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 p 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.