily found and obtained proclaim that the Government actually have no scientific reasoning for the juxtaposed position of cannabis and alcohol, but the status quo will remain, simply due to cultural and historical reasons.  Please address how this makes those of us with disabilities feel when we are not allowed any degree of standard of living for no actual good reason.  This alone is another brand of mental anguish that is hard to relay.

A final noteworthy point is the current policy on the “Legal High” ban.  The Government has acknowledged the detrimental consequences of the criminalisation of those found in possession of legal highs, in essence, a decriminalisation process is in effect.  Is this a fair society where experimental substances carry no penalty to the individual, and yet those of us who need a fairly benign substance just so we can get through a day without pain or get a night’s sleep still face 5 years imprisonment?  The Government clearly accepts that decriminalisation has public benefits, so why do we receive no such clemency?  

As medical campaigners who try and raise awareness on this to little avail, I ask one more time for the criminalisation of the disabled and suffering of the UK to be addressed seriously.  A simple decriminalisation is the very least the UK can offer at the current time.  We still risk prosecution in its entirety, as do families and loved ones who simply allow us under their roofs.  It is fair to say prison would all but kill me, I dare say the same can be said for a M.S and cancer patients.  Invariably, we cannot afford the monetary fines either.  

As an adult and citizen, it is my choice and decision to measure the harms and draw conclusions accordingly to my lifestyle, I have taken these decisions with a great deal of time and study.  The government’s message that cannabis is harmful is factually flawed and is of little consequence to the individual who is in mortal combat with the hand that fate has handed them; cannabis is a miracle in real terms for the individual.  It is however the Government’s mandate to take considered decisions based on public interest; I ask our country again, are we of any public interest?  With democracy as our ally, I emotively propose that the current law is not just, and that we are in need of change, aid and compassion. 

Yours, Jason.  (HomeGrownOutlaw)

A quote from Dr. Lester Grinspoon; Professor Emeritus of Harvard Medical School:
"In the twentieth century cannabis has been proposed or shown to be useful as a medicine for many disorders and symptoms. These range from proven to speculative, but they should all be of interest to anyone concerned about human suffering. The narratives of patients illustrate most vividly not only marihuana's therapeutic properties but also the unnecessary further pain and anxiety imposed on the sick people who must obtain it illegally." - Marihuana, The Forbidden Medicine (co written by James B. Bakalar)

(Note: Citations and scientific evidence can be found on this blog with many more to follow; it is a deliberate action to this specific blog to focus on the wholly on human costs of the current law with a view to disengage from the deliberately muddying & superfluous debate on the substance itself)

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Good News & Bad News; Part 1

Have you ever had it where circumstance conspires against you?  A situation where you can view things from outside yourself?  A culmination of events that inevitably make you look a gibbon- complete with fate hammering away at you like monkey with a pneumatic drill- only with more accuracy?

I blog of my latest experience in my doctor’s surgery.

I’ve been awaiting test results on my liver; for the last month I’ve been looking fate in the eye and addressing mortality.  I’ve envisaged my funeral and the carnage I could plan for that, I’ve got my head around intrusive treatments and the possibility of being put on the organ transplant list, but in this day and age, livers are a much needed organ.  Alcohol culture has meant that this miracle organ is now the season’s must have accessory.

My personal pound of flesh to prohibition is due to pharmaceuticals.  Since the age of 10 I’ve been on one of the harshest painkillers you can legally obtain.  They are a class B drug, but I have a little green government slip saying I’m allowed them.  Like any drug though, used sparingly and wisely they will cause little harm, but, when locked in a long term battle with disease and illness, a very real and unintended trap will present itself for anyone, and I truly do mean anyone.  There is not a human alive that can escape the physical clutches of opioid pain relief.  Tolerance building, highly addictive, and with tremendous harms attached these tablets, I have always had a near panic attack inducing phobia over this drug.  20 years is a long time for anyone, and when they are the only medication that has not turned me blind or numb, I’ve been stuck with them against my wishes.

As my cannabis supply has stabilised due to my autonomy, I took the bull by the horns and decided to dwindle my painkillers down to a minimum with a view to stopping them.  It was time to address my phobia; what damage have they done to me?

