Outlaw: The man behind the Balaclava

Outlaw: The man behind the Balaclava

Over the last year or so there has been an unknown activist handing out free cannabis and advocating for changes to the draconian cannabis laws in Britain. The masked Mancunian known as Outlaw first gained notoriety by donning the now-infamous balaclava and handing out £800 worth of cannabis on Manchester’s Piccadilly gardens last summer.

A few months later In November while filming a music video Outlaw and his passenger were pulled over by armed police in Manchester and detained under suspicion of terrorism charges following reports of two masked men driving a black Range Rover. During the stop and search that Outlaw claims was “illegal” police found replica police uniform and equipment but later determined that they weren’t terrorist-related. They were released a few hours later without charge.

Over the Christmas period in2019 Outlaw, dressed in a Santa suit planned to hand out 50 Christmas cards to homeless people, with each card contained ten pounds in Manchester. The stunt attracted attention from Greater Manchester Police (GMP) who attended 0accosted the masked man and his companion. GMP said that “he was not arrested and no offenses were committed but two people were spoken to about approaching members of the public”

This year during the Covid-19 global pandemic Outlaw stepped up to hand deliver hundreds of essential “care packs” including hand sanitizer, toilet roll, and cannabis. When the wave of national support for the NHS was at its peak Outlaw was sending out free packs to NHS staff that showed a valid ID.

Outlaw’s website is bursting with branded march that helps fund his political activist campaigns and work with any profit from this shop being divided between free giveaways and homeless cash donations. Every order over £5.00 on the site will also see a tree planted in Haiti.

Earlier this year Outlaw became a best-selling author on Amazon with the publication of “Policing the Police” A handy guide on how to deal with the police and how to seek compensation when they violate your rights.

Although he has not long been on the scene Outlaw is quickly gaining attention and a reputation as a bold anonymous rebel. I recently had the opportunity to ask the infamous masked music producer some questions exclusively for TheSimpaLife.com

What first inspired you to don the now-infamous balaclava and become Outlaw?

“There’s too much injustice in the system – the police, DWP, the courts, the legislators, the lawmakers and all their corrupt friends. Some of the laws are unjust and always have been, I wanted to do something about it without incriminating myself – that was the aim”

“I’ve always loved Banksy – the anonymous side and the political message, but I wanted to do good things in the community without having to hide”

“Obviously no face no case doesn’t work as well when your name’s written on your balaclava, but it still makes it hard to prove certain things that I’d rather keep off the police record. Judges have actually said the balaclava is ‘clearly satirical’. It’s harder to prosecute ‘someone portraying or acting as a fictional character’ depending on your defense – public order can go out of the window when it comes to ‘acting’”

“Police will claim the bali can come across as scary, I’ve never found that. I’ve knocked on elderly people’s doors unexpectedly to give them free sanitizer and loo roll (and some of them weed) – and they’ve all loved it. I’m a nice guy really.”

Why the mask/anonymity?

I don’t like the idea of being well known / famous and I knew what I was planning was going to get a lot of attention.

How long have you been doing what you’ve been doing?

I started my OUTLAW stuff just over a year ago, but I’ve been making music, studying law and growing cannabis for years.

What is your proudest moment while doing this work?

“There’s a few; completely getting away with the first weed handout and getting police complaints upheld was a big step for me. Some people say ‘he’s giving it out for free so can’t be charged’ but there’s so much more to it; possession, cultivation accusations and supplying a controlled drug (“Supply is the simple act of passing a controlled drug from one person to another. It does not matter if it was for profit or not.”)”

“Giving stuff away and helping people is really rewarding for me. The homeless are usually the most grateful and hearing their stories only drives me to do more, because it’s normally a lack of help or resources from the government that’s put them in that position.”

“It feels mint too when I help people get compensation from the police, some of them can’t believe how much an hour of their time wasted by incompetent police is worth!”

Can you tell us a little bit about the Medican card?

Medican was an idea my solicitor and I had a while back. We wanted to group together advisors, solicitors and barristers to build personal defences for the consumption and cultivation of cannabis for medical and recreational reasons.”

“Arguably, most people use cannabis medicinally. If you don’t have an expensive private prescription and a pro-cannabis GP, you can’t use cannabis legally, but you might still have medical conditions that cannabis can help with. The MedicanCard allows you to log in and speak to a one to one legal advisor if you get into any cannabis related issues, in order to help avoid any charges. It can also be used as a statement of intent. The back of the card has essential info and a QR code with a manual link that pulls up information for the police if you’re searched or arrested, explaining your medical intent and police and CPS guidelines. Obviously, even since 2018, legal cannabis users have been arrested and mistreated by the police, which is why it’s good to have a legal advisor you can contact”

“There’s also a lot of cases that our collective of solicitors have successfully had acquitted for recreational users, which depending on the scenario, can be applied to other people, without the need of spending £10,000s on a solicitor and sometimes without even going to court. There’s a lot of procedural issues from the police that can make going to court unnecessary and have all charges dropped. Being able to speak to somebody can sometimes help find parts in your defence that you wouldn’t have thought make your defence so much stronger.”

Have you heard of the Seed our future campaign?

“Yeh it’s a cool document, someone sent me the link on Insta and I reached out to Guy who’s spent so much time on it. I thought the history of cannabis was pretty mad. Obviously the Seed Our Future document doesn’t stand up in court as a defence on its own yet, but I think the aim for us all is a one-for-all document that can be used by anyone”

“There’s so many different people fighting for cannabis to be either decriminalised, legalised or rescheduled – all with different strategies and approaches, it’s only a matter of time now”

Can you tell us about your book, Policing the police?

“Yeh man, the books for someone who doesn’t know where to start when it comes to getting compensation from police acting unlawfully. Most people think they would have to go to court but that’s not the case. I’ve made it an easy step by step process to understand the reason for your complaint, if you have grounds and how to correctly follow the complaints procedure to receive compensation”

“The book’s helped several people successfully receive compensation from what I know so far, and I’ve also helped a few instagram followers get compensation using the same knowledge”

Do you think the UK will legalise or decriminalise cannabis?

“Legalised would be good depending on the structure that the government put into place, I’m pushing decriminalisation at the moment because this can happen quickly and can be done without changing the laws. If it was decriminalised across the UK, it would be made legal eventually.”

Do you think the UK will ever end the war on all drugs?

“The war on drugs is an absolute failure and an embarrassing waste of money. I’d love them to end it but I doubt it.”

You’re rather active in your community – any thoughts of taking on politics?

“I’m really thinking about running for Mayor of Manchester but I’ve already got so much on and so much planned I’m not sure when I’d be able to confirm that. I’ll get into politics soon enough.”

What advice would you give anyone wanting to become active in their community?

“Make some noise! Even if you’re just discussing it, discuss change and get involved with a protest. The people in the UK live in a democracy even though it’s hard to believe.”

Are you still planning a smoke up tour for 2021?

“Yeah we’ve had to postpone once because everybody voted on it on Instagram due to Covid, we rescheduled for autumn and luckily didn’t announce it because we’ve had to postpone again. Now that I’ve basically organised it twice, it’s gonna be easy to re-book everything. I’m just waiting for the right time now.”

What does the future hold for Outlaw ltd?

“I’m doing some crazy bits next year but you’ll have to keep looped to find out what. I wanna carry on using my platform to inform, educate and help people. I’ll continue testing the law until the laws make sense. I’ve got a free app coming out in December that’s cost way too much and taken a lot of time, but it’s nearly finished now. I’ve also got my EP dropping next year so I’m mad excited to get that out.”

So while many of us have been trying to come to terms with the new reality in 2020, Outlaw has been out there fighting to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives. You’ll be able to catch Outlaw on a future episode of The Simpa Life Podcast in 2021. In the mean time you can keep up to date with everything that Outlaw is up to via his Instagram and website

Simpa

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

Simpa is a passionate drug law reform activist, mental health advocate, blogger, freelance writer, and host of The Simpa Life podcast.

Ask your body how it feels about cannabis prohibition propaganda

Ask your body how it feels about cannabis prohibition propaganda

Now deleted post on Essex Police Colchester Facebook page

Today Essex Police posted a piece of propaganda to their Facebook page that would make Harry J Anslinger proud. This disgraceful display of reefer madness era hysteria is a blatant disregard of common sense, basic science, and a further indictment of the failed War on drugs.

The image below was shared with their 13,000 strong followers. The post was immediately met with derision, bemusement, and disbelief that an institution that is meant to uphold our human rights and protect the public would spout such outdated, outrageous, and obvious lies.

