Necessity or nastiness? The hidden law denying cannabis for medicinal use

December 13, 2010

The last government had a peculiarly Stalinist approach to public wellbeing. It created over 1200 new laws, a record number for any government, many of which reflect a naïve belief that these would change public behaviour. Some were clearly stupid; thinking that drinkers would be deterred from behaving badly when drunk for fear of legal sanctions misses the point that many people get drunk deliberately to lose the inhibitions that such sanctions bring!

Perhaps the most pernicious principle of law was the one declared  in 2005 by way of a decision of the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division)  which did not, prior to the hearing, make it into the public arena for discussion, nor was the reasoning the product of debates in Parliament.  The effect of this decision is to  deny the defence of necessity to those growing or possessing cannabis to treat medical conditions for which other treatments were ineffective.   In the words of the Court, “its role [of the defence] cannot be to legitimise conduct contrary to the clear legislative policy and scheme”.  The consequence was that ill people for whom cannabis might be the sole means to relieve suffering are no longer able to plead that this was the reason they had the drug if they get arrested.

Surprisingly many do get arrested sometimes in very aggressive ways.  Just last week I received an email detailing how a middle aged ex teacher with multiple sclerosis has had her front door broken down by the police in dawn raids on three occasions over the last six years to combat her use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.  I presume everyone, except perhaps the police involved, would agree this is inhumane, a travesty of justice, and a complete waste of public money. There are regular court cases in which this defence is denied and so individuals are obliged to plead guilty to possession of what is now a Class B drug which carries a sentence of up to 5 years’ in prison, or up to 14 years if the court decides intent to supply (dealing) was present. Such judgments  are devastating to the patient and their families but also quite distasteful to those charged with enacting the penalties. I have spoken with many magistrates and a significant proportion express privately their extreme dislike of being forced to criminalise such users of cannabis.

Why did the Court of Appeal do this? Since the reclassification of cannabis to class B in 2009 the UK has some of the most punitive laws on cannabis in Europe. Until 1971 cannabis was legal in the UK if in medicinal form and had been so for centuries. It was greatly beloved of Queen Victoria who swore by its analgesic properties claiming that she would never have had so many children without the help of this medication.  The  medical license was removed in 1971 because a couple of rogue GPs in London, who were campaigning to make cannabis legal, began to prescribe medicinal cannabis with the recommendation that it be added to tobacco and smoked.  Whether the threat to UK society of this behaviour was sufficient to ban a whole class of medication is very questionable, but since then we have had no cannabis medicines in the UK. This puts us in clear contrast to many other European countries where it is available on prescription [1]. Even in the USA, which has even more extreme laws for recreational cannabis use than the UK, many states make cannabis available for health reasons on a doctor’s recommendation.

Until 2005, users arrested for cannabis possession did  invoke the defence of medicinal necessity (encompassed in the concept of Duress of Circumstance) which was that they needed cannabis as no other medication worked for their condition. So why did the Court of Appeal ban it in 2005?  Reading the legal arguments the same circular attitudes that permeated the Labour government’s whole biased and ignorant attitude to drugs are recapitulated [2].  The decision is logical if we make two flawed assumptions, that cannabis is illegal because it is harmful to society, and that punishment is an acceptable and effective deterrent.  This translates to illogical conclusion that ill people with conditions such as multiple sclerosis, chronic pain and spasticity need to be protected from the potential harms of cannabis by criminalising them! As was noted following the decision the Court was influenced by the government’s refusal to relax the legislation in this context despite recommendations to do so by the House of Lords Select Committee.

Another reason was that the defence was becoming too common and that there would be obvious risks for the integrity and the prospects of any coherent enforcement of the legislative schedime.   No concern for patient suffering there then, just some difficulties for the enforcers. Nowhere in the judgements is there any discussion of the historical precedents that cannabis was a useful medicine and that the decision to make it illegal was based on legal and moral rather than medical grounds. Perhaps not surprising given that the UK is one of the few western countries where drug control is vested in the ministry for justice/law rather than health. Nowhere is there any scope for allowing a doctor to decide if cannabis might be useful. The intention of the decision is clear – reduce cannabis use for whatever reason – by punitive means.

Is this just? Of course not, the judgment  reflects the nastiness of a statutory scheme that makes no provision for the medicinal use of cannabis, and existing law reflects a  blinkered and regimented view  of life and behaviour.  The consequences of this distasteful state of affairs  is that it not only denies medical help to a profoundly suffering group of disabled people but also adds huge mental distress from the legal process and the public embarrassment of court exposure to a group of otherwise law-abiding citizens. Even worse some have had their possessions and bank accounts seized under the new proceeds of crime legislation where there is evidence that the offender has “benefited” from his “criminal conduct” (expressions that have a legal meaning but the confiscation laws are draconian).  This situation surely would not continue if the public were aware of the iniquity of the law.  Some patient test cases are now under review in the European Court and so hopefully it will soon be overturned.

The recent release of the cannabis extract spray medicine Sativex has been a move in the right direction but it will not deal with the needs of all patients and most doctors are still not willing to prescribe it.  Some patients have used the right of freedom of trade in Europe embodied by the Schengen agreement to obtain medicinal cannabis from European countries such as the Netherlands where it is a prescription medicine [3]. There is some uncertainty about the legality of this approach – the Home Office recently released a statement denying the legality of this approach in contrast to letters previously sent to individuals that sought clarification on the matter.  It would be much preferred by patients, carers and doctors alike for justice to be enacted by revoking the current law. The new coalition government has asked for the public to suggest laws to be revoked – this is one I and surely any sane and humane citizen would recommend repealing.

