"Talking to FRANK" and "FRANK Talking" is not the same!
To enable David Blunket could read what we
have to say, in December 2003, Don Barnard (LCA Press Officer)
requested his MP Alan Hurst [prohibistionist Labour MP. Braintree Essex]
to draw the attention of The Home Secretary to the LCA Challenge. Don
also requested that the Home Secretary receive him so he could present
Mr. Blunket personally with the Braille Copy of the Challenge.
No response was receive by Feb 20 2004, so Alun Buffry, LCA National
Coordinator, sent a Braille copy to David Blunket by registered post.
By July 5 2004 neither Alun or Don had receive a response - you
guessed it - they demanded one.
Don emailed direct to Caroline Flint's (MP) Office.
Alun requested his MP Dr Ian Gibson to contact the Home Office to ask whether they had received the Braille copy and the printed copy of The Challenge.
Several LCA campaigners also asked their
MP to request a response from the Home Office.
As a result of the combined effort, on 14 September 2004 Don
received a very long letter from Caroline Flint MP [Minister responsible
for drug abuse] explaining why it had taken almost 12 months to deal
with our request.
The Home Office letter of 14 September 2004 and subsequent correspondence
between the LCA and the Home Office:
Letter to Don Barnard.
From Caroline Flint MP,
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State
50 Queen Anne's Gate,
Dated 14 September 2004
Dear Mr Barnard
Thank you for your email of 5 July to the Home Secretary about the registered
letter of 19 February from Alun Buffry, enclosing copies of the Legalise
Cannabis Alliance's paper, "Cannabis: Challenging The Criminal Justice
System: A Public Discussion Document". You are concerned about the lack
of response from the Home Office to this document. Alun Buffry has expressed
similar concern in his letter of 5 July to the Home Secretary and through
his MP, Dr Ian Gibson. I am replying as the Minister with responsibility
for the national anti-drugs strategy to your correspondence, and separately
to Dr Gibson.
I am sorry for the delay in dealing with this matter fully and for the
lack of acknowledgment.
It may help if I outline briefly what happened to the earlier correspondence.
As you know, Alan Hurst MP wrote to the Home Secretary on your behalf,
enclosing a copy of your paper and conveying your request for a meeting
with him. In my reply to this on 19 February (copy enclosed), I indicated
that, because of diary pressures, it would not be possible for the Home
Secretary to commit to meeting you in the foreseeable future. That was
the day Mr Buffry's registered letter and enclosures were received and
they were effectively treated as crossed correspondence.
The public discussion document you have compiled jointly with Mr Buffry
represents a carefully considered examination of what I believe you
would accept is a complex, multi-faceted issue.
The main pillars of the case you present for legalisation of cannabis
draw attention, among other things, to the legal background (the UN
Conventions), an assessment of the health risks and the human rights
issues. In correspondence, reference is made to the medicinal benefits
and you call for an ongoing, wide-ranging discussion on drug use and
misuse and the legislative controls. The Government also welcomes an
open, balanced debate.
I accept that you have fairly reflected the main requirements of the
UN Conventions, which govern these matters internationally and which
largely underpin the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. These provisions provide
signatories to the Conventions with a fair degree of flexibility. The
United Kingdom Government exercises that flexibility responsibly at
every level, having regard both to the terms of the Conventions and to
the impact of our legislative actions at home as well as on the international
Central to our thinking is the importance of protecting the health and
welfare of the British public. We have taken the view that prohibition
is the most appropriate means of doing this. The Government has no intention
of either decriminalising or legalising cannabis (or any other currently
controlled drug) for recreational purposes. In response to the Home
Affairs Committee report on The Government's Drugs Policy: Is It Working?
we stated that "We do not accept that legalisation and regulation is
now, or will be in the future, an acceptable response to the presence
of drugs" and that includes cannabis.
Our view is that cannabis is a controlled drug for good reasons. In
recommending the reclassification of cannabis, the Advisory Council
on the Misuse of Drugs, which, as you know, advises the Home Secretary
on such matters, asked for it to be clearly understood that cannabis
is unquestionably harmful. It has a number of acute and chronic health
effects and can induce dependence. It clearly makes sense therefore
for it to remain a controlled drug whose unauthorised production (including
cultivation), supply and possession are and will remain illegal.
Our educational message - to young people in particular - is that all
controlled drugs, including-cannabis, are harmful and that no one should
take them. To decriminalise or legalise the possession of cannabis for
personal consumption would send the wrong message to the majority of
young people who do not take drugs on a regular basis, if at all, with
the potential risk of increased drug use and abuse. Our target is to
reduce the use of all illegal drugs - including cannabis - substantially
and the consequent drain upon the health services that would result
from increased consumption due to more ready access to increased supply.
While our drugs laws cannot be expected to eliminate drug misuse, there
is no doubt that they do help to limit use and deter experimentation.
