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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)