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Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Huffington Post: UK Riots - How the Drugs War Fits In

Published here on 11/08/11:

Most of us have an opinion, and many of us look higher than simple knee-jerk reactionary comments. To discuss the current situation of the UK riots rationally, you of course have to interject with the disclaimer of; "I do not condone riots but" - I'm sure no one advocates the actions of the violent few, and that much is a given.
Society has had a fragmented democracy for many years, and it can be assumed that we now are seeing this dangerous malaise come to the fray in the spilling of engorged emotion. With any riot scenario, there are those that have simply gone along for the ride and have no other ambition that to collect a shiny bounty. We can all insert opinion, we can bullet point the failings and decay of the inner cities, but we must also look to the top for our answers. Society has a habit of leading by example, and this has been less than exemplary. Banks, MP's expenses and interests, lack of accountability in parliament, media corruption, the PCC, and questionable actions in the MET within the last few months. Allegations are rife - and subject to investigations - but it still sets a precedent for a certain brand of apathy in a respect based community.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Huffington Post: The Misuse of Drugs Act - Happy 40th Birthday

Originally published 03/08/11

On 2nd June 2011, the Guardian newspaper hosted an open letter to the Prime Minister. Drafted by the organisation Release, the letter marked the 40th anniversary of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and tried to evoke a mood of change in drugs policy. Signatories included celebrities, peers and academics; tabloid journalism decided to focus on "naive luvvies" and there was an almost deliberate negation of those that have some degree of knowledge in drugs policy. As honourable as it is for the likes of Dame Judy Dench to lend credence, the overlooked figures of: Professor in criminal justice Alex Stevens, former Chief Constable Tom Lloyd, and LEAP member Paul Whitehouse were given no mind in favour of cynical reporting.


Tuesday, 2 August 2011

A Move - As Good As a Change?

I have a new place of writing residence.  It is with pleasure that I shall direct most of my blogging to the Huffington Post.  Please feel free - whatever your position - to come and join the discussion.

Hope to see you there. Jason Reed.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Taking Time Out

Please excuse the lack of content on this blog, and elsewhere, for a little while; the stresses and strains of having to battle and justify your existence has taken its toll once more.  Although cannabis has handed a life back to me, the cynicism of the fanatical is affecting I'm sorry to say.

I shall take a much needed break to get my health back on track.  The efforts that I put into reform all too often have a knock on effect to my loved ones.  For their sake and mine, I shall wave a farewell for a small amount of time.

I will inevitably be back after a much needed sabbatical.

With my sincerest best, Jason.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

A Summary For Mr Peter Hitchens

Mr Peter Hitchens has struggled to understand my original post and has requested a brief summary.

Firstly, in reply to Mr Hitchens: He has reiterated that he feels the ‘War on Drugs’ was called off 40 years ago.  I of course grasped this point and included it my junglist reply.  In my original post, I likened Mr Hitchens’ proposal to that of a conspiracy theory, but, I am unsure how to actually prove that the ‘war on drugs’ has indeed been waged.  I don’t believe we should give much mind to this thread of the argument, but I would direct Mr Hitchens to my friends at LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition).  Those that have been on the front line of this war should perhaps be listened to.  These senior police personnel have lost many colleagues in the line of duty, and have seen such turmoil that they now counter-fight prohibition on both sides of the Atlantic.  To say that we’ve had no war is deeply insensitive.  Or, we can simply cite Mexico, they have gone for total war.  35 000 dead in nearly 5 years suggests that a war is in full effect; the UK is not except from reaping a similar result.

Whether Mr Hitchens believes that we’ve had a war or not, prohibition still accounts for most health troubles that are aligned with cannabis and other substances.  Under prohibition, we have no age checks, a sincere lack of quality control, and no understanding of dosage or potency.  Let’s use alcohol as the obvious example: If we were to strip all potency information from packaging, give no clue to users to if they are using spirits, wine or beer, and then provide a pint-glass as a generic measure, most will be able to understand that ignorance is the enemy of health.  Cannabis is being used under these blind conditions.  On Mr Hitchens’ site, he has even scoffed at the term “Cannabis Indica” - I do question how much he actually knows of the cannabis plant?  Is Mr Hitchens aware of the importance of matured cannabis and to closely monitor the trichomes when approaching harvest?  When Professor Roger Pertwee of GW Pharmaceuticals (leading cannabinoid specialist) has expressed concerns over prohibition, maybe we should take council from experts on the issue.

The main point in which I addressed in my post were that of morals.  Mr Hitchens professes to a moral man and that drugs policy is a moral issue.  I disagreed.  I believe morals to be far too subjective to base policy upon.  To summarise my original points would not further this discussion; I basically disagreed with his set morals and interjected with my own brand.  I guess, with two men taking a differing stance on morals, a stalemate would be the result.  For this reason alone, I once more believe - as mandated per the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 - we should have an ever evolving drugs policy that is based on science and evidence.  Why is this feared?  From the Shafer Report, to the Wootton Report 1969, and successive ACMD reports since, we have never had it reported that we need harsher sentencing or stronger judicial measures.  To peruse this route would provide the final mockery of existing drugs policy, and render its original application redundant.  The harm scale of drugs is supposed to adequately reflect on sentencing.  Of course, we have a drugs policy that is in no way in keeping with this premise.