Those, such as yourself, who advocate legalisation suggest that this
would reduce a range of harms associated with the illicit control and
supply of the drug, including severance of the connection between cannabis
users and drug dealers. But this takes no account of the consequences
of the significant increase in use that would be likely to follow legalisation
and only takes account of the acquisitive crime that feeds some drug
habits, not the crimes committed under the influence of drugs or the
drawbacks to a lawful, regulated market, which would not eliminate illicit
supplies, as alcohol and tobacco smuggling demonstrate.
The Government is aware of the arguments for legalising cannabis in
a regulated way and has concluded that the disadvantages would outweigh
the benefits. A substantial increase in consumption of cannabis (largely
by smoking) could have significant implications for public health. Also,
unilateral action on the Government's part would undoubtedly encourage
unwanted drug tourism to this country in the event that there were no
similar move to legalise internationally. At a time when we are doing
much to try to reduce the use of tobacco and alcohol due to ever greater
concerns about their safety, it would be perverse to take the huge gamble
with public health that would be involved in legalising cannabis.
On the human rights front, the passing of the Human Rights Act 1998
by Parliament reflects our fundamental belief in the importance of maintaining
basic human rights in this country. Since 2 October 2000, rights and
freedoms guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights may
be relied upon directly in our courts. Some of the rights and freedoms
are qualified and that includes the right to respect for private and
family life, home and correspondence (Article 8 of the Convention, to
which you refer). That right is subject to such limitations as are prescribed
by law and "are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of
public damaging effects, for the protection of public order, health
or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others".
Among other things, the prohibition on cannabis (and many other drugs)
was introduced by UN Convention specifically for protecting public health
and welfare. Also, it is widely agreed that the law has a function in
protecting people from the consequences of their own actions - compare,
for example, speed limits, seat belts, safety and crash helmets, tobacco
health warnings, etc. The Government must balance the rights of individuals
on the one hand and the greater public health and welfare considerations
on the other.
On the medical front, I am well aware that there are many who would
wish to have cannabis legalised for therapeutic purposes. I have every
sympathy for those with debilitating pains and illnesses, who cannot
satisfactorily alleviate their symptoms through the use of existing
medication. Their keen interest in the use of cannabis for medicinal
purposes is entirely understandable.
This issue is one which the Government wishes to see resolved as quickly
as possible. We welcomed the announcement by GW Pharmaceuticals that
their advanced clinical trials into the development of a medical preparation
of a cannabis-based drug have been successfully completed and that they
are seeking marketing approval for the product from the Medicines and
Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
If product approval is forthcoming, the Government will seek Parliament's
agreement to make any necessary changes to the law to enable the prescription
of cannabis-based medicine.
However, that willingness to license an approved medical preparation
of a cannabis-based drug does not extend to licensing the cultivation
and use of cannabis itself for therapeutic purposes. It would not be
appropriate to circumvent or undermine the well-established process
attached to the evaluation of the safety, quality and effectiveness
of all prospectively prescribable products by the MHRA. It is a process
which all such medicines have to go through and is designed to protect
public health. Accordingly, the Government faces difficulty in making
any changes to the law unless and until it is satisfied that the benefits
have been formally established by the statutorily recognised means.
I hope this helps to explain the Government's position, butt recognize
that much of my reply is likely to disappoint you.
Don replied: Are you saying you dont know how to get it right:
From: Don Barnard [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: 22 September 2004 13:58
Subject: CANNABIS - Are you saying you dont know how to get it right!
ATT: Caroline Flint MP - Parliamentary Under Secretary of State
Thank you for your letter dated 14 September 2004, concerning the lack
of consultation/response by the Home office - Unfortunately, I have
not received a copy of your reply from Alan Hurst.
This is an on hoof response; I will give a more detailed response to
your letter in the near future.
In the last paragraph of your email you say: You recognize that much
of your reply is likely to disappoint me.
Why should I be disappointed! The fact you accept that "Cannabis: Challenging
The Criminal Justice System: A Public Discussion Document". Represents
a carefully considered examination of a complex, multi-faceted issue
- is a plus.
Anyway, I am used to the same replies in different languages from various
people in government which I have recieved over the past two decades
- I could have written (cut and pasted) it myself.
Please advise: Has The Home Secretary now received his Braille copy
of "Cannabis: Challenging The Criminal Justice System: A Public Discussion
Document"? I still have one if he/you have (can find) the time to receive
it personally -:)
In paragraph 3, you state that "diary pressure" prevents a meeting (meaningful
consultation], whereas at the end of paragraph 4 you says the Government
welcomes an open, balanced debate!
I think you will agree, it is hardly a balanced debate (or democratic),
when our elected representatives are not prepared to listen and give
one side of the argument to the public and those implementing government
policies on the front line.
