Conor Ryder, from Dorset, England, a man living with Tourette syndrome, is urging the government to make medicinal cannabis more accessible through the National Health Service (NHS), the BBC reports. Currently, he spends thousands on prescriptions from a private clinic as it’s the only treatment, in his experience, that effectively manages his severe tics. The NHS is the U.K.’s publicly funded healthcare system.
Medical marijuana became legal in the U.K. in 2018. But the government insists they need more research to ensure its safety before making it more widely available.
Cannabis remains illegal on a federal level and for adult use.
Due to the scarce availability of NHS prescriptions, Ryder pays £300 every month, which, to afford, he dips into his savings.
“I spoke to my doctor and he said that he… didn’t want to refer me, so I went and referred myself off. I went and looked at the clinics,” Ryder told the BBC.
Ryder’s situation isn’t unique. Private cannabis clinics across the United Kingdom have grown substantially since legalization, with statistics indicating they’ve issued over 140,000 prescriptions in the past five years. The medicine they sell just isn’t always affordable for patients like Ryder.
As research published in June of 2023 suggests, building on additional research that also indicates cannabis for the condition, evidence backs up what Ryder says, indicating that THC and CBD can improve the side-effect profile of Tourette syndrome. These include repetitive movements or unwanted sounds (tics) that one can’t always control — and can disrupt one’s personal and professional life.
According to the Mayo Clinic, tics usually appear between the ages of two and 15, with the average age around six. Tourette syndrome is more commonly seen in males, who are about three to four times more likely to develop it than females.
In this study, they did a double-blind, cross-over trial with people who have severe Tourette’s syndrome. Using random assignment, they gave participants an oral oil-based tincture with increasing amounts of THC and CBD for six weeks, followed by six weeks with a placebo, or the other way around, with a four-week break in between.
The researchers used the Yale Global Tic Severity Scale (YGTSS) to measure their tics’ severity. They also used video assessments of tics to assess how they affected their daily life, anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive symptoms.
It’s worth noting that all of these comorbidities are also often treated with medical marijuana.
They then checked if the results were related to the levels of cannabis compounds in the blood in addition to performing cognitive tests at the start and end of each treatment.
The results suggest that people in the active treatment group significantly reduced their tic scores more than those in the placebo group. This means that the treatment with THC and CBD helped reduce the severity of their tics. However, some people in the active treatment group reported problems with their thinking, memory, and concentration. The research indicates that cannabinoids such as THC and CBD can help people with severe Tourette syndrome by reducing their tics and improving their quality of life.
Mr. Ryder is not surprised to learn that the private sector of the cannabis industry is booming. For him, medical marijuana has become an absolute necessity. Diagnosed with Tourette syndrome at age 13, he lives with various noticeable tics, from animal-like sounds and loud bangs to physical gestures like winking, blinking, and shoulder rolling.
These tics cause him significant distress and currently make him unable to hold down a job, further compounding his struggle to pay for his medicine in a vicious cycle. But he’s able to manage his symptoms with medical marijuana and a vaporizer.
“It’s something I dreamed of as a kid, taking a small pill and it would just disappear, and now I have it basically. I’m hoping that soon I’ll be able to work and maybe be able to manage it because that’s the only way if it doesn’t become available on the NHS. Every medication that they’ve been able to give me, they’ve made me into basically a zombie. Cannabis is the only thing that controls the tics,” he tells the BBC.
The Department of Health and Social Care says that medical marijuana could be paid for by the NHS where there was “clear evidence of their quality, safety and effectiveness,” the BBC reports. “It is important to carefully review evidence on unlicensed cannabis-based treatments to ensure they are proved safe and effective before they can be considered for roll-out on the NHS more widely.”
An NHS spokesperson continued that: “While there is limited evidence on the safety of these unlicensed products, we continue to encourage manufacturers of these products to engage with the UK medicines regulator, which would provide doctors with the confidence to use the products in the same way they use other licensed medicines.”
There are currently over 300,000 kids and adults living with Tourette Syndrome in the U.K.
A woman arrested in Dublin, Ireland for cannabis smuggling allegedly told the authorities she did not break any laws intentionally as she thought she was merely transporting a suitcase full of handbags.
According to a report by the Irish Examiner, Yejieda Johnson, a 26-year-old London woman, was arrested at Dublin Airport over the weekend with 37 kilograms of cannabis and charged with unlawful importation and possession of drugs/having them for sale or supply.
Irish authorities, known as the “Garda Síochána” estimated the street value of the cannabis to be around €740,000 or just under $800k USD (though anyone with access to a calculator or 4th grade math skills can figure out the bulk price on all that is probably closer to $80k even in Europe).
According to the Examiner, Garda Tom McLoughlin appeared in court to advocate against bail for Johnson. McLoughlin alleged that Johnson had been “caught in the act” of a “very deliberate attempt to conceal 37 kg of cannabis.” McLoughlin stated during cross-examination that Johnson insisted she had been carrying handbags and “never touched” any cannabis.