Whilst suffering the symptoms of liver problems and the pain that comes with it, I booked myself into the doctors to tackle things head on.  That’s my version anyhow, the truth is that I was hoodwinked into an appointment by my family, they said I could go to the Zoo but they took me to the medical centre instead… ok, that’s not true, I was simply railroaded into going with sticks and liberal beatings.

I had a new doctor, one in which I had not seen before, and a great young doctor he is too.  I would go as far to say he’s the best one I’ve had in my lengthy medical career of being a patient.  Only trouble being, he does not know me from Alan.

So, with my phobic tendencies for the medical world due to my vast past history, I sit in the waiting room to collect my results, ten years of pent up fear starts to come out fully, the last month of pain and wondering culminates in this waiting room purgatory with a child’s play area.  A collection of charity books ranging all the way from Barbara Cartland to Mills AND Boon line the walls.  Alan Alda’s biography is looking at me, his mashed face beaming down, “You giving me a sign Alan?”  I puzzle at his cover as I hear the bleep, I've been called up.  The time is up, I’m off to see the wizard!

“Jason to see Dr. H Lector, room M, leave your personal possessions behind.  Bring a nice chianti while you're at it…”  That’s how it felt anyhow.

My results, I am more than pleased to say, are ok, I have a full clean blood work and will live to fight another day at least.  Woo!  Although I still don’t fully feel I’m out of the woods yet, I can allow myself a spell of celebration.  I won’t bother trying to relay the feeling of being told you still have a liver, I won’t even try and stab in the dark at the feeling that you’re not going to die just yet, but it is however a feeling the Home Office and the Department of Health needs to be aware of in the UK.  My hell was real, and it is a hell that I will not be alone in experiencing.  My family, as always, suffer with me, and thousands upon thousands of ill and suffering people will have similar experiences to mine, their families will bear the brunt of turmoil too.  Cannabis prohibition effects more people than is attested to.

In my latest correspondence with the Home Office, it is a delicious piece of irony that I received a reply in the midst of my test results hell.  Gleefully opening the letter, I hope to read the words;

“Jason, we’ve had a discussion here at the ol’ Hom Off, and we’ve decided you’re right, cannabis is now freely available, have some White Rhino, yours sincerely and hugs, Dougie.  P.S Give our best to Aunt Babs.”

You can imagine my surprise when I received yet another dusty reply fresh from the “generic response” pile, complete with all the peddled rubbish we’ve come to know and love.  You can complete the full picture of irony when I read the words “The government’s message is that cannabis is a harmful drug that should not be used.”

Interesting choice of words; “the government’s message”.  Kind of a get out of jail free card using this terminology.  It absolves all fact and science from the debate and focuses on “the message”.  In fact, if you apply this political gesticulation to other areas of society, the message remains anchored in the same degree of pseudo-science and oblique reasoning.

“The government’s message is clear, tea cosies are gaudy”
“The government’s message is clear, never anger a goat.
“The government’s message is clear, sorry about Ann Widecomebe.”

And when we still have such laws in existence as; you can shoot a Welshmen with a bow and arrow if caught in the cathedral at Hereford… it’s a fair assumption that governance doesn't always get it right.

Whilst speaking of an official government body such as the Home Office, perhaps I should type with more respect; indeed, I easily give respect… when respect is earned and not expected, or even demanded.  I objectively hypothesise- as I fear for life and liver- have I been addressed with appropriate respect by receiving this bog standard letter?  As emotionally invested as I am in this, I feel this “message” from the Home Office & government belittling and patronising to any citizen.

The message is not one in which the government or the Home Office can pertain to either.  There is not a scrap of evidence that can clarify their remarks, and indeed, an omission of truth can be found at Drug Equality Alliance; the previous regime admitted the only reason for cannabis prohibition and the lack of control over alcohol is for “cultural reasons”.  It goes on further to explain the lack of scientific evidence for cannabis' place in the Misuse of Drugs Act.  You have to love the Freedom of Information Act don't you?  Emphatic emphasis on the words Freedom and Information.