One point that I will summarise; the war on drugs, in real terms, is a war on people.  With every harsh measure that Peter Hitchens wishes to pursue, he is directly persecuting and causing misery to those around him who he feels he is trying to protect.  It’s not just those who use drugs to feel the strain of current policy.  So while Mr Hitchens is a proponent for the war to continue, he is a direct advocate of the pain and misery to which he has fought against.  I spoke of concept wars akin to the war on drugs; I used the War on Terror as the example, and it is one in which Mr Hitchens has been vocal in the past.  Concept wars are nonsense and only sound good for the sake of a rhetoric.  We cannot fight concepts, we cannot fight ‘drugs’, we can only fight people.

Jason Reed.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Peter Hitchens

As I type, there is a blog debate between a Mr Tim Wilkinson of the Surely Some Mistake site, and Mr Peter Hitchens of the Mail on Sunday.

Peter Hitchens and Tim Wilkinson are going over the same points that usually crop up in the drugs debate, and a fine job is being made by the both of them.  I will not address the specifics of Peter’s arguments, it’s of no point to this post.  It is not my wish or intention to try and get in the middle of this interesting discussion, I would dearly like to point anyone who has not seen the exchange to go a view the ongoing discussion.

I am both lucky and humbled to receive a very good readership on my own blog.  My viewing figures are not that of the Daily Mail, but, between appearing on the BBC, whoring myself out on social media, the diligent word of mouth of followers, internet forums and linked sites, I hold a privileged position; I am listened to.  I thank all that do read.  This alone is possibly enough to spark an interest within Peter Hitchens.  He may be the full antipode to me, but knowing I hold a modest court may rouse a small curiosity.

I have tried to engage with Mr Hitchens a few times, I have left comments on his blog on numerous occasions.  I may not have any formal education due to my long-term battle with illness, but I can vaguely string a sentence together, and readers of my work will hopefully know I raise decent enough points.  It’s somewhat curious that my comments to Peter never make it through the moderation procedure.  Like most blogs, my comment terms are a free for all.  You are allowed any say, and you shall not be edited.  Peter does not grant the same degree of clemency.  I find this highly unfortunate.

However, this specific blog post of mine is not sour grapes, far from it.  Although I would dearly like to engage with Peter Hitchens, and on occasion I have written him personal comments to that effect, I now feel it’s time that I can lay my personal Hitchens demon to rest.

Firstly, let me explain how distorted Peter Hitchens' view is of the drugs debate.  He wilfully projects the image that those wishing for reform advocate a free market.  Of course, this is nonsense.  The point he never fails to brush under the carpet is that reformers wish for better control through some degree of state regulation.  Mr Hitchens also takes the stunted position of 'legal and illegal' drugs.  This is once more not how it works.  We have controlled and non controlled substances, and a full oxymoron to that effect.  Controlled substances have become feral through street control, and non controlled substances - such as alcohol -  have been given free reign as the industry pleases.  When addressed properly, you can soon see the pattern to why we have issues across the board.  Dealing in lazy language such as Peter Hitchens' simply endorses false notions.  All too often, the prohibitionist engages in a primary stream of discussion; 'Drugs are bad because.' - This does little to treat the symptoms of what is actually going on.  Drugs should be in a place of better control owing to harms, not in spite of them as Peter will advocate.  There is a somewhat stunted logic to the argument that something is bad, therefore perceived illegality is good.  As ever, Peter addresses but a mere surface scratch of an argument.

One of the allies of drugs reform has is attrition.  There is a certain shelf life to prohibition and prohibitionist arguments.  With decades to account for this 'control' model, we can collate all the information we need to make a measured decision.  Peter surely knows this, and this is why he has now gone down the somewhat curious path of declaring that “we’ve never had a ‘war on drugs‘” - and that it’s about time we had one.  This indeed reeks of last ditch efforts on a par with the dusty generals at Flanders.  Peter is now writing a book to this very notion proclaiming that we’ve never waged a war.  Any other person, and this would be labelled conspiracy theory, Peter is now teetering on this knife edge.

I am left with no doubt Mr Hitchens is a moral man, he professes to be so on every occasion, and I have witnessed him is some truly poignant pieces of television over the years.  There is a worrying part of any moral discussion though - (to which Peter basis most of his arguments on in the drugs debate) - morals are highly subjective.  Morals do not fit well with the politics of past.  Morals have been the catalyst of social fall outs and persecution for thousands of years.  Recent history also will attest that one man’s morality is another’s tyranny.  Politics, and especially the drugs debate, should be wary of pontificating that one knows better than the next.  To deliberately reiterate, Mr Hitchens’ main thrust of his sword is based on morals.

