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UK: Statement from Paul Flynn MP
Paul Flynn MP
Friday 21 Jul 2017
“50 years of intelligent, pragmatic, drugs policies of decriminalisation in the Netherlands has delivered a prison crisis. There are not enough prisoners to fill their prisons. Isn’t this a problem we would like to share?”
The minister blinked back at me baffled. I have jousted with a score of her predecessors in my 30 year Commons battle for drugs sense. All have been fed garbage by civil servants. Evidence-free, prejudice-rich. The abiding ethos of the civil service is the unimportance of being right. Most meekly submit to the tabloid populist, fashionable views. They refuse to challenge their vote-glutton political masters. Their careers prosper. Others caught in possession of intelligent ideas, who know that drugs prohibition increases deaths and crimes, stay silent or suffer career wreckage.
The UK recipe has delivered drugs misery at vast cost. Two past drugs ministers were troubled by the futility of pushing harm-multiplication policies. Mo Mowlam would add hand-written messages to me on the bottom of official ministerial correspondence saying ‘I’ll see you in the Strangers’ Bar and tell you what I really think’. She explained that Prime Minister Blair would ‘go ape-shit’ if she spoke the truth. At the end of her career she decided to write a book condemning the UK’s drug policies. I worked on it with her but very sadly she died and it was not finished. Another drugs minister Bob Ainsworth toed the party line in office but became an impassioned anti-prohibitionist when he returned to the backbenches. Two public prohibitionists who did not believe a word of the civil service scripts they were compelled to obey.
Two recent events stung me into a call for medicinal cannabis users to break the law. It caused a minor flutter because MPs are not supposed to incite crime. After 20 years of campaigningimpatience is now justified. The law I am inviting seriously ill people to break is an ass.
Fond memories were stirred by an invitation to help with a new drama-documentary on the life of Elizabeth Brice. She was a marvellous lady, a television producer who listed in her many achievements, translating Noddy books into Latin. She campaigned under the name of Clare Hodges, drank cannabis tea on the terrace of the Commons and persuaded the Belgian Parliament to legalise medicinal cannabis in 2001. She died in 2011 with her life’s work unfinished.
My pangs of regret and guilt for the lack of progress on Elisabeth’s campaign was sharpened by the renewed culpable futility of the ‘new’ Government Drugs Policy. It is a repeat of the lame moronic, bovine cowardice of the past 46 years. Added is some window-dressing of meaningless adjectival jargon of ‘joined-up, holistic, multi-disciplined, all-embracing, comprehensive’ new concepts. Joining one failed policy to another failed one does not make a successful policy. It creates a bigger failure. No sign that that a single brain cell in the Civil Service or Government has flickered into new thinking by the current global disillusionment with drugs law.
Until 1973, tincture of cannabis had been medically available for over 100 years in the UK. In its natural form, it has been used for 5,000 years as a medicine in all continents. Our country was swept along with the international hysteria provoked by President Nixon’s missionary zeal to eliminate all illegal drugs use.
The legal use of cannabis is being increasingly established in many parts of the world. Now 29 out of the 50 states within the USA has provision for the supply of medicinal cannabis. In Canada, it has also been legalised. In Europe, medicinal cannabis is produced in the Netherlands and is available in Italy, Finland, Switzerland and Germany.
Incredibly British laws are locked in a permafrost of ignorance. Nothing has changed. Public opinion is in advance of parliament. In 1999 a jury sought to be compassionate to a wheelchair-bound cannabis user. They asked the judge if they could disregard a law they all thought was unjust. The judge ruled that Parliament decides and they were forced to convict. Injustices were meted out as Parliament continues to dodge its responsibility and failed to reform.
Would a day of civil disobedience shame a parliament into reforming life? Press reports inaccurately suggested I urged users to smoke cannabis on the parliamentary estate. Mixing cannabis with the deadly killer drug tobacco is unwise and unnecessary with the alternatives of ingesting it as a drink, food or a vapour.
Our present law forces users on to the black market where the most hazardous forms of the drugs are marketed by irresponsible dealers and consumed in the most dangerous ways. A woman police officer forced into early retirement by MS had no choice but to buy her cannabis from the petty criminals she once locked up. Others have solved their supply problems by importing seeds from Amsterdam and growing their own. For this victimless ‘crime’, parliament’s law is still punishment by years of imprisonment.
The police and prosecutors are doing parliament’s work for us by ignoring the law. There has been no repeat of the frequent arrest of medicinal cannabis users in the 90s. The law has been ridiculed by druggie grannies into public contempt. But it’s still the law.
Medical cannabis legalisation has in every case shown no spike in cannabis use, no increase in road fatalities, reductions in the criminal market and tax breaks of $millions.
On the 10th October, I will present a ten-minute rule bill to the Commons to legalise cannabis prescriptions. Are UK MPs ready to join the world-wild reform of laws that kill more people than the drugs?
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