Moreover, after the reclassification of cannabis from class C to B last year, the government of the day fought the case purely on “err on the side of caution”, and “to send a message to kids”.  The last government famously disposing of scientific advice and study drew up their own agenda for vote posturing with an upcoming general election.  The evidence does not exsist to any degree to term cannabis as comparatively harmful.  This, mixed with the latest edit to the Home Office's site, (documented here on Peter Reynold's blog), it is fair to say they have been caught on the back-foot of misleading the public.  The one hook that still does the rounds with cannabis is the psychosis issue, and when stripped back to raw stats and figures and not viewed from behind yellow journalism, the risks of cannabis serve to put things in startling perspective.  To prevent 800 cases of casual link cannabis psychosis, you need to stop 6.2 million users of this largely benign substance.  Any other substance and this would be deemed runaway a success, yet, it serves to damn cannabis.  Things once more do not add up.

While we address comparative harms, all be it briefly, I would ask the Home Office to address the individual human cost of prohibition and not buffered statistical jargon that ushers away real emotional investment, and quite frankly, perhaps they should also think a little before typing an official rhetoric… sorry, I mean, an official letter to someone in a health battle:

Personal comparative harms:  Painkillers vs. cannabis.

Painkillers: (co-codamol 30/500 soluble) are a class B drug, famed for tolerance building and physical addiction, they can cause mental health problems, they are liver toxic and are damaging to heart, stomach and kidneys.  Sodium levels mean I have to watch my salt intake like a vigilant briny madman.  They play havoc with digestion and can cause Pancreatitus.  Not to mention, you cannot function day to day on high does co-codamol, zombification is to be expected.  Pharmaceutical deaths are not uncommon and they are something that my family have had to deal with before, I do not want my name to add to that tally.

Cannabis: cannot kill me and it is non toxic. I vaporise to eliminate the smoke.  The only issue to address with this non physically addictive substance (as explained by Professor Pertwee) is the casual link mental health issue, and as discussed, it is a comparatively low risk; on a statistical par with being killed in a terrorist attack.  I like my odds.  Almost seems to good to be true?  Sometimes, miracles are possible when in the confines of a grounded reality.  Cannabis is also good for titration, it is fast acting and you do not have to do it to get high, pain relief can be kept with a clear head when using cannabis, many a layman does not realise this.

The Home Office then went on to recommend Sativex to me.  This is a whole other issue for another time, suffice to say, this subject will be covered.

The light at the end of the tunnel with regards to the Home Office is the fact they have expressed that a licence can be obtained from the Home Secretary with regards to cannabis cultivation.  There is a lengthy paragraph explaining that it is for research and industrial purposes only, but I glossed over that part.  I’ll be in contact then Theresa May, I feel I have earned a license by placing my liver on the sacrificial alter of prohibition.  I expect to be granted one without hassle?  My licence will be in the name of research purposes for saving my own life, it’ll be an ongoing study.  Or does the suffering of an estimated 50 000 medicinal users of cannabis not matter?

Deal with human costs face to face, and I believe even the coldest of hearts will feel a prang of guilt over the UK’s policy.  A civil servant or a government body is only a cancer treatment, a relatives’ pain, or long term illness away from understanding the issue of cannabis in true terms and not from a removed overview.  To convey mortal fear over personal health is hard for anyone to explain, but when it is avoidable if policy makers were to grasp the realism of suffering, it is even more difficult to obtain a handle on the lack of compassion that the UK still openly displays.  A very real and ambivalent dislike for one's own country is the result of such ethics, and when the UK is one of the last bastions on cannabis prohibition, (we’re now behind Israel on the humanity front) it becomes an even more furious point of contention when lives are invested in this subject.

To conclude part one of this desultory ramble, my health is stable, so that’s good news.  However, my doctor’s appointment was not all plain sailing.  Nothing serious I'll interject, but enough to stew on things and enough for me to be locked up in a Kubrick film- and throw away the key:

To be continued…

Friday, 24 September 2010

Angels and Demons

Outlook and mindset is key to any pastime in life.  Whether it is martial arts or boxing, or even computer games, whatever the comparison, an individual is reliant on their own inner compass.  One person’s release is another’s problematic obsession.  One person’s sanctuary is another’s nightmare.  With each activity or crutch, the social sway of individualism will dictate perspective.  For me, having been trained in martial arts from a young age, I took discipline on the chin and have never used what I learnt for violence or retribution.  Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for others who saw Karate as a literal licence to bully.  Such is life, you can install the best teachings in the world, but some will rebel and some will use for good; humanistic trait of uniqueness.

