Tag Archives: cannabis

The UK and the EU have a chance to stand up for drug policy reform


Nick Clegg made a big announcement on Thursday 1st October that has as yet gone unreported on LDV – he’s going on a jolly around Europe. Well no, not quite. He’s actually going on a tour of the EU to try to convince its leaders to stand together on the subject of international drug policy reform. Nothing like a challenge, eh Nick? But this is a serious issue, and at an absolutely crucial time. In April next year, the UN General Assembly will be holding a Special Session (UNGASS) to debate how to approach global drug policy over the next ten years and beyond, at a point where different parts of the world are diverging ever more rapidly on the issue of how to tackle the problems associated with drug use.

If the EU stands together united at UNGASS in calling for certain reforms to the UN conventions, and I sincerely hope Nick succeeds with his mission and it does, it has a much greater chance of making a positive impact. But what reforms can the EU agree to stand on? At one end countries like France and Sweden do not endorse any kind of change to their (relatively) strict drug laws, whereas countries like the Netherlands and Portugal have lead the way on liberal, evidence-based drug reforms for years. In the middle we have countries moving both ways too, with both Germany and Italy making noises about reforming their cannabis policies, Ireland voicing its support for drug decriminalisation and supervised injecting rooms and the the UK… well the less said about that the better. In fact, it has been noted that the EU can be seen as a near-perfect experiment for comparing the efficacy of a spectrum of subtly varied drug policies on relatively similar populations.

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LibLink: Baroness Sally Hamwee: It is time to legalise Cannabis for medicinal purposes”

Sally Hamwee has been writing for Politics Home about her attempts to have Cannabis legalised for medicinal use.  She firstly outlined the need:

Medicinal herbal cannabis is very effective for many people (not all) suffering from some very severe and debilitating conditions, the spasms and cramps associated with multiple sclerosis and spinal cord damage, Parkinson’s Disease and some of the symptoms of cancer and of the treatment of cancer among them.

It is available in 23 states of the USA, Canada, Israel and Netherlands from where it is exported to several other countries of the EU.  But not – legally – the UK.  The Dutch have used genetic alteration to maximise the benign content and eliminate the dangerous, psychosis-inducing component.

No wonder that so many British people go to great lengths to go abroad to get hold of it.  The cannabis-based drug licensed in England is much more expensive and only prescribed on a “named basis” as NICE regards it as not cost-effective (it is approved in Wales).

And then she outlined how both Conservatives and Labour in the House of Lords wouldn’t accept her ideas:

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Opinion: The legalisation of drugs – let’s not take the line of least resistance

drugsIt’s 1977…. a hot summer evening in Chicago (no – this is not the start of a Raymond Chandler novel). I’m getting a lift back from an outer suburb to the city which takes around an hour on the freeway. It’s late. The driver is going illegally fast. He’s desperate to get home he tells me – so he can smoke some dope. I am desperate to get back in one piece.  I suppose the only thing that might have made his driving worse is if he had actually already smoked the stuff. But that’s what addiction does – it makes people a bit desperate. And make no mistake, cannabis can be addictive.

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Opinion: Our flawed drug laws are at heart of riots

David Davis MP, in his appearance on the Question Time “riots special” said: “There are estates in Alan Simpson’s constituency where there are youngsters the age of 12 or 13 who got £30 a day paid for delivering drugs on whose estate the man to look up to was the drug dealers”

Brian Paddick: “Exactly”

Davis “because he had a big car and he lived well. And if we create circumstances like that it’ll be no surprise we get the problems we’ve had in London and the Midlands and the North in the last week.”

This is a fairly astute recognition of …

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Opinion: the lone maverick won’t change drugs policy. An army of moderates might.

As a passionate advocate of drugs policy reform, I was very excited on Wednesday evening about the prospect of a former drugs and defence minister coming out in favour of regulated drug supply. I thought someone with such experience could blow the debate wide open, and we could really start getting to grips with the issue as a nation. Sadly the debate that resulted was again loose and ill-defined. Was he talking about legalisation of all drugs, decriminalisation, prescription of heroin to addicts? Because the debate was poorly defined, it was allowed to spin out into sensationalism and I quickly got the sense that this wasn’t going to be the breakthrough I had hoped.

I have therefore come to the conclusion that drug policy reform is not going to happen soon if we are going to continue this trickling pattern of lone mavericks each proclaiming different varieties of the sensible, progressive message. What we need instead is for all these mavericks to get together with respected stakeholders and work to produce ONE message, one set of policies which can be held up as the first step. Reformers need to engage with other lobby groups outwith the major political parties whose activities aren’t closely monitored by the Daily Mail for any sign of intelligent (and therefore reprehensible) thought. We need to engage children’s charities and talk through how best reform can tackle issues of child neglect and abuse. We need to talk to police associations about how best to reduce serious organised crime and petty thefts. We should talk to retailers about the potential to massively reduce shoplifting. We should invite the teacher’s unions in to talk about how we close off criminal career opportunities for disadvantaged children and help them engage in education as their best means of advancement. Mental health charities can make vital inputs into breaking the links between depression and addiction or between cannabis and psychosis. The list of sensible influential groups who can contribute to the development of and subsequently support a single message of moderate reform could go on and on.

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Daily View 2×2: 5 November 2009

Good morning and welcome to the Voice’s early morning roundup of news and views. It’s 5th November, an anniversary we can all remember, when Guy Fawkes didn’t quite manage to get his suggestions for MPs’ expense reform through Parliament. It’s also Art Garfunkel’s birthday – he’s 68 today.

2 Big Stories

Bloody betrayal raises fresh doubts about Britain’s campaign in Afghanistan

The Times carries the story most papers are leading with this morning.

The killing of five British soldiers by an Afghan policeman raised fresh doubts yesterday about Britain’s mission in Helmand.

Senior political, diplomatic and military figures warned that public support for the British presence was in danger of collapse without a clear and freshly defined strategy.

Meanwhile, the Guardian has one of the more startling headlines I’ve read recently:

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Opinion: The Nutt affair – or, the thin line between evidence and policy

Firstly, a disclaimer: I am a scientist, who is also interested in governance and politics, so the following post may come across as somewhat heated. Apologies, but I do feel that the recent furore over Prof. David Nutt’s sacking as Chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) goes right to the heart of why I took up both science and politics as profession and interest respectively.

We begin with Prof. Nutt’s most recent criticism of the government’s drugs policy, which attracted headlines for claiming that alcohol, despite being legal and freely available, was more harmful than the Class A narcotic ecstasy (MDMA). At first sight this may seem like an outlandish statement to make, but the evidence, collated by Prof. Nutt, suggests otherwise; granted, the recent publication from Nutt’s The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (CCJS) at King’s College London wasn’t peer-reviewed, but the methodologies used to calculate his ‘harm index’ were so, and published in one of the most respected medical journals, The Lancet in 2007 (the full article is behind a paywall, contact me if you want the pdf…). Just to repeat this – using what seems to me to be a robust method, taking into account everything from physical harm to the user to social harms at large, ecstasy does indeed seem to be less dangerous than alcohol, and it’s using this tried and tested method of enquiry that Nutt used to conclude that cannabis should remain a class C drug.

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