In the Policy Exchange debate on the 18th May, Peter came across on numerous occasions as quite bizarre.  In many ways, and ironically, this is a disappointment.  In this specific debate, his arguments were weak and out of place.  It was tantamount to a great boxer that had gotten in the ring one too many times.  As ever though, Peter based most of his rhetoric on morals.  He actively goaded Tom Llyod, and Sir Ian Gilmore, saying (in essence) that their position of social eminence was being abused given that they were personally debasing their own, and social, morals.  Indeed, as with any public figure that speaks out, Peter embarks on a similar tirade.  I fully disagree of course, I believe that the doctors, health professionals and police personnel such as Sir Ian and Tom Lloyd hold a necessitous duty to think of the people that are mandated to protect.  These eminent figures are bound by a code to think of the suffering of people, and to put politics secondary to the actuality of life’s trials.  These front line people are here to hold council on policy, not justify existing legislation.  On the swingometer of morals, I believe these professional figures to be acting in entirely the best interests by speaking out.

Perhaps the best part of this aspect of the drugs policy debate is the fact that rebuttal has a life span.  Each passing month now, prolific figures speak out for the utter failure on the war on drugs.  Peter Hitchens is charged with the task of shouting them down, and informing the public as to why they are wrong.  Even the most dug in of intellects will see that a loud voice that damns discussion on alternatives to judicial control can’t shout the loudest forever.  Peter will eventually realise that by telling an ever growing list of reformers that they are wrong for the umpteenth time may get tiresome and counter-productive to his own point.

Peter Hitchens is a highly intelligent man, no one can deny this.  I do wonder though, given his intellect, why he is unable to see that the 'war on drugs' is purely conceptual and nonsense.  I’m sure he can speak at length as to why the 'War on Terror' is of similar nonsensical tone.  We can’t fight concepts, we can only distort the political rhetoric and make things sound good.  Make no mistake, this moral man is trying to wage war on people; and this is something that he has personally opposed and found repugnant in many regions of the world.

To wear out the moral thread fully, let me conclude with two further points.  I ask aloud; given Mr Hitchens wishes to turn the screw on the war on people; is it moral that we incarcerate those that we deem as having problems?   That is of course if we conclude that worse case scenario is actually true; the other side of the coin is that the majority are non problematic drug users.  This is highly taboo to mention.  But, with my previous point in hand, Peter will probably be all too clear that we don’t imprison alcoholics, or threaten them with the proverbial stick approach, and yet he is a full advocate of hard line measures to those that have substance abuse issues.  I once more fail to see the moral reasoning in this approach.

To stretch the theme of morals to breaking point, I ponder one final point:  Given my personal circumstances and health - and why I’ve entered the drugs debate in the first place from a position akin to Peter's - I soon realised how out of step I was.  I can possibly be forgiven for taking a dislike to Mr Hitchens, I’m sure many in similar position do so.  I could possibly be forgiven in being allowed to hate Peter, and I deliberately use that word with some thought.  But, I don’t.  I actually strangely like the man.  I could envisage a really good conversation with him about an array of subjects.  I would even pencil him in at the famed who would you have at your dinner party game.  I simply believe Peter Hitchens plays the pantomime dame very well.  I have come to view him as an affable man with a devil’s advocates job.  I do not look upon him as my oppressor, my persecutor, but I see him as one of the best tools to hand in the reform sector.  If Peter’s arguments are running thin, then this speaks volumes.

Peter Hitchens is liberally mixing the arguments for reform up, he fails to speak on prohibition harms of substances, and never addresses pure sources and the merits of unadulterated substances.  His generic address of drugs is probably deliberate, but it’s certainly not cricket.  When we can grant emplacements that will ensure a full minimisation of harms through the regulation of substances, and even work within state control to lessen use - as we have with tobacco - Peter’s morals are simply perpetuating the very issues he fights to rescind.  Morals are indeed subjective and should probably be removed from the drugs debate in favour of science and evidence.

All I have ever really wanted from Peter is to be looked in the eye (so to speak) and for him to tell me why I am not allowed my personal freedom, why he wishes me 5-14 years imprisonment, and why I am to be granted no clemency in using a substance that has preserved my organs, and that has given me a quality of life that has until now been missing.  It would be a pleasure and thrill to engage with him, but I do not believe this will happen given previous excursions.

To fully conclude, please do keep it up Mr Hitchens, you’re now doing many favours for the case for reform.

Additional: Peter Hitchens was kind enough to reply, see here:

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

ISMOKE Issue 6 Released Midnight 1/7/11 - Special Preview

The ISMOKE Magazine - Issue 6 - will be released on the 1st of July.

The magazine, created and edited by Nuff Said, is certainly growing in content and stature.

Please see here for a special preview and spoiler:

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Reply from David Burrowes MP

In reply to my original letter here:

Dear Jason

Thank you for emailing me about my question on Cannabis use on 9th May. Please accept my apologies for the delay in replying to you.

I appreciate that this issue is controversial, and that passionate views are held on both sides of this debate. However, I was careful and deliberate in noting a ‘probable causal link’ between cannabis use and mental illness. This position closely reflects the latest official guidance and research conducted by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs in their 2008 report ‘Cannabis: Classification and Public Health’.