McLoughlin went on to claim that Johnson was a “clear and immediate flight risk,” due to her lack of an Irish home address or family connections in the area. Johnson allegedly departed from John F. Kennedy airport in New York City and was supposed to get a connecting flight from Dublin to her home in London on Saturday.
The Examiner Report went on to indicate that Johnson maintained her innocence to the court, pleading for bail. Johnson told the court she had lived in London all her life and currently lived with family members. She told the court she was a mother of one and had previously worked in a hotel spa and coffee shop though she was unemployed at the time of the hearing. She swore to the court she would return to Ireland and prove her innocence.
“I have no reason not to come back, I’m innocent,” Johnson said. “I didn’t know what was in those cases. I will not run off or anything like that. I’m innocent, I’m not a criminal.”
According to another report in Sunday World, defense barrister Karl Monahan argued for bail, saying that Johnson could wait in Irish prison for up to two years before her actual trial began. He also argued the street value and exact nature of the drugs had yet to be officially established, which could explain the wildly high figure mentioned above (I did the math and even dimed out at $10 a gram it’s only $367k).
Oddly enough, another woman flying from Amsterdam to Dublin was also arrested at Dublin Airport the same day with a suitcase containing 10 kilograms of ketamine. Authorities did not indicate that there was any reason to believe the incidents were related, but they did indicate the ketamine had a street value of €600,000 which actually might be kind of low if you sold it by the gram, but I digress.
The following quote was given to the Irish Mirror by a Garda spokesperson:
“Gardaí arrested two women on Saturday 2nd September 2023 as part of two separate seizures made by Revenue officers at Dublin Airport. The seizures comprised 37kgs of herbal cannabis, worth an estimated €740,000, and approximately 10kgs of suspected ketamine worth €600,000. Two women in their 20s were arrested by Gardaí and later detained. They have since been charged with regards to these separate seizures, and appeared before the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin this morning, Monday, 4th September 2023.”
A spokesperson for Revenue also told the Irish Mirror “The illicit drugs were discovered when Revenue officers stopped and searched the baggage of passengers who had disembarked flights from New York and Amsterdam.”
Yejieda Johnson was ultimately granted bail for €1,000 plus an additional €10,000 surety. She would also be required to leave her London address, phone number and other such assurances that she would return to Ireland for trial. She was remanded back into Irish custody until she appears again in court on September 11.
Comedian Jim Jefferies is beaming. Not only for being sober over 700 days but for settling down, having a wonderful wife, amazing kids, and a fantastic career. Oh, and for finally trying cannabis in his 40s and absolutely loving it.
No stranger to the hard partying life of drugs and alcohol, Jefferies had previously abstained from weed but finally started exploring the plant during the pandemic and hasn’t looked back.
“During COVID, I was sitting around drinking too much, blacking out, and forgetting the whole night,” Jefferies said. “Whatever happened, I was forgetting things. So I started taking edibles and cut out the drinking.”
During our conversation, the Legitstar addressed his adventures with weed and his latest Netflix special, Jim Jefferies: High & Dry, which expands on his career trajectory, cancel culture, cocaine, his joke writing process, and how weed makes him less paranoid.
High Times Magazine: Growing up in Australia, did you always know you wanted to pursue comedy?
Jim Jefferies: I wanted to pursue stand-up comedy from the time I was 13 but didn’t tell my parents or anyone else out of fear I’d be told I wasn’t funny. I ended up pursuing musical theater at university because I knew I wanted to be an entertainer, and I thought as long as I could get into the arts maybe I could do stand-up later.
I did some open mic spots when I was 17 that didn’t work out very well, so I didn’t do it again until I was about 20 or 21. Now it’s been my full-time job for the past 24 years.
When were you able to finally share with your parents that you wanted to be a comic?
It came out of necessity. I was studying at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts—WAAPA—on a full ride scholarship and ended up getting nodules on my vocal cords and had to have surgery. While the recovery time now is about four days where you can’t talk, back then you couldn’t talk for about a month. I just decided, “Fuck this, these [vocal cords] will come back; I should stop being so gutless and just do the thing I actually want to do.” When I could talk again after the surgery, I went head-on into stand-up comedy and sort of forgot about the rest.
I don’t think anyone in my family or anyone really thought I’d be successful. I think they thought that I could have a job doing it, but you have to remember that in the late ’90s/early 2000s, there were two comedy clubs in Australia, so it wasn’t even an occupation. It wasn’t a matter of “if I could do it,” it wasn’t an actual job [at the time there]. We didn’t get HBO specials or anything like that. We had four TV channels and the only specials we had were Eddie Murphy: Delirious and Eddie Murphy Raw because they were cinematic releases and you could get them on video. Apart from that, I only really got to see stand-up comedy in five-minute bursts on late night shows in Australia when some comic was visiting. It was a dark time, man [laughs].
What helped you discover your own style and point of view?
I think the best motivation for anyone who wants to get into comedy is to see some people who are bad at it. I saw some people who were bad at it and I remember thinking, “I can do better than that.” If everyone I saw was awesome it would have seemed so unattainable, but it was the people who were doing it and getting paid who weren’t that good [that gave me confidence]. Not all of them, but the occasional act and you can still see them to this day. I was like, “I can definitely do better than that bloke.”