The post titled “How your body feels about cannabis” is factually inaccurate, laughably antiquated, and exactly the reason policing institutions continue to lose respect in the communities they purport to serve.

Under the deliberately misleading headline are terms that, I guess the force believes are popular street synonyms for cannabis. “Marijuana, Blow, Puff, Grass, and Tea” These are not popular terms used in the modern UK cannabis scene. Now if you’d said “fire, dank, herb, or bud” I would at least feel like they’re keeping up to date with current street vernacular.

The image breaks the body down into 6 sections, starting with the heart.“smoking increases pressure on the heart causing a rise causing a rise (Their typo) in the pulse rate, especially risky for those with a family history of diabetes, high blood pressure or heart problems” This statement may be true of Tobacco consumption but cannot be said about the smoking of pure cannabis.

Although, the consumption of THC is linked to increased heart rate research has shown that cannabinoids can protect the heart. The deliberate use of “smoking” and not “smoking cannabis” in this quote is misleading and manipulative of the reader.

The next body part is the eyes, where the force has simply noted “Bloodshot and pupils dilate” I am not sure what the reader is meant to take from this. Human eyes dilate and become bloodshot through many natural and legal ways such as sleep deprivation, seeing someone you love, imbibing in alcohol, and much more.

Stop number 3 on this ill-informed road-trip around the body according to Essex constabulary is airways and lungs where they write “Smoking irritates membranes in the throat and lungs, causing bronchitis and making breathing difficult. It damages air sacks. Each breath of smoke contains 150 cancer-causing substances and much more tar than tobacco smoke, making the risk of cancer and emphysema much worse, for which there is no cure. The risk of colds and chest infections is increased”

There is a lot to breakdown here, so let’s start with the claim that there are 150 cancer-causing substances in cannabis. I cannot find any studies to support this claimed number. There are plenty of studies quoting numbers in the region of 30 – 50 yet they all go on to explain how cannabis acts as a bronchial dilator and can protect and even improve the functionality of lungs.

The claim that cannabis contains more tar is also misleading. The consumption of combusted cannabis does produce tar but the amount that is inhaled depends on the consumer and their personal method of inhalation. Using a glass roach or some of the mass-produced filters available can reduce the amount of tar you inhale to less than that of a cigarette.

Comparing the carcinogenic properties of smoking cannabis to tobacco is ridiculous. Although both tobacco and cannabis smoke have similar properties chemically their pharmacological effects differ greatly. There are various cannabinoids found in cannabis that have been shown to have anti-cancer properties. Ultimately, the compounds in cannabis minimise carcinogenic pathways whereas tobacco smoke enhances them. So conflating them is naive at best.

Now on to the brain, where the constabulary copy and pastes the following pearl of wisdom straight from a DARE press release.“THC interferes with thinking. Impairs memory and clouds the mind. It causes neurotransmitters the brain messengers to become inactive and it hampers the activity of individual nerve cells especially the making of protein, which impairs their function. It clogs the gaps between nerve cells with dense materials. In short, cannabis may effect; motivation, manual dexterity, concentration, judgment, temper control and cause anxiety, nervousness, depression, paranoia, dependence, short term memory loss”

Firstly, the assertion that cannabis consumption causes neurotransmitters to become inactive is a vague and uninformative statement. It doesn’t make much sense given the fact that we know that cannabis cause neurogenesis and is a neurological protectant, after all, there is even a patent for it. (#6630507B1) Secondly, the hampering of protein production is currently being viewed in academia as a positive thing, as it helps in the removal of toxic proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

The list that is mentioned doesn’t take into consideration the legal status of cannabis and the ill-effects of cannabis prohibition on the individual consumer. After all who wouldn’t be paranoid carry cannabis when you could lose your freedom, your job, and your home for getting caught with it. The above list is also symptoms of alcohol consumption, yet we don’t expect the police to lie to people to help them reduce their alcohol consumption.

The penultimate stop is the immune system where the graphic proclaims “Impairs the function of the T helper cells (used to warn other cells of the presence of infection) A weakened immune system has difficulty fighting diseases especially the virus that causes genital herpes and it makes users more prone to colds and flu-like illnesses”

This ridiculous statement has got to only be a poorly advised attempt to scare teenagers, why else reference herpes in particular? Cannabis has been shown to protect the immune system and regulate immunosuppression in a range of immune disorders such as; multiple sclerosis, diabetes, septic shock, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Finally, the reproductive system“Males – it reduces levels of the male hormone testosterone to impair the development of young males – damaging sperm and reducing sex drive and can lead to impotence. Females – Increases testosterone levels. Which may cause development of facial hair, acne, and disruption of the menstrual cycle. Birth defects and low birth weight are possible”

This is simply incorrect as the is a wealth of research showing that cannabis doesn’t damage sperm, and in fact, it can increase testosterone in men. There is, unfortunately, not enough studies on the effects of cannabinoids on androgen (female testosterone) and pregnancy for me to completely deny their comments. However, I do feel the mention of facial hair and acne could be an insidious attempt to play on the insecure female trope popularised by our culture and to dissuade them from trying cannabis in the first place. A classic characteristic of reefer madness era propaganda.

Ultimately, You have to ask yourself who was this post aimed at and why are they publishing it now? The language and points raised would seem to me to indicate they were targeting younger consumers, particularly teenagers. I think the reason it was published was more than likely a reaction to the news that yet another constabulary is planning to stop arresting cannabis /consumers for possession and the landslide victory of cannabis reform initiatives in the recent US election.

You can read about the US drug reform election results here

The statements and claims presented in this post were unevidenced, unscientific, and deliberately misleading. The press officer that produced this piece of prohibition propaganda should be held accountable for publishing flagrant lies and ideological material in support of a fraudulent conspiracy against the British public.

The lack of individual due-diligence and subsequent actions bring the entire force into disrepute and once again prove to the public just how outdated, uneducated, and unnecessary the police are when it comes to drugs.

The post was removed by Essex Police at 5pm 8/7/2020 after receiving dozens of mocking comments and reactions. It just goes to show that when misinformation and flagrant lies like this appear on police social media accounts that the actions of everyone really can make a difference!

Simpa

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

Simpa is a passionate drug law reform activist, mental health advocate, blogger, freelance writer, and host of The Simpa Life podcast.

US Elections 2020: Drug compassion for president

US Elections 2020:

Drug compassion for president

Photo credit: @stephaniemccabe (upslash)

The world is waking up today to the knowledge that the US presidential election is still far from over. With pundits on all sides flooding the airways with opinions, speculation, and hearsay. Once wildly improbable scenarios that were sniggered out of newsrooms have now become reality. Amidst all this chaos it’s easy to miss but there was a clear winner on Tuesday, and that was Drugs! 

Drug law reform initiatives were on ballots across several US states this year with South Dakota, Arizona, Montana, and New Jersey all seeking to legalise adult consumption of cannabis. While Mississippi and Montana were also hoping to legalise cannabis for medicinal/therapeutic consumption or so-called “Medical Marijuana” 

Every single measure passed! All the ballets for cannabis were declared within 24 hours, a good indicator of the changing attitudes towards cannabis in the US. 

The above states now join Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia (DC) in granting their citizens legal access to a regulated and taxed cannabis market. 

This now means that 1 in 3 Americans have legal access to cannabis, which is over 100,000,000 people or nearly twice the British population. So regardless of whether the democrats or republicans ultimately take the presidency, it is clear that the American people want to add a little green to the red, white, and blue.

It was also a big election day in Oregon, who have already legalised adult cannabis consumption back in 2014 with the passing of Measure 91 had some rather interesting choices for its citizens. The Beaver State has long since been ahead of the trend on drug law reform, after all, it was the first state in the US to decriminalise possession of small amounts of cannabis way back in 1973 even voting down attempts in 1997 to recriminalise it. 

This time the pacific state was faced with two choices at the ballet; Measure 109 to legalise Psilocybin therapy and Measure 110 to decriminalise all currently federally scheduled drugs. Amazingly, both initiatives passed. 

Measure 109 passed by 56%. This yes vote now means that the manufacture, delivery, and administration of Psilocybin at supervised/licensed facilities is legal. It imposes a two-year development period window to create enforcement, taxation systems, an advisory board, and roll out the new system to the public. 

This is potentially life-saving and changing to millions of Americans. Psilocybin assisted therapy has been shown to help with depression that has been unresponsive to traditional therapies. It is also being trialed in the treatment of many other psychiatric conditions and ailments and addiction. 

The other bill Measure 110 passed by a health majority of 59% decriminalising all drugs in the state. This means that anyone caught in possession of small/personal amounts of any substance would be a Class E misdemeanor offense. 