Comments in italics are taken from the report by Stephen Leake, Barrister R. v Quayle and Other Appeals; Attorney-General’s Reference (No.2 of 2004), Re Ditchfield

Thanks to Dr Chris Lawson for research input.

Refs
1.    http://eldd.emcdda.europa.eu/html.cfm/index5175EN.html

2. Neutral Citation Number: [2005] EWCA Crim 1415
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF JUDICATURE COURT OF APPEAL (CRIMINAL DIVISION)

3.  http://peterreynolds.wordpress.com/2010/10/01/legal-medicinal-cannabis-in-britain/

71 Responses to “Necessity or nastiness? The hidden law denying cannabis for medicinal use”

  1. Peter Reynolds Says:

    I haven’t even read it yet David but just wanted to thank you straightaway for addressing this subject


    • If he had come to the conclusion that asking politicians for an medical cannabis exemption was far too restrictive, and perpetrated yet more inequality between those with the ‘green card’ and those without, would you still be thanking him?

  2. daniel carter Says:

    Our government (the Tyrants) tries to discriminate British people, wrongly informing that other Europeans nationals are allowed to bring cannabis to England to treat their illness, but not Britons.

    UK politicians are lying, as, according to the European parliament, there’s no way the British government can discriminate an European citizen; not even his own people: http://www.vimeo.com/8217543

    This criminal political interference over what is our legal right, as Europeans (or, even more important, as human beings) to be treated fairly and with equality, could have the sad consequence of patients being punish for treating their pain.

    (a collection of Cannabis Medical studies:
    https://sites.google.com/site/archiveinfo2010

  3. Peter Reynolds Says:

    Sativex remains a schedule 1 drug although I understand that the Home Office has issued a general licence so that it may be prescribed and dispensed.

    I applaud GW Pharma for bringing the benefits of cannabinoid therapy into legitimate use. However, Sativex has been approved on the basis of what I would call a white lie. It is nothing more than a tincture (an alcoholic extract) of herbal cannabis. It is a blend of two strains delivering an approx 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD. It also contains at least 60 other cannabinoids as naturally occur in the plant.

    Only last week, I read a very eminent doctor’s words which indicate that he believes Sativex is some sort of pharmaceutical extract of only THC and CBD. It is not. It is a whole plant extract.

    This makes an absolute nonsense of the Home Office’s position that there are no medicinal benefits in herbal cannabis and, therefore, opens the way for a fresh appeal to the Supreme Court on the grounds of medical necessity.

    The latest update on the Schengen Agreement debacle is here:

    http://peterreynolds.wordpress.com/2010/11/06/second-update-on-legal-medicinal-cannabis-in-britain/

    In summary, it remains illegal to import or use prescribed medicinal cannabis if you a a British resident. However, a resident of almost any other country in Europe is protected under Schengen for the import, possession and use of prescribed medicinal cannabis. Clearly this is wide open to challenge under EU law. There is not even a precise definition of residency.

    The British Medicinal Cannabis Register was founded only last month in order to establish a database of statistical information on the medicinal use of cannabis in Britain. It seeks to record how many people use medicinal cannabis, for what reasons and by which methods.

    Registration is entirely confidential and may be anonymous if preferred. See http://www.bmcr.org.uk


    • The SPC for Sativex only mentions 9thc and cbd.
      The plasma concentrations are way lower than inhaled cannabis. The spc says it is a tincture and thus will have other cannabinoids in it but probably at lower concentrations with much lower plasma concentrations. I am awaiting replies from GW pharma
      as to these other compounds and there plasma levels.
      They may even change their SPC.


  4. I think the legal reasonning is incorrect in this piece, whilst the plight of medical cannabis users is indeed in need of redress, the claim that it is best remedied through the defence of criminal necessity is wrong. The whole defence was misconceived, we need to start with the duties of government to administer the law properly, this will never be done whilst commentators insist of making the same errors of law as govt re what the Act controls and the complete myth of legal and illegal drugs. Sorry, right sentiment, wrong approach.

    • Peter Reynolds Says:

      Darryl, I fully understand the argument that you the DEA put forward but it requires a whole shift of perspective on the law. I believe, for the sake of expediency,a fresh appeal on the grounds of medical necessity might succeed. We can prove that, for instance, Bedrocan, is pharmacologically identical to Sativex. If, therefore, it is prescribed by a doctor, how can it reasonably be denied?

      Once we have that hole in the dyke, it won’t be long before we can achieve regulated cultivation, then personal cultivation.


      • Peter, sadly it’s not the reasonableness of a denial that is being tested by this route, this is the problem, people are playing fast and loose with legal principles and seeking to impute everyday concepts, common sense and pragmatism into the legal decision making process. There is no place in law for imputing any of these ideals into legal adjudication – it is the question being asked that is important. Here the question is not, is it reasonable to curtail the rights of ill persons to avail themselves of cannabis given the similarity of herbal and prescribed forms? Not at all. You are quite wrong to try and dress this up as a common law defence of necessity, as this is a legal concept that absolutely does not concern itslef with, nor should it concern itself with, the factors you think are relevant. It wouldn’t matter if cannabis could cure a serious debilitating disease or not. The question being asked is does the defence of necessity allow one under these circumstances to do acts which otherwise would be illegal, and thus frustrate the legislative purpose of the administrative acts of government? The answer can only be gained from looking at what legal necessity means, and it does not involve any logical discussion about the merits of the treatment, quite the opposite, it is to say that the circumstances are so extreme that the protagonist has no alternative whatsoever, that really there is literally no choice to be made as opposed to the reality that there is a choice, albeit an attractive, effective rational, reasonable choice compared to an unpleasant, ineffective, expensive one with horrible side-effects.