When I was studying musical theater, they always gave me the funny roles, so I was assured that I was funny, but I didn’t know if I could put together material and that type of stuff. But [everything that happened] just felt like it happened organically. I went up at one club, then I did it again and I did it again. I moved to England and I bullshitted my way into some clubs and I’ve just been doing it ever since.
I also found my social group. Before that, I was working as a bartender, a waiter, selling mobile phones—and then all of a sudden I found people who I felt a lot more similar to than I had before. I’m not going to give you a wanky answer like, “I never really fit in,” or anything stupid like that—because I fit in fine. Going to the Edinburgh Comedy Festival [for example], I remember being around all of these like-minded people and it was a real sort of eye-opener for me. My career is a product of the Edinburgh festival.
People will do things more through social media now—put up clips and try to get their five minutes on late night shows and that type of stuff. But when I was starting out in Britain, if you were an act that went to Edinburgh, you were a career act and you were really giving it a go. If you were a guy who would just hang around the clubs, you were just doing it to earn a bit of cash. But if you wanted to make a career out of it, you had to go to Edinburgh. Edinburgh was a place where all of the media came and saw you. You weren’t doing 15 or 20 minutes at a club, you had to do an hour. People were coming just to see you.
In America, you had a lot of comics who—in the early 2000s—were trying to get their five minutes so tight so they could get on Letterman. I was trying to make my 10 minutes so long that it could be an hour, and so that’s why I have this meandering, storytelling vibe to me because I had to work in the longform a lot more.
Which sounds like the opposite of what other comics were striving to do.
I think that’s why when I came to America, I stood out a little bit. I had a 30-minute story about muscular dystrophy and taking a friend to a brothel. People didn’t really do that back then. Now, with everyone trying to get specials, my style seems a little more commonplace these days.
I never thought I’d get any television or anything like that. I thought I’d become a little cult act at best. Now, I’m hosting a game show in Australia, so it’s all sort of turned around—things that I thought I’d never do.
My career was never an overnight success, it was a real gradual build. The people who just discover you always think it’s an overnight thing where you came from, but I was getting there one step at a time—just building, building, building. I think it was a more organic way to build an audience than today with the internet and I don’t know if the way my career happened could happen today.
Because of the way the comedy industry has changed?
Yeah, I wasn’t a good self-promoter or proactive in that way. I just thought, if I kept going up and crushing, more people would see me and more people would see me. All that mattered was how good I was on stage.
It was also a different era. There weren’t camera phones and stuff like that so you could be a bit of a—well, I was a drunk. So I’m drunk up there, I’m on cocaine, I’m acting like a fool. But everyone around me was sort of doing the same thing. It felt very normal. It felt like we were more like rock acts than anything else.
Now, you sort of get done for that. People would videotape it and you’d have to apologize or something.
So in many ways, you’re saying the career trajectory that you’ve had was a product of the times.
Yeah and strangely I was also a product of the internet in the sense that I got punched in the head and people noticed that. Then the gun control thing went viral, but I never put any clips up. I don’t even know how to load a clip to YouTube, but the internet did help me in the end. I’m not saying one’s better or one’s worse, I’m saying the environment that I grew up in was a much different environment than what comedy is now.
Everyone talks about backstage at The Comedy Store and they go, “There used to be drugs everywhere.” I heard it was painted black so when people dropped their cocaine they could find it. That’s not the culture anymore. The culture’s completely different. You’d be seen as sort of an outlier if you acted like that now.
I’m glad those days are over. I couldn’t have sustained them forever and now I’m in a much happier place. I wish I’d sort of got to where I am now in my life a lot sooner.
Was there a defining moment or set of experiences where you felt stand-up was the thing you were going to do for the rest of your life?
Probably when I first got into the London Comedy Store. It was such a coveted place to get into, was the hardest club to get into and I was still only maybe 22. I’d only been doing comedy for about a year and I got in there and I remember having the pressure of having to do this gig and all of the other comics were so well established and I just held my own. I didn’t look out of place, and I remember thinking, “I can actually do this now.”
There’s moments though where I thought I’d made it, like playing Carnegie Hall. When I played Carnegie Hall—and that was a decade ago—I remember thinking, “If it all just ends now, I can always say to somebody that I did Carnegie Hall.” But that wasn’t as important a moment for me as getting into the London Comedy Store.
In terms of where you are now, you’ve just released your latest Netflix special High & Dry, in which you talk pretty extensively about finding weed.
I never took weed in any form until my 40s and I always thought stoners were a bit of an odd group of people. I never liked smoking a joint and I still don’t like smoking a joint—I find it hard on the throat—but then edibles came into my life during COVID.
During COVID, I was sitting around drinking too much, blacking out and forgetting the whole night. Whatever happened, I was forgetting things. So I started taking edibles and cut out the drinking.
I haven’t had a drink in 700 days now but I’ve tried to give up alcohol three other times: Once for a year and two other times I went three months. There were also periods in my life where I had alcohol under control and I was drinking like a responsible person, but it always got away from me. When it got away from me, my behavior wasn’t good and my relationships with other people would disintegrate. But ever since weed came in, I’m a happier person. It really did change my life.
