Peter Reynolds

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Even The Guardian Is Now On The ‘Skunk Scaremongering’ Bandwagon.

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guardian cannabis psychosis headline picRead The Guardian’s Editorial Here

In the last couple of years, even the Daily Mail has shifted its stance on cannabis as it sees opportunities to sensationalise ‘miracle cures’ from medicinal use – the epileptic child now smiling, the cancer patient whose tumour has disappeared. Truth and balance are irrelevant when a dramatic headline is all you’re after.

The Daily Telegraph has become the new home of ‘reefer madness’ with bad science, nasty prejudice and booze-fuelled fear of a safer recreational drug threatening the massive profits of the alcohol industry.

Now, even the Guardian jumps on the ‘skunk scaremongering’ bandwagon with the exaggerated claim that “the risks of heavy teenage cannabis consumption should frighten all of us”. In a backhanded editorial it suggests legalisation because cannabis is dangerous. It claims the consequences of cannabis “abuse are devastating. Psychotic breakdowns smash up lives and can lead to full-blown schizophrenia.” There is little evidence to support such hysteria. In reality, such effects are so rare as to be virtually unheard of and it’s impossible to prove they are caused by cannabis.

Of course we must protect young people, particularly from the high-THC/low-CBD ‘moonshine’ varieties that are a direct result of government policy. However, we cannot compromise facts and evidence for the illusory belief that buying into scare stories will somehow reduce harm. The only way to protect children is by legal regulation with mandatory age limits.

The Guardian makes much of Public Health England’s (PHE) figure that “there are more than 13,000 under-18s in treatment for the consequences of heavy cannabis use in England”. It neglects to mention that PHE also publishes more than 69% are referred by the criminal justice, education and social care systems while only 17% are referred from healthcare and just 11% by themselves or their family. Thus, more than two-thirds are receiving coercive treatment and only 11% actually consider they have a problem.

It is government propaganda that thousands of young people are suffering from mental health problems due to cannabis. Why is The Guardian promoting this myth? Last year, in answer to a Parliamentary question, Jane Ellison MP, minister of state at the Department of Health, revealed there have been average of just over 28 ‘finished admission episodes’ (FAE) for ‘cannabis-induced psychosis’ in young people for each of the past five years.

Of course, each of these 28 cases is a tragedy for the people involved and nothing must distract from that but it clearly shows that in public health terms, ‘cannabis psychosis’ is of negligible significance. To put it into perspective, there are an estimated 3,000 FAEs for peanut allergy each year but we don’t waste £500 million pa on futile law enforcement efforts to ban peanuts!

For 50 years, the Home Office has systematically misled and misinformed the British people about cannabis. Successive generations of young people know they have been lied to. Such dishonest health information is counterproductive. As a result, many children may think that heroin or crack are not as harmful as they have been told.

Cannabis is not harmless but neither is it ‘dangerous’. If you apply that description to it you also have to apply it to energy drinks, over-the-counter painkillers and hay fever remedies. Similarly, whatever scaremongering there is about ‘addiction’, the scientific evidence is that dependency amongst regular cannabis users is slightly less than caffeine dependency amongst regular coffee drinkers – and withdrawal symptoms are similar in nature and intensity.

What we need is evidence-based policy. Government needs to take responsibility for the £6 billion pa cannabis market instead of abandoning our young people and communities to street dealers and criminal gangs. The benefits to be gained from cannabis law reform are reduced health and social harms, massive public expenditure savings, increased tax revenue and proper protection for the vulnerable, including children.

References

Young people’s statistics from the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS), Public Health England, December 2015
Drugs: Young People. Department of Health written question – answered on 20th March 2015.
Relative Addictiveness of Drugs, Dr. Jack E. Henningfield, NIDA and Dr. Neal L. Benowitz, UCLA, 1994

CLEAR and GroGlo Establish First UK Clinical Trials on Cannabis for Chronic Pain.

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groglo banner

CLEAR has formed a partnership with the research arm of GroGlo, a UK-based manufacturer of high power, LED, horticultural grow lighting.

The plan is to grow cannabis under a Home Office licence for the production of cannabis oil, both as a dietary supplement and for the development of medical products.  To begin with, a low-THC crop of industrial hemp will be planted.  We will be using the finola strain, originally developed in Finland and known for its short stature and early flowering. Unlike hemp grown for fibre, finola is usually grown for seed and only reaches a height of 160 – 180 cm but we will be removing male plants before they produce pollen and cultivating the female plants to produce the maximum yield of oil from their flowering tops.