Your reply merely reiterates the Government's views (i.e. cannabis is
sufficiently dangerous to justify prohibition as the best way to minimise
harm to public health). In sum, government does not accept that legalisations
and regulation is now, or will be in the future, an acceptable response
to the presence of cannabis. (i.e. unauthorised production - including
cultivation, supply and possession are and will remain illegal for all
This seems to rule out any kind of discussion between your department
and Non Government Organisation [NGO's]?
You also make it clear that government considers the medical issue an
aside and that there will not be legalisation of the plant itself even
for medical usage.
I would respectively suggest that with the defense of "medical necessity"
now accepted as a defense for cannabis possession, cultivation and supply
offences is something government should be addressing. Or, are you prepared
to continue to alienate the media and a vast majority of the electorate
(in the run up to the election) by prosecuting very sick people and/or
those helping them.
I turn now to some your other comments (governments views):
There's several things in your letter which suggest that you will not
legalise because you have not got the skills to do it in such a way
that it would not cause more problems:
"To decriminalise or Legalise the possession of cannabis for personal
consumption would send the wrong message to the majority of young people
who do not take drugs on a regular basis, if at all, with the potential
risk of increased drug use and abuse"
So - you don’t know how to legalise without giving the wrong message!
"Our target is to reduce the use of all illegal drugs - including cannabis
- substantially and the consequent drain upon the health services that
would result from increased consumption due to more ready access to
increased supply. While our drugs laws cannot be expected to eliminate
drug misuse, there is no doubt that they do help to limit use and deter
You appear to be saying that you do not know how to eliminate drug mis-use.
"But this takes no account of the consequences of the significant increase
in use ........ crimes committed under the influence of drugs or the
drawbacks to a lawful, regulated market, which would not eliminate illicit
supplies, as alcohol and tobacco smuggling demonstrate"
Again, you appear to be saying that you do not know how to eliminate
"At a time when we are doing much to try to reduce the use of tobacco
an alcohol due to ever greater concerns about their safety, it would
be perverse to take the huge gamble with public health that would be
involved in legalising cannabis"
By saying it’s a "huge gamble", are you saying you don’t know how to
get it right!
Finally, for now, I turn your attention to the government expensive
education (publicity campaign) on the law as a result of re-classification.
To remove any dubiety on cannabis law as a class "C" substance and ensure
that the information supply to the public/statutory Authorities is correct.
I would appreciate your comments on my understanding of the sanctions
for unauthorised production/cultivation of cannabis.
- Intent to supply/supply is up to 14 years imprisonment.
- If found with (small amount) assumption of non arrested. But, it is
still an arrestable offence subject to the interacting officers discrestion
up to two years!
I see the operative words here 'If found' (i.e. in a stop and search
or as a result of a non cannabis related search!).
You forgot; allowing someone to smoke joint on premises owned/controlled
by.. 14 years!
I now turn to the new offence of aggravated possession:
Pedantically speaking, this means "anyone smoking a joint in view of
a public place", (even in ones own back garden) can be arrested - Taking
it to its conclusion a police officer could enter a property without
a warrant because, he is aware of a crime taking place!
However, I am of the opinion that this particular offence was a vain
attempt to take the teeth out of the pro-cannabis campaigners. I base
this assumption on Bob Ainsworth in response to - Question 59, HASC
Thursday 20 March 2003:
".....we need to give the police the power to make arrests in aggravated
circumstances. We cannot have people blatantly flouting the law, whether
it is attempting to establish cannabis cafes, or whether it is smoking
in front of a police officer on the streets and not desisting. We need
to give the police adequate powers to deal with those circumstances,
..." No mention of outside schools and for the protection of children
Legalise Cannabis Alliance,
"Political language is designed to make a lie appear the truth and
give solidity to wind"! George Orwell.
Not recieving a reply Don - On Saturday 5 December he wrote an open
letter to Caroline Flint MP:
To: Caroline Flint MP
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State
The Home Office
50 Queen Anne’s Gate,
Reference: The LCA Challenge to the Criminal Justice System
I have not received a reply to my email. Subject: CANNABIS - Are you
saying you don't know how to get it right! Sent: 22 September 2004 13:58
- Is it something I said?
Before addressing/rebutting the many issues you raise in your letter
dated 14 September. I would advise: Although I am writing in the first
person, much of the information is paraphrased or quotes from what LCA
members/endorsees, and other individuals/cannabis organisation throughout
EU who have made in response to said letter. Therefore, I think you
will agree it is only correct they should be kept advised on the state
Our correspondence and a list of MP’s the challenge has been sent to,
(with replies received), can be found at http://www.lca-uk.org/challengempletter.php
It may also help if I briefly explain my involvement in the cannabis
law reform movement. For almost 2 decades I have been involved in discussion
with government at all levels - the last few years as the LCA Press
I was involved in consultations with Tony Newton in 1993/4 when the
Conservatives [Mr Howard] first started this get-the-drug-user merry-go-round
with the publication of the green paper "Tackling Drugs Together"
. If I am not mistaken "Tackling Drugs Together", is the foundation
on which the present Government strategy is based upon? You have, just
dropped the "Together"!