I fully and actively support attempts to reduce drug use, crack down on drug-related crime and disorder and help those who use drugs, including cannabis, come off them for good. Having met a large number of addicts during my previous career as a Criminal Defence Solicitor, and during my investigation into alcohol and drugs treatment with the Centre for Social Justice, I have been guided to focus on how we can improve treatment rather than change legislation.

Although we do not agree on this issue, I would  like to thank you once more for taking the time to contact me.

Best wishes


Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Letter to Charles Walker MP

Dear Charles Walker MP,

My name is Jason Reed; since appearing on the BBC, I am both privileged and humbled to receive a healthy readership on my blog.  Your reply will be looked forward to.

I write to you regarding your comments in the Commons on 9th June 2011 regarding “Skunk Cannabis”.  I will profess the same as you; I am not a scientist.  However, I do read actual scientific studies and will cite from proper scientists, unfortunately, you have taken council from Mary Brett.  For your reputation, given that she is a teacher and also not a scientist, I recommend that Professor Les Iversen to be the most apt in this discussion given his role as the Chairman of the ACMD.

I’d like to address your comments, specifically, regarding control methods.  Under prohibition, we have ample perspective and correlation of facts.  40years on from the Misuse of Drugs Act’s application, the Government still takes to an arbitrary application of the act.  It is not a tool for prohibition, and indeed the first thing to be read in the MoDA is the mandate for an evidence based policy with a view to exploring alternatives.  Given your preferred control method of prohibition has been utilised up until this point - and account directly for the troubles in which you have detailed in your speech - I propose you question as to why we have such teenage abuse given the feral control of law.  You clearly advocate the connotations of judicial measures, and you even hint at tightening them.  I’d like to ask how this actually aids the protection of the youth given we can equate such a failure as your speech relays.  Please, could you outline the success with regards to prohibition and punitive based controls.

If a child is caught in possession of cannabis, they will get a criminal record and the chances of betterment are hindered greatly.  If we wish to protect our youth, perhaps giving them the best chance to make amends is preferable.  Law also prevents an open discussion given the stigma and consequences, a teenager may well be more receptive to help if they had a more welcoming society.  Treatment programmes for anyone with substance abuse issues are also hindered by the fear of judicial reprisal, this renders the existence of said aid all but redundant.

I believe there are age restrictions on energy drinks in some instances.  It is somewhat baffling that we still have no such system with regards to any substance placed in the MoDA.  Street dealers only need money; no identification needed, and therein lays why we have a ready made teenage market; it is promoted as so.  The ease of use and purchasing amongst the young is a boon to the current market.

I do ask of you, and please specifically answer me if I may ask; given your remarks, you have clearly indulged in similar contexts to that of cannabis, so why when you have; “had a past” - why do you wish for other’s to not be as lucky as you.  When you did not receive a criminal record, and your personal chances of a better future have been unhindered, why do you wish for others to obtain a record and prevent them from the opportunities that you have been privileged to receive?  Furthermore, when the message of law missed you, and so many others in parliament, why do you think it actually works as a deterrent when you are clearly not a great example of such?

You stipulated that the one drug you didn’t try was LSD, as you feared what you had been told.  I of course agree with this loose sentiment in the sense that it is personal risk assessment that dictates personal action.  The message of law means little given there is no way to police this to any degree to impact the issue.  The law currently acts as a deterrent; we agree health messages are preferable and they indeed seemingly fully ushered your personal past actions, I further labour the point and ask why you now believe law to be a correct measure?

Alternatives to cannabis in law would mean, age checks.  It would further mean true education (invariably, we are unable to discuss drugs rationally under prohibition; often resulting in mistruths and scare tactics to the youth who’s personal experiences will attest to the antipodal).  We could also ensure the correct balance of cannabionoids - you are right to point out CBD is absent from much of the street cannabis, but this is owing, invariably, to the fact that cannabis is harvested for weight and potency.  This of course is for profit motives.  Immature and hastily harvested cannabis is what you would term Skunk.  Mature cannabis is vital, and the current trend of bad product is not the super strength cousin by any means - you’re  Written answers and Statement on 4th of April 2011 will confirm this given we actually have no records of potency past 1995.  Please may I see your figures that now claim otherwise?

Citation from blog 16/04/11; Skunk Debunked.

You also neglect the alarming trend for adulterants in cannabis.  As it stands, there is an epidemic of "gritweed" and "soapbar".  In real terms, glass, metal, growing chemicals, harder drugs and diesel are notoriously added to ensure a false potency.  You have made no mention of this in your speech in relation to potential harms.  This is furthermore a direct consequence of prohibition.

The U.N estimates that to impact the conceptual war on drugs, we would need to seize 60-70% of heroin imports.  To cite Scotland, 1% is seized.  (Professor McKeganey)  This specific industry is reliant on a risky import/export business.  Cannabis is domestically grown with some ease, there is literally no way in ever getting a foothold through the CJS.  Based on this, I’d like to draw attention to LEAP and LEAP UK.  They are a body of senior personnel consisting of transatlantic police, prosecutors and judges that raise awareness to the harms of prohibition.  Please do read their work and to why your preferred methods are perpetuating the compounded problem and will ensure more families will suffer the problems you detailed.  This trend is set to get much worse under current law and the current control method; 'control' being the full oxymoron.