  5. Thanks for this David, I use cannabis for crippling pain and nausea, along with depression and various other symptoms of a hyper-sensitive form of coeliac disease. My absorption through the gut is poor, so regular tablets don’t have much effect. For my situation, I can’t describe cannabis as anything but a miracle.

    I am currently serving a suspended sentence after my front door was smashed in by police who were desperate to stop me relieving my symptoms, presumably for the good of my health and that of society.

    Given the right medicine, I can deal with the pain, the nausea and the depression. The one thing I can’t deal with is the fear of the government sending its enforcers to smash my house up again.

    Coeliac disease disables me, but the state terrorises me. That is an appalling truth in a supposedly civilised country.


  6. Further:

    Darryl is right about the legal approach to this problem. I refused to plead guilty in my case, and refused to make a special case for medical users. I demanded equal treatment with alcohol users, regardless of my intentions. The Misuse of Drugs Act doesn’t say what government thinks it does, it doesn’t provide legal exceptions for possessing, trading, etc., alcohol or tobacco, and it certainly doesn’t grant the government the power to exclude entire sections of society from the operation of the law. But government does this with alcohol and tobacco users, claiming the Act is not a suitable mechanism for regulating alcohol and tobacco, when per sections 7, 22 and 31 it patently is!

    The current drugs regime in the UK is not a reflection of law, but a policy choice based on nothing more than assumptions about what the law demands. Therefore, the drugs regime in the United Kingdom constitutes a monumental abuse of power.

  7. Steve Rolles Says:

    clearly the idea that medical users are being criminalised for their use is unjust and offensive but there are other issues to consider.

    Chief amongst these appears to be the question of whether herbal cannabis in particular should have some special exemption that means it doesnt havce to go through the testing and rigours of other prescribed drugs before it is made available under an appropriate licensed regime. There is some excellent annecdotal evidence and now some good emerging clinical evidence for cannabis efficacy on certain conditions – but the medical cannabis field remains full of unevidenced claims by non-medics, much of it bordering on the quackery seen elsewhere in the CAM field.

    There is a quite tricky balance to strike between preventing over-criminalisation of existing practices, and putting in place a consistent and appropriate system fo licensing medicines.


    • Steve, I couldn’t disagree with you more and am slightly worried someone in your field says this. Do you not read research from North America, most of Europe, the research and pursuit of Professor Lester Grinspoon? This is very much not the unknown the UK pertains it to be in the slightest. In fact, our naivety in this area has become infamous.

      We don’t have the research directly in the UK because it’s not been allowed. This is always the cruel point of this issue! Although, GW Pharmaceuticals has made some leaps through sheer attrition, ironically, most of their results tends to go across the Atlantic.

      Besides, Transform is the organisation to first say: “it’s here, it’s not going away, how to we deal with it”.


      • Purely for the purpose of this public blog I feel I owe a more lucid explanation to my comment. –

        The reason the UK’s cannabis platform in medicine is broadly surveyed as “quackery” is owing to the fact that – by its very essence – all research has come from pioneers, non-conformists, and perceived radicals; when a substance is of “schedule 1″ status (of no medical value), research is impeded entirely unless you are willing to push broad boundaries, and possibly suffer heavy consequence. You need to be brave to further this debate in the UK as we’ve seen time and again. Professor Nutt has publicly addressed this quandary with other substances such as MDMA and LSD in medicine.

        Although “schedule 1″ is also true of North America, it is easier to be a radical in this continent giving the vast backing in the independent realms of research and funding, not to mention, there are many more people prepared to go against the grain, seemingly, and contest Government.

        As said, GW Pharmaceuticals have been one of the first major influences in furthering the UK’s position in cannabis medicine. A good video to view is this one from Geoffrey Guy MD of GW:

        http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5030388544973469056#

        Furthermore, a must read is “Marihuana the Forbidden Medicine” by Harvard Medical School’s professor of psychiatry – Dr Lester Grinspoon. It is a great source, especially relating to the Professor’s own fight with the Supreme Court and to recognise research over political posturing.

      • Steve Rolles Says:

        I’m aware of the research and Im not questioning its utility for many people – my point is a process one. I appreciate that its already here, and I want to know how it should the medical market be regulated; how something like herbal cannabis (by its nature a difficult drug to classify – and unusual because it is often smoked, unlike any other medical drug Im aware of) fits into existing mechanisms for licensing drugs.

        I cant think of any other traditionally used herbal drugs that are legal for prescription from the outset of a licensing system and only have to establish safety and efficacy subsequently. It seems that the normal process have been reversed, or at last thats what is being proposed. If thats the case – I think its needs a better justification than Ive seen thus far.

        Whilst flawed, the regulatory processes for medicines have a function – not least protecting people from precisely some of the unevidenced claims and quackery I witnessed in the exploding US medical pot scene.

        Im also very wary of the way the medical and non medical cannabis issues have been conflated and confused, particularly in the US. They need to be kept seperate IMHO.

    • Peter Reynolds Says:

      Steve, as Jason says, there is a huge amount of peer reviewed research and evidence to exactly the same standards as Big Pharma on the efficacy of cannabis in the treatment of a wide range of conditions.

      See the BMCR Facebook page or the news feed at http://www.bmcr.org.uk There is a constant stream of information about research of the highest standard. In California and Colorado it is now a matter of course to have herbal cannabis and/or oils/tinctures/creams analyzed and packaged with a full description of its THC/CBD content.

      Seriously, please update yourself on current events. I am drowning in evidence of the highest possible quality!

      As an example, the one that really stands out for me concerns Alzheimer’s, where THC has been shown conclusively to hold back the progression of the disease massively more effectively than any currently approved pharma product. If this wasn’t cannabis it would be front page news, feature length documentaries and politicans falling over themselves to be involved.