A Class E violation in this case would be subject to a maximum fine of $100.00. If you cannot afford the fine or choose not to pay you would have to attend a “Health assessment” at an addiction recovery centre. The bill also reallocates millions of dollars of tax revenue from legal cannabis sales to fund recovery centres, housing, and harm reduction services in the state. 

Decriminalisation in Oregon is estimated to reduce possession convictions by 90.7% according to the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission – now just imagine what effect that would have globally if we were to end this failed, fascistic and unjust war on drug consumers.

At a time when America is suffering an Opioid epidemic the saving of additional millions of dollars by not incarcerating consumers and addicts and instead of housing and supporting them is a huge step in the right direction. Let us hope that Oregon soon becomes the rule and not the exception when devising a model for how to deal with drug consumption and addiction globally.

In an election season that has seen the main event pit two law and order candidates against each other it’s refreshing to see the people vote with compassion, rationality, and community values ahead of the traditional DARE attitude of just say no to drugs. 

I sincerely hope that regardless of a Biden or Trump victory in the US presidential race that these same values can continue to resonate with the masses. America was the architect of the War on Drugs, it seems only fitting that they be the ones to start to end it once and for all.

Simpa

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

Simpa is a passionate drug law reform activist, mental health advocate, blogger, freelance writer, and host of The Simpa Life podcast.

Why We Need To Cultivate Equity and Social Justice In The Regulated Cannabis Market

Why We Need To Cultivate Equity and Social Justice In The Regulated Cannabis Market

Originally published in Weed World Magazine Issue 147 (October 2020)

Cannabis legalization has become a hot topic over the last decade with the majority of US states have now legalized weed for medicinal and/or recreational consumption – with several more set to vote in 2020 including Arizona, Florida, New Mexico, and New York. They could join the other 33 states and the district of Columbia in enacting such reform measures. (Some votes may likely be delayed due to the on-going Covid-19 pandemic). As the inevitable tidal wave of cannabis acceptance crashes upon the shores of prohibition I want you to ask yourself one simple question – Is this current incarnation of cannabis law reform doing the victims of prohibition any good? The urgent need for drug law reform has been slowly gaining momentum over this century. Growing from a fringe issue into one of grave international importance.

Most global governments are now, at the very least keeping a close eye on the potential profitability and increased GDP of countries that have already legalized cannabis in some form – such as Uruguay and Canada. So, whether it be at the pulpit or in closed chambers, politicians of all ilks are now having to engage in some rather difficult conversations. They’re having to weigh up the potential perpetual profits of such a diverse, innovative, and renewable emerging industry against them losing one of their favorite and most effective control tools for cultivating coercion, conformity and compliance in the common man. Globally there is evermore acceptance of the notion that we cannot continue to criminalize and curtail the lives of individuals caught consuming, cultivating, or possessing cannabis.

The debate, however, rages on as to whether we should “legalize” or “decriminalize” cannabis.So firstly, lets quickly discuss the historic argument of legalization versus decriminalization and how ultimately, in my opinion, without some form of a parley between the two ideologies there can be no toppling of the monolith of prohibition – only a fortification and continuation of its most pernicious attributes.

Decriminalization is the process of removing some of the low-level punitive penalties for being caught in possession of a small amount of any previously illicit substance but does not allow for safe supply, unbiased information, controlled production, and regulated distribution of said substances. Whereas, legalization makes it lawful within a strict framework for some form of limited and regulated production, sale, and private/social consumption of a drug.

These two things are unfortunately not mutually exclusive. Legalization to the common ear sounds like the ideal solution as to how to end the war on drugs. The word itself conjures up a world in which the war on cannabis consumers has ended and it can be openly and fully consumed in the streets freely by people adorned in cannabis clothing, driving cannabis composite cars, eating foods fortified with health-boosting cannabinoids, and powering their hempcrete homes with cannabis graphene supercapacitors.

Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth as the slimy tentacles of collective corporate interest have suckered politicians of all persuasions into drafting divisive and draconian bills that heavily favor corporate interests and profit over protecting individual citizens freedoms and rights.

Take for example Canada – who “legalized” cannabis on October 17th, 2018, and in doing so increased its cannabis laws from 7 – and one of the most relaxed attitudes towards cannabis in the western world – to 45 new rather convoluted and nonsensical ones. One of these new laws is “over-possession” the criminal act of a private citizen in a country where cannabis is legal publicly possessing or transporting more than 30 grams of dried cannabis flower. (current legal limit)If you are caught violating this law by possessing between 30 – 50 grams of cannabis and it’s your first offense you will face a maximum fine of $5,000 and three months in prison, but you won’t get a criminal record. However, possessing over 50 grams breaks the federal Controlled Drugs and substances act which is not only a criminal offense resulting in a criminal record but can also result in a maximum sentence of 5 years in federal prison.

Contrast this with Canada’s cannabis law in the 1960s at the height of societies hippie paranoia and the new-age reefer madness when possession would only warrant a maximum fine of $1,000 and a prison term no longer than 6 months. Doesn’t quite seem like they’ve progressed that much in 4 decades does it?

A drastic increase in the number of convictions from 20 – 2,300 prompted the creation of the 1969 “Royal commission of inquiry into the medical use of drugs” known as the Le Dain commission after its chairman. In their final 1972 report they advocated that the government focus on the medicinal applications and ceasing the penalties for possession and consumption – which had now risen to 12,000. Unfortunately, these recommendations were ignored by successive governments and Canada went on to sign up the UN single convention on drugs in 1976 – further halting any progress for decades to come.

Interestingly, in 1977 the Canadian PM Pierre Trudeau said “If you are smoking a joint for private pleasure, you shouldn’t be hassled” it’s somewhat tragically poetic that it was his oldest son – the current PM Justin Trudeau that “legalized” cannabis in 2018. I guess the vision of the father has fallen short of the son given the current situation unfolding with its cronyism, corruption, and cannibalistic capitalism consuming the commercial Canadian cannabis market.

The current Canadian system doesn’t do enough to erase and repair the socio-economic wounds inflicted upon their populous in decades past. Their pardon system, despite numerous attempts at reform still remains intentionally complex and convoluted. This means that to date there have been less than 200 out of the estimated 10,000 that the government deems eligible approved for a pardon. Way below the predicted 250,000 that will still be marred by their historic and hypocritical cannabis convictions.

The slightly fairer option would be ubiquitous expungement of all previous cannabis convictions regardless of the number of extenuating circumstances – except cases of extreme violence. We are now seeing expungement being made a priority in several US states including Illinois who will erase 800,000 possession charges for its citizens convicted of possessing less than 30 grams. Possession of 30 – 500 grams can also be appealed but it is unlikely to be granted. This does not go far enough to level the playing field and repair the devastation, destitution, and destruction inflicted upon millions of innocent individuals by decades of cannabis prohibition.

As of March 2020, 17 US states, Washington DC and Canada have some form of sealing, setting-a-side, pardon, or expungement measures in place. However, these only cover very low-level offenses such as possession of small amounts of cannabis typically only a few ounces. Ensuring that the persecution of prohibition continues to prevent millions of people from rebuilding their lives.

As I type this, Colorado has just passed house bill 1424 – a new social equity bill. That although it allows Governor Jared Polis the opportunity to mass pardon individuals caught possessing less than two ounces. It still does nothing for the thousands more convicted for possessing over 56 grams or for offenses deemed more serious such as possession with intent to supply, cultivation, and trafficking. The very backbone of the community that carried cannabis through the dark days of prohibition to the light of legalization for these corporate vultures to feast upon.

As each state drafts its legislation and prepares for the inevitable they are learning the lessons from the states that have already taken the leap but it is now self-evident that they are simply not going far enough or acting fast enough to negate the daily harms prohibition causes millions of cannabis consumers.

Under current legislation there is little to no legal protection for citizens’ right to consume cannabis as freely as they do alcohol or tobacco without risking losing their home, employment or liberty. A bill aimed at providing such protections for recreational consumers recently failed in Colorado but passed in New York and Nevada. Hopefully a sign of things to come.

Decriminalization also has its obvious flaws in not allowing for unbiased education and up to date harm reduction information, safe basic standards, and tackling serious international cartels that have had a centuries-long monopoly on various substances, be they legal or illegal. Portugal for example decriminalized all drugs back in 2001 and although this has resulted in great improvements in intravenous drug death rates and seen a rise in overall public health. It has done little to actually protect cannabis consumers. Possession of over 25 grams (10 days worth) is still a criminal offense, as is cultivation and trafficking which can still result in a fine up to €45,000 and 12 years imprisonment.