I’m sure you are a learned man, lessons from history need to direct our future paths.  As in 1920’s America, prohibition is running parallel to modern day.  We have a health fallout, lack of quality control, and a thriving underground market that has no way of being policed.  Britain also gives an estimated £6billion in profits to the black market.

I’m also sure you’re familiar with the Mother’s Ruin epidemic of 18th Century Britain. At no point did we consider trying to ban our way out of a problem, there is little logic to this.  The Duke of Wellington of course initiated a tax based system that alleviated the problem, and bettered society.

I hope you consider these points and allow me answers to the specific points I’ve asked of you.

I would also be happy to meet with you and actually discuss this further, my health permitting.  I am open to a frank and rational dialogue on the issue.

Thank you for your time, with respect, Jason.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Yet More Weight


It is the anniversary of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

There is no doubt, despite being a good piece of legislation, the abuse of its application by consecutive governments has meant it has now become an arbitrary tool for prohibition.

To mark the anniversary of the MoDA1971, a group of eminent and prolific figures - including Dame Judi Dench, Sting, Sir Richard Branson and Paul Flynn MP - have signed a letter requesting the unnecessary criminalisation to end .  Further signatories include director Mike Leigh, actresses Julie Christie and Kathy Burke.  Leading lawyer Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC also signed, as has former Labour drug minister Bob Ainsworth MP.  Not to mention three former chief constables, Paul Whitehouse, Francis Wilkinson and Tom Lloyd.  The letter was arranged by RELEASE.

The list of reform supporters, and their credentials, are vast.  On record to reform drugs laws are: Kofi Annan; the former Secretary General to the U.N, Sir Ian Gilmore; former president of the Royal College of Physicians, Nicholas Green QC (Chairman of the UK BAR Council).

In opposition, and to provide the counter argument, is Mary Brett.  A science teacher and a trustee of charity Cannabis Skunk Sense.  The Home Office has put out an instant rebuttal saying that it will not consider any action other than their current policy.

Original news stories with various degrees of impartiality can be read:

The Guardian

The Daily Mail

The Independent

Friday, 13 May 2011

Letter to David Burrowes MP

 In Reply :

Dear Mr Burrowes,

I would like to draw attention to your comments in the house on 9th May 2011 regarding medicinal cannabis; they have left me questioning the morality of yourself and the government.

Firstly, let me briefly correct you on your remarks, please do take the time to read - they point out the inaccuracy of your comments:

This is wholly inconsequential to the issue however.  As someone who has suffered debilitating illness for 21 years, I have had a legacy of prescribed medication that has left me numb, blinded and with paralysis; pharmaceuticals have been ineffective and counterproductive.  I am therefore left with two options, prescribed opiates that will leave my organs ravaged, or cannabis which is exponentially more effective and remarkably non toxic (the words of Dr. Lester Grinspoon; Professor Emeritus of Harvard Medical School).

The state can - and does - differentiate between prescribed opiates and street obtained opiates that cause harm through prohibition.  I wonder why this simple premiss cannot be grasped when discussing cannabis.

Your suggestion that it is more important to criminalise all persons and person’s interests regarding cannabis actions, than to grant clemency to people like myself is crass and demeaning.  This is not how a fair and rational society acts, and indeed this is not how the MoDA1971 is mandated to work in its application.  

Your comments have roused discourse within the disabled and chronically ill - not to mention their families who also suffer.

I look forward to hearing your response to this matter.

(Additional - due to a fault at google Blogger, this posting was removed and all comments lost.  I'm sorry to all those inconvenienced)

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

In Reply to GW Pharmaceuticals (Justin Gover)

GW Pharmaceuticals’ Justin Gover has recently been speaking to the press regarding his work; specifically, Sativex.

It has been said that Sativex is a cannabis ‘based' spray; therefore, this gives less credence to the notion of herbal cannabis medication.

It is too easy to point out that Sativex is THC, CBD and an alcohol extraction - basically meaning it is a cannabis tincture wholly reminiscent of yesteryear’s medicines.  This, however, is irrelevant to the issue.

GW Pharmaceuticals have long been looked at with admiration from the disabled members of community.  Their work has progressed the political credibility of cannabis medication; the company wouldn't be where they are today if not for the support they have received from individuals and case studies.  The relationship between GW and the disabled community has been mutually beneficial.

It is somewhat disconcerting to read some of Justin Gover’s remarks.  Firstly, it has been said that Sativex - far from lending authority to cannabis medication as an issue - it actually renders herbal cannabis redundant.  This comment seems to be embroiled with monetary incentive.  To suggest pure cannabis is demeaned due to Sativex is an glaringly obvious oxymoron.  With thousands of years of enriched history, cannabis medication has a relatively short amount of time to show for its political ignorance. Despite this embargo, cannabis still continues to push boundaries in science and medicine.