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2562334/


      • Steve, I’m still left questioning the research you have read and seen, and if it’s been in the “US medical pot scene” well we’ll say no more; of course it’s flawed there as the two areas of contestable subject matter have been deliberately mixed as we all know. I very much don’t speak of this area. Even medical advocates such as Todd McCormick are left fuming at the mockery of the Cali model and “doctors” in this area. The research I speak of and that got me interested in this subject does not compare to the flimsy wild west model. I will remind, I am as objective as it gets being of “prohibitionist” position until only a few years ago.

        You also make a point that is quite sensitive amongst medical users, most vaporise, not smoke. Many eat too, if you are using for genuine conditions, you choose the healthiest means to ingest.

        There is often to perpetual argument of medicinal use and the terminology of “medicine” given the man-made frame works and semantics of medication, this is all well and good but it still negates any degree of progression for the sufferers. What is the way ahead then? This is why, in essence (and although highly flawed as discussed) the U.S model works as it does; it takes the medical aspect ever so slightly askew and operates independently under its own guise as the urgency was understood over the red tape – a point missed in the UK. I don’t mind objective Steve, but I would love to see some more constructive ways. Many now refer to this as marijuana therapy and not medical marijuana just to avoid the stalemate that always ensues with those removed from the subject matter. Taking away any evidence, testimony should count for something, and we have those in abundance. You clearly er on the side of sceptic judging by your terminology, but all the while you have the luxury of objectivity, it is for those encumbered in this farce to reap the heartache either through prosecution, damage to health, or the added harms of prohibition which Transform knows only too well.

        Think of this differently Steve – whatever your own personal thoughts on validity – medical/therapeutic marijuana is a solace for those of us who fall outside the ambit of prescribed medications that either don’t work, put you on a trail of harder prescribed drugs, or we wish to escape the copious harms of prescribed meds entirely. I would not presume, but unless you have been long term sick with medication pumped down you, you have little idea how frustrating this issue is and the further loss of dignity from having your life in control by outside influence. Many have no idea of the empowerment and emotive joy to have some degree of autonomy over their own lives.

        As boring as it is, I shall remind once more of my own road in this area: I have been left blind, paralysed, nearly without a liver and still have many trials to face due to the prescribed medications that are highly addictive, tolerance building and ineffective. This is just my account, there are a whole lot worse out there right now as we speak. Seeing as we all wish to break new ground on wider issues, perhaps we could start by breaking new ground in this area and thinking differently & progressively, clearly and in every way, it’s needed.

  8. Duncan Stott Says:

    All true, Steve, but I’m not sure we’re talking about prescribed drugs here. Cannabis in this context is self-prescribed. Ideally, everyone would go to the doctor to get the best medication for their condition. But out there in the scary real world, people self-medicate.

    The government’s response to the Science and Technology Select Committee Evidence Check on Homeopathy (http://bit.ly/dKOsJl) declared that “the geographical, socioeconomic and cultural diversity in England” gives rise to many other considerations other than efficacy when considering policy on CAM.

    So even if the Department of Health believes there is not enough evidence into the efficacy of medicinal cannabis, if they were being consistent (!!!) that is not a good enough reason to criminalise it.

    • Peter Reynolds Says:

      Duncan,

      See http://www.bedrocan.nl which is contracted to the Dutch Bureau Voor Medicinale Cannabis and provides three different products with various but precisely controlled THC/CBD ratios for prescription by doctors in exactly the same way as any pharma product.

      On your wider point though, of course you’re right. There never was and never has been any justification for prohibition for medicinal or recreational use.


  9. Professor Nutt,

    I cannot thank you enough for addressing this issue. I have contacted you privately a few times this last year and your representation and yourself have always treated me with great respect and courtesy. In this particular subject matter and battle, the UK is one of the last to – not only maintain these unethical methods – but we have actually increased the intensity of the disregard for the ill and infirm. As a lawful and moral citizen, you can imagine the feelings I have towards my own country. I look to the rest of the world with furious envy in so many differing ways.

    For me, being on the front line of this subject matter, it is hard not to address this through an emotionally invested stance. Through my own means and the help of others, I now have an outlet for my frustrations through my blog:

    http://www.homegrownoutlaw.blogspot.com/

    The video to which I have made that addresses science, politics & prohibition, has also has been extremely well received in the scientific community I’m honoured to say:

    … and the worst part of this debate for those who are embroiled in the subject matter? The fact we have to pour our lives over the net (and beg the press who invariably turn a blind eye) just to make a difference and a point. The ravaged dignity for those of us who are extremely private is a part of this battle which will never heal; these scars are terminal for pride.

    Overlooked victims are our loved ones and partners who also have to put their lives on hold and face the wrath of law just for supporting & loving someone who is ill. Our families need due recognition too as they are the forgotten braves of this war.

    I am privileged to now have a network of colleagues and friends who have saved sanity when breaking point reaches ever nearer. This is why such usually reserved emotion tends to seep through when posting to anyone who actually cares & points out the injustice that so many are willing to do nothing about. Thank you Professor!

    Jason Reed ( A founding council member of the BMCR – http://www.bmcr.org.uk )

  10. The True Druid Says:

    Whilst a door surveyor for the local council I asked four chiefs of police from different counties why they could drill a hole in the lock and let their selves in without damaging the door and they said “We want to brake the door and cause all the noise to let the neighbours know that crime doesn’t pay!
    LOVELY!

    Thing is, you don’t have to have a medical certificate to use dock leaves!

  11. Bob Says:

    Its a disgrace that people with genuine health needs are being punished for seeking relief from cannabis, more so when fellow European citizens can access it and transport it freely across Europe even the UK!.

    The ‘Drugs’ laws in the UK are contradictory and verging on spiteful.