How does weed impact you now and what do you use it for?
Well I don’t do it every day—only about three days a week—and it helps me not be miserable.
It actually helps me with paranoia. Other people go the other way, but with me it seems to settle that down a lot, and it got me off antidepressants. I was on antidepressants on-and-off for a year—went back on them during quarantine—then got off them and just took weed and I haven’t gone back since.
I’ve got two young kids and it sure helps with watching Pixar movies. I used to have to muscle through those but now I’m like, “Go ahead, throw it on. Let’s watch [Finding] Nemo again.”
The colors and the plotlines become a lot more enticing.
Jim Jefferies: [Laughs] And you start seeing subplots. I get right into it.
Creatively, does weed aid your process?
I don’t go on stage high but I’ll take an edible after I get off stage and chill out. I do write a lot of jokes while high though, and then the next day I’ll look at them and go, “Well that’s not that funny.” But at least they make sense.
When I was drunk, I used to write some jokes down and they didn’t even make sense to me. I couldn’t even read the handwriting. Every now and again I’ll write a joke while high and read it back and go, “There’s something in it,” but most of my jokes—if based on something silly that happened—I’ll come up with them the day afterwards. I’m not going to say that weed helps my writing or that it helps my performing, but I don’t believe it hinders it in any way.
I will say this about alcohol—I had the best shows of my career while drunk. The best ones I ever did. But I also had the very worst ones I ever did—the ones that I’m ashamed of in that category. While sober, I’ve had excellent shows and some bad shows, but I’ve never had any fucking terrible ones. The problem with alcohol is that things fly out of your mouth very quickly and that’s good in comedy if they’re the right words. If they’re the wrong words, fucking hell.
You mentioned you may not come up with bits while high, but that an idea or seed of an idea will resonate the next day. How so?
A lot of the ideas are formulated [while high] and then the writing happens the next day. The only drug that can help you come up with real batshit crazy jokes is mushrooms. Batshit crazy jokes. When you write jokes on cocaine, you think everything is brilliant. When you write jokes on mushrooms, you think everything is on this higher level and that you’re thinking on a different plane from everyone else. When you write jokes on weed, everything’s silly, and silly’s not always that great.
Do you have a preference when it comes to strains?
I like to relax on indicas and end the day with them. I’m not a “wake up and take it” type of guy—if it’s on holiday, sure—and I don’t take a lot, only 20 milligrams.
For some, 20 milligrams is a solid amount.
Well I started at 10 and now I’ve moved on to 20, but I’ve done that stupid thing where you’re like, “I wonder what 50 feels like?” And then I’m like, “No, no—don’t do that again.” [Laughs] That’s too much for me. I’ve done that a couple of times where I’ve gone all in and then gone, “No, no. Too much for me.” I never go more than 30, and that’s if I’m looking to have a real good time.
Creatively, what inspired High & Dry and what do you hope people take from it?
This last special is a bit of a throwback. I was sort of doing a special where I thought, “I’m just going to say whatever I want,” because I’ve had specials where I got criticized for saying things that I thought were borderline. People are always going to say you should be canceled for this joke or canceled for that joke, so for this special I just thought, “Fuck it, I’ll just say whatever I like.”
My life is pretty good now. I have a lovely wife, I have great kids, I’m happy at home, and I have good friends. I’m not the angry young man I once was so I think I can get away with saying more risque stuff now because I’m slightly less confrontational.
When I was younger, I used to want to almost change people’s minds or give them things to think about. Now, I don’t think of it like that. I just want to say the things that I think are funny and my hope is that my fanbase has aged with me and has sort of gone through the same shit I’ve gone through. They’ve gotten married, they’ve had kids, they’ve done cocaine, and now they don’t do it anymore. Now they go to the doctor because they have hemorrhoids. I just want people my age to be able to relate to [the special] and for younger people to maybe see a dodgy uncle they once knew.
This interview was originally published in the June 2023 issue of High Times Magazine.
A new study from researchers in Britain suggests that psilocybin may not only be effective in treating severe depression––it might also be the most cost-effective option, too.
The study, published by the Cambridge University Press, was predicated on a “decision model [that] simulated patient events (response, remission, and relapse) following treatment,” the authors said.
They explained that they derived data “on probabilities, costs and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs)…from previous studies or from best estimates.”
“Expected healthcare and societal costs and QALYs over a 6-month time period were calculated. Sensitivity analyses were used to address uncertainty in parameter estimates,” the authors wrote.
According to the researchers, the expected cost of psilocybin-assisted therapy “varied from £6132 to £7652 depending on the price of psilocybin.”
“This compares to £3528 for conventional medication alone, £4250 for [cognitive behavioural therapy] alone, and £4197 for their combination. [Quality-adjusted life years] were highest for psilocybin (0.310), followed by [cognitive behavioural therapy] alone (0.283), conventional medication alone (0.278), and their combination (0.287),” the researchers explained.
