Search This Blog

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)