Getting to Know - Norman Baker
Norman was born in Aberdeen and was educated at the Royal Liberty School in Gidea Park, near Romford, and at Royal Holloway College, University of London, graduating in 1978 with a BA degree in German & History. He was elected as a councillor on the Lewes District Council, and two years later was also elected to the local county council of East Sussex. He became the Leader of Lewes District Council in 1991, a position he held until his election as an MP.
He was dubbed “the most annoying man in parliament” by David Cameron, with a reputation as a relentless questioner of the prime minister from the back benches. The former Liberal Democrat MP’s many causes célèbres included: his investigation into the death of the government scientist David Kelly; the liberalisation of drug laws; outlawing “cowboy clampers”; greener transport; Tibetan rights; and holding Cameron to account over a “cash for access” issue. He became The Minister of State for the Home Department, taking responsibility for Drugs from 7 Oct 2013 to 4 Nov 2014.
Read more about his political career here: TheyWorkForYou - Norman Baker
In 2015, Baker, a keen music enthusiast, re-formed his old band The Reform Club, which announced that it would be releasing an album of 15 original songs on 25 March. Baker is the chief lyricist with music written by Mike Phipps.
We have asked our Trustees and Patrons some "Quick-Fire" Questions so you can get to know a little more about their involvement with United Patients Alliance and capture their thoughts on how medical cannabis policy is progressing the UK.
Why do you support patients accessing cannabis as medicine?
It is intolerable and inhumane to deny people the medicine they need for their condition, particularly as in many cases there is no alternative that works.
How did you first get involved with cannabis as medicine law change/campaigning?
I first got involved when Clark and others contacted me as Home Office minister. I invited them in and they made a powerful case both to me and to officials.
Why did you choose to get involved with United Patients Alliance?
It is a sensible well-grounded organisation with clear and worthy aims.
What is your personal background and why is this relevant to cannabis as medicine?
My background involvement has been as a constituent MP, and then minister. Helping individuals and making the law work better should be central for all MPs and certainly were for me.
What are the most compelling arguments for legal access to cannabis as medicine?
What are the biggest hurdles in the UK to achieving legal access to cannabis as medicine?
There is in some quarters an irrational fear of cannabis and this gets in the way of objective consideration of the medicinal benefits. This is rather odd. Nobody suggests we should not use morphine in hospitals simply because it may have a recreational attraction. The fear of recreational cannabis is in an y case vastly overstated, and its harms in my view are less than those of tobacco or alcohol. To be clear, by cannabis I am referring to hash or grass, not skunk.
What existing systems/policies for accessing cannabis as medicine would you support and why?
The scheduling system in theory is appropriate if it can be allowed to operate objectively. I see no reason why cannabis-based products should not be prescribed just as any other medicine is.
What are your biggest concerns right now for future medical cannabis legislation in the UK?
The fear amongst legislators, including the prime minister, that loosening access to cannabis for medicinal purposes is a back door way to legalising it for recreational use.
Do you have personal experience consuming cannabis?
Yes, recreationally. I made that public in about 2002 and confirmed it again when I became drugs minister in 2013.
Why is the 2018 UPA Medical Cannabis Patient Survey so important?
It provides a good evidence base. All patients in the UK who find cannabis to be beneficial for their health should complete the survey now.
Thank you Norman!