Perhaps the biggest point of contention lays in the mantra that Sativex does not get you high, and indeed, other cannabis based (or mimicking drugs) also profess to be: "Cannabis without the high“.

I am not alone when I relay that a large issue is being overlooked, and this voice cannot be heard in what seems to be a media blackout to this side of the story.  Speaking as an outspoken medicinal user of cannabis, I would like to try and convey the side of the story that mainstream would shy away from given the perceived taboos.

The proclamation that cannabis based medicines will not get you high is all well and good as many medical users do not want to for the most part; the option of getting high should not be viewed with such cynicism or disdain though.  There is a distinct flavour that the act of getting high makes a drug enjoyable, and therefore, it is deemed wrong in the eyes of dignified society.

To get high infers laziness, lethargy, and general negativity.  Looking at the literal definition of 'high' - this translates as euphoric, elevated; uplifted.  When locked in a day to day struggle with long-term illness, to receive a boost in mood - whether it is through good news, productivity or some other fashion of mood enhancement - this is worth its weight in gold.  Many who use cannabis as their chosen medication have chosen to do so due to the comparatively safe means over pharmaceutical alternatives.  Indeed, many long-term sick are unable to use state approved drugged highs such as alcohol, caffeine or tobacco.  So I ask; why is it deemed so wrong to receive a lift in mood and happiness through medication?  Do we not have prescribed pills that act in the same manner?  The difference being that antidepressants are notoriously harmful for the most part.  It is a fundamental part of cannabis that it makes you happy, and this side effect should not be denied credibility to those who have little else.  Happiness has a knock on effect in everyday life, and cannabis can help to maintain a level head in oblique situations.

Other side effects of cannabis include appetite stimulation, a sleeping aid, and yes, it promotes the sex drive.  Boy does it promote sex drive; must we delve into this?  I would like to keep it on record that I want to keep the side effects of cannabis.  I believe it to my informed decision to decide what effects of a drug are deemed affable to my body.

There is but one more point that is often overlooked; the self empowerment of having your life handed back to you, and to be in control.  Long term illness means incessant scrutiny.  Being under a constant gaze is another realm of hell that does no favours to the mood of those that suffer.

As Dr. Lester Grinspoon says, cannabis is actually a very safe drug to titrate with given you can’t overdose and the side effects are negligible in comparison to pharmaceutical alternatives.  Those that have chosen cannabis have done so for self preservation’s sake.  Unlike many prescribed drugs, cannabis is non organ toxic, and therein lays the desirability.  To be in control of one’s own destiny is a trait most would not understand until a similar road has been tread.

The Cannabis plant provides thousands of strains, all with differing effects.  To tailor strains to the needs of the user is the beneficial part of this issue that is being wilfully overlooked.  Some are rich in CBD and are good for pain, anxiety, and spasms.  Some are loaded with THC which gives a more euphoric and creative dynamic to the user.  Might I further point out; invariably, these plants are grown with as much care and attention to detail as pharmaceutical grade cannabis.  One could argue that more care and attention goes into cultivation from a medicinal user than it does a multinational company - I guess that one is subjective, but I would argue the case.  Sativex is a welcome addition to the medicine cabinet, but it certainly has not, nor ever will replace, cannabis in raw form.

Prohibition leaves medicinal users - and indeed anyone - with two options:  Grow your own and face 14 years imprisonment, or, forage for supply on the street for a lesser sentence.  The latter will undoubtedly leave the user at the mercy of hard-line criminality and adulterants such as glass. Contaminated cannabis is now rife on the streets.

Cannabis is more than a medicine, it is cathartic, it is an all encompassing therapy.  Ironically, the benefits of cannabis cannot be bottled and sold as the old adage proclaims.  It is more than a sum of its parts, and it is for the sufferers - not the financially incentivised - that should be heard in this discussion.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Guest Post by Dr. Susan Blackmore

"Surely the whole point about the discovery of cannabidiol as a neuro-protector is that it is the balance between THC and cannabidiol that counts, not the simple strength or amount of THC. 

Strength (THC content) is largely irrelevant because you can just smoke more or less according to preference. The critical point is that you don't know how much cannabidiol there is in what you smoke.

I believe we need the government to understand that skunk really is something different from old-fashioned good weed and to act accordingly."

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Skunk Debunked?

Over the last few years, an almost separate debate has raged; like a hybrid version of the issue, Skunk has now taken the place of contention over cannabis.

Cannabis was downgraded from class B to C in 2004, but was moved back to class B in 2008, due to the “new breed of cannabis” - the “super strength cousin” - namely, Skunk.  The potency of Skunk was suggested to be three or four times stronger than that of cannabis.

Dr. Ben Goldacre has played an intrinsic part in debunking the Skunk myths; his piece in Bad Science repudiated the now infamous Independent piece that retracted their calls for cannabis regulation.  Please see here for Dr. Goldacre’s work on debunking the potency myths.