“Psilocybin was shown to be cost-effective compared to the other therapies when the cost of therapist support was reduced by 50% and the psilocybin price was reduced from its initial value to £400 to £800 per person. From a societal perspective, psilocybin had improved cost-effectiveness compared to a healthcare perspective.”
The authors concluded that psilocybin “has the potential to be a cost-effective therapy for severe depression,” but noted that it “depends on the level of psychological support that is given to patients receiving psilocybin and the price of the drug itself.”
“Further data on long-term outcomes are required to improve the evidence base,” they wrote.
The study is the latest in a growing body of research showcasing the potential of psilocybin and other psychedelics as a treatment for depression and other mental health disorders.
In a review of the study, the British medical publication News Medical called it “the clearest evidence yet that the future of treatment for certain significant mental-health related illnesses will be found in psychedelics-related treatment combined with therapy.”
“The results come at a time when figures uncovered by the BBC found more than a quarter of patients on antidepressants in England – about two million people – have been taking them for five years. Eight million people in England are on antidepressants – a one million rise from five years previously,” News Medicalwrote. “The study has been authored by leading academics in the economics and psychedelics space, including Professor Paul McCrone of the University of Greenwich, sector-leading neuropsychopharmacologist David Nutt, and Henry Fisher and Clare Knight, who both work for the innovative commercial clinical research organization Clerkenwell Health.”
The researchers for that study examined marble-burying behavior among a group of male mice, finding that the mice that were “administered psilocybin buried 32.84% fewer marbles over 30 min” than mice that were provided with different treatments.
Bernard Lerer, a psychiatry professor at Hebrew University and an author of the study, said that the results provided “preliminary evidence from studies in patients that psilocybin can help patients with OCD.”
However, he did express caution:
“But psilocybin induces a psychedelic trip and this requires special management. We think that psilocybin could help patients with OCD without the trip. How do we achieve this?” Lerer said. “We have shown in a different study that the medication, buspirone, which is used to treat anxiety, blocks a mouse equivalent of the psychedelic trip and another researcher has shown that it does so in humans. We wanted to find out whether psilocybin would be effective in a mouse model for anti-obsessional effects – marble burying – and whether it would do so even in the presence of buspirone, which blocks the trip.”
Police in the United Kingdom arrested more than 1,000 individuals and confiscated more than 180,000 cannabis plants in a recent push to crack down on illegal marijuana cultivation. The eradication campaign, dubbed Operation Millie by U.K. law enforcement officials, was carried out throughout the month of June and involved every police force in England, Scotland and Wales, according to media reports.
Steve Jupp, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for Serious and Organized Crime, told reporters that the operation had “successfully disrupted a significant amount of criminal activity.”
Operation Millie was the largest cannabis eradication campaign to date, with more than 11,000 police officers across the U.K. participating in the month-long drive. The National Crime Agency and Immigration Enforcement were also involved in the operation, which saw the execution of more than 1,000 warrants during the month of June. Of the more than 1,000 arrested, 450 have since been charged with an offense.
In addition to the nearly 200,000 cannabis plants seized during Operation Millie, police also confiscated 15 to 20 firearms, approximately 40 other weapons and £650,000 ($825,000) in cash. Police estimated the value of the cannabis plants seized at £130 million, although some have suggested that such estimates from law enforcement are often inflated.
Raids Targeted Criminal Gangs
Police said that the operation was carried out not only to eradicate illicit cannabis cultivation sites but also to disrupt organized criminal gangs that use the money generated by the operations to fund other criminal activities. Other offenses committed by such gangs include money laundering, violence and trafficking in Class A drugs, all of which are offenses that “blight communities,” according to the NPCC. In the U.K., cannabis is designated a Class B drug, while more potentially addictive and dangerous substances such as heroin are listed as Class A drugs.
“We know that organized networks involved in cannabis production are also directly linked to an array of other serious criminality such as Class A drug importation, modern slavery and wider violence and exploitation,” said Jupp.
Police said that illicit cannabis growers have used structures of various sizes to house their operations, noting that illegal weed farms have been found in a range of buildings from empty residential homes to large industrial complexes. Often, the sites are dangerous because the operators are stealing electricity, posing a risk of fire. Locations can also be subject to water damage and strong fumes.
“This operation not only successfully disrupted a significant amount of criminal activity, but the intelligence gathered will also help inform future law enforcement across the country,” Jupp said. “Cannabis-related crime is often thought to be ‘low level’, however, there are clear patterns around the exploitation and violence organized crime groups are using to protect their enterprises. We also frequently find that cannabis production is just one aspect of their criminal operations and that they are complicit in wider offending which blights our communities.”
U.K. Police Chiefs Call For Drug Decriminalization
Late last year, the NPCC announced that the group is developing a plan to effectively decriminalize the possession of drugs including cannabis and cocaine. If adopted by the government, the use and possession of small amounts of recreational drugs would be treated as a public health issue for first-time offenders, rather than a criminal offense subject to prosecution and jail time or other punishment.
The proposals, which were developed by the NPCC and the College of Policing, would effectively decriminalize the possession of Class A drugs including cocaine and Class B substances such as marijuana. Under the plan, individuals caught with illegal drugs would be offered an opportunity to attend drug education or treatment programs, rather than being subjected to prosecution.