I have always cautioned that the UK government was committed to emulating
US-style prohibition policy (coercive abstinence).
I refer you to a consultation (educational) document "You the Jury:
Cannabis Law and Drug Testing" submitted to Braintree District Council
(Essex) in 1999 http://www.ccguide.org.uk/lawanddrugtesting.php (A copy
of this was also sent
Would it be unsporting of me to say - Told you so!
Fortunately for me, I do not have to explain here the folly of emulating
the US drug strategy. This has been done in the excellent book "Legalize
This: The Case for Decriminalizing Drugs", by Douglas Husak ISBN: 1859843204.
In summation, the book exposes the hypocrisies and confusions that infect
the US legal system and makes a powerful arid passionate case for the
position that drug laws constitute a major moral blot on the landscape.
And we should rid society of these unjust arrangements. http://www.lca-uk.org/legalizethis.php
I think you will agree Douglas is more than qualified to speak on the
I am convinced - Emulating the USA drug control strategy will result
in valuable resources wasted on chemical control of the populace, human
rights violations, more private prisons. more cannabis users to filling
up the rehabilitation clinics.. denying access to those who really need
In a sentance: "We should study the US model very carefully and then
avoid it like the plague."
I turn now to your letter
First, I accept your explanation for the delay in your response. However,
I cannot understand why Mr Blunket (his constancy office officials)
did not have the decency to respond to the hard copy sent to Mr Blunket
That said - I believe the basic question is about what the criminal
justice system should do to cannabis users or those who grow a few plants
for social purpose. It is not a question about what the criminal justice
system should do to people who traffic or produce drugs. Only if we
first become clear about what should be done to cannabis offenders described
above can we hope to provide a sensible perspective on those who distribute
cannabis. therefore I will not try to decide how, whether, or under
what circumstance cannabis may be produced and sold commercially. I
will be content to establish the conclusion that cannabis personal cultivation
and social use should not be crimilanised.
I accept the Government has the unenviable job of balancing the rights
of individuals on the one hand and the greater public health and welfare
considerations on the other. But, you appear to be saying, prohibition
of the cannabis plant is cast in stone! And, the State has the absolute
right to supervise.
You say cannabis will remain illegal - Curiosity prompts me to ask;
Are you saying cannabis will remain in schedule 2 Class C, under the
Misuse of Drugs Act 1971! Or, further changes may be possible! For example,
transferring cannabis to a schedule 3 under the Misuse of Drugs Act
1971? It will still be illegal!
You place a lot of emphasis on the advice given to you by the Home Affairs
Select Committee (HASC). Whilst, I accept the HASC concluded that cannabis
has a number of acute and chronic health effects. I cannot believe that
your reason for keeping cannabis a prohibited substance under the Misuse
of Drugs Act 1971 is to protect the public (in particular children).
I also find it difficult to accept undertaking an initiative of prohibition
costing billions of pounds while thousands of kids live in poverty,
and schools are overcrowded and under-funded.
Clearly your rationale in justifying prohibition to protect children
has a tremendous appeal, but it's important to remember this obsession
with children using cannabis is a new thing. Until about 10 years ago,
no one gave a toss about kids and cannabis - prohibition was aimed firmly
In a sentence, I think this protect-the-children rationale is pervasive,
pernicious and one of the worst reasons for supporting prohibition.
Are we really to believe that Government's deep concern for the welfare
of children justifies a policy of punishing adults who use cannabis!
To what extent is Government really committed to the welfare of our
How does evicting families from their homes, imprisoning one or both
parents for cannabis offences and/or taking children into care or excluding
them from school/university, or sacking Dad and leaving him unable to
get further employment, square with protecting children?
Anyway, This alleged concern for the welfare of children seems to vanish
as soon as they actually get caught with cannabis. Sympathies are put
aside and mercy is seldom forthcoming, not to mention the growing trend
to treat, prosecute and sentence children as adults.
If you are really are concerned about the welfare of our children generally,
surely you can easily think of several more productive ways to help
them than spending the enormous sums of money you allocate to a policy
We need to give the kids hope and respect, not lectures. Bland statements,
I am told, is unlikely to have any effect on them. Above all we need
to explain to all cannabis users how to recognize a problem if it occurs,
and we need to explain to those who have no problems that others may
experience problems. (Harm reduction education)
You claim under a legal controlled supply cannabis consumption would
increase. But a recent report of the RAND Corporation, a well-known
research institute with an excellent reputation, indicates that it is
not possible to make any connection between cannabis policies and the
prevalence of cannabis consumption. The same tendency can be seen in
the annual reports of the EMCDDA: decriminalisation of drug use does
not increase use it only diminishes crime and social exclusion.