Decriminalization models typically only decriminalize very low-level possession. They do nothing to help establish an independent taxable domestic market and all but ensure the continuation of criminal organizations having a monopoly on the cannabis trade. These groups are often only motivated by profit and not by a passion for the plant and have little concern for the health of those consuming their finished product.

The ignorant divisions between the recreational, medicinal, and hemp industries is an intentionally devious and deliberate distraction. It detracts from the true potential for cannabis to reshape our archaic institutions, repair our fractured communities, and recompense the millions of victims of a centuries old war borne of racism, greed, and hatred.

Ultimately, the war on drugs has always been a classist and racist tool as articulated in the now infamous quote by former Nixon aide John Erlichman.“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders. raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course, we did.”The very word “marihuana” is racist – it was made a household term by the father of twentieth-century prohibition – Harry J Anslinger.

Anslinger popularized the modern spelling of “marijuana” to make it sound more Hispanic and to closer associate it with the influx of Mexican immigrants caused by the Mexican revolution and the rise in criminality caused by the passing of the 18th amendment and the economic impact of the great depression.

The continued use of the word marijuana, no matter how deeply ingrained in the North American lexicon ultimately has racist roots. Continuing to use it as the predominant nomenclature for the US industry today is a fortification of the racist legacy of prohibition. It also draws no line between an era when the mere utterance of the word or its odor could draw enough attention from the authorities to get you killed and today when those same persecutors are attempting to create a cronyistic car crash of a commercial cannabis industry to control, corrupt and cash in on the inevitable end to the war on drugs.The world of corporate cannabis is as much of an impediment to the ubiquitous re-legalization of cannabis, as prohibition is. This is due to the continuing social stigma and criminalizing of consumers through the creation of convoluted and commercially biased policies to protect corporate profits over individual citizen’s basic human right to cultivate and consume as much cannabis as they wish.

Under these types of “legalization” there will always be legal loopholes for those same historic prejudices to be perpetuated in a post-prohibition paradigm. In too many ways the mechanisms of oppression that pervade these new systems of legalization are simply an extension of the pernicious ones that punctuated prohibition. It achieves this by creating strict new laws and complex regulations designed to discourage, dissuade, and continue the criminalization of members of ethnic and socio-economic disadvantaged communities.

Without acknowledging the historic failures and harms of prohibition and ripping up all the fascistic previous legislation that has destroyed so many lives, then we cannot begin to heal the vast and deep societal and personal wounds inflicted by a century of reefer madness.

Simpa

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

Simpa is a passionate drug law reform activist, mental health advocate, blogger, freelance writer, and host of The Simpa Life podcast.

Seed Our Future: Cannabis and the Law – No Evidence, No Crime?

Seed Our Future: Cannabis and the Law – No Evidence, No Crime?

A new reform campaign in the UK is seeking to fully and ubiquitously decriminalise cannabis. Seed our Future is attempting to once and for all end the failed war on drugs and to create defacto decriminalisation by showing the racist, ignorant, and financial motivations that first criminalised cannabis nearly a century ago.

Seed our Future is a reworking of the “Seed the future” “industrial Hemp” campaign that held the multi-city Hemp protest in July 2020. During which they invited the public to defy the idiotic and antiquated law and germinate a cannabis seed to take it home with them. There were events in London, Cardiff, Belfast and several more cities. The event that I organised in the Northeast was one of the most well-attended demonstrations and also saw the dispersal of several thousand Low-THC cannabis seeds throughout Leazes Park, Newcastle.

Since rebranding Seed Our Future has quietly been accumulating historic documents and evidence surrounding the origins of the international criminalisation of cannabis. In this document, the team lays out a road-map that demonstrates how willful ignorance, institutional racism, corporate greed, and political pageantry has committed one of the single largest protracted acts of criminal conspiracy, organised terrorism, and state-sanctioned torture of its citizens through the enforcement of fraudulent and fascistic prohibition policies.

From the 1925 opium convention to the 1955 WHO report to the Nixon white house through to the 1988 UN convention against illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances this document highlights the lack of ANY foundational evidence to the scheduling of cannabis and proves that these prohibitive policies are far more about personal politics than public health.

Below I have copied the press release and cover letter that has been sent along with the document to all the major British media outlets and all of the Police and Crime Commissioners in the UK.

Simpa

Can the UK Expect a De Facto Decriminalisation of Cannabis in the Coming Weeks?

(Words by Guy Coxall, Seed Our Future founder)

For generations, the public has been consistently told that cannabis is a dangerous drug that damages our physical and mental health and is harmful to society. A drug that has no medical value, causes schizophrenia, and is a gateway to harder drugs such as cocaine and heroin.

You might be surprised to know that contrary to the Government’s claims, there is no and never has been any conclusive evidence to support these statements. In fact, the elephant in the room is about to charge, armed with a trunk full of evidence which will expose the truth and finally put to bed the out-dated propaganda machine which has destroyed millions of families prospects over the past half century by dragging otherwise law abiding citizens through the judicial system without one iota of evidence to back up the laws.

It is estimated that at least 20% of UK adults use some form of cannabis product and it is high time that these people are able to self-medicate and express their freedoms of choice by utilising a natural plant which is far safer than aspirin, without the fear of a knock on the door from their local bobby.

For decades, cannabis activists have been campaigning, protesting and marching in the hope of a greener future which would collectively support our health, our environment and our economy to no avail.

The cannabis community now has a ‘Trojan Horse’ campaign, appropriately named ‘Seed our Future’ who intend to use the laws of this land against the unsubstantiated cannabis laws. The campaign group has developed a report entitled: ‘Cannabis and the Law – No Evidence, No Crime?’ and this report is being sent out to every Police and Crime Commissioner and Police Chief throughout the UK, requesting that the report be disseminated to every Police Officer throughout the land. This strategy will, in effect, make it illegal for the Police to enforce the laws as they will be privy to the fact that the laws themselves are illegal (as there is no Foundation Evidence) and this could land any Officer who chooses to ignore the truth on the wrong side of the law and open to prosecution.

Will this strategy work? Everyone is expected, especially the Police to follow the letter of the law and no one can plead ignorance of the law in their defence, so we should expect the Police to use their discretion and turn a blind eye until the Government straighten out this exposed wound within our judicial system.

Have Seed our Future done their due diligence? The Campaign group sent out 45 freedom of information requests to all Police and Crime Commissioners, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Home Office, and the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, requesting the clear scientific foundation evidence for these laws and not one of them have been able to find it. In fact, the report looks into the history of cannabis prohibition and concludes that it was based entirely on ideological, racist, and political views. We simply cannot with any conscience allow these laws, which impact negatively so many within our society, to continue.

The elephant is out of the door and charging towards Parliament. Seed our Future Campaign are keeping the next stage close to their chests, but remember, remember the 5th of November, Truth, Unity, and Pot.

Download Seed Our Future: Cannabis and the law – No evidence, no crime?

Cover letter sent out to all police and crime commissioners today

Dear Police and Crime Commissioner,

Seed our Future’ is a National campaign group who are actively investigating the foundation evidence to justify cannabis being placed as a Class B controlled drug within the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and its Schedule 1 status within the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001.

Following our research, we have produced a report entitled: ‘Cannabis and the Law – No Evidence, No Crime?’ (See attached) which clearly demonstrates that cannabis laws are unsatisfactorily un-evidenced and in fact based on antiquated, ideological, political and racist basis. This report provides a wealth of evidence which counteracts the Home Office’s claim that:

Cannabis is controlled as a Class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 as there is clear scientific and medical evidence that cannabis is a harmful drug which can damage people’s mental and physical health, and harms individuals and communities.”

Following Freedom of Information requests to every PCC in the UK, the CPS and the Home office, it has become clear that the ‘clear scientific evidence’ for the above statement does not exist and the inclusion of cannabis within the 1971 MoDA is entirely political and unfounded.

The report details how this lack of evidence can bring the law into disrepute as stated by the Police Federation: ‘If, as we argue, the present classification of cannabis is not justified, it follows that the response of the law is disproportionate to the drug’s harm and may bring the law into disrepute.’

The report also states that the police have to follow the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) code when carrying out their duties. When it comes to enforcing cannabis laws without carrying out due-diligence, not for the offence within the 1971 MoDA but the evidence for the law itself, they are breaching PACE Code G 1.3 as they have no justification for arrest, which would mean that evidence procedures have not been followed calling in to question any arrest under G 1.4, therefore making any arrest unlawful as per G 2.1

The damning report ‘Drug Classification: Making a hash of it?’ Published 2006 by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee’ makes it clear that the MoDA classification system and scale of harm are based on political objectives with no scientific evidence on which to draw in making policy decisions.

Police officers have authority under the Crown for the protection of life and property, maintenance of order, prevention and detection of crime and prosecution of offenders against the peace. With the imposition of central and politically set targets there are dangers that officers’ discretion and operational independence is being compromised.

Police officers must be apolitical, impartial and accountable for their actions. If not, how and what is policed will become subject to political whim and electioneering. The operational independence of our police service comes with the Office of Constable.

This would mean that Police Officers who enforce these laws may be in breach of their attestation, PACE code G and may be subject to:

G 1.3 The use of the power must be fully justified and officers exercising the power should consider if the necessary objectives can be met by other, less intrusive means. Absence of justification for exercising the power of arrest may lead to challenges should the case proceed to court. It could also lead to civil claimsagainst police for unlawful arrest andfalse imprisonment. When the power of arrest is exercised it is essential that it is exercised in a non-discriminatory and proportionate manner which is compatible with the Right to Liberty under Article 5.

The attached report was released in the public domain on the 16th October 2020, it is being picked up by the media and now every PCC and Police Chief in the UK has been passed this report, we ask that this report is disseminated to every serving member of the police force irrespective of rank to ensure that every PC has the opportunity to carry out their full due diligence and operational independence.

We’re sure that you are aware that several Police Forces have already implemented a form of ‘De Facto Discretionary Decriminalisation of Cannabis Laws’ as the harms of prohibition hugely outweigh the harms of cannabis to individuals or society.

If you have any questions/feedback, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Kind regards,

Guy Coxall (Founder)

Seed our Future

Click here for more information about Seed Our Future

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

Simpa is a passionate drug law reform activist, mental health advocate, blogger, freelance writer, and host of The Simpa Life podcast.

Will we ever grow the best weed in the UK?

Will we ever grow the best weed in the UK?

Originally published on Ismoke media (February 2018)

Cannabis has been cultivated, utilised, and selectively bred by humans for thousands of years. It is in the past few decades, however, that we have perhaps achieved the most, learning about the specific nature of cannabis and its chemical and anatomical structure, what makes it up Terpenes, Cannabinoids, Flavonoids, etc and about the endocannabinoids system itself, which is something all mammals have – and indeed need – to regulate their health.

This knowledge allows us to cultivate high potency strains with varying degrees of cannabinoids and terpenes, creating some of the most resinous medicinal strains ever to exist. Most of the “old school” strains such as White Widow, Northern Lights, and Afghan Kush are all available from seed companies with high levels of CBD ready for home cultivation.

Obviously, It is still illegal to cultivate cannabis in the UK, but why are we promoting and paying for imported cannabis over our own? Why are we not pushing as an industry, regardless of legality for legitimacy, for UK strains to bigger, stinkier, stickier, and sweeter than any Cali, Dutch, or BC bud could ever be?

We do not need expensive import flooding the UK marketplace making silly money and inflating the UK market for consumers. You probably saw the recent Daily Mail article recently about “Cannabis gangs flying off to California and importing weed” and of course this classic article from Vice about the strain “wedding cake” going for £700 an oz.

The daft thing is the Americans go mad over a good bit of good cheese. A classic UK strain and one that takes a lot of shit. I know we British are self-deprecating but we should nevertheless be proud of our strains and strive towards the cultivation of game-changing strains like Cheese.

It is now possible to buy everything you could ever need from soil to seed online or at the numerous hydroponics and head shops that populate the outskirts of our towns and cities. Businesses that are ironically growing in these dark days of forced austerity and economic stupidity, happily paying tax on one of the only industries growing in the UK.

These shops which all sell specialist equipment for growing tomatoes and other indoor fruiting plants are a wealth of knowledge and skill as long as you play the game.

You can easily acquire seeds from many online retailers and get growing at home, enjoying the taste of the states without the price tag or risk of potentially dangerous and unsafe products.

By pushing for UK strains and supporting UK genetics we switch suppliers focus back to the UK cultivation scene and help to keep that money in local economies. By buying import your actively syphoning money from the UK scene and making foreign growers and companies rich while impoverishing UK ones.

Legalising cannabis is potentially a way out of austerity, as well as one to end these draconian budget cuts and funding slashing. Its simple austerity cuts or legalising cannabis.

It makes far more sense to me for the Government and the political elite to embrace cannabis, a plant which can fight climate change, Replace fossil fuels and petroleum-based plastics, end poverty and homelessness, fix the opioid crisis and provide jobs, economic growth and stability.

These are all things we hear being regurgitated by our politicians as their own goals and objectives every election cycle – yet we see no progress only distress, abject poverty and millions in crisis.

Prohibition perpetuates as much through community actions as well as it does through the authorities. By fighting, robbing each other and ripping each other off just to make a quick few quid it gives credence to their bullshit narrative that all cannabis consumer are thugs, lazy, drugged up wasters and violent drug dealers.

We know this just simply isn’t true, of course, there are a bad few but we are many, and work to worm out scammers and conmen.

They want to govern our culture, dictate and regulate what cannabis we can and cannot consume and how and where we’re allowed do it. But who watches the watchmen? It’s the continuation of this destructive narrative and lemming mentality which has lead us here, where in 2018 we can know about the Endocannabinoid system and endogenous cannabinoids, we can know that they are vital for health and happiness, yet still let them criminalise us for using exogenous cannabinoids.

Cannabis prohibition harms the health of every single human and vertebrate alive, it destroys lives, fractures homes and creates trauma, the pathways to addiction and individual destitution.

Prohibition is the problem all right and only collective direct action can solve it. We need to be out and proud! Cannabis is our basic human right, this is the people’s plant and it shouldn’t ever be prohibited, legislated against or even legally restrained.

In a lot of ways, it is arguable that cannabis and more specifically cannabis prohibition is having an equal or greater effect on human evolution than humans are on the evolution of cannabis.

I’ll leave you with this: it is often remarked upon by cannabis enthusiasts that perhaps the explosion of relatively new diseases and conditions could be attributable to the absence of cannabis from our food chain, dietary regiment and medical toolkit. Whether you believe that or not, the regulatory power of the endocannabinoid system cannot be argued with. It is certainly something to think about.

Simpa

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

Simpa is a passionate drug law reform activist, mental health advocate, blogger, freelance writer, and host of The Simpa Life podcast.

How Consuming Cannabis Affects Your Sleep

How Consuming Cannabis Affects Your Sleep

Originally published on Ismoke media (June 2017)

It will come as no surprise to the initiated amongst you that the consumption of Cannabis before bed will have you sleeping on a cloud of smoke and will often result in you getting a great night’s sleep, but is this really the case? Cannabis affects your sleeping pattern, your dreams, and the length and quality of sleep that you get after you light up before heading off to the land of nod.

Cannabis has long since been utilised to not only induce a good night’s sleep in its recreational consumers, but also medicinally to treat varying sleep disorders, such as RLS (Restless leg syndrome), Sleep Apnoea, and one of the most common sleep complaints, Insomnia.

The traditional treatment model for Insomnia has been a short burst of opioid-based medications, but these drugs, unfortunately, come with a raft of rather severe side effects, as well as a high risk of abuse and dependence and are too often insufficient to help many patients relieve their symptoms.

As medical professionals are now more aware of the dangers of opiate addiction, patients tend to be now treated psychiatrically in the hope that behavioral therapies will address the issues that have created and continue to cause their condition and potentially addictive pills being strictly a last resort.

Another common complaint is the length of time it takes to fall asleep, and the inability to remain asleep once they’ve dozed off again – this was, until recently, mainly treated with opium-derived sleeping pills. A study found that sleeping pills although growing in popularity seemed to have a much smaller effect on the user’s sleep cycle than first thought. On average the pills only add 11 minutes of sleep time and shorten the time it takes to fall asleep by a mere 13 minutes.

It hardly seems worth the side effects with such a low risk/reward ratio, especially when THC has also been shown to help reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and the length of time that the consumer remains asleep for without the varying detrimental side effects of its pharmacological counterpart.

There is less evidence on the efficacy of using CBD to treat sleep disorders. A study found that when researchers administered CBD to Rats during their waking state it increased wakefulness. CBD has also been found to help with somnolence, a state of or strong desire for sleep, or sleeping for unusually long periods.

There doesn’t seem to be studies of any combination of CBD and THC but it’s not a giant leap to assume that the combination of CBD and THC, when added with one of the below-mentioned terpenes, couldn’t make a great sleep-inducing strain with other medicinal benefits to the consumer.

Another Cannabinoid worth mentioning is CBN (Cannabinol). This has been shown to be the strongest sedative cannabinoid discovered so far.

Steep Hill Labs state that 5mg of CBN is as effective as a 10mg dose of Diazepam one of the drugs often prescribed to treat Insomnia. It is worth noting that ingesting cannabis means it is broken down by the liver and turns the THC into 11-OH-THC (11-Hydroxy-?9-Tetrahydrocannabinol) which is thought also to produce a sedative effect on the consumer but again there is little academic evidence of this and the primary evidence is anecdotal.

The evening consumption of Cannabis can also help other types of patients to get a good night’s sleep. Pain patients, for example, can also benefit greatly from a nightly intake of Cannabis allowing for continuous and consistent dormancy during the night allowing the patient the maximum amount of sleep to facilitate a sound slumber through potential discomfort and pain, enabling them to awaken feeling re-energised and well rested.

Evening Cannabis consumption can also be exceedingly useful for dream suppression as well, which is rather useful for PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder), BPD (Borderline personality disorder) and other trauma-based mental health disorders. Cannabis is effective because it can help to suppress potential nocturnal trauma, memories, dreams, and nightmares which could cause the unconscious patient to relive their trauma upon waking, leading to an opening of old wounds and an incredibly difficult waking state filled with anxiety, distress, confusion and emotional volatility.

There is further evidence that Cannabis aids sleep in the fact that a Cannabis pharmaceutical company in the states called CannRX is teaming up with iCAN, the Israeli-based Cannabis pharmaceutical company to produce the world’s first Cannabis-derived sleep aid. The product which will be branded as “ican.sleep” will be made from plant extract and be made available in a spray form in countries with a Medical Cannabis infrastructure. There is no confirmed release date yet for “ican.sleep” but the producers anticipate it to be available later this year or early in 2018.

“Sativa strains” and “Sativa hybrid strains” are known to have an uplifting, energetic and euphoric inducing effects on the consumer, and so they aren’t typically recommended for aiding sleep. High THC containing Indica strains have been anecdotally found time and time again by patients and consumers to help combat sleep issues and assist in a good night’s sleep.

Although it has not yet been confirmed it is theorised that Indica strains are best at aiding sleep because of the arrangement of terpenes in Indica dominant strains, and that’s what gives them their well-earned sedative reputation.

It is thought that cannabis contains over 200 terpenes, although many of these are found in trace amounts and may have negligible, if any, effect at all, here are two rather important terpenes I’d say that are worth keeping in mind when consuming Cannabis to treat sleep disturbances.

An interesting side note about Myrcene, It is abundant in Mangos, meaning that if you eat one before smoking it will heighten the high.

Myrcene

Identifiable by its Earthy and musky tones, often with a hint of fruity flavour, it is the most dominant compound found in Cannabis and can make up to 60% of some strains, it is not only anti-inflammatory but also a muscle relaxant and when combined with large amounts of THC have been shown to have a sedative effect this could possibly contribute to the tired/stoned feeling often attributed to Indicas.

Steep Hill Labs reports that Cannabis samples with more than 0.5 percent Myrcene will exhibit Indica type effects, while those with less than 0.5 percent would excibit effects associated with Sativa. A study by GW Pharmaceuticals in 2008 investigated the pain-relieving properties of Myrcene. It found that the terpene also exhibits an analgesic effect that works in the body in a similar way that opium does, only without the potential for abuse and addiction.

Linalool is also crucial in the production of Vitamin E in the body, which makes it a very important terpene for healthy and normal physical functioning.

Linalool

Linalool which is identifiable by its floral, citrus and candy-like aroma has been used for thousands of years as an anxiolytic and also as a sleep aid, most commonly by the inhalation of evaporated Lavender or other similar floral oils.

Linalool is a remarkable terpene it has been found to show properties of an Analgesic, Anti-depressant, Anti- Epileptic, Anxiolytic, Anti-psychotic, Anti-Inflammatory as well as a rather effective relaxant and sedative. To best maximise the sedative effects of Cannabis consume it with other naturally occurring terpenes such as chamomile, Valerian root, Lavender, Melatonin, St Johns Wort, and Mandarin.

The majority of Cannabis consumers when they take either a prolonged tolerance break or quit consuming Cannabis mention that the cessation in consumption leads to the return, with a vengeance of vivid and wild dreams. This phenomenon is known as REM Rebound. This is thought to be because of the consumption of Cannabis which is believed to lead to less time in REM sleep, the final stage of the sleep cycle and so when they quit the REM sleep cycle increases. (Random fact about dreams: it is thought that each dream lasts between 4 to 20 minutes!)

Although consuming Cannabis appears to reduce the amount of time you spend in REM sleep, it increases the length of time that you’re in deep sleep. Deep sleep is one of the earlier cycles you go through when you fall asleep and is thought to be important in repairing the body. It gathers energy for the next day, aids growth, boosts the immune system and repairs muscle and tissues.

Dr Hans Hamburger, a Somnologist from the Amsterdam sleep centre-
“Every night, you go through about four or five sleep cycles. Each cycle takes about 90 minutes, during which you go through different phases. There’s superficial sleep, deep sleep, and finally REM sleep. During that REM period, you have most of your dreams. You don’t usually remember your dreams if you continue sleeping. The last REM period just before you wake up takes the longest – and you’ll only remember the dreams you had in that time if you wake up during it. If you don’t wake up during the REM period, you won’t remember a thing.”

“You only remember the things that happen while you’re awake. We don’t remember the things that happen while we are sleeping, because we’re in a lowered state of consciousness. That has something to do with the fact that when you’re asleep, you’re processing the memories of things that happened during the day and essentially filing them away in your brain.”

There is still no definitive answer as to why we dream, let alone the importance of the activity. Ultimately the ability to remember your dreams is not an indicator of the frequency of which you dream, so it is rather difficult to ascertain whether consuming Cannabis actually prevents REM sleep from occurring or simply allows for a more prolonged deep sleep cycle and a shorter REM cycle that remains uninterrupted until waking.

It is still, therefore, in my opinion, highly debatable as to whether Cannabis consumption truly has any effect on the REM sleep cycle other than the length of time spent within it and whether this is in any way detrimental to the consumer in either the short or long term is still unproven either way.

So as is far too often the case, much more research is needed to understand how the complex phenomena of dreaming and the consumption of Cannabis interact.

Simpa

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

Simpa is a passionate drug law reform activist, mental health advocate, blogger, freelance writer, and host of The Simpa Life podcast.

The elephant in the room: Cannabis prohibition and mental health

The elephant in the room:

Cannabis prohibition and mental health

Originally published on Ismoke media (July 2017)

There seems to be a grave misunderstanding about the relationship between cannabis and mental health. In this piece, we’ll seek to iron out some of the misconceptions surrounding cannabis and mental health. If you are one of the unfortunate victims of the continuous bombardment and barrage of misinformation and reefer madness propaganda being spoon-fed by the tabloids, then you will more than likely incorrectly associate cannabis consumption with the onset of mental health problems and the exacerbation of pre-existing conditions. Well, this isn’t necessarily true, cannabis can precipitate a psychotic episode but does not cause one.

The figures and statistics around cannabis consumption and mental health have long since been artificially inflated and incorrectly interpreted by successive governments and their “Experts.”

Patients that are suffering from these disorders and conditions are frequented by disturbing symptoms that affect their mental health, often utilising cannabis to help reduce some of the more frightening and difficult symptoms that typically accompany conditions such as Bipolar Disorder (BP), Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), schizophrenia and other Schitzo type disorders, Manic Depression, Anxiety disorders etc.

So when they present at their GP and mention that they consume cannabis, the doctor’s tenancy can be to incorrectly associate cannabis consumption with the onset of their condition instead of acknowledging that the patient is more than likely simply self-medicating to alleviate and lessen the symptoms.

It is worth noting that GP’s do not inquire further when a patient mentions their cannabis consumption as to whether the patient belongs to the some 80% of the UK population that risks their health by mixing their Cannabis with a highly habit forming substance, a known Carcinogen and psychosis-inducing drug tobacco.

Doctors are slowly starting to warn against the dangers of another common and widely accepted drug, alcohol, as well. However, much more needs to be done to convey the seriousness to patients who are using alcohol as to its negative effects – it is linked to a severe uptake in self-harm and suicide.

According to the NHS in Scotland, more than half of people who ended up in hospital because they’d deliberately injured themselves said they’ve drunk alcohol immediately before or while doing so.

Mental health budgets are also being slashed, contributing to a worsening of the problem. NHS Fights Back reports that: “In the five years up to 2016, mental health trusts in England had £600 million slashed from their budgets. Meanwhile, the number of people seeking mental health community help has jumped by almost 500,000 a year, to 1.7 million, since 2010” with further budget cuts planned for this and next year.