Finola Industrial Hemp

Finola Industrial Hemp

The low-THC oil will be marketed as a dietary supplement, commonly known as CBD oil. There is already a burgeoning market in the UK for CBD products, all of which is currently imported from Europe or the USA.  In the USA, the CBD products market was said to be worth $85 million in 2015 so there is huge potential here at home. Aside from the benefit of being UK grown and processed, we anticipate achieving a CBD concentration of about 40%, which is higher than most products already on the market.

Cultivation will be in glasshouses supplemented with LED lighting.  GroGlo already has an established glasshouse facility in the east of England.  Initial trials will experiment with adjusting the LED technology to provide a changing blend of light wavelengths at different stages of plant growth.  This is GroGlo’s area of expertise -combining LED lighting and plant sciences, including existing relationships with some of Europe’s top universities. Professor Mick Fuller, GroGlo’s director of plant science, will lead this research and development process.

Professor Mick Fuller

Professor Mick Fuller

During the R&D phase, CO2 extraction of oil will be carried out under laboratory conditions at universities in York and Nottingham which already have extensive experience of the process. Each crop will be measured for yield, cannabinoid and terpene content using high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC).  Safety testing will also look for the presence of heavy metals and other contaminants.  The results of testing will be fed back into cultivation and extraction processes to maximise yield and quality.

It is anticipated that the first batches of low-THC oil will be ready for market in six months.  We are already in discussions with potential distributors and wholesalers. The CBD market in the UK is ripe for an effective marketing campaign which could build a very substantial business for whoever gets it right.

Once we are successfully achieving our production goals with low-THC cannabis, the same testing and development process will begin with high-THC varieties of cannabis.  The aim will be to produce a range of oils extracted from single strains, selectively bred and stabilised for different THC:CBD ratios.

Professor Fuller says that GroGlo lighting products “are in use worldwide to grow a range of crops, but some 60% of sales currently come from overseas users growing cannabis for legitimate medical use.”  He explains that there is an emerging market for all sorts of nutritional and medicinal plant products but cannabis shows particular promise. GW Pharmaceuticals is the only UK company to enter this market and it has become a world leader, despite the current restrictive legislation.  He says:  “Together with CLEAR we believe we can help bring a range of safe, high quality UK-produced cannabis products to market within a matter of two to three years.”

A key issue in the development of a successful medicinal cannabis product is the method of delivery.  Smoking is not an acceptable solution as inhaling the products of combustion is an unhealthy practice but one of the great benefits of cannabis smoked as medicine is very accurate self-titration.  That is the effects of inhaled cannabis are felt almost instantly and so the patient knows when they have taken enough or when they need more to achieve the required analgesic effect.

The oral mucosal spray developed for Sativex is unpopular with patients, many complain of mouth sores from its use and it was developed at least as much with the objective of deterring ‘recreational’ use of the product as with delivering the medicine effectively. It strangles the therapeutic benefits of the cannabis oil of which Sativex is composed in order to comply with the concerns of the medicines regulators about ‘diversion’ of the product into what they would term ‘misuse’.  Absorption of the oil is quicker through the mucous membranes of the inside of the mouth than through the gastrointestinal system but, inevitably, some of the oil is swallowed and the pharmacology of cannabis when processed through the gut and the liver is very different.

We believe the best option is a vapouriser device and our intention is to source a ‘vape pen’ of sufficient quality to operate within clinical standards of consistency and safety. Vapourising cannabis oil avoids inhaling the products of combustion but still enables accurate self-titration of dose.  A vape pen would provide a handy, convenient and very effective method of consuming medicinal cannabis.  However, aside from the technology itself, initial research shows that vapour is more effectively produced when the oil is blended with either vegetable glycerin (VG) or propylene glycol (PG).  Establishing the correct ratio of VG or PG to the oil is another important task.