    Alcohol kills 1000s of people each year in the UK, but its ok its licensed and regulated so its fine, cannabis is weakly linked to mental health issues and people risk five years in prison, cannabis has been used for 1000s of years, yet the home office seem to believe it has no medicinal value, apart from the ridiculously overpriced cannabis tincture – Sativex, but of course the home office don’t see that as cannabis even though its produced from the entire plant and contains exactly the same ingredients!

    Cannabis which is pretty much non toxic, therefore surely it cannot be measured in the same way as drugs of addiction, to criminalise people for using it recreationally when a far more dangerous substance is legally available in supermarkets across the land is plain wrong, to persecute people deriving medicinal benefit is scandalous and the home office should be ashamed of themselves.

    The major supermarkets feed the addictions of 1000s of alcoholics without remorse daily because of the caveat that people should drink responsibility (a contradiction in terms). At least the new drug strategy actually mentions alcohol albeit with misleading data and a deliberate misrepresentation of the facts – failing to mention the 6000 odd death’s related to alcohol each year! The figures also come from a report that excluded people in treatment services, the homeless and those in supported housing, this would add 100,000s to the dependency list, cleverly the home office decided to use the figures away, its deceptive in my opinion. The link is for the report, the home office used for some of the figures for alcohol.

    http://www.ic.nhs.uk/webfiles/publications/mental%20health/other%20mental%20health%20publications/Adult%20psychiatric%20morbidity%2007/APMS%2007%20%28FINAL%29%20Standard.pdf

    The home office of course, because of the massive revenues generated by alcohol cannot upset the alcohol industry too much or indeed deter drinkers too much, because the UK would be bankrupt without alcohol! Millions of jobs would be lost. The number of TV adverts I’ve seen for alcohol recently is astonishing for something seemingly so dangerous. Can you imagine the same for cannabis?

    Most people accept if alcohol was discovered today it would be an A class drug!, yet A class drug dealers are apparently some of the worse members of society. Of course the 2 can’t be compared because Alcohol is regulated and of course we cannot compare the harms of legal drugs with illegal ones.

    You would hope as the home office, who apparently err on the side of caution in relation to harm, alcohol harm reduction would be a top priority, of course though it’s the DOH who look after alcohol harms! There is scaremongering about the increasing strength of cannabis, yet the alcohol of up 40% is available everywhere!

    Addiction of any kind should be a health issue not a criminal justice issue! Double punishment for heroin addicts, the pain of addiction and of course a criminal record!

    Things have got to change, the taboo of drug discussion has to be brokenshire..


  12. Surely much of the debate would be solved if we required those doing the prohibiting to provide the evidence supporting their policy. We’re accepting the burden of proof to show that cannabis is good medicine when the government has never put forward a persuasive argument for prohibiting it. The burden of proof belongs to the government, it’s time the state justified its criminalisation of millions of people.

  13. Bob Says:

    Peter Hitchens responds to David Nutt and his ‘nutties’

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/dec/15/cannabis-professor-david-nutt-peter-hitchens

    The Guardian, peddling home office myths again…

  14. nikmorris Says:

    In reply to your last comment Peter, much of the Home Office evidence base should be available through the FoI act(Fingers crossed, not that I’m expecting anything substantial) I’ve just asked for it recently myself. Another thing to remember is that, over the years, many parties(?)have also expressed a belief in it’s values. Many through the Select Committee on Science and Technology Ninth Report
    http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/ld199798/ldselect/ldsctech/151/15106.htm
    However, as I understand it from the posts above and the Evidence within the Lords publication it is that “5.7 The Government consider that the burden of proof rests on the proponents of medical use of herbal cannabis.” SO!! How to get around this? How do we carry out the “tests” ourselves? And how do we do it within the Home Office guidelines of today? Also, just as a thought, how do Homeopathic remedies get a thumbs up and how would the burden of proof be applied to them? Any ideas all?

  15. Monex fraud Says:

    In a ruling that took aim at those advocating an end to the current criminal prohibition on marijuana the court said disagreeing with the law does not permit you to break it. Court of Appeal judgment Wednesday that said such behaviour undermines the rule of law.

  16. domainsells Says:

    What is the URL of the “Court of Appeal judgment Wednesday that said such behaviour undermines the rule of law.”?

  17. whinny the witch Says:

    when listing the harm caused to society by cannabis, we soon see that they are in fact side effects of the prohibition and media package and lack of a dynamic regulated framework and fact based education . agree with and abide by regardless of the truth or they will punish you in what they call a democratic way ! , well prohibition has been going for long enough, when is it going to start showing results , because im starting to think its stringing the job out with no results at full cost when compared to other models ,like a rouge trader ,con artist! and when the money starts to dry up its only then regulation might be a good idea , anyone for lamb

  18. deejaychip Says:

    Totally behind you with this professor. I for one am fed up of this Orwellian system that we live in. As you rightly advocate, we need to be a lot more grown up about the whole drug issue. We are big boys and girls, and dont need dictators teling us what we can or cannot use in the privacy of our own homes, if it inflicts no harm on others. We need education about drugs, research and an open culture. We must exercise our right to freedom.


  19. [...] The last government had a peculiarly Stalinist approach to public wellbeing. It created over 1200 new laws, a record number for any government, many of which reflect a naïve belief that these would change public behaviour. Some were clearly stupid; thinking that drinkers would be deterred from behaving badly when drunk for fear of legal sanctions misses the point that many people get drunk deliberately to lose the inhibitions that such sanctions … Read More [...]

  20. Peter Reynolds Says:

    We really have to get our act together and fight cannabis prohibition. It’s an affront to democracy and personal liberty that it remains illegal but the fact that those in pain and suffering are denied it is an obscene injustice.