It is perhaps western arrogance personified that we proclaim cannabis botany has progressed in a few years of domestic cultivation when eastern countries have thousands of years to show for their production of the plant.

Debra Bell - a prohibitionist campaigner - only talks in terms of Skunk and the high potency.  This directly from her site:

"It is not the same stuff as you may have smoked at college in the 60s, 70s, and 80s and can have devastating effects on the young.THC (the chemical that gives the high) has increased in the new super-strength cousin of cannabis – sinsemilla (called ‘skunk’ because of its pungent smell). Average THC in skunk is 16%, sometimes more. This is much higher than the herb (1-3%) and the resin (4-6%)    Another chemical present in cannabis is cannabidiol (CBD), occurring in negligible amounts in the stronger strains. CBD is thought to contain anti-psychotic properties, counteracting the effects of THC. Smaller amounts in skunk may account for the commonly reported psychotic reactions.Interestingly, CBD appears to have been virtually bred out of skunk, which may account for the devastating effects we are seeing, especially among the young."

Interestingly, the opening paragraphs seem to indicate that, yes indeed, the cannabis of yesteryear was relatively harmless.  So why do we have the perceived super strength cousin, and why did the government reclassify solely on the the higher potency of Skunk?  Skunk now justifies all actions within media and government circles.

It is very interesting, however, that on the 4th of April 2011; in a Written answers and Statement, Charles Walker MP asked:

“…what the average THC content of seized skunk cannabis was in the latest period for which figures are available; what the average THC content of cannabis seizures was (a) five, (b) 10 and (c) 20 years ago”

Given the dangerous potency of Skunk, this is an exemplary question.  The answer given by James Brokenshire is interesting:

The latest data from the Forensic Science Service Ltd (FSS) show that the average tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content of mature flowering tops from plants, otherwise known as sinsemilla, seized and submitted to the FSS from the 1 January 2008 to the present day was 14.0%. By comparison, during the same period, the average THC content of traditional imported cannabis and cannabis resin was 12.5% and 5.5% respectively.
Information on average THC levels of cannabis available in the UK prior to 2008 is available in the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs 2008 report 'Cannabis: Classification and Public Health', which can be found on the Home Office website via the following link:

This summarises data available at that time, including FSS data from 1995 to 2007 and data from the Home Office's Cannabis Potency Study 2008, published by the Home Office Scientific Development Branch. Information on average THC levels of cannabis prior to 1995 is not available.”

So, we have no information on the THC potency prior to 1995.

As with David Cameron’s statement in the Al-Jazeer interview regarding his “very very toxic” comments (as documented by Peter Reynolds), the Prime Minister also made reference to the high potency of modern day cannabis.  Once more, no evidence is available to substantiate the claims.

Don’t be fooled, we do not have super strength strains, we simply have good quality and bad quality.  The government & media’s version of Skunk is simply a marketing campaign.  Skunk is also known as “street weed” - badly cultivated cannabis that has been harvested too early, has not been flushed correctly thus meaning growing chemicals still are present.  The balance of cannabinoids are incorrect, and often the cannabis is cut with harder drugs, glass, or better known as “grit weed”.

Consequently, I would like to place it on record; the government has no evidence for the claims of higher potency cannabis, or “Skunk”.

Monday, 28 March 2011

War on Drugs: Count the Costs - campaign launch

Original Source Written and Found @ Externalities

“Fifty Years of the War on Drugs; Time to Count the Costs and Explore the Alternatives
The War on Drugs: Count the Costs global campaign will be launched by NGOs from around the world at a side-event at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna … [on] Wednesday 23 March. See for more details. 
The War on Drugs: Count the Costs campaign will bring together interested parties from around the world, including NGOs, policy makers and others whose work is negatively impacted by international drug enforcement. Together they will call on governments and international agencies to meaningfully evaluate the unintended consequences of the war on drugs and explore evidence-based alternatives. The results of this campaign will be presented to the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in 2012.  Here is the full text of the call:
The War on Drugs - Count the Costs and Explore the Alternatives
The global “war on drugs” has been fought for 50 years, without preventing the long-term trend of increasing drug supply and use. Beyond this failure, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime has also identified the many serious ‘unintended negative consequences’ of the drug war. These costs result not from drug use itself, but from choosing a punitive enforcement-led approach that, by its nature, places control of the trade in the hands of organised crime, and criminalises many users. In the process this:
1.      Undermines international development and security, and fuels conflict
2.      Threatens public health, spreads disease and causes death
3.      Undermines human rights
4.      Promotes stigma and discrimination
5.      Creates crime and enriches criminals
6.      Causes deforestation and pollution
7.      Wastes billions on ineffective law enforcement
The “war on drugs” is a policy choice. There are other options that, at the very least, should be debated and explored using the best possible evidence and analysis. 
We all share the same goals – a safer, healthier and more just world.  
Therefore, we the undersigned [ex: add your name!], call upon world leaders and UN agencies to quantify the unintended negative consequences of the current approach to drugs, and assess the potential costs and benefits of alternative approaches.