The NHS currently is paying out £285 million a year for antidepressant pills with this figure only expected to climb as austerity continues to make the quality of life and mental health of millions severely worse.

The FDA (The Food and Drug Administration) warned in 2004 that the use of SSRI antidepressants in young people up to the age of 24 was raising concerns about suicide risk. Despite that, antidepressant use continues to soar on both sides of the Atlantic in all age groups.

Compared with cannabis, where a patient could cultivate a customised, personalised cultivar at home making their medication into whatever preparations they wish; tinctures, vape juices, oils and more taking sovereignty of their treatment instead of being made into a life long consumer leaving them strung out on destructive maintenance drugs like SSRI’s (serotonin selective reuptake inhibitors.)

Over a third of patients trying to quit SSRI’s experience rather difficult withdrawal which can include increased anxiety and depression, head zaps, dizziness, stomach issues, suicidal thoughts, flu-like symptoms, increased aggression and mood swings, amongst other symptoms.

A study by the Nordic Cochrane Centre analysed by University College London (UCL) endorsed the findings in an editorial in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) which says an analysis of 70 trials of the most common antidepressants found they DOUBLED the risk of suicide and aggressive behaviour.

Cannabis has a far higher efficacy than SSRI’s at treating depression without the associated increased suicide rates and aggression that accompany these medications.

The traditional treatment models for the most common mental health conditions are failing countless patients and perpetuating the suffering of the most vulnerable in our society. As discussed above, the budget for mental health services in the UK has been cut year on year by successive governments leading to the state of affairs we’re in now where the lead killer of males under 45 is suicide.

The myth that consuming cannabis detrimentally affects your mental health is an antiquated and particularly vicious one, as it means patients who potentially could benefit from cannabis are instead being given highly habit forming, legal drugs. Not to mention that these drugs can lead to the side-effects listed above. It is both unethical and immoral.

Cannabis is a neuroprotectant evidenced by the US patent US6630507, and is also known to cause neurogenesis, the process of growing new brain cells. In contrast, alcohol use causes neurodegeneration, leading to mood deregulation and potential problems regulating emotions and mental health.

A feature on Herb.co states that: “This could explain why cannabis is so effective in treating mood disorders like depression, anxiety, and stress; these conditions are all related to a lack of adult neurogenesis”

So continuing cannabis prohibition will only guarantee that this mental health epidemic and the needless suffering of millions will continue to escalate to unmanageable levels in this country.

Cannabis prohibition causes a multitude of health issues by denying humans access to Cannabinoids which are a vital component to homoeostasis, after all, all mammals have an Endocannabinoid system.

Loneliness and social isolation are harmful to our health. Research suggests that lacking social connections is damaging to our health, with one study citing it is as bad for us as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Loneliness is no longer the stable of the elderly but more so each day a complaint of the youth.

Prohibition increases this problem too. With no safe spaces being provided to consume their drug of choice socially; as is provided for alcohol users, cannabis consumers are forced to gather in parks, bushes, abandoned buildings and on street corners to come together to enjoy and consume their choice of herb. Austerity has made owning your own home before 40 purely a pipe dream in most cases, and it is only getting harder to get on the property ladder.

The continuation of the stigma and discrimination surrounding cannabis leads to consumers hiding from society for fear of judgement, being robbed by criminal gangs or being raided and locked in a cage by their government for choosing a far safer drug than the legal alternatives.

Continuing to promulgate and perpetuate the myths around cannabis consumption the government is forcing consumers to hide their use and act as if they were doing something wrong. By doing this, you alienate the consumer, unlike those of alcohol who have their vice vindicated by media and culture so they can purchase and consume their drug without fear of persecution for the practice of imbibing.

People are going to enjoy cannabis regardless of the law, so why not do everything to reduce the harms that prohibition is currently creating and ensure the maximisation of good health in the population by legalising, regulating and taxing it today.

Cannabis could and in my opinion should be utilised by the whole population as a prophylactic to prevent any potential personal mental health and general health problems from developing.

Simpa

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

Simpa is a passionate drug law reform activist, mental health advocate, blogger, freelance writer, and host of The Simpa Life podcast.

Cannabis and The Gateway Theory

Cannabis and The Gateway Theory

Originally published on Ismoke media (August 2017)

One of the most persistent myths that surround cannabis is the gateway theory. In this piece, we’ll be exploring where it comes from and the consequences it can have on the consumer and society. We’ll also be taking a look at the growing evidence that disproves this frankly fraudulent fallacy.

As many of you will be aware there have recently been some divisive documentaries and programs produced around the subject of cannabis which seem to be rehashing archaic, destructive myths and downright lies such as “Skunk Psychosis” “Cannabis Addiction” “Hash having less THC in it than flower” and, of course,“The gateway theory”.Thus continues the British media’s campaign of demonising both cannabis and its consumers.

Although the term wasn’t first popularised until the 1980s, the ideas and concept that the Gateway Theory encapsulates have been discussed in academia for decades, as far back as the 1930s. Occasionally referred to as “stepping stone theory” or “escalation theory”, it is the idea that the consumption of one drug will increase the user’s likelihood of consuming another.

This idea has been championed by varying individuals over the years but none so much as by anti-drug activist Robert DuPont who, for decades, helped to “guide” American drug policy. This was the man appointed to positions of influence by the father of the modern war on drugs – the racist, warmongering former US president Richard Nixon, who created the war on drugs as a way to control the black population, hippies, and anti-war campaigners that were gaining social traction.

John Ehrlichman who was Nixon’s adviser on domestic policy famously said in a 1994 interview that:

We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalising both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. “We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes… and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course, we did.”

Debunking the Gateway Theory

In order to understand why cannabis ISN’T a gateway drug, it is first important to understand the difference between “the gateway theory” and the concept of “exposure opportunity” that is created by our current system of prohibition and the draconian legal status of cannabis here in the UK. Under the current paradigm, the average consumer has to acquire their cannabis from a local dealer who may potentially be involved in serious criminal activities, and happy to also sell their customers far more harmful and potentially lethal illegal drugs.

It is this interaction that creates the exposure opportunity for dealers to become salesmen, pitching their latest product to the naive misguided youth who, disillusioned by cannabis lies, may now seek to further explore the depths of deception of prohibition by ingesting and exploring other illegal substances.

This cannot and should not be blamed on cannabis. The blame in this instance is squarely on our prohibitionist policies and decades of reefer madness propaganda which has been pumped out by successive governments, media outlets, tabloids, and other mouthpieces of those ideologically opposed to ending the war on drugs.

The status quo is maintained in part because the fear of risk to investments in industries that could potentially be decimated by the coming global legalisation of cannabis and the ubiquitous implementation of industrial and medicinal applications of cannabis derived technologies and medicines. This stems back to the paper industry in the days of Harry J. Anslinger, when they smeared “marijuana” to protect business interests.

But getting back to the point, the truth is the opposite to this false notion of cannabis fitting in with the gateway theory: There is little evidence to support it. At the very best there is a correlation in data, but this in no way can imply a casual link or be claimed in any way to be evidence that cannabis is a gateway drug.

Evidence is actually emerging that suggests that cannabis can be (and is being in several US States) utilised as an exit drug, contradicting the gateway theory entirely. It can help addicts to recover from such afflictions as heroin addiction, alcoholism and tobacco addiction, as well as other destructive drug addictions and detrimental behaviours and habits.

In states where Cannabis has been legalised the Opioid abuse and death rates have declined year on year since legalisation. All prescription drug use is down in states with legal access to cannabis. People are taking less prescription medication, including anti-anxiety drugs, antidepressants, anti-seizure medication and even painkillers – this is clear evidence of cannabis’ efficacy at treating hundreds if not thousands of conditions.

The four main contenders for the real gateway drug, if indeed any such thing does exist, are Sugar, Alcohol, Prescription pills and Tobacco – all of which could be described as having an escalation usage model. This means the more they’re consumed, the more users are likely to consume in the future, often in higher quantities.

Prescription drugs may actually be a growing pathway to heroin addiction. They are certainly attributed to be the cause of the current opioid epidemic in the west. Drugs available on prescription include Oxycotin, Fentanyl, benzodiazepine, xanex, and Tramadol, all of which are vastly more deadly to people than illegal drugs, but have until recent years been prescribed like they’re going out of fashion. This has created thousands of addicts who otherwise wouldn’t have had any contact with these potent potentially lethal drugs.