    Those ministers who refuse even to consider medicinal use can only be described as evil. Let’s not mince our words or equivocate about this. At best they are cowardly, indolent and cruel. At worst they are corrupt, oppressive and sadistic.

    http://peterreynolds.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/the-cannabis-campaign-in-2011/


  21. Medical use of cannabis is a great idea for sure, but not what we should be arguing for, we want equality of treatment for all. Hopeless language Peter, even you don’t learn the important issues I have raised, associating personal liberty with the expression ‘it remaining illegal’ what is it? IT is YOU.

    Ministers are largely ignorrant and cowardly I agree, some are corrupt, indolent and cruel.

    • Peter Reynolds Says:

      Darryl, we’ve been here before and, as you know, I greatly admire your principles.

      I am more concerned with pragmatism, even, dare I say it, expediency. Anything, short of violence, that will break through the inertia that maintains this prohibition is justifiable.

      The medicinal cannabis argument is irrefutable. It is an unlocked door waiting to be pushed open. We should be able to shame and embarrass ministers into change. It is a scandal that they deny relief to those in suffering.


  22. No it isn’t an f-ing door Peter, its a sick person.


    • And tell people inside that the door is unlocked.


      • The “it” is the property being controlled that is used to access thought, the mind-state sought.

        I let it go as a joke, that “cannabis is innocent until proven guilty”, then who gives a toss if you talk that way? Well just the persons locked up behind your political open door. Amnesty now for all prisoners of the war. I want consensus too, but not on these terms.

  23. Peter Reynolds Says:

    What does that mean?

    You know full well that I’m using the expression to explain the state of the political argument.

    Why are you playing point scoring, semantic games?

    My record on supporting and fighting for medicinal users speaks for itself.

    Take a look at this. It might light your way.


  24. It’s because you can#t stop talking about “it” in the abstract, the popular front is the one with the word “people” in it innit. everytime you talk about “it” you sound like someone is a lab coat – these are humans they are mesing with.

  25. Peter Reynolds Says:

    No. Having tried repeatedly to be inclusive and supportive with you, you just convinced me that your whole approach is just a semantic game and, therefore, meaningless.

    I’ll get on with the real work. You go off and worry about your definitions OK?


  26. Only because my last post coincided in time with yours do I say you take it in the wrong way. What you just posted makes no sense at all, you must be upset about it. What is it you truly want me to believe? That you want to be inclusive and support me but won’t accept the basis of what i came to work! This is jour job? A bandleader we should all sign up to? Just what eactly for Peter? So we can lobby for what exactly Peter? Where is the political door open Peter? Which prisoner can walk free tonight for all your talk you have promised little to offer for the desperate plight people experience thanks to a lot more than you or anyone else not getting cannabis legally. This isn’t the first stone Peter can you not see? Open up the eyes to see what you are asking for? Is it liberty? Ask yourself what level this claim inspires, empathy for the sick? It is a freeeom of thought we must see it in terms of liberty, relatively proportionate tests of incursions into liberty. It’s a right, your med can thing, it’s just an entitlement claim in that regard. We don’t want exceptions of these terms. We want our freedom.

  27. Peter Reynolds Says:

    Yes, Darryl, we all want our freedom. To unlock the prison we are in we need a key that fits the lock. There’s little point in discussing the particular design of the locking mechanism. That might have been relevant back when the prison was built. For now, let’s just get on with finding a way out. That means we have to work within the existing political system, by its rules. To pretend that you can overturn the system’s modus operandi is just hubris.

    Prohibition is immoral. Denying people in pain and suffering the relief they need is evil. I shall try to fight the evil first and worry about the immorality later.


  28. Don’t tell me not to study the lock, that’s what I am doing. That’s the rule! You bring nothing to this again.

    • Peter Reynolds Says:

      Darryl,

      You’re playing with an intellectual Rubik’s cube. I can tell you enjoy it but it has no point.

      I’m writing yet another letter asking for a meeting with a Home Office minister to discuss a licence for the importation of medicinal cannabis as prescribed by a doctor.

      If you like, I can put some medicinal users in touch with you and maybe you could do some of the letter writing and lobbying? It would be a great help.


  29. The point is Peter that it IS what you say that counts, your examples of prisons being locked with old locks and before the doors being unlocked etc it’s just meaningless waffle. There is no point in meeting with or writing to ministers about medical cannabis from my view as I find the whole idea abhorrent – being sick to claim freedom when the only valid approach would be a libertarian one. They used to think gays were sick and some argued they were not bad, as in not needing punishment but suffering from illness needing treatment. It’s such a weak idea to medicalise the issue in this way when it affects everyone, not just the people with med problems who would benefit. In your mind we are so weak that we could only expect cannabis to be available for the few who obviously would benefit, and then that would open the door you think to liberty. Wrong, there is no conection between freedom of thought for ordinary people as a right and special entitlements for the sick. One does not lead at all from the other. Take it head on, but get out of your prescription comfort zone or going on about importing some cannabis from Holland for someone. My views on liberty and equality, on legal administration don’t even touch upon your activities, nor am I interested in your idea to get everyones name and addresses on your database either.

  30. Peter Reynolds Says:

    I think we shall have to agree to differ Darryl because in my view, most of what you say is meaningless waffle. I think your stance is pretentious, unrealistic and incredibly naive.


  31. So why did you want to be ‘inclusive and supportive’ then? Is this comment by necessity or just nastiness?

  32. Peter Reynolds Says:

    Darryl, why are you behaving like a particularly unpleasant and aggressive troll? If I didn’t respect your reputation then I would think you were being deliberately provocative.