You may like check out statistics for cannabis use worldwide http://www.nationmaster.com/graph-T/lif_can_use
You claim there would also be a substantial drain upon health service
resources. According to the Government's own research, if cannabis was
legalised and taxed as with, tobacco products, it would return around
£1.8 billion to the Exchequer annually (allowing for the possible increase
to the Health Service).
What about the enormous cost of policing prohibition with no visible
sign of reducing the cultivation, supply and use of cannabis! Estimates
for the UK governments cost for prohibition over the past 20 years has
put between £100bn and £200bn. The government estimates that it currently
costs £20bn a year. In 1993/4 the overall estimate for drugs expenditure
in the UK was a mere £526 million a year - This should tell us something!
In any case, a principle that people should be punished in order to
protect their health is an uncomfortable one. Taken to its logical conclusion,
it would authorize the criminalisation of any activity that was a drain
on heath service resources. I think you will agree life is full of Health
and Safety risks far more harmful than cannabis.
Every supermarket sells food items and over the counter medications
that if used inappropriately might variously cause toxic response, gastrointestinal
distress, cardiac arrest, obesity, liver damage, neurological damage
or even death. We do not prohibit these substances or arrest and imprison
people who use them. Instead, we live with these risks. We try to advise
the public with health promotions, warning the consumer of the potential
harms. And we regulate the suppliers!
Consider your argument on speed limits and mandatory wearing of seat
belts. These laws can be unpopular, but the public tolerate them not
only because fines are modest, but also because they have been proved
to reduce a risk that actually kills thousands of drivers and passengers
(the general public) and the astronomical cost to the health service
each year. Seat belts and speed limits have also been shown to be effective
in reducing the severity of tens of thousands of non-fatal accidents.
What are your comparable effectiveness figures for cannabis prohibition?
NOTE: A person can get a 'seat belt exemption certificate' from their
doctor! Why is it not possible for doctors to do the same medical users
You refer to a significant increase of the acquisitive crime that feeds
substance habits - I know of no evidence that concludes cannabis possession/use/cultivation
lead to acquisitive crime. What other crimes are you suggesting result
from cannabis possession/use?
You made me smile with your drug tourism theory. Where will these, tourist
come from? Scotland!
SEE: An overview on the current state of drug policies in Europe. and
the main actors in the debate on drug policy in Europe. THE GREY ZONE
- AN ENCOD REPORT ON CANNABIS POLICIES IN EUROPE A SNAPSHOT OF EUROPEAN
DRUG POLICIES click here http://www.encod.org/rap-kaarteuropa.html
Conclusion, No good reason has be given or can be given for continuing
punish cannabis users or those who grow a few plants for whatever purpose,
(i.e. Prohibition Stinks).
Can we please get on with what needs doing, namely - Seek a better way
founded in: common sense, science, compassion, health and human rights.
I think you will accept if we are to achieve this. It will require balanced
approach to the problem including adequate (transparent) consultation
with relevant NGOs (including the pro-legalise cannabis movement LCA)
in the process of drawing up future action plans.
LCA and ENCOD are willing to support any policy-making process towards
a coherent strategy. We can only hope you will consider this of sufficient
import to meet us (re-schedule your diaries) to formulate the central
questions to be addressed that society as a whole can come to a consensus
on how best we deal with cannabis.
I look forward to your reply with interest.
Legalise Cannabis Alliance,
(Cyfathrach Cyfreithloni Cannabis)
"Thought for today: "Cowardice asks the question - is it safe? Expediency
asks the question - is it politic? Vanity asks the question - is it
popular? But conscience asks the question - is it right? And there comes
a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic,
nor popular; but one must take it because it is right." [Dr. Martin
Luther King, Jr].
Letter Sent by email by Don to Charles Clarke on 17 December 2004
Subject line: Unfinished business?
Personal Attention of Charles Clarke.
CC.. for information To: Caroline Flint MP.
Dear Charles Clarke
I cannot pretend that I am not pleased to
see the back of David Blunkett. Had he been judged on his Ideology for
crime reduction he should have gone months ago.
Congratulations on your promotion to Home
Secretary. I hope you will be judged on your personal beliefs, successes
and failures in the office.
Regarding cannabis: my understanding of your
position on a regulated control of cannabis is:
never mind the facts and public opinion, any
significant change in the legal status of cannabis is not warranted
because it would be quite wrong for Parliament to send the signal that
increasing use of drugs, of any kind, is acceptable in our society.
Let's see if I am wrong!
I am assuming that you will be taking responsibility
for continuing the correspondence the Legalise Cannabis Alliance were
having with David Blunkett through Caroline Flint MP.
For expedience I draw your attention to: Weighty
correspondence between the LCA and the Home Office (Caroline Flint MP'
Minister responsible for drug use) concerning the lack of communication
with the public and NGO's.-
OVERVIEW/EXTRANEOUS NOTES http://www.lca-uk.org/challengehomeoffice.php
(Any chance of a reply to these emails)?