The War on Drugs: Count the Costs campaign launch is backed by: International Drug Policy Consortium; International Harm Reduction Association; Eurasian Harm Reduction Network; Drug Policy Alliance (US); Espolea (Mexico); Release (UK); Transform Drug Policy Foundation (UK); Hungarian Civil Liberties Union; CuPIHD (Mexico); Transnational Institute (Netherlands); International Centre for Science in Drug Policy (Canada); New Zealand Drug Policy Foundation; Washington Office on Latin America.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Evidence, Evidence, Evidence!

On Wednesday 9 March, the House of Lords held a Question For Short Debate on making the case for a Royal Commission on drug use and possession.  The debate was initiated by Lord Norton of Louth.

Lord Norton has hosted a comment section to his blog with a view to collating sources, evidence; and commentary that could be useful in the issue at hand.  Please do view the noble Lord’s blog and comments here.

The actual Question For Short Debate can be viewed here (from 19:48 onwards)

-or the written transcript here:

The debate was overwhelming in the comprehensive call for evidence evidence evidence.  In fact, at a quick count, the word evidence was used 42 times in the house, with every Lord calling for an elucidation of; and for a full evidence based policy.

Professor Nutt, of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, has long campaigned for evidenced based policy.  David Nutt has received criticism for - what some consider - his lobbying for a full utilisation of evidence in drug policy.  One can only make a fist of the frustration felt by, not only Professor Nutt, but a growing list of scientists who have resigned from the ACMD and related government roles.  Scientific evidence has been wilfully dismissed in successive governments.  The now full disengaged of science in drug policy is farcical, not to mention, a worrying conceptual blow to democratic ideals.  It can be argued that the UK has a disingenuous and opinion based policy.

The list of lords that spoke out in favour of progressive measures in current drug law shows to some degree that this issue has long been dominated by media intervention over content.  No more can this ethic be seen than by Baroness Joan Walmsley, LibDem peer, during the House of Lords debate on a Royal Commission on drugs policy, 9th March 2011

“My Government, who were elected with 60 per cent of the vote, should have the confidence to defy the tabloid newspapers. They should get the facts and act on them. We should not be afraid of ignorant, misleading and downright evil tabloid headlines. It is the right thing to do. Please let us do it!”

If The UK are serious about progressing societal wellbeing, it is hoped that this particular Question For Short Debate will go someway in ensuring more support within the houses, more support at grass roots; and an unpartisan media perhaps.  The drugs debate is not a flippant issue; thanks has to be given to Lord Norton, Baroness Meacher and the list of lords who raised their heads above the parapet in calling for the investigation of drug policy.

The government’s response from Baroness Neville-Jones is perplexing to say the very least.  Not only did the words of the noble lords fall on the deaf ears of government policy, but a skewing of facts was evident towards the end of her speech.  Baroness Meacher fully contested Baroness Neville-Jones on her perceived understanding of Portugal and drug related HIV rates.

It is furthermore puzzling, given the strenuous content of the debate, just why mainstream media has had no interest in the content of the discussion.  As ever, it falls to the word of mouth of dedicated individuals to raise much needed awareness to the fruitful dialogue in the House of Lords and to reciprocate the measured, and noble, vociferousness displayed in the house.  If nothing else, this session will go someway in securing further proceedings.

Additional: following the Royal Commission dialogue, an all party group led by Baroness Meacher, with Lord Lawson, and the former heads of the BBC, MI5 and CPS - seek an evidence based policy and conclude the 'war on drugs' has failed.  The study is in conjunction with the Beckley Foundation.  Read more here:

Monday, 28 February 2011

ISMOKE Magazine Issue 2

The second issue of the ISMOKE magazine shall be released at midnight on the 1st of March. What better way to get yourself ready for spring?

The second issue's contents:

  • Lead Editorial – Nuff Said
  • Cannabis Is A Wonderful Thing – Peter Reynolds
  • Cannabis In The News
  • Meet The Sprayer – Nuff Said
  • An Interview With Jason Reed – Nuff Said
  • Bud Porn – THCDUDEUK
  • Strain Reviews – The Cannablog
  • When There’s A Wall, There’s A Way – Clark French
  • Twisted Logic, You Know It Makes Sense – Jason Reed
  • Marijuana Myths: The Dangers Of Smoking Cannabis – Cure Ukay
  • The New Legalise Cannabis Alliance – Peter Reynolds
  • Recreational Or Medical: A Distinction Without A Difference – Alun Buffry
  • UKCIA – Derek Williams
  • Your Pictures
  • My Sacrament – Jakub Carter (FRANKDONTKNOWJACK)
  • Around The World – Cannabis College Amsterdam
  • Stateside: Nuff Said Reaches Out To Farmer Tom
  • Blogs You Should Read – Nuff Said
  • Cannabis Strains – Rags (THCTALK)
  • ISMOKE Reviews – Nuff Said
  • How To Do Your Bit For The Cannabis Campaign – Nuff Said
  • ISMOKE Competition
  • My Story – Luke Bunce
  • Visitor Map On ISMOKEHerb

Click this link for details: