Monday, 21 May 2012

PUK Interviews NORML UK

    • Politics UK PoliticsUK would like to welcome Sanj Chowdhary and Chris Bovey, spokespersons for NORML UK.

      Can you tell us briefly what NORML UK is and what its aims are?

    • Chris Bovey In terms of our overall aims, I point you to our mission statement:

      NORML-UK seeks to gain recognition for the rights of people to peacefully pursue activities relating to cannabis without unwarranted intervention by the authorities.

    • Chris Bovey NORML-UK is a non-partisan, non-profit organisation working for more research into the benefits of the uses of the cannabis plant for all purposes.

    • Politics UK NORML UK seems to be a new movement. Can you tell us some background of how NORML UK came into existence?

    • Chris Bovey Britain was lacking in a credible cannabis campaign, so a group of activists got together to see if we could fill the gap. We contacted NORML in the USA and asked them if we could form a British Chapter.

    • Sanj Chowdhary In my own opinion, NORML UK isn’t necessarily ‘a new movement’. NORML UK represents a departure from the failed paradigms of previous campaigns which, to an extent, appear to have alienated either the wider general public or the cannabis community in their approach. NORML UK was born out of a collective frustration with previous and existing campaign group, without wishing to give CLEAR any airtime, but there was a lot of energy and passion created in opposition to Mr Reynolds and we felt it would be remiss of us if we failed to harness and focus it into something positive. So after great debate and discussion it was collectively decided that forming a UK affiliation of NORML would best suit our purposes.

    • Chris Bovey Of course NORML in itself isn’t a new movement, it was founded in the USA over 40 years ago in 1970.

    • Politics UK How many cannabis users are there in the UK?

    • Sanj Chowdhary According to the British Crime Survey 2010, there are approximately 6-8 million cannabis users in the UK so about 9% & 12% of the population.

    • Politics UK How do you differ from CLEAR?

    • Sanj Chowdhary lol We’re not a single issue political party for a start, we don’t see any value in being a questionably democratic political party nor standing in national or local elections…and therefore it was decided that NORML UK would be an activist led pressure group which, whilst ‘leaderless’ in principle, provides effective ‘leadership’ through supporting and empowering the membership into helping to bring about change themselves.

    • Sanj Chowdhary All too often campaign groups come along and try to set themselves apart by saying why they are better than the rest but instead NORML UK hopes to work alongside others to utilise one another’s strengths to achieve what is a common goal. We also intend on being more proactive in our approach, for instance, instead of waiting for negative news stories to come out and then lodge a complaint, we will foster a good working relationship with some parts of the media by generating interesting, positive news stories that elevate the status of cannabis.

    • Politics UK What advantages are there from being a pressure group rather than a political party?

    • Chris Bovey There are many advantages, for starters we don’t have to waste £500 a time on deposits for fielding fringe candidates in elections. Single issue parties tend not to work under the British electoral system and we feel we would be more effective as a pressure group.

    • Sanj Chowdhary Being a pressure group means we can get support from people from all political persuasions. Political party status can make it difficult for members of other political parties to support us. If we can build an effective activist base which we can then call to action in support of candidates who are willing to support our agenda … the impact an extra 100 activists could make to the election campaign of a 2nd or 3rd place running candidate is significantly greater than 100 activists supporting an unknown Cannabis Party. The average voter is a little more sophisticated in their choice of party and for very few the issue of cannabis is a priority.

    • Politics UK Has NORML UK got a leader or an Exec Committee?

    • Sanj Chowdhary For administrative purposes we have an Executive Director….the selection of this person was a bit of a hot potato! It was passed around by the founding members for a while until it was decided that in my absence I would be given the title as I wasn’t there to protest!! lol

    • Sanj Chowdhary But in practice NORML UK provides leadership through the Board of Directors who make their judgements based of continual dialogue with the members, wider cannabis movement, and partner organisations. Whilst we don’t have a single leader for everyone to focus on, we do have a team of people who provide leadership in their own specialist area.

    • Chris Bovey Yes that’s true, Sanj Chowdhary was added for the paperwork (against his wishes) but in reality there is no leader.

    • Politics UK NORML UK's Facebook page states:

      “NORML-UK is is a non-partisan, non-profit organisation working for more research into the benefits of the uses of the cannabis plant for all purposes.”

      Can you give some examples of the benefits of the uses of the cannabis plant?

    • Chris Bovey Aside from the obvious medicinal and recreational uses, if we are talking about the hemp plant, there are too many to list. Fuel, paper, clothing, fabrics, canvas; I recently read somewhere an entire house had been made from hemp.

    • Sanj Chowdhary There is too much regulation for growing and processing industrial hemp, which puts many farmers off. NORML supports deregulation of the hemp industry and believes there would be great environmental and economic benefits from increased cultivation and use of the hemp plant.

    • Politics UK What are the medicinal benefits of cannabis?

    • Sanj Chowdhary WOW, now there’s question!! How long do you have? lol There are so many where to start….well let’s look at a list of conditions it can be used to treat….bare with me I actually have a list of the most common on a word document!! lol

    • Sanj Chowdhary A 2002 review of medical literature by Franjo Grotenhermen states that medical cannabis has established effects in the treatment of nausea, vomiting, premenstrual syndrome, unintentional weight loss, insomnia, and lack of appetite, spasticity, neurogenic pain, movement disorders, asthma, glaucoma. inflammatory bowel disease, migraines, fibromyalgia…due to its antispasmodic and muscle-relaxant properties it is particularly effective at treating multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injuries.

    • Sanj Chowdhary Other studies state that cannabis or cannabinoids may be useful in treating alcohol abuse, arthritis, asthma, bipolar disorder , colorectal cancer, depression, dystonia, epilepsy, digestive diseases, hepatitis C, Huntington's disease, leukemia, skin tumours, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Parkinson's disease, pruritus, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), psoriasis, sickle-cell disease, sleep apnea, anorexia nervosa, treating tics and Tourette syndrome, and even lowering blood pressure and relieving stress and anxiety

    • Sanj Chowdhary The biggest benefit of cannabis as a medication is its safety. I would argue that all medicines have toxic and potentially lethal effects. But cannabis is not such a substance. There is no record in the extensive medical literature which has been able to distinguish a proven, documented cannabis-induced fatality. Cannabis cannot induce a lethal response as a result of “drug overdose”! In cannabis not only do we have one of the most effective substances on the planet, but also one of the safest medications in existence!

    • Politics UK In recent news there have been stories of cannabis having cancer curing properties.
      Does cannabis having cancer curing properties.

    • Sanj Chowdhary Whilst we can’t legally suggest that cannabis cures cancer, the anti-tumour properties of cannabis have been well documented since at least the 1970s if not sooner. Put instead of falling foul of the authorities I will point to research that is referred to on the Cancer Research UK website. Complutense University in Madrid and the University hospital of Tenerife jointly carried out the research. Their results were published in the medical journal Cancer Research on August 15th 2004. They looked at the effects of injecting cannabinoids into the brain tumours of two people with advanced glioblastoma multiforme. The researchers at the University hospital of Tenerife then used injections of cannabinoids into the tumours of 9 patients. The substance seemed to slow the growth of the tumours but more research is needed before we know whether cannabinoids may really be helpful in treating brain tumours.

    • Politics UK What is wrong with the current Governments policy on illegal drugs?

    • Chris Bovey In law all likely harmful substances are supposed to be listed in a schedule, and the Government has powers to regulate persons with respect to those drugs accordingly. They are called ‘controlled drugs’ which signifies a preparedness to control the MISuse of these drugs by controlling people’s property that might otherwise cause harms. It’s at core a control over the effects of the drugs, the mind states enabled by them. There is no power on earth that can actually declare a substance or any object to be illegal. What they have done by stealth is to declare ALL of the persons concerned with many drugs to be acting unlawfully; they say ‘it’s illegal’. And that is held to be true not matter what your physical or mental need or choice of consciousness with controlled substances.

    • Chris Bovey This state of affairs is supported by their insistence they can make drugs illegal, and people imagine it’s true. In reality the government can only make your actions illegal. Possession of cannabis without license is unlawful under policy, but that is distinct from it (cannabis) being illegal. We are devalued by the discussion about people being the subject of legal regulation being classed as an ‘it’. Drug law is about how we treat people - the peaceful activities of cannabis users, growers and social supply networks ought to be of little concern to the authorities. As far as the users of other drugs are concerned, the same applies unless real harms are evident. Obviously where there is evidence of actual misuse causing harms (as might still exist even with the most rational and caring policies), then regulations targeting anti-social activities would be reasonable. This is really the point of the law, not to say objects are legal or illegal, but to focus on human outcomes and address those where necessary (where a significant threshold of social nuisance is crossed). Due to the myth of ‘illegal drugs’, no matter how peaceful one is, even if it never involves another living soul, we are declared to be indivisibly unlawful.

    • Chris Bovey By the way, the fact that people believe that ‘legal drugs’ actually exist means that the Government can award privileged status to the dealers of harmful addictive drugs like alcohol and tobacco with impunity. The law should regulate all such activities, treating people concerned with drugs with equality. This regulation should be based upon neutral and evidence-based assessment criteria. At the moment the government cites “cultural and historic preferences” as the justification for the way they have divided people into the worthy and unworthy. It’s prejudice, plain and simple.

    • Politics UK In a post-prohibition world, who would be responsible for oversight of the cannabis industry?

    • Chris Bovey Hopefully me.

    • Sanj Chowdhary I don’t see it would be much different than any other regulated industry, I’d imagine cannabis would be treated in a similar way to tobacco or alcohol; the legislation is already there to do so.

    • Politics UK How much revenue do you believe legalising cannabis would generate?

    • Sanj Chowdhary I don’t know the exact figure as it is difficult to work out without first establishing a system for taxation but I believe it could potentially be in the billions. It's up to government to decide what kind of tax systems and how much they apply to any commodity.

    • Sanj Chowdhary But it’s not only the potential tax benefits, but all the money that would be saved in policing this daft law, the police, courts, lawyers, prisons, etc, and also the increased productivity of people who were previously held back in the work place due to a criminal record for cannabis.
      17 May at 20:27 ·  ·  15

    • Politics UK Do you think cannabis law reform is a national or an international issue? Can we see real reform in Britain without the co-operation and mutual agreement of other national powers?

    • Chris Bovey It is both, but it is not the case that we are just the tail wagged by the UN’s dog. We must give effect to our own laws and rights. The government has said they will comply with the International Drug User control diktat, but that is an ongoing decision which ought to be reviewed, otherwise the decision makers are fettering their discretions which make for bad governance. These obligations only bind the Government by the way; they are not incorporated into UK law, so if they conflict with our laws and rights then the courts should trump the Government’s inertia. It is a surrender to control and subsequent waging of a war on their own people, and it must be stopped whatever happens in backward America.

    • Politics UK How likely is there to be a debate in parliament about cannabis reform and how much of an impact do you think it will bring?

    • Chris Bovey There is a petition to Downing Street for a debate that currently has 24,500 signatures; it needs 100k to force a debate in Parliament.
      A need for Parliament to discuss the consequences of legalisation on health, the police force, the economy and our civil liberties.

    • Sanj Chowdhary Whilst I support the efforts to gain 100K signatures for the petition, I don’t think we can rely on it to deliver us a debate, experience shows that gaining 100,000 signatures isn’t enough to force any meaningful debate. We need to get the issue on the agenda in the towns, cities and villages of the UK, we need to engage the public and listen to their fears, show them how it is in fact prohibition that is putting the young and vulnerable at risk of coming into contact with all manner of dangerous substance, prohibition which decimates their communities by leaving them open to exploitation by criminal gangs. Once the public see the evidence and realise just how damaging prohibition is you can bet there will be meaningful debate. We cannot wait for politicians to put the issue on the agenda and so it us down to our collective efforts to get it on there.

    • Politics UK Should cannabis be taxed? Regulated?

    • Chris Bovey We can only tax persons, plants have a habit of not paying and sitting around all day.

      The first concern must be to stop the stigma and punishments given out unjustly. It seems reasonable in a capitalist country commercial enterprises should pay tax and duties.

    • Chris Bovey NORML UK believes that persons should be able to grow their own cannabis without interference, but that large scale production, supply and retail operations should be regulated. Right now there is no regulation at all, thus some trade in cannabis is done by gangs with little regard for the public interest. The point must be to use regulation for legitimate reasons; there is no need for example to look to civil penalties or treatment for people peacefully concerned with activities with cannabis.

    • Politics UK Is cannabis a gateway drug?
      17 May at 20:36 · 

    • Sanj Chowdhary This notion has been disproved so many times it's a bit annoying to answer but.....

    • Sanj Chowdhary No cannabis isn’t a gateway drug, however, leaving the supply of cannabis to the criminal black market means that cannabis is sometimes pushed alongside other harder drugs.
      In the USA, despite having some of the harshest drug laws, 15% of the population have used cocaine, whereas in The Netherlands, where they have cut the link between the hard and soft drug markets, use of cocaine is about 2%

    • Politics UK According to the British Lung Foundation, 3-4 Cannabis cigarettes(joints) a day are associated with the same evidence of acute and chronic bronchitis and the same degree of damage to the bronchial mucosa as 20 or more tobacco cigarettes a day.
      Is it appropriate to legalise a drug which can be so dangerous?

    • Sanj Chowdhary The most recent research suggests that there is conflicting data on the correlation of an increase in the incidence of lung cancer and cannabis smoking. According to Mehra et al who carried out a systematic review evaluating 19 studies from 1966 to 2006 found no significant ‘tobacco-adjusted’ association between cannabis smoking and lung cancer development despite evidence of precancerous histopathologic changes of the respiratory mucosa. And then you have the INHANCE Consortium study, it analyzed 1200 lung cancer cases but concluded there were no correlations between lung cancer and cannabis use.

    • Sanj Chowdhary Also your question suggests that ‘smoking’ is the only method of consuming cannabis. There are more sophisticated means to consume cannabis than just smoking. Vapourising is something that is increasing in favour and popularity, especially amongst medical users and the more health conscious. You can eat it in baked goods, sweets, make a drink from it, you can even make a topical cream from it. Citing outdated questionable research findings as a reason for regarding cannabis as ‘inappropriate’ is a bit weak, but it is something that prohibitionists claim over and over again without being able to point to the actual evidence.

    • Politics UK What is NORML UK's view on other illegal drugs? Should all drugs be legal?

    • Chris Bovey NORML UK does not recognise either such classification/description of drugs as being “illegal” or “legal”.

    • Politics UK By legalising cannabis, the state is implying that it is socially acceptable. How would you stop youngsters from taking cannabis?

    • Chris Bovey We don’t agree that cannabis can be illegal, since it is a plant, however if you mean would changing the law to allow adults to freely buy and consume cannabis imply that cannabis is socially acceptable, I should say it already is socially acceptable for many. I don’t see why consuming cannabis, should be any less socially acceptable than consuming alcohol.

    • Sanj Chowdhary In the Netherlands, where cannabis is sold via regulated licensed coffeeshops, they have lower usage of cannabis amongst minors and a higher age of first usage than in the UK where the supply of cannabis is left to the criminal black market. It is ridiculous to suggest that prohibition somehow offers protection to the young and most vulnerable in society, anyone who promotes such a notion should be ashamed of themselves.

    • Sanj Chowdhary I recently spoke to some young people on the streets of Sheffield and found many 12-16 year olds saying that it was a lot easier for them to buy cannabis and even harder substances than it was for them to buy the tobacco and rizla needed to roll a joint! Regulation and adequate education should be sufficient to discourage the use of ALL substances that could pose a potential harm. Whilst it might be socially acceptable to use cannabis, we should always discourage the abuse of any substance.

    • Politics UK What do you think is the most convincing argument for legalising Cannabis?

    • Chris Bovey 
      Again, I don’t agree cannabis can be legalised, the law reflects the actions of the person. If you ask me what are the most convincing arguments to end the criminalisation of cannabis consumers, I should personally say the individual liberty argument; for others it might be the medicinal argument, for politicians the strongest argument is probably the billions of pounds of tax payers money they would save, for parents it might be the protection of their children.

    • Sanj Chowdhary There are so many convincing arguments for ending the persecution of people that it’s hard to choose one above the rest.
      Except that prohibition DOESN'T WORK!!!

    • Politics UK Finally, what are the future plans for NORML UK?