Do you accept that society as a whole can
only come to a consensus on how best to deal with cannabis if we have
an open transparent dialogue about the multi facets of cannabis?
Do you see it of sufficient import to have
a carefully considered examination of the complex, multi-faceted issue
Are you prepared to consider give medical
exemption/strict instruction to the police, how individuals who break
the law out of necessity?
In summation: It is not about wining the war
on cannabis, it is whether the war should have started in the first
Neither is it about finding reasons why cannabis
should be completely prohibited, rather it's about whether we have sufficient
reason to continue punishing people for cultivation, possession of cannabis
for personal use, when neither the individual nor society benefit.
Are you prepared to have open frank discussion
with cannabis-user representatives, the vast majority of whom feel alienated
and persecuted by a law that they see as unjust because there are no
victims involved with the possession or small-scale cultivation of cannabis
in their own homes.
I look forward to your reply with interest
Home Office 5 January 2005 to Dons email of the 4 December 2004
(above) to Caroline Flint.
HO reference: T43422/4
Dear Mr Barnard
Thank you for your email of 4 December to
Caroline Flint, responding to her letter to you of 14 September about
the Legalise Cannabis Alliance’s paper, "Cannabis: Challenging The Criminal
Justice System: A Public Discussion Document". Your email has been passed
to the Home Office Drug Legislation and Enforcement Unit and I have
been asked to reply.
Although much of your earlier correspondence
and that of Alan Buffry was addressed to the former Home Secretary,
it was passed to Caroline Flint as the Minister with responsibility
for coordination of the national anti-drugs strategy. I understand that
Mr Buffry was informed that the Minister was replying on the Home Secretary’s
behalf and that her letter represented his views.
As you know, the Government does not share
your views. In particular, it has no intention of either decriminalising
or legalising cannabis or any other currently controlled drug for recreational
purposes for the reasons set out in the Minister’s reply to you. That
resolution is reflected most recently by the legislation contained in
the Drugs Bill published on 17 December and the Government’s drug strategy
progress report "Tackling Drugs. Changing Lives", published on 25 November.
and the associated press release at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/n_story.asp?item_id=1163.
You will note that further drug treatment and testing requirements are
The primary focus in your latest email is
on what the criminal justice system should do to cannabis users or those
who grow a few plants for recreational purposes. Reclassification of
the drug has a bearing on this.
Reclassification of cannabis from Class B
to Class C under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 does not mean that the
drug is made legal. On the contrary, the production (including cultivation
of the cannabis plant), supply and possession of cannabis - whether
or not it is used - are illegal and will remain illegal. (You refer
to Schedule 3 to the Act when I think you mean the Regulations: Schedule
3 drugs may be lawfully prescribed under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations
But reclassification should be seen in context.
It is only one part of the Government's broader drugs strategy, with
a strong emphasis on prevention, treatment, education, information,
advice and harm minimisation. Many have sought to look at the policy
in isolation but that is mistaken; it is important to look at the goals
of the strategy as a whole over the longer term.
The Government is determined to support the
police in tackling the problem of drug abuse with an effective and realistic
approach. To do this, the law must reflect the relative harm that cannabis
causes, compared to drugs such as crack and heroin which do the most
harm to users, their families and to society. The reclassification has
enabled the Government’s focus and that of the law enforcement and treatment
agencies to be directed more clearly and effectively on tackling Class
A drug misuse and dealing. The Government believes that this focus on
Class A drugs, together with getting more problematic drug misusers
into treatment and new ideas on how to educate young people and stop
them taking drugs in the first place, can have a significant impact
on the drugs problem.
Underpinning the Association of Chief Police
Officers’ cannabis enforcement guidance, which came into force at the
same time as reclassification, is the expectation that, for most offences
of cannabis possession, a police warning and confiscation of the drug
will be sufficient. But the police can arrest an adult who is found
in possession of cannabis where there are specific aggravating factors,
such as where someone is smoking in a public place or is a repeat offender.
There is no intention to criminalise large numbers of people as you
claim. Time which is saved as a consequence of policing cannabis possession
offences under the ACPO guidance provides the police with an opportunity
to focus greater resources on tackling Class A drug supply offences.
Young people are not being dealt with more
strictly than adults. They are likely to receive reprimands or warnings
for a first offence of cannabis possession. However, the process (under
the Crime and Disorder Act 1998) is more formal for persons under 18.
It is important that their cases should be dealt with at a police station
so that any underlying problems can be identified and addressed.
The Government has given much weight to the
views of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs regarding the classification
of cannabis. It has to do so, given that the misuse of drugs’ classification
in Schedule 2 cannot be amended "except after consultation with or on
the recommendation of the Advisory Council" (see section 2(5) of the
1971 Act). In their report to the former Home Secretary, the Council’s
views about the harmfulness of cannabis were clear - as recorded in
the Minister’s letter to you of 14 September.
