Shocking BBC Report On Herbal Products Highlights Problems With Cannabis Regulation.
It seems that unless you choose a herbal product with a THR mark you can have no certainty at all about what you are buying.
An excellent report on the BBC’s ‘Trust Me I’m A Doctor‘, reveals that the industry is rife with confidence tricksters, fraudsters and probably some well-meaning incompetents. How can you know what you’re getting in a herbal product? This has major implications for the medicinal use of cannabis and the businesses that will be needed to supply the product when it is legally available.
The THR mark is Traditional Herbal Registration as regulated by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). It costs between £600 to £8000 to apply but that’s only if you’re claiming “the medicine is used for minor health conditions where medical supervision is not required (eg a cold).” If you want to claim anything more you have to apply for a marketing authorisation when fees are in excess of £100,000, plus the cost of clinical trials or evidence of your claims and your product’s safety.
This is probably the biggest single problem facing the campaign for medicinal cannabis. We are a round peg which doesn’t fit into any of the government’s square holes.
If we argue for cannabis as medicine, we challenge the reductionist, allopathic establishment which says that medicines are single molecules with directly quantifiable, predictable and consistent results. We cannot fit into the government’s square holes without the sort of approach taken by GW Pharmaceuticals at a cost of tens of millions in development.
That is why the campaign has to focus on removing cannabis from schedule 1, so that doctors may prescribe it as they see fit. Some doctors are ready to do so (a few brave individuals already are prescribing) but it will require a huge campaign to educate others as to why and how to prescribe – and it will not be possible to make any medical claims in that campaign!
The model of cannabis as medicine with different strains providing different therapeutic value just doesn’t fit within any concept of medicine in the UK. That’s like a triangular peg in a square hole.
So perhaps there is little point in an unwinnable campaign to legalise such a drug as medicine when its use is already tarnished by years of propaganda and media scaremongering? It may be a hopeless cause and seeking a more general decriminalisation of the plant might be a wiser course.
This is a question that seems to be unique to the UK. Other jurisdictions, such as the US states, have achieved reform through radical democracy which we do not enjoy in Britain. Canadians have used their courts to enforce access to cannabis as a fundamental human right. Other European countries just seem to be more flexible, intelligent and sympathetic to patients.
On the other hand, it does seem that the MHRA’s THR scheme works and you know what you are getting when you buy a herbal medicine. Otherwise charlatans and confidence tricksters would prevail.
These issues concern not only the campaign for medicinal cannabis but for cannabis law reform as a whole. Until we get to grips with them and develop a coherent approach we may find the UK continues to lag behind the rest of the world.