    • Sanj Chowdhary 
      Well, we will very soon be announcing the start of a consultation period where we will be inviting members to help inform and shape the direction of the organisation. We want activists to influence the strategy we hope to present to the membership at our first conference in around 12 weeks time. But in the meantime we will continue engaging with the cannabis community, developing relationships with other groups and organisations, fostering a closer working relationship with the media, generating positive news stories, attract the support of as broad a range of people as possible.

    • Sanj Chowdhary There are many things already in the pipeline, a compassionate users’ act to be presented to MPs, various events and rallies, but most importantly we will be promoting local debates in communities the length and breadth of the UK….in fact something that Politics UK should get behind in my opinion, maybe even sponsor ;) Sorry cheeky of me I know.

    • Chris Bovey There are also people working very hard behinds the scenes to get our web site up and running –, which we hope will be the centre point of our campaign.

      The future is NORML UK!
      NORML-UK seeks to gain recognition for the rights of people to peacefully pursue...See more

    • Politics UK PoliticsUK would like to thank both Mr Chowdhary and Mr Bovey. We shall have a 10 minute break and then we will open the floor for PoliticsUK members to ask questions directly.

    • Sanj Chowdhary Thanks for giving us the opportunity to chat to you...yes I most certainly could do with a few minutes after that!! lol

    • Chris Bovey Thank you very much, although I'm miffed Sanj has won the competition for the answer with the most likes.

    • Stephen H O'Hanlon Ive a queston. Is there a danger that the cannabis community is split between CLEAR and NORML?

      AND Will NORML work with CLEAR in the future?

    • Des Humphrey Good interview and some damn good answers grab a toke each

    • Chris Bovey I could never work CLEAR while Peter Reynolds is leader.

    • Hex Austen You mentioned that you were going to organise rallies and events. Do you have a deadline for lobbying Parliament with overwhelming evidence or are you going for a constant push approach at mps etc?

    • Sanj Chowdhary I wouldn't want to work with Peter Either but that doesn't mean the cannabis community needs to split

    • Stephen H O'Hanlon Good answer Chris.
      One more question:
      Peter Reynolds said that there is no such thing as a cannibia community. DoesNORML UK feel the same?

    • Chris Bovey Hex we will go for the contant push approach at MPs.

    • Chris Bovey Peter Reynolds says a lot of things I don't agree with, including his assertion there is no such thing as a "cannabis community".

    • Hex Austen Would you support anyone being arrested for the campaign?

    • Rhys Jones should Cannabis reform be political or is it more a health issue?

    • Sanj Chowdhary We're going to focus on getting the public onside whilst also maintaining a presence in London with myself and Clark French hoping to lobby MPs and other organisations....there is no single solution but we must bring this issue to the tipping point by applying pressure from all sides

    • Chris Bovey Depends what they'd done.

    • Rhys Jones any more marches coming up?
      17 May at 21:12 ·  ·  3

    • Katie Ion NORML UK are proud to be part of the cannabis community :)

    • Katie Ion And personally, so am I.

    • Sanj Chowdhary Cannabis isn't a single isolated issue Rhys, it's not about medical or health or public's multifaceted and has deep and far reaching implications throughout society

    • Chris Bovey I hope there will be more marches, the recent march in Cardiff was a great success.

    • Politics UK Politics would like to thank Sanj and Chris for tonights interview. And also thank to the PoliticsUK members for being here.

      If you are interested in NORML UK, visit their Facebook page here --->

      The interview is now over but feel free to continue the debate on this thread

      Thank you

      NORML-UK seeks to gain recognition for the rights of people to peacefully pursue...See more
      Page: 3,013 like this.

    • Glyn Williams Good interview guys,It is good to see a cannabis law reform group that actually represents the "cannabis community" and cannabis consumers,A step forward indeed methinks

    • Rhys Jones good to see a decent organisation taking the lead in fighting for Cannabis for all

    • Sanj Chowdhary Thanks for taking your time to interview us....and for the audience for hearing what we've got to say. I hope it resonated with some of you who haven't come across us before.

    • Chris Bovey Thank you very much; I hope all people who agree with our Mission Statement join us in our campaign. Please follow our facebook page - and our web site for more details.

      NORML-UK seeks to gain recognition for the rights of people to peacefully pursue...See more
      Page: 3,013 like this.

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