We anticipate that clinical trials for the use of cannabis oil in treating chronic pain could start within two years.  We want to compare different oils, ranging from high-CBD to equal ratios of THC:CBD and high-THC content. Prior to that we have to overcome the challenges of cultivation, oil extraction, vapouriser development and assemble the necessary research team and gain ethical approval for the trials.  Recruitment for the trials will start in about 18 months time.  If you wish to be considered please email ‘paintrials@clear-uk.org’ with brief details of your condition (no more than 100 words). Do not expect to hear anything for at least 12 months but your details will be passed to the research team as a potential candidate.

Mike Harlington, Managing Director of GroGlo

Mike Harlington, Managing Director of GroGlo

CLEAR is promoting this venture simply because someone needs to do something to make this happen. For all the campaigning and lobbying of MPs and ministers, at the end of the day, the plants have to be grown and the various legislative hoops have to be jumped through. We cannot wait any longer for a radical change in the law. We have to progress through the government’s regulatory regime if we want to bring real therapeutic benfit to patients.

This opportunity arises because of the vision of GroGlo’s managing director, Mike Harlington and the team of experts he has built around him. There is huge demand for legitimate medicinal cannabis products in the UK which is only going to increase with the inevitable progress towards law reform and increasing awareness of the benefits of cannabis. Together, CLEAR and GroGlo are bringing the great hope that medicinal cannabis offers closer to reality than ever before.

 

The CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform Campaign.

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CLEAR home page regulation slider

In five years, CLEAR has transformed the UK cannabis campaign from a ragtag group of protestors into a coherent, science and evidence-based strategy. New groups pursuing similar, responsible advocacy have emerged such as the United Patients Alliance (UPA) and most recently End Our Pain (#EndOurPain).  In the last three years, in government and Parliament, there has been more liaison between the campaign, ministers and senior politicians than in the last 50 years.  The Liberal Democrats have formally adopted policies which are almost identical to those enshrined in CLEAR’s aims and objectives.

Fundamental to CLEAR’s work has been the publication of evidence and the development of plans based on consultation with consumers, patients, doctors, scientists, academics and other experts.

These three publications form the basis for all our work.  Please download them, read them, share them and use them as widely as you can.  Together they defeat all the arguments for the continuing ban on cannabis.

ttukcm thumbnailTaxing the UK Cannabis Market

The most authoritative, independent, expert research on the UK cannabis market by the Independent Drug Monitoring Unit, commissioned by CLEAR in 2011.

 

 

 

 

 

htrcb thumbnailHow To Regulate Cannabis In Britain

This is the second version of a plan for the regulation of the cannabis supply chain in Britain. This version was published on 18th October 2013

 

 

 

 

 

mcte thumbnail fcMedicinal Cannabis: The Evidence

The most up-to-date, comprehensive analysis of the evidence on the safety and efficacy of cannabis as medicine. Focuses on Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, chronic pain, Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Published April 2015.

LibDems: Correct On Cannabis Policy, Wrong On Scaremongering.

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The Liberal Democrats are doing great work on advancing the cause of cannabis law reform.  Their policy proposals are sensible and their arguments for change are irrefutable but they are wrong to buy into and sustain the myths and scaremongering that have dominated the cannabis debate for so long.

Cannabis does not cause psychosis.  Stronger strains do not present serious health risks.  Memory loss is not a significant issue and no issue at all in comparison to the health harms of alcohol or tobacco. Cannabis cannot be described as dangerous unless you also apply that word to hay fever remedies, over-the-counter painkillers  and energy drinks.  There is not and never has been any scientific evidence to support these myths.

Of course, we must be sensitive to people’s fears and concerns.  For more than 50 years the British people have been fed a stream of lies and exaggeration by the tabloid media.  The Home Office, right up to today, is engaged in a systematic and deliberate policy to mislead and misinform on cannabis.  Shocking though that fact is, this policy transcends successive governments and continues irrespective of ministers’ views.  It clearly emanates from dishonest and corrupt officials who are determined to pursue their own agenda, irrespective of truth or concern for the massive harms and cost of cannabis prohibition.

lamb 10 min stillNorman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat MP and health spokesperson, who is leading the party’s campaign, is a brave, sincere and conscientious politician. One of the few in Westminster that matches up to the high standards of probity and wisdom that we should be able to expect from all MPs.  Similarly, Nick Clegg, former leader, and Tim Farron, current leader, have spoken out strongly on the need to reform the law. Now is the time for them also to start telling the truth about cannabis, about how its dangers have been vastly exaggerated, how for adults, in moderation, it can actually be very beneficial and far preferable as a choice of relaxant to alcohol. Indeed, if people substituted cannabis for some of their alcohol consumption, it would be a public health revolution.  It would save the NHS billions and transform the health of our society.