Reclassifying cannabis as a Class C drug helps
the Government to put a credible drug educational message across to
young people. It makes the drug’ s legal position more credible with
young people and this provides a real opportunity for the Government
and drugs agencies to get clear and effective messages across to them
about the harm caused by cannabis - messages which are more likely to
be believed by them.
Since reclassification, the Government has
been working with schools, youth organisations and the youth media to
use a variety of means of getting evidence-based and carefully researched
messages to young people about the specific harms attached to cannabis
use. It covers issues such as the harms caused by smoking, as well as
seeking to discourage use in respect of those who might be vulnerable
to a mental illness. Even the occasional use of cannabis can pose significant
dangers for people with mental health problems, such as schizophrenia,
and particular efforts need to be made to encourage abstinence in such
individuals. Accordingly, the Government’s information campaign, post
reclassification and as a contribution to the health and welfare of
young people, now includes leaflets which contain specific health messages
about the risks associated with cannabis. This information is being
The Government’s aim is to ensure that young
people are well aware of all the risks and the website http://www.drugs.gov.uk/Campaign/Cannabis
reflects the extent of this commitment.
In summary, legalisation of cannabis and other
currently illegal drugs would run counter to the Government’s health
and education messages as well as what it seeks to achieve by the anti-drugs
strategy introduced in 1998. Its view is that the drugs controlled under
our misuse of drugs legislation are controlled for good reasons. Many
are clearly addictive and harmful to health. The Government believes
that it makes sense for them to remain controlled drugs whose unauthorised
production, supply and possession are and will remain illegal. Legalisation
would not eliminate the need for prevention, treatment, education, information,
advice and harm minimisation, referred to above, or the significant
and ongoing costs attached to these activities.
Regarding rates of prevalence, legalisation
can be expected to attract substantial commercialisation. Legitimate
businesses endeavour to encourage demand for their products in their
quest to maximise profit.
As the Minister indicated, while our drugs
laws cannot be expected to eliminate drug use, there is no doubt that
they do help to limit use and deter experimentation. Thirty per cent
of adults questioned by MORI for the Police Foundation Inquiry cited
illegality as a reason for not taking drugs. Perhaps more significantly,
the 1998/1999 Youth Life Style survey showed that almost two-thirds
of respondents who had never taken cannabis before agreed with the statement
"I do not take cannabis because it is against the law"
I hope this helps to clarify further the Government’s
position, particularly with regard to its stance on the health risks,
prevention and education.
----------------------------Reply from Home
Office 3 February 2005 to Dons email of 17 December to the Home Secretary
Charles Clarke (above)
HO Reference: T4613/5
Dear Mr Barnard
Thank you for your email of 17 December to
the Home Secretary and copied to Caroline Flint, about cannabis. Your
email has been passed to the Home Office Drug Legislation and Enforcement
Unit and I have been asked to reply.
My reply of 5 January to your email of 4 December
to Caroline Flint reflects the Home Secretary’s approach to the use
of drugs. Mr Clarke has made clear his opposition to the legalisation
of drugs. When the Drugs Bill received its second reading on 18 January,
he said: "I do not believe that decriminalising drug abuse is the right
approach. Indeed, it is the exact opposite of the right approach." And,
later (at column 697), "I am wholly against, without qualification,
legalising drugs. If I was unclear in what I said, I reiterate it clearly
from the Dispatch Box."
Ministers do not think that a meeting would
be helpful at this time.
Reply to letter requesting meeting with Home Secretary John Reid.
Direct Communications Unit
2 Marsham Street,
SW1P 4DF Switchboard 020 7035 4848 Fax: 020 7035 4745 Textphone: 020
7035 4742 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.homeoffice.gov.uk
Mr Alun Buffry
Legalise Cannabis Alliance
Date: 16 June 2006
Dear Mr Buffry,
Thank you for your letter of 11 May to the Home Secretary. It has been
passed to the Home Office Crime and Drug Legislation and Enforcement
Unit and I have been asked to reply.
You will be aware that the Legalise Cannabis Alliance has had a full
exchange of correspondence with the Home Office in recent years on the
matter of decriminalising or legalising cannabis, and associated issues.
The Home Office's position has been clearly set out in all replies.
You will also be aware that representatives from the LCA briefly met
the then Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, on 7 March and that a further
meeting had been scheduled but did not proceed following the arrival
of John Reid as Home Secretary. My understanding is that Mr Clarke personally
agreed to meet with the LCA, having undertaken to do so in the course
of the 2005 Election, when Mr Don Barnard contested the then Home Secretary's
seat in Norwich.
The current Home Secretary has declined such a meeting.
At an official level, we are happy to continue a dialogue with the
LCA, although it is clear that there is little middle ground between
the Government's position and the LCA. However, if the LCA considers
that a "face to face" meeting with officials from the Crime and Drug
Legislation and Enforcement Unit will benefit that dialogue, then we
are willing to offer such a meeting.