So, when I watch the latest documentary on cannabis, browse internet forums and blogs, engage in online debate, it has become a tiresome point that the inevitable good vs. bad of the cannabis argument becomes a contested issue.  This debate has raged since the reefer madness days of the 30’s (a propaganda film that is now a cult classic for the intellectually astute) and will continue unabated until some sense of perspective is reached.

The Sky documentary “Stoned in Suburbia”  is perhaps a good and succinct example of the point in hand; whilst speaking of her teenager’s son demise with cannabis, a middle class mum sat dumbfounded at how on one hand it caused her young offspring issues after his profuse use broke down his personality.  And yet, the mother had also just witnessed the antipode of cannabis’ traits as the plant unequivocally saw her friend through hell as she saw out her days in a hospice.  “It’s the angel and devil rolled into one” the lady proclaimed with a look of perplexed bewilderment.

It was not long after the watching of this programme that I stumbled across a long blog that also damned cannabis for the fallout of two of his friends when they were kids.  The blog pertained to the infamous “gateway theory”.

So, the devil exists, the (dare I say it) “pro” cannabis lobby are unlikely to subscribe to the denial that cannabis does not have a down side.  But, comparative harms and perspective is what is needed in this debate.  It’s perhaps ironic that people such as myself are the main perpetrators of wannabe harm reduction with extremist prohibitionists still wishing for hard line actions that are counterproductive to progression and leaves the young stripped of help and solace.  With each new story of abuse and the demise of another youngster that so readily hits the headlines, it sets the case for cannabis as an angel back tenfold.  Medical users suffer the sway of tarnishing with one giant brush.  So why does a plant have such extremes of viewpoint?

It’s a simple answer, and one in which the shrewd can work out for themselves.

To a medical user, respect is an emotive an intrinsic part of cannabis, a pedestal is easily created for this natural and non-toxic plant that is- to the individual- termed a miracle in the truest sense.  There is no such thing as a guilt free painkiller, but cannabis is the closest you can get to this "dream".  A medical user does not want to get complacent with cannabis, we wish it to be a light at the end of an arduous tunnel.  Flippancy will not become an issue all the while you respect the plant.  Or indeed, the recreational user who bears in mind the simple logic of “Cannabis is a reward to being productive”.  There are millions in the UK that have a healthy and responsible outlook of cannabis, these people blend into the fabric of community.  It is the minority devil that grabs attention and headlines, it is a sad fact that I’ve come to learn from a personal point of view that the damning stance of cannabis is preferred over the copious amounts of positive effects.  Mainstream media laps up the negative gleefully and has no agenda to put forth the flip side of the issue.

Why has the devil had such an healthy outing with cannabis over the last few decades?  A few reasons perhaps.  Firstly, the feral industry that has been created with cannabis lends itself to abuse.  No product quality control, no age check systems, no real education on the substance other than:“marijuana is bad mmmkay?” and certainly no responsibly within the user; all seems to have been absolved.  If there is one thing that all cases of cannabis fallout have in common is the, to speak churlishly, “badge of honour” effect.  Cannabis amongst the young is a hook for rebellion and a distinct lack of respect will be evident from this outlook.  I have yet to read or hear of a case of detrimental cannabis use that doesn’t have the tantamount words of “We started using cannabis when we were 14 and….”  or “We were heavy users of cannabis and…” and at no point is the connection made; substitute the word cannabis for alcohol and a comparative perspective can easily be reached.  If alcohol becomes the contested subject, instantaneously the onus is placed on the individual user almost entirely.  If such proclamations of heavy use and youngster's abuse was to be linked with drink, then we as society look to blame irresponsible use and treat the symptoms of this.  So why does cannabis have a differing pretence of social harms?  Cannabis as a substance receives nearly full blame for any fallout, and when looking at the comparative harms, it defies both logic and belief.  We have found ourselves in an obtuse place of reference; comparatively speaking, the logic of the prohibition of cannabis is similar to the banning of bicycles due to the harms that come with motorbikes, senseless.

