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Writing Your Submission To the Home Affairs Committee

31 Dec 2011

You Only Have 10 Days To Do This!

The Home Affairs Select committee is launching an inquiry into drug policy. Everyone has the opportunity to submit written evidence. It is the most important thing you can do for the campaign in 2012 but you only have 10 days to do it.

If and when policy is to change this is how it will happen. A select committee report gives ministers the excuse they need to change. It gets them off the hook. This is happening this year, now, immediately. We have good reason to be optimistic and it is a huge opportunity that we must not miss.

Nothing will have more impact on the committee than hundreds of individual submissions on cannabis all arguing for the same thing. And what is that? It's there in very straightforward terms in the CLEAR Aims & Objectives. It's been there all the time. This is what you need to get across.

It must be in your own words, in your individual style and even if it less than perfect it will mean more that it has authenticity. So do it, go for it, have your say! You are entitled to have your views heard.

You must structure your response in accordance with the terms of reference. That means following the guidance outlined in the Call For Written Evidence.

I have set out some notes below. Except for the headings, do not copy my words. Use your own language. Do not worry unduly about grammar, spelling or style. Much more important is that you say what you think - and that you do it and send it!

[Remember to number your paragraphs!]

Introduction

Say who you are, what you do and where you come from. You do not have to give your address or any identifying information that you don't want to but I don't believe you anything to fear from being open.

You should also explain what you want to contribute. This guidance only addresses the issue of cannabis. You may want to talk about policy on other drugs.

Summary

Write this last. Go back over everything and write one line from each of the headings you've responded to. Make sure it does sum up what you want to say as concisely as possible.

Is present policy fiscally responsible?

This means does it make sense in terms of what it costs. You can point to the IDMU report "Taxing the UK Cannabis Market" and it's conclusions. It is the most up to date, authoritative evidence available.

Is policy grounded in science, health, security and human rights?

This is a huge question and you must decide how to approach it. As a minimum I would refer to the NHS "A summary of the health harms of drugs". Again, this is the most up to date and authoritative evidence available. Point out how it shows the health harms of cannabis are very, very modest. Compared to alcohol, tobacco, prescription drugs, medicines you can buy over the counter and even energy drinks, cannabis is less harmful. This then flows directly into the security and human rights issues by making the point that prohibition creates a £6 billion criminal market with all associated harms and that this is all totally disproportionate to the harms of cannabis itself.

This is also the place to talk about the overwhelming evidence of how effective cannabis is as medicine. There are now literally hundreds of peer reviewed, scientific studies that prove the efficacy of cannabis in the treatment of MS, Crohn's disease, fibromyalgia, spinal injury and a wide range of other conditions. I would suggest that you refer to the excellent NORML summary of research "Emerging Clinical Applications For Cannabis & Cannabinoids. A Review of the Recent Scientific Literature, 2000 — 2011"

I could write a book about this question! You don't have to. The important thing is that you do answer it as best you are able. If there's a particular aspect that concerns you then concentrate on that but make sure you get that latest NHS document in there.

The criteria used by the Government to measure the efficacy of its drug policies

Do you think the way that the government decides its drug policy and measures how it is working is effective?

The independence and quality of expert advice which is being given to the government

Do you think the government is getting the right advice and listening to the right people?

Whether drug-related policing and expenditure is likely to decrease in line with police budgets and what impact this may have

According to the IDMU report "Taxing the UK Cannabis Market", £500 million is spent every year on the criminal justice system for cannabis alone of which £200 million is for police costs. Do you think this is an effective use of money? Could it be better spent?

The cost effectiveness of different policies to reduce drug usage

Do you think the money spent on trying to prevent and reduce cannabis use is effective? You might want to mention here that the evidence from the US, Holland and Portugal shows that where availability of cannabis is legally regulated consumption actually decreases, particularly amongst children.

The extent to which public health considerations should play a leading role in developing drugs policy

You might think that health concerns are central to drugs policy but this is a myth. The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 says that it's about the "misuse" of drugs "having harmful effects sufficient to constitute a social problem". It's not your health the government is concerned with, it's about preventing a "social problem".

So say what you think. Should health be the most important factor? What other factors should be considered?

The relationship between drug and alcohol abuse

I would suggest making the point here that alcohol is a drug, almost certainly the most addictive, harmful and dangerous drug there is and that drawing this false distinction is misleading.

The comparative harm and cost of legal and illegal drugs

Drugs are not "legal" or "illegal". It is people's actions with drugs that are made legal or illegal under law. Most "illegal" drugs are in fact much less harmful than the "legal" drugs alcohol and tobacco. You might want to ask why they aren't controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 as clearly they cause far more of a "social problem" than cannabis.

The impact of the transfer of functions of the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse to Public Health England and how this will affect the provision of treatment

If you understand this question then you will know what you want to say. You do not have to answer it. I won't be!

The availability of 'legal highs' and the challenges associated with adapting the legal framework to deal with new substances

I would suggest that you point out how new legal highs make a mockery of drugs policy. Knee jerk reactions are made on the basis of Daily Mail stories, not science or medicine. Synthetic cannabinoids, manufactured to avoid the laws against cannabis are proving far more harmful than cannabis itself.

The links between drugs, organised crime and terrorism

The cannabis market in Britain is worth at least £6 billion, which the government has abandoned to organised crime. Illegal cannabis farms are producing poor quality weed, often with human trafficked labour and providing funding for other crime and terrorism - all a direct result of current policy.

Whether the UK is supporting its global partners effectively and what changes may occur with the introduction of the national crime agency

Is Britain's adherence to the UN Single Convention working? When other countries develop their own policies, why can't Britain?

Whether detailed consideration ought to be given to alternative ways of tackling the drugs dilemma, as recommended by the Select Committee in 2002 (The Government's Drugs Policy: Is It Working?, HC 318, 2001-02) and the Justice Committee's 2010 Report on justice reinvestment (Cutting crime: the case for justice reinvestment, HC 94, 2009-10)."

These were ideas to look at decriminalisation and regulation. So say what your ideas are. How do you think the drugs issue can be better dealt with?

Send your completed submission to homeaffcom@parliament.uk

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