    I do want – no, I am “inclusive and supportive”. Your esoteric and bizarre approach to the subject is different from mine but please run your arguments if you wish. You have my support. I can see the tortuous logic in your approach but I doubt that it will be effective. What will not work is your intemperate language, impugning of my motives or wholly inaccurate description of my campaigning.

    This is now competely unproductive and disrespectful to David’s blog. If you want to continue trying to persuade me towards your approach I suggest you email me: peter@peter-reynolds.co.uk


  33. Taking you to task is not trolling, you don’t address the substance of my critique, just dismiss it as irrelevant. I’ll post where I like and if David want’s to edit his own post or ask me to do or not do something, then let him, I’m not taking that advice from you.

  34. Will Mathieson Says:

    David,
    I truly admire your rational and courageous arguments on this subject. I feel you may be considerably underestimating just how much ‘nastiness’ is involved in suppressing the use of genuine cannabis for medical or any other purposes. Long may that continue! In other words, watch your back.


  35. I’ve been thinking and I think it’s possible to argue constructively in this way, but we must introduce some universalist principles into the argument. Perhaps we must first think what do we mean by medical user and what role a doctor need play. I can tolerate this if we can look at the freedom to self expression and thought concerned with chosing one treatment over another backed up with hard evidence of it’s efficacy.

  36. Nik Morris Says:

    After reading, or attempting to read, the last posts all I can say is this. You two mad buggers argue amongst yourselves and I’ll stick up for my rights as an individual in as many ways as I possibly can. My next step is sending a picture of myself along with my name and address to the home office. I’ll ask the cunts to come and arrest me and go from there. I’ve had it and I’m now taking the plunge. Police station everyday, pics of me consuming on the net. The works. Talking about this shit won’t make a difference. We’re all to easily ignored. Well, for me that’s not going to be the case. However, I’m certain what I’m going to say next is true. The MAJORITY of drug users don’t give a fuck about the arguments you forward Darryl(Although I understand them and fully support them). Keep in mind you’re talking to millions of people who’ve never had a pull, never been arrested and never had a problem with the “Law”. If you’re going to pontificate, why not try keeping it “SIMPLE” so “EVERYONE” can understand. I also notice you’re joining the LCA again Peter. There reputation is non-existent to many and to others it’s just absolutely crap. It’s just the same old same old over and over again(I’d support them though as they’re a decent bunch all the same, just no cash to do it) and I applaud you for that. But have we no other forms of attacking these unjust laws? Even a full expose of the comments pages of the mail could get us further than we are at the moment. It’s all just a crock of shit. If there’s anything that’s going to change this country it’ll begin with the amalgamation and not the fragmentation of many of the ideas forwarded on the web. Arguing amongst yourselves is just(IMO)self defeating BS. Sorry if I offend but I just can’t stand reading this crap anymore. So please, have a go at finding some common ground and carry on in your own inimitable ways or kiss and make up. You’d never last in the Welsh Valleys. People just wouldn’t stand for your shit. Find some common ground!!! Go from there. Arguing from the get go is just sad. To Finish! I like you both. I read what you publish and follow your blogs and sites with interest. I’d just not want to go for a curry with you both. You’d do my bloody head in. Bet you hate me to now…but I had to have a rant. ps. If anything I’ve written here is not up to your standards…go

    • Peter Reynolds Says:

      I agree with you Nik


      • Thing is, one group says head due East and other says due West, they compromise and go nowhere. My input is about seeking a focused direction based upon an analysis that is in broad terms, irrefutable. This is based upon our linguistic exactitude re the law and the controls we are all complaining about and our legal analysis. The problem we have identified has a solution that is intollerant of discussing he issue in old terms, ie using prohibitionist speak. Those who refuse to use what they know to be correct are simply not a friend to the cause I am fighting for,even though they insist tehy are doing great work, sadly they are not in my view, they just compound the problem by muscling for media attention and then blowing it by using ineffectual terms and making weak demands. I can’t just ignore it when groups and individuals insist their hearts are in the right place but sally on regardless supporting the legalise cannabis alliance, talking about legalising cannabis etc etc all this is wrong, we are fighting about people, not drugs – my view is we can’t move forwards because most people who have sought to cut a niche for themselves in this reform business simply will not adapt, and that is why I have these tantrums about it when people know I am right but just won’t move. Let’s npot patronise people in the valleys either, if they want to make a difference then that requires some thought, and some thought is perfectly within everyone’s grasp.

    • Will Mathieson Says:

      Yes Nik, at this point it would be wiser to amalgamate than fragment. In order to present a united front it would be better to resolve differences of opinion through private communication between the parties involved. I believe Professor Nutt is probably the most respectable spokesman we have had yet. He is not a crank or obvious user himself. He does not condemn recreational or spiritual users and he sends out a message more likely to be accepted by the youth than the see-through bullshit from one government after another since I was a kid.
      Although I’ve often thought the medical issue was a red herring, David recognizes that the evil of the current law can be most clearly highlighted through exposing the fact that dying and chronically ill people are being forced to endure pain and misery that they know could be alleviated. This means doctors are being forced to violate their Hippocratic oath. The Professor’s stance is revealing corruption behind the Law and that Government is more influenced by SIS (MI5) and other sinister agencies than by reason, scientific evidence or genuine public opinion.
      I admire your own courage but please be careful about your stated intention of tackling the Home Office head-on as an individual. You remind me of myself. Since 1986 I made a public stance of refusing to comply with a law that is so obviously corrupt. I failed to recognize the implications in 1998 when Rosie Boycott, Paul McCartney, Richard Branson, Anita Roddick et al just withdrew and went silent on the subject. I carried on with the idea it was better to demonstrate defiance by publicly sharing the benefits I got from cannabis than to keep on hammering away with rational arguments that are continually ignored. Whoever monitors my case in the National Drugs Intelligence Unit (or NCIS) – who will probably be following this blog! – decided that busting me for cannabis would probably just get me positive publicity and support. Instead, all my pro-cannabis videos on the newly-started YouTube (2005-2006) were just quietly pulled down and I was successfully framed as a Sex Offender (supposed to have groped a nurse while unconscious in hospital). This means the national police computer (VISOR) knows where I am at any time, has all my personal details including bank account, I can have police come into my home without warning, I can be attacked out of the blue by neds and crazies who ‘just happen’ to hear a rumour and, of course, if I attempt to resume my chosen career of liberating cannabis I can be discredited easily. I can only guess why Rosie and all the others withdrew from the field when we all know without a doubt cannabis is innocent, but I’m sure it wasn’t because they changed their minds.
      Sorry, didn’t mean to go off on one, just wanted to say BE CAREFUL, please!
      Maybe I should just move down to wherever you are with my video camera (the one the police are not hanging on to) and make sure your ‘Braveheart’ charge is fully recorded for future generations? Certainly no reason for me to stay in Scotland now. If there’s any genuine cannabis left in this country whoever’s got it is too paranoid to get even a fraction of the benefits out of it.
      This isn’t meant to discourage you, Nik, just to make you careful. As you say, we all need to push together now and not against each other. I think David Nutt is a good figurehead for sanity on all drugs. So far he hasn’t said a single thing I can disagree with. He’s not a fool, so he must have at least as much courage as myself to go up against the vested interests who got him sacked from ISDD.
      Errrr..must stop now :-)

  37. Nik Morris Says:

    Thanks for the support. I’ll think again about my future actions as I’m sure you’re right. However, on a different note, I’ve been attacking the Home Office through my own means for quite a while now. Letter after letter after letter. I’m working now on attacking every piece of misinformation government ministers spout. By using the web site http://www.theyworkforyou.com/ I’ve found that just by entering “cannabis, drugs, cocaine etc.” into the RSS feed I’ve got almost instant access to what MPs are saying at any given time. Peter wrote a very nice article on his blog about MP Brokenshire’s opinions(?!)and got lambasted by a few. I wrote straight to him myself(Brokenshire), asking for the research he’s using to make his case. The 10% purity argument he forwarded as showing things are getting “better” was just crass. Many thanks for both your replies. I was expecting to get lambasted. Are you on FB Will? I’m going to look for you very shortly, thanks again. NIK

  38. Bob Says:

    Hello Professor Nutt,

    I’m sure you don’t get chance to read all the comments on your blog or indeed respond. But I’ll post it anyway

    I wondered what you thought of recent interview with David Cameron worldview did

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9kz_bKYslg

    (Al jazeera on Ytube)

    Specifically Where he suggests cannabis “it is actually incredibly damaging, very, very toxic and leads to, in many cases, huge mental health problems” surely our PM isn’t that stupid? Cannabis could hardly be describe as very, very toxic?

    Why would he mislead people like this? Does the PM have any discussions with Home Office about drug harms or the ACMD? he just ignored such discussions and made this up? Or just made this up on the basis of reading the daily mail?


  39. [...] 64 Comments » via profdavidnutt.wordpress.com [...]


  40. [...] Necessity or nastiness? The hidden law denying cannabis for medicinal use [...]


  41. [...] more than from other drugs, how alcohol abuse was globally a cause of disability according to WHO, how alcohol was recently not allowed even through necessity for medicinal purposes, and how Frances Crick is alleged to have dreamt up the structure of DNA, amongst many other [...]

  42. neil morgan Says:

    Prohibition will end with this next court case and we can redress the balance. Unique Defence…. Hope to all.


  43. Reblogged this on cannabisforautism and commented:
    The problem with medical cannabis in the UK, and why it has doubled in price since 2004, making life a lot harder for some.


  44. UK Law – Is the defence of “necessity” available?

    In 2004, I was tried at Chester Crown Court in Court #1 which incidentally is the same court where the ‘Moors Murderers’ Myra Hindley and Ian Brady where convicted of their infamous crimes.

    At this intimidating historic court I faced charges relating to four counts of possession with intent to supply cannabis to people for medicinal purposes and I was determined to enter a ‘Not Guilty’ plea. My first hurdle was to convince my Barrister Keith Sutton QC that the defence was open to me and after a day of legal argument this was finally achieved on the morning of the trial itself but only after the trial Judge received copies of my ‘authorities’ from legal precedents.

    After the Jury was sworn in Mr Scholz opened the case for the prosecution but after only an hour he’d made an ‘error in law’ and I found myself in the position of having the choice of continuing with the Jury (and if that was my choice the Judge would inform the Jury to ignore the Prosecutors error). Instead I opted for a miss-trial and a new Jury.

    After three stressful days which included half a day in the witness box I was found ‘Not Guilty’. My succesful use of the defence of “necessity” (which is also known as “duress of circumstances”), so incensed the prosecutor Karl Scholz that he applied to the Attorney General’s office on a point of law.

    The Attorney General finally referred my case to the Court of Appeal where it was heard alongside the case of Barry Quayle. After a three day hearing the three Appeal Judges declared that the common law defence of “duress” could not be used in regard to cannabis as the defence was only applicable to prevent “serious injury” or “death” and it was not available to defendants to relieve “pain and/or suffering”

    After having removed my defence the Crown Prosecution Service felt confident enough to have another go on some new charges and after being on bail for 30 months I appeared at Mold Crown Court where the trial Judge instructed the Jury that I had ‘no defence in law’

    I now believe that the defence is available to people making cannabinoid concentrated preparations as it can be argued that the preparations are being produced, possessed or supplied to “prevent serious injury or death”

    It is an interesting point of law and one that I will definitely pursue if the need ever arises.


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