So, my angel, in the form of cannabis, becomes sullied due to misuse and abuse, and it is for me and the responsible users to suffer the consequence of these ethics in the form of prohibition?  Once more, if society were to abide by its own flimsy rules, then prohibition of alcohol is once more needed (or even necessity) as recompense for the harms; or shall we still assign appropriate responsibility to the individual user as we always have with alcohol?  Now there’s a thought.

With each teenage case of cannabis abuse that will sadly become inevitable under the prohibition model, and more prevalent to boot, I will sink my shoulders and heavily sigh “Yes, of course we will have cases of abuse, and it will get worse”.  Current law is making the job of parenting hard to do, honesty and frank discussion is hard to achieve when cloaked under social taboos, we’ve learnt this the hard way with sex education, and we are learning it again with cannabis.  Prohibitionists make the case for cannabis and the current law by stating that "children as young as ten are involved in this trade and substance."  Once more I look for rationality.  Surely we are to know by now that if you push a lucrative industry underground, then a literal dark age becomes the result.  We have no way of ensuring safety with cannabis and children, this is the cause and effect of prohibition and the failure of current policy… so why is the argument of "think of the children" used to keep the broken status quo afloat when the children are the very reason we need legitimacy in this enlightened age?

I ask concisely, can we please move on and end the damning of what is largely a benign substance to the majority of adults and focus on the symptoms of abuse and how to stem this, especially amongst the young where most of the problems occur.  I can except that some detrimental effects come from cannabis when misused, and it is for compassionate community to realise the trauma that comes from current law to the millions of responsible adults, especially the morally questionable position of the medicinal users in the UK and the law.  Disproportionate blame is perhaps the most dangerous part of this debate, and one in which serves only to muddy the waters of discussion and halt progressive ways ahead of harm reduction; a true political weapon of stalemate.

Perhaps the most heartening part of this is that now the question has been changed, the answers have also altered.  As this recent survey from Ewan Hoyle shown here at Transforms' site shows, the nub of prohibition's consequence over regulation seems to be seeping into mainstream thinking.  Society is now grasping that the etymology of “legal vs. illegal” (and the seeming condonable message and that comes with this) is now a redundant part of the debate when faced with the very real and stark consequence of prohibition vs. regulation.

I do hope we can lay the demons to rest, and I will then no longer have to preach of angels.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Introduction; New to Blogging.

So, with personal developments a brew, I thought I best put my incessant rambling and internet postings into constructive practice.  First step?  The humble blog.

I am about as proficient with website and tech stuff as a hillbilly is to ballet, it's not pretty, but you'd hope we can muddle through whilst squealing.  Feel free to throw insults my way when I inevitably churn something out that looks like Jedward has published it on a bad hair day.

This blog is simple, it's just me, laying out my quest and battle to seek legitimacy in the UK.  My story can be found here:


It's ironic that I am intensively private, but this is of no consequence when you have to lay out a few cold humanistic facts to demonstrate the lack of compassion that takes place in this world, and unfortunately, the UK in my case.

The last five years of my life have been embroiled in cannabis.  I've been disabled since I was 8, taken the prescribed pharmaceutical route that has ravaged my body, and am now at this point in my life fighting, quite literally, for life and preservation.  It is worth pointing out that, due to my myopic outlook in years past, I was "anti" all drugs, believed that prohibition was a good thing, and that cannabis was evil.  And then I bothered to research myself instead of being force fed propaganda that would make that guy with the famous moustache proud, I'm sure you know who I mean.... yes, Bob Carolgees!

In this blog I shall write about the personal issue and cost with cannabis prohibition, and will no doubt add the science parts along the way, but when you have world renowned academics and scientists fighting that side of things, they truly present a better case and cache than me.  These people, I thank profusely for all the work done on this issue and for how easy they make it when it comes to fighting the corner of regulation over prohibition.

I'll also try a vary it up with other subjects so I don't look like a one trick pony.  I can talk on other subjects... like... and...

So, I'll try and keep things sharp and snappy, I have a tendency of over talking, and I know in the blog world this is a sin that can't be forgiven.

Signing off for the first time, Jason (Home Grown Outlaw)