We have recently received a few similar requests from other members
of the LCA for a meeting. We have replied in similar terms to those
requests and therefore ask you to share this letter with your colleagues,
including Mr Barnard, Mr Winston Matthews and Mr Rocky van de Benderskum,
and for LCA to provide a corporate response to confirm whether representatives
wish to meet with officials, who would be attending any such meeting
and the specific issues which LCA will wish to present. We can then
take the matter further.
In response to a request to meet the new Home Secretary on July 5 2007,
we recieved the following reply addressed to Don.
Direct Communications Unit
2 Marsham Street,
SW1 P 4DF
Switchboard 020 7035 4848
Mr Don Barnard . Legalise Cannabis Alliance PO Box 2883 Stoke-on-Trent
2 August 2007
Dear Mr Barnard,
Thank you for your letter to the Home Secretary, received on 5 July,
requesting, with Alun Buffry, Dilys Wood, Chris Baldwin and Winston
Matthews, a meeting with the Home Secretary about cannabis.
I am sorry to say that, because of the pressures on her diary, it
is not possible for the Home Secretary to commit to meeting you in the
You will know that the Prime Minister announced on 18 July that, as
part of the consultation to review the national drug strategy, the Government
will also consult on whether it is now right that cannabis should be
moved from Class C back to Class B under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
(To see the drug strategy consultation document Drugs: Our Community,
Your Say and respond, please visit <a href="http://druQs.homeoffice.Qov.uk">http://druQs.homeoffice.Qov.uk</a>.)
Though statistics show that cannabis use has fallen significantly,
there is real public concern about the potential mental health effects
of cannabis use and, in particular, the use and availability of stronger
forms of the drug, commonly known as skunk.
In these circumstances, the Government is considering whether it is
necessary to toughen the penalties relating to cannabis use to complement
its education and treatment programmes.
The Home Secretary has therefore asked the Advisory Council on the
Misuse of Drugs to again assess the medical and social scientific basis
of the classification of cannabis. This review will take into account
the fact that there are stronger strains of cannabis that may cause
more harm. I am sorry to have to send what I know will be a disappointing
LETTER TO RT HON KENNETH CLARKE MP, THE JUSTICE MINSITER, JUNE 2010
Open letter to Kenneth Clarke – Minister of Justice
9th June 2010
Dear Mr Clarke
The Legalise Cannabis Alliance (LCA) is concerned with the welfare of the millions of victimless cannabis users in Britain.
I am writing to you to ask for a face-to-face meeting, something we never had under Labour apart from an agreement to meet with Charles Clarke whilst he was Home secretary. Unfortunately he was sacked for other reasons before the meeting happened and his successors John Reid and Jacqui Smith refused to honour that agreement.
Previously, the LCA was a registered political party (1999 to 2006). We contested over 80 elections - Parliamentary and local. Our candidates gained up to 8% of the vote in local elections and where there was an all-up election for local councillors in Great Yarmouth some 16% of voters gave one vote to the LCA candidate Mike Skipper.
Under Labour, cannabis was downgraded to class C with positive results. It was then upgraded back to class B (seemingly due to media pressure and vote-winning ambitions) even though the ACMD advised against it.
Literally tens of thousands of people are arrested for cannabis possession or cultivation despite the fact that they have no victims to their so-called crimes. That includes people who use cannabis to alleviate the symptoms of some really dreadful ailments and injuries.
Cannabis prohibition offers no protection for minors. On the black market there are no controls or regulations and no minimum age required for purchase. Cannabis can also be adulterated or contaminated with noxious substances far more harmful than cannabis could ever be.
Cannabis users in the UK feel alienated and stigmatised, although few break any laws other than possession or small scale cultivation at home. We do not feel that we have adequate representation in the political arena. We feel ignored until we are arrested; then we are punished for our choice of natural substance that is beneficial to us. Over one million people in the UK have been to court for cannabis yet so few have been harmed themselves, let alone not having harmed others.
Where is the Justice in that?
In many parts of Europe medical and social use are now recognised. Lately the Czech Republic changed laws to allow the small-scale cultivation and possession of cannabis without prosecution. Other countries with liberal or tolerant views on cannabis include: Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Australia and Canada. In the UK however, we trail behind.
The cannabis law presents a daily problem to millions of people and we feel that a solution to your party's desire to reduce harm from drugs would be best met under a system other than prohibition - we have several proposals to make regarding this problem.
We look forward to hearing from you in the very near future, with a view to a conversation with you so that we can each present our point of view and seek a progressive move and better understanding.
Chris Baldwin (Campaign Coordinator)
PP Jan Wells (Secretary), Winston Matthews, Steve Barker, Don Barnard, Alun Buffry BSc
The Election results 1999 t0 2011
FACEBOOK GROUP to support the letter