Police would take no further action against those who agree to complete the program, giving them a chance to avoid a criminal record. Those who fail to finish the drug program or who are subsequently caught with illicit drugs would still be subject to criminal prosecution.
Jason Harwin, the former NPCC lead on drugs and a former deputy chief constable, is working with the College of Policing on the new partial decriminalization strategy.
“We should not criminalize someone for possession of drugs,” he said in a statement reported by The Telegraph. “It should be diversion to other services to give them a chance to change their behaviors.”
Fourteen of the U.K.’s 43 police forces have already adopted policies similar to the drug decriminalization proposal from the nation’s police chiefs. But the plan is at odds with the country’s Conservative Party government, which has floated proposals to stiffen the penalties on recreational drugs including cannabis.
U.K. Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Minister for Intergovernmental Relations Michael Gove admitted smoking cannabis while he was a student at University of Oxford in the 1980s, adding he “didn’t get very high.”
Times Radio podcast asked if Gove took drugs during his studies at University of Oxford, and Gove said, “Yes, I did”, adding that smoking cannabis is a “feature of the student experience for a lot of people.”
It is indeed a feature experience of college: daily cannabis use among college students increased in 2020 to a historic high.
The U.K. politician said that the weed back in the ‘80s was nothing compared to the potency of today, which is partly true thanks to sinsemilla and breeding: “If you took a look at a High Times magazine from the ’70s, you’d think our top 40 buds looked like trash by today’s standards,” Ab Hanna reported in 2017. THC levels today are cranked up in seedless, manicured buds, and concentrates as well.
“Without wanting to get too much into the policy of it, I think that the type of cannabis, marijuana that is available now will often have a far higher THC content, a far higher capacity to cause harm,” Gove added.
Asked whether he was saying that he “didn’t get very high” at university, Gove replied: “No.”
The cabinet minister went on to share his concerns about cannabis. “The other thing also is that I think that the evidence about the link between smoking too much, or ingesting cannabinoids too heavily, and mental illness and psychosis and so on, is more pronounced,” he said.
People on Twitter reacted differently to the revelations on the podcast. It’s important to note that many other U.K. former and current politicians smoked pot in the past as well, including David Cameron, Boris Johnson, Harriet Harman, Jacqui Smith, etc.
There is currently a push among the Tories and conservative leaders to make cannabis a Class A drug in the country, which would open doors for an industry.
It Sounds Familiar
You can’t help but draw comparisons to former President Bill Clinton, who also admitted on March 29, 1992 that he smoked weed during his days as a Rhodes Scholar at University of Oxford: “I’ve never broken a state law,” he said at a political forum. “But when I was in England I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t inhale it, and never tried it again.”
However after Clinton’s first few months in office, he shifted back, mirroring the War on Drugs strategies of his Republican predecessors in the White House, and his past seemed to have no impact on his policies. This included installing the ‘Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act’ of 1994 and imposing three-strike laws for repeat drug offenders.
Cannabis isn’t the only substance in question. Years ago, Gove also admitted taking cocaine on several occasions in the past, but said he regretted those experiences after details emerged in a biography. Cocaine is also a common feature of some former U.S. presidents.
Two hikers bit off more than they can chew, so to speak, after getting lost in the mountains during a hike while tripping on shrooms, forcing a rescue team to save the day.
The Lake District is a national park in Cumbria, northwest England in the U.K. and is a popular destination for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. It’s also the largest national park in England with stunning views of the outdoors. But the powerful effects of shrooms and the elements of the outdoors don’t always mix when logic and judgment are compromised.
The Guardianreports that on April 8, a mountain rescue team was summoned to the Stoneycroft, Newlands, and Seathwaite area of the national park following reports that a group of young men who were tripping on shrooms and appeared to be in trouble.
Team members from Mountain Rescue England and Wales say they get calls daily, with only four days in 2022 when they were not called out to rescue hikers. But shroom-related calls are much less frequent and worthy of discussion (and laughs).
Keswick Mountain Rescue Team, the local branch in charge of helping hikers in distress, responded to the calls. “A number of calls were received via passersby, who had come across a group of young adult males who had taken magic mushrooms,” Keswick Mountain Rescue Team’s report reads. “Two in the group were feeling unwell, including the driver in the party. The casualties were walked down and given advice by the team medic regarding the timing of their onward travel.”
Eleven volunteers associated with the Keswick Mountain Rescue Team were dispatched to meet the two psychonauts and walk them down the mountain, as they were clearly unable to do it themselves. Once they walked down, a team medic gave them sound advice “regarding the timing of their onward travel,” alluding to the amount of time it takes for shrooms to wear off.
In most cases, the only thing you can do while tripping too hard is to ride it out until the effects wear off. However, you can also eat foods and nutrients including curcumin, resveratrol, grape seed extract, milk thistle, hawthorn, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, apples, and kale to metabolize shrooms faster and lessen the trip, Zamnesia explains.