Dr Gabor Maté

When mentioning heroin addiction, it is worth mentioning Hungarian-born Canadian physician Dr Gabor Maté and the link he discovered through decades of his work in neurology, psychiatry, and psychology, as well as the study and treatment of addiction. He observed that there is an “equal correlation between sexual abuse as a child and dependent intravenous drug use as an adult as there is between obesity to diabetes”

If you’ve suffered childhood trauma, you’re 4600% more likely to become an injecting drug user than if you haven’t. Meaning that this kind of abuse could be and rightly should be termed a gateway.

Legal drugs and The Gateway Theory

Tobacco has actually been observed to exhibit traits of the gateway theory. In a recent American study, scientists found that over 90% of adult cocaine users between the ages of 18 and 34 had smoked cigarettes before they began using cocaine. Researchers suspect that nicotine exposure might increase vulnerability to cocaine. Contrast this with cannabis which can be used to help tobacco users to quit their carcinogenic habit and live healthier lives Nicotine free.

If anything, alcohol could potentially fit into the debunked gateway theory, as exposure to alcohol lowers the user’s inhibition, which makes them more susceptible to taking other drugs. As pubs have traditionally been a marketplace of illegal drugs up and down the country, this, coupled with the current cultural acceptance of using cocaine to extend binge drinking sessions makes the alcohol user rather vulnerable and increases their likelihood of poly-drug consumption and addiction issues.

It could and should be argued that poor economic circumstances are one of the main gateways to harder drug use. It is the criminalisation and prohibition of so called soft drugs that has created a gateway to harder drug use.

Legalising cannabis could negate this and a lot of the avoidable deaths and detrimental societal harms and effects caused by tobacco, alcohol, and other harmful human behaviours by allowing the public access to a much healthier and safer option of a recreational drug.

In conclusion, its propaganda, and prohibition that has caused a great deal of the issues and harms associated with the consumption of cannabis and the perceived social consequences. Simply put, if cannabis truly is a gateway drug, why aren’t there equal usage statistics for all other harder drugs? This myth much like prohibition needs burying with the other relics of our haunting history in the shallow grave of the twentieth century.

Simpa

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

Simpa is a passionate drug law reform activist, mental health advocate, blogger, freelance writer, and host of The Simpa Life podcast.

The War on Drugs: The Price We Pay for Propaganda

The War on Drugs:

The Price We Pay for Propaganda

Originally published on Ismoke media (September 2017)

This week I am taking a look at how reefer madness, propaganda and successive disastrous anti-drug campaigns have created the opportunity for political prohibitionists around the world to break up families, destroy lives, incarcerate vast numbers of people and even murder people in this failed “war on drugs”. Born out of the Nixon and Regan “Just say No” school of drug policy DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) an anti-drug campaign was launched in 1983 in Los Angeles, California.

It has since grown nationally and internationally and has subsequently been instrumental in the escalation of the global war on drugs, creating the situation we’re in now where supposedly democratic countries can incarcerate and kill vast numbers of their own citizens.

The vast majority of those locked up are disproportionately poor, ethnic minorities predominantly dealers with the so called “low hanging fruit” those often just caught in possession such as the novice and naive youth, the intellectually challenged and those with mental health conditions making up the rest of the caged consumers.

The program which is a strong proponent of the now debunked theories and the reefer madness ideologies of the gateway theory, cannabis is addictive and causes Schizophrenia claims to “provide students from kindergarten (Infants) through to high (secondary) school with the skills necessary to recognise and resist pressures to experiment with drugs and to avoid gangs and violence”.

In reality the approach of DARE and other similar organisations actually replace any opportunity to teach kids truths about drugs that could serve them well for the rest of their lives instead it merely provides a brief respite from the mundanity of the syllabus, much like the drugs themselves, which as a result of prohibition are rife in schools across the world.

The program is used in nearly 80% of the school districts in America and in 54 other countries around the world (including the UK) teaching some 36,000,000 students each year.

The program started in Britain back in 1995 and has received consistent criticism and since it launched it has been indoctrinating children as young as 5 in this backward, antiquated and deeply detrimental world view under the name of “Life skills Education”

Unfortunately by attempting to overly emphasise and sensationalise the potential hazards and dangers of so called hard illegal drug abuse, DARE actually inadvertently conveys the impression that alcohol, tobacco, and prescription drugs are innocuous because of their legality and in contrast to the propaganda that they’ve been fed about even soft drugs like cannabis and magic mushrooms.

Even the US Department of Education prohibits schools from spending its funding on D.A.R.E because the program is deemed to be completely ineffective in reducing alcohol and drug use. DARE itself claims that the fact that the majority of the public like the idea of the anti-drug campaign is enough evidence of the efficacy of the program itself, and that to “test” it would require many years and millions of dollars – it’s a decision that no politician has yet dared make.

This antiquated ideology is, unfortunately, re-emerging in the East and is epitomised by the Philippino president Rodrigo Duterte whose drug policies are currently excusing a genocide on the many island nation after he reignited his own Nation’s War on drugs in full force.

Duterte’s war on drugs has now claimed the lives of 13,000+ people deemed to be drug consumers or dealers.

Incredibility among all of this bloodshed and rampant corruption The Philippines voted just 24hrs after voting to reinstate the death penalty for certain drugs charges to give its citizens lawful access to medical cannabis for a condition such as Epilepsy, Cancer, and MS. But all is not well for regular cannabis consumers in The Philippines, as it is likely the war on drugs will still continue to negatively affect them. “If you just smoke it like a cigarette, I will not allow it, ever. It remains to be a prohibited item and there’s always a threat of being arrested. If you choose to fight the law enforcement agency, you die. “Medicinal marijuana, yes, because it is really an ingredient of modern medicine now. There are drugs right now being developed or already in the market that (have) marijuana as a component.” – President Durete

It is worth noting that Filipino president Duterte has some striking similarities with another recently appointed US president Donald J Trump who, with the help of Jeff Sessions seems poised to reignite the war on drugs in the home of the failed policy.

In May 2017 Jeff Sessions reversed his predecessor’s initiative to end excessive, racist and socially destructive mandatory minimum sentences, claiming, without evidence, that Holder’s sentencing changes had led to America’s sudden 10.8% increase in murders in 2015. This plus the reversal of the plan to end privatised, for profit prison seems to point towards a stepping up of the drug war in the states in coming years.

Recently another Asian nation has been hinting at adopting this monstrous and draconian approach to this failed policy. Head of Indonesia’s narcotics agency Commissioner General Budi Waseso, recently remarked that “The market that existed in the Philippines is moving to Indonesia, the impact of President Duterte’s actions is an exodus to Indonesia, including the substance”

Indonesian president Joko Widodohaswho was recently quoted at a press conference as saying ”I have told you, just be firm, especially with foreign drug dealers who enter the country and resist [arrest]. Gun them down. Give no mercy,” sparking fears that they may be the next country to adopt this vile human rights abuse as official government policy.

What the prohibitionist and promulgators of propaganda cannot seem to understand is that humans enjoy altering their consciousness by taking drugs and have done for millennia, be it through smoking a cigarette, drinking alcohol, consuming cannabis, eating magic mushrooms or taking LSD.

They fail to grasp that it is impossible to prohibit a behaviour out of existence. This is epitomised by the temperance movement, which attempted to deal with the “moral decay” caused by rampant alcoholism in the United States by prohibiting it. Readers of history will be aware that this drastically increased the negative effects that the drug had while minimising any potential benefits it could bring to society much like the situation we currently have with Cannabis.

The damage is somewhat negated by legalising alcohol, taxing it and using the funds on education and rehab schemes rather than criminalising all alcohol uses to “protect” the comparative few that abuse the drug. Tobacco, as well, is a greatly destructive drug, yet isn’t prohibited, it is simply taxed higher each year in the UK attempt to deter its use.

Governments around the world are perpetuating this policy of manslaughter by proxy by failing to address this failed antiquated global policy. The results are in and prohibition doesn’t work – it causes more dependency issues, more violence, more suffering, perpetuates racial, class and economic divides, and disproportionally incarcerates minorities, the poor and society’s most vulnerable.

There is some silver lining – Even the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organisations (WHO) is now advocating for the abolition of prohibition and the global decriminalisation of all drugs.

So as the topic is being more openly discussed by advocates, activists, and charities around the world world – we continue to fight towards a brighter future. By discussing the failures of drug prohibition openly, rationally, and with compassion its helping to bridge the divide between the stereotypes cast by prohibitions propaganda and the real lives of drug consumers.

Simpa

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

Simpa is a passionate drug law reform activist, mental health advocate, blogger, freelance writer, and host of The Simpa Life podcast.