Wednesday, 13 September 2017

In Parliament

  1. 6th September 2017 - APPG Vice-Chair, Lord Alan Howarth, submitted a question on progress with current legislation to deal with new psychoactive substances - To ask Her Majesty's Government, in the light of the failure of prosecutions brought under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016, whether they will review the legislation. Click here to follow the debate.
  2. 7th September 2017 - APPG Co-Chair, Baroness Molly Meacher asked a Question for Short Debate (QSD) - To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they plan to invite the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to review the evidence supporting the rescheduling of cannabis to Schedule 2 or 4. Click here to follow the debate

Monday, 26 September 2016

The APPG for Drug Policy Reform began in January 2011 with the position of the Group being:-
  • That the global war on drugs has failed
  • That we will work for drug policy reform
  • That the Group will draw upon available evidence and experience in order to inform our recommendations

Achievements to date:-

  • International Conference November 2011
  • Inquiry Report: Towards a Safer Drug Policy
  • European Initiative for global debate and reform of drug policy event January 2014
  • Guidance on the UN conventions on drugs August 2015

APPG Report ‘Accessing Medicinal Cannabis: Meeting Patient’sNeeds’ – Report of the Inquiry of the APPG for Drug Policy Reform intomedicinal cannabis: (click for report


‘Cannabis: The Evidence forMedical Use’ by Professor Michael P Barnes MD FRCP Honorary Professor ofNeurological Rehabilitation, Newcastle University and Dr Jennifer C BarnesDPsychol Clinical Psychologist, Northumberland, Tyne & Wear NHS FoundationTrust (click for report)

The APPG Report launched on the 13th September emphatically calls on the UK government to legalise medical cannabis based on the results of their 7 month inquiry into the issue and on the findings of an independent review of global evidence commissioned by them that ran alongside the Inquiry

According to Caroline Lucas MP, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group, ‘Many hundreds of thousands of people in the UK are already taking cannabis for primarily medical reasons.  It is totally unacceptable that they should face the added stress of having to break the law to access their medicine.  This a matter of compassion and human rights.  The government should have the political courage to view the issue of medical cannabis separately from any wider drugs reform and act urgently.’

According to Baroness Molly Meacher, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group, ‘The findings of our inquiry and review of evidence from across the world are clear.  Cannabis works as a medicine for a number of medical conditions.  The evidence has been strong enough to persuade a growing number of countries and US states to legalise access to medical cannabis.  Against this background, the UK scheduling of cannabis as a substance that has no medical value is irrational.’

During the inquiry, the Group has taken evidence from 623 patients, representatives of the medical professions and people with knowledge of how medical cannabis is regulated across the world.  The Group has commissioned Professor Mike Barnes, Professor of Neurological Rehabilitation and consultant neurologist and consultant in rehabilitation medicine and acknowledged expert in the subject, to undertake the most comprehensive review of evidence from the around the world in relation to this issue.  The Report – Cannabis : The Evidence for Medical Use (the Barnes Report) is published  alongside the results of the APPG inquiry.  The report concludes that there is good evidence that medical cannabis helps alleviate the symptoms of chronic pain, including neuropathic pain; spasticity (often associated with Multiple Sclerosis); nausea and vomiting, particularly in the context of chemotherapy; and in the management of anxiety.

According to Professor Mike Barnes , ‘We analysed over 20,000 scientific and medical reports.  The results are clear.  Cannabis has a medical benefit for a wide range of conditions.  I believe that with greater research, it has the potential to help with an even greater number of conditions. But this research is being stifled by the government’s current classification of cannabis as having no medical benefit’

Click here for the evidence review Cannabis: The Evidence for Medical Use

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Guidance on interpreting the UN Drug Conventions

Drug policy is now part of a debate at UN level, and a review of  the UN Drug Conventions on Drugs will begin at the UN General Assembly in September and culminate in the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drug Policy in March 2016 where Member States will be considering a number of policy approaches. As a contribution to that debate the APPG has published Guidance on a flexible interpretation of the Drug Conventions which demonstrates the extent to which reform of national drug policies can be accommodated within current Conventions.

The guidance has been prepared by the Group with the support of officials and experts from Latin America and Europe. It provides a radical re-interpretation of the Conventions.  

It is not, for example, justified to violate human rights in the quest to comply with the conventions on drugs. Blanket aerial coca crop eradication in rural areas is unacceptable when this leaves families and whole communities without access to clean water or a livelihood.

Likewise, denying terminally ill people access to essential pain relieving medicines, in the interests of upholding the UN drug conventions cannot be justified.   And yet this is commonplace in 160 UN Member States.   In total, 5.5 billion people, including 5.5 million with terminal cancer live in countries with low or non-existent access to controlled medicines.  

Across the Globe, children and young people are being criminalised for using small quantities of drugs.   This prohibitionist approach to use leads to greater use of the most dangerous Class A drugs; higher levels of addiction and long term damage to the prospects of the children and young people affected

The UN drug conventions permit drug supply and possession for ‘medical and scientific purposes.  The Guidance proposes that a modern interpretation of the term 'scientific purposes' enables drug reforms to be introduced and evaluated, thus contributing to creating a new experimental and evidential ethos and improving the knowledge base on the efficacy of drug policies. 

To read the full guidance click Guidance on Interpreting the UN Conventions

The Guidance references two legal opinions prepared for the All-Party Group by a senior UK barrister, Lord Carlile of Berriew CBE QC. The first prepared with Sarah Clarke QC concerns the UN Drug Conventions - Room for Flexibility, the second deals with the issue of Regulated Markets for Cannabis.

The Psychoactive Substances Bill

In an attempt to limit the use of 'legal highs' the Government has introduced the Psychoactive Substances Bill which seeks a blanket ban on all psychoactive substances whilst exempting certain psychoactive substances such as coffee which are thought to be acceptable.

The APPG has had a number of concerns about the bill including:
  • a blanket ban as proposed is unworkable as it will criminalise 'harmless, everyday products'
  • the removal of a consideration of harm from the decision to ban could mean that suppliers of such low harm substances which are nonetheless psychoactive could face prosecution
  • There is no role within the legislation for expert advice from bodies such as the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD)
Members of the APPG raised these concerns as the Bill was passing through the Lords at its report stage on the 14th July. Click here to read the Hansard record of the debate.