The team were also called to assist four walkers who were descending the Styhead Tarn path towards Seathwaite, one with an ankle injury and another a panic attack, which are typical reasons they receive calls.
Keswick Mountain Rescue Team posted updates on Facebook, complete with pictures, showing that the rescue lasted until it was dark outside.
NewQuay Voicereports that several hikers who passed by were concerned about what they saw.
A European drug discussion forum, Blue Pill, posted a thread about the shrooming hikers in the Keswick area. “It’s not good when you can smell your own brain,” one user commented. “Maybe they never left their living room, and just were convinced they were in the lakes!” another user wrote.
Meanwhile, wild magic mushrooms can be found in many regions of the world. From the October, 1986 issue of High Times writer Jerome Creek wrote a psychedelic-inspired travelog about looking for magic mushrooms in California. Magic mushrooms grow in the wild and can be eaten or made into tea, but set and setting are very important and they cause powerful distortions in the mind. That’s not always a good thing if you’re miles away from the beginning o the hiking trail.
The events that unfolded only attest to the quality of shrooms the hikers took, one Twitter user wrote. It’s a cautionary tale to those who like to shroom outside in nature.
The entire rescue took about two hours to complete.
British police this week reportedly uncovered thousands of cannabis plants in an abandoned tire factory in what is being called one of the largest weed busts in the area.
The British newspaper The Independent reported that law enforcement in the otherwise sleepy Lincolnshire village “busted one of their largest ever cannabis factories after discovering 6,000 plants inside an old tyre factory – believed to be worth around £6.5 million.”
“This is one of the largest cannabis grows we have located in Lincolnshire to date and follows the excellent development of intelligence,” said detective inspector Richard Nethercott, as quoted by the Lincolnshire World.
“Cannabis production is far from being harmless: it is often linked to wider, organised criminality which is why tackling the wider issue of drug supply is one of our key priorities. Lincolnshire Police remains determined to crack down on criminal enterprises and remove drugs from circulation.”
According to the BBC, three men “aged 28, 38, and 42, all of no fixed address, were taken into custody following the raid,” and the plants were “removed and destroyed.”
The raid “took place at the property situated behind a countryside village pub at around 8am on Tuesday,” according to The Independent, which said that the property was the location of “the Old Kings Head Tyre Factory in Hubberts Bridge, near Boston.”
While the raid may have been remarkable for Lincolnshire, it falls under a familiar story genre here at High Times, which has chronicled some of the more peculiar cannabis busts from across the pond.
In 2019, we told you about the 120-year-old Victorian style theater in London that was the site of a $51 million marijuana grow operation.
Authorities there surmised that the grow site had been operational for roughly a decade in the bowels of the old Broadway Theater, which was built in 1897.
A spokesperson for the London police said that “officers were called to an address following reports of a disturbance.”
“They discovered a large number of cannabis plants along with equipment used in the cultivation of cannabis in an area beneath the residential properties. Three men, aged 28, 45, and 47, and a 36-year-old woman have been arrested on suspicion of the cultivation of cannabis. They have all been released under investigation,” the spokesperson said at the time.
Police at the time responded to reports of a pungent cannabis odor in the area.
“This is the first cannabis factory in the City, no doubt being set up in response to fewer people being out and about during the pandemic who might have noticed any unusual activity,” Andy Spooner, the London detective overseeing the investigation, said at the time. “However, this demonstrates that City of London Police continues to actively police the Square Mile, bearing down on any crime committed here.”
And last year, the English village of West Parley provided yet another example after locals there discovered a half-dozen suspicious plants growing in a community garden.
The marijuana plants were tough to miss, with one local remarking at the time that they were “towering above the bedding plants.”
A group of police chiefs in the United Kingdom is developing a plan to effectively decriminalize the possession of drugs including cannabis and cocaine. If adopted by the government, the use and possession of small amounts of recreational drugs would be treated as a public health issue for first-time offenders, rather than a criminal offense subject to prosecution and jail time or other punishment.
The proposals, which were developed by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and the College of Policing, would effectively decriminalize the possession of Class A drugs including cocaine and Class B substances such as marijuana. Under the plan, individuals caught with illegal drugs would be offered an opportunity to attend drug education or treatment programs, rather than being subjected to prosecution.
Police would take no further action against those who agree to complete the program, giving them a chance to avoid a criminal record. Those who fail to complete the drug program or who are subsequently caught with illicit drugs would still be subject to criminal prosecution.
Jason Harwin, the former NPCC lead on drugs and a former deputy chief constable, is working with the College of Policing on the new partial decriminalization strategy.
“We should not criminalize someone for possession of drugs,” he said in a statement quoted byThe Telegraph. “It should be diversion to other services to give them a chance to change their behaviors.”
Fourteen of the U.K.’s 43 police forces have already adopted policies similar to the drug decriminalization proposal from the nation’s police chiefs. But the plan is at odds with the country’s Conservative Party government, which has floated proposals to stiffen the penalties on recreational drugs including cannabis.
In October, U.K. Home Secretary Suella Braverman revealed that she was considering tightening the classification of cannabis under the nation’s drug laws over concerns that marijuana is a gateway drug and can lead to serious health problems. Braverman’s review followed calls from law enforcement leaders to reclassify cannabis as a Class A drug, the same category assigned to substances including heroin, cocaine, and ecstasy.
Braverman is against the decriminalization of cannabis, saying that efforts to reform cannabis policy send a “cultural” symbol that marijuana use is acceptable, according to a report from The Times. The home secretary is also concerned about evidence that cannabis use can lead to serious physical health problems including cancer and birth defects and mental health conditions including psychosis.
The more strict Class A drug designation for cannabis would make penalties for marijuana offenses more severe, including prison terms of up to seven years for possession and penalties of up to life in prison for marijuana producers and suppliers. An unidentified source close to Braverman told The Times that the home secretary believes the more severe penalties are justified because they would serve as a deterrent to cannabis use and trafficking.
“We’ve got to scare people,” she reportedly said.
In July, then-Home Secretary Priti Patel announced proposed new sanctions on users of cannabis and other drugs that include the confiscation of driver’s licenses and passports under a new three-strikes policy for illicit drug use.
“Drugs are a scourge across society. They devastate lives and tear communities apart,” Patel said in a statement from the government. “Drug misuse puts lives at risk, fuels criminality and serious and violent crime and also results in the grotesque exploitation of young, vulnerable people.”
Under the proposal, which was detailed in a white paper drafted by the Home Office, those caught with illegal recreational drugs would face fines and mandatory drug education. They could also be banned from nightclubs and other entertainment venues.
“Drugs ruin lives and devastate communities which is why the Government is committed to tackling both the supply and demand for drugs, as set out in the 10-year Drug Strategy,” a Home Office spokesperson said in a statement to the press. “Our White Paper on new, tougher penalties for drug possession set out proposals for tackling demand and we have welcomed views on this. We will be publishing our response in due course.”
But drug policy reform advocates and health professionals are resisting the government’s proposed tougher approach to drug use. On Sunday, more than 500 public and health and drug organizations issued an open letter to the U.K. government expressing “serious concerns” about the plan, which they said would likely criminalize young and vulnerable people while diverting scarce police resources from more serious problems.
Professor David Strain, the chairman of the British Medical Association’s board of science, said the Government’s plans appeared “to be doubling down on a failed model by promoting ever harsher sanctions that perpetuate the stigma and shame already acting as a barrier to individuals seeking help, and ultimately discouraging drug users from seeking the healthcare services they need.”
It might not be exactly “anarchy in the U.K.,” but there may have been some mischief at play in the English village of West Parley.
Locals there have been snickering as of late over some unexpected growth discovered last week in one of the public floral displays situated throughout town.
Looming over the bed of pink and purple petals were several distinctive plants that were quickly identified as cannabis.
The “six suspicious plants have been removed from a parish council display after concerns were raised by a resident,” according to the BBC.
British media has had a field day with the discovery.
The West Parley parish council “was left red-faced when cannabis was spotted growing in their flower display,” the Daily Mail howled.
The Daily Mail said that “Tray Veronica, who was on the school run at the time…alerted West Parley Parish Council which confirmed that the plant was most definitely not on this year’s floral schedule.”
Some, according to Veronica, “were so big they were ‘towering above the bedding plants.”
“But embarrassingly for the council,” the Daily Mail said, “despite being alerted to the issue it has still not removed a photo on its social media celebrating the display, in which the cannabis plants are clearly visible.”
“‘I just found it hilarious. The council were looking after these planters every day,” Veronica told Metro. “All the other plants are still in the planter. It’s just the cannabis that’s been removed.
“The planters do look so beautiful. The council did a great job with them and I’m sure this was just someone’s idea of a joke.”
The council eventually addressed the offending plants.
“On 20th July, the parish council was alerted to a report concerning one of the village’s floral displays, which suggested it may have been tampered with and amongst the flowers was a plant not part of this year’s schedule,” a statement from the council said, as quoted by Metro.
“On the advice of the police, the plant was located, removed and has been secured by the parish council and arrangements are being made to pass it on to Dorset Police for identification and destruction,” the statement continued. “An inspection has taken place of all the parish’s other planters, and this has not raised any further concerns.”
Just last summer, police discovered a huge illicit cannabis growing operation in a 17th century British castle.
“Officials took multiple days to remove plants and cultivation equipment from the building, but have not shared whether any damage was incurred to the centuries-old property as a result of the grow,” the Canadian newspaper Regina Leader-Postreported at the time.
“This is the first cannabis factory in the City, no doubt being set up in response to fewer people being out and about during the pandemic who might have noticed any unusual activity,” Andy Spooner, the London detective who oversaw the investigation, said at the time. “However, this demonstrates that City of London Police continues to actively police the Square Mile, bearing down on any crime committed here.”
The New York Times noted that the operators of the growhouse capitalized on the lack of activity in the normally bustling district, which had seen a decline in foot-traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The area is normally teeming with people, particularly on weekdays. The London Stock Exchange and the corporate headquarters of major financial groups, as well as the Bank of England, are all tightly clustered in the zone, also known as the Square Mile,” the Timesreported.