The cannabis campaign will not succeed unless we tell the truth. We cannot compromise facts and evidence for the illusory belief that buying into the scare stories will somehow advance the cause.  We need to push back at the scaremongering, acknowledge there are risks but that they are extremely small.  They really only apply to use by children or to behaviour that is analogous to a ‘white cider drinker’.  Consume anything to excess, regularly, without a break, without regard to other aspects of life and it will cause harm but even then, cannabis will cause less harm than any other substance.

As for children, one of the main aims of reform must be to minimise underage use.  Even then, the scare story that cannabis is causing significant mental health problems amongst young people is untrue.  The Department of Health’s own data shows that in the last five years, there has been an average of just 28 episodes per year of care for ‘cannabis psychosis’ in young people.  28 individual tragedies but an insignificant problem in public health terms.

The misuse of the term ‘skunk’ is also unhelpful. The Channel 4 ‘Drugs Live’ debacle last year was  based on reckless, irresponsible overdosing of inexperienced users by a scientist who should know better.  All the time calling the cannabis was called ‘skunk’ when it is a matter of fact that it was silver haze as grown by Bedrocan, the Netherlands’ government producer of medicinal cannabis. Skunk is actually the name of one particular cannabis strain and not an especially strong one.  Cannabis is available in Britain that is twice, sometimes three times as potent as skunk but the word has been selected and promoted by the tabloid press because of its obvious, sensationalist, negative connotations.

Thank you to the Liberal Democrats for the fantastic work they are doing.  All we need now is a little adjustment and focus on truth rather than scare stories.

Written by Peter Reynolds

March 23, 2016 at 6:37 pm

‘Poppers Are Not Psychoactive’. The Arrogant Madness Of UK Drugs Policy.

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Crispin Blunt MP

Crispin Blunt MP

If you want something slightly less psychoactive than poppers, I suggest you try a crack pipe.

Seriously, poppers produce an instantaneous high as powerful and intense as anything I have ever known. Cannabis, alcohol, even cocaine are mild and gentle compared to the rush that you get from inhaling the vapour from a bottle of poppers.  Maybe crack or crystal meth are stronger.  I don’t claim knowledge at that extreme end of drugs experiences.

It’s well established fact that successive UK governments are dishonest and corrupt on drugs policy.  You cannot trust anything the Home Office says about drugs.  The reality of the policies of both Labour and Tory governments is that they maximise harm and cause enormous damage to our society as well as individuals.

The announcement today that poppers are to be excluded from the Psychoactive Substances Act because they are ‘not psychoactive’ is as ludicrous a statement as ever made by any government anywhere.  See minister Karen Bradley’s announcement here. 

The Psychoactive Substances Act is universally recognised as the most ridiculous and scientifically-illiterate legislation ever passed by Parliament – universal that is with the exception of the slippery fools that sit in the House of Commons. Most of them have no idea at all of what they are doing on drugs policy and their only concern is to appease the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and the hysteria drummed up by the prohibition lobby.  However, when one of their own, Crispin Blunt, MP for Reigate, complains about his drug of choice being banned, in record time the Home Office has obtained fake scientific advice and reversed its decision to ban poppers. Meanwhile, benign, largely beneficial, mild and virtually harmless cannabis remains banned, even for those in desperate need to relieve their pain, suffering and disability.

Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t think poppers should be banned.  They are known as a sex aid amongst gay men as they relax the anal sphincter, enabling easier ‘backdoor’ sex.  There’s a good argument that this helps to prevent injury and therefore infection but they are also an intense sexual stimulant.  I can confirm they are great fun for straight sex too.

I’m very pleased that Crispin Blunt will continue to have access to his drug of choice and I have no argument with him at all.  He is an MP who is on the record as supporting cannabis law reform, particularly for medicinal use.  It’s the sickening, dishonest and corrupt conduct of Home Office ministers that must be condemned.

I’d like to see the craven fools at the Home Office take a big whack off a bottle of poppers and then say they aren’t psychoactive.  Black is white and pigs fly over Marsham Street when it comes to drugs.

Written by Peter Reynolds

March 22, 2016 at 2:26 pm

CLEAR Withdraws Its Endorsement of UK CBD.

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uk cbd cannabinoid nutraceuticalsCLEAR can no longer endorse or recommend UK CBD as a supplier of CBD products.

This decision is made with regret but is unavoidable due to a number of problems which, despite our best efforts, have proved impossible to resolve.  Our endorsement was based on UK CBD’s ethical and quality standards but the position has changed and the directors of UK CBD have been unable satisfactorily to address our concerns.

Our main concern is that certain products marketed by UK CBD contain such high levels of the controlled drugs THC and CBN that we consider them to be unlawful.

One particular product, UK CBD 710 Cannabinoid Crystals, is being promoted as containing “over 4mg of THC”.  Anyone importing, supplying or in possession of this product risks criminal prosecution.

Potentially this product could destroy the whole CBD market.  If a prosecution was brought under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016, it could result in all CBD products being regarded as psychoactive.

CLEAR strongly supports the developing CBD market as a legal alternative to high-THC products.  However, it is vital for the security of consumers that products comply with the law.

Written by Peter Reynolds

March 14, 2016 at 4:43 pm

A CLEAR Response To the Liberal Democrats’ Proposals For Cannabis Regulation.

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libdem Framework_for_cannabis thumbnail

CLEAR welcomes the Liberal Democrats’ proposals which can be seen here. We set out below a few comments which we intend to be constructive.

We represent more than 600,000 people who support cannabis law reform. Our own publication, ‘How to Regulate Cannabis in Britain’ is now in its second edition.

It is based on independent, expert research which we commissioned from the Independent Drug Monitoring Unit, published as ‘Taxing the UK Cannabis Market’.

Comments on ‘A framework for a regulated market for cannabis in the UK’

1. We support a cautious approach and agree that it is better to start with stricter regulation that could, based on experience, be relaxed at a later date if appropriate.

Spectrum of Cannabis Policy

Spectrum of Cannabis Policy

We reject the diagram ‘Exploring a spectrum of options for regulating cannabis’ which paints an inaccurate picture of the effects of a legal market. Evidence from all jurisdictions that have implemented reform does not support the equivalence of ‘social and health harms’ with ‘ultra prohibition’ and ‘commercial production’. It is absolutely clear that legally regulated commercial production is far less harmful than prohibition.

Essentially, instead of a ‘U’ shaped curve, we consider an ‘L’ shaped curve is more accurate.

2. The diagram indicates a fundamental objection to the commercial model implemented in Colorado, Washington and Oregon and the report explicitly rejects the Colorado model in favour of the Uruguay model.

We disagree with this. The Colorado model is a proven success with virtually no downsides. The Uruguay model is still a theory which is yet to be proven in practice. This conclusion in the report is therefore not evidence-based. This suggests that wider political or philosophical considerations have been allowed to trump existing evidence.

3. We are concerned about the undue weight given to restricting commercial enterprise. The UK is not a socialist economy and there is a danger of a ‘nanny-state’ attitude which we cannot support. We repeat the point that it seems wider political or philosophical considerations have been allowed to prevail over actual evidence. There needs to be a balance between a ‘cautious approach’ as in 1. above and over-regulation which will only result in a continuing criminal market. The UK is a market economy and if the legal market is too strict and rigid, the illegal market will flourish.

4. We have very grave concerns about the cannabis social club (CSC) model which provides significant opportunity for the corruption of those involved into major criminal enterprises with exploitation of both workers and customers. The establishment of such ‘clubs’ is entirely unnecessary given the other more controllable methods of supply and will only lead to diversion and perhaps active marketing of excessive production through criminal networks. In other words, CSCs are a golden opportunity for the emergence of ‘drug pushers’ and they undermine the whole purpose of cautious regulation.

5. We regard the recommendation not to permit the production and marketing of ‘edibles’ as an error. If the other recommendations making raw herbal cannabis legally available are implemented then this will inevitably lead to the production and marketing of unregulated ‘edibles’, undermining the whole purpose of regulation. Far better to learn from the mistakes already made in excessively potent ‘edible’ products and introduce appropriate regulations with reduced dosages.

If anything, ‘edibles’ need regulation far more urgently than the raw product because of the potential for very unpleasant overdosing. To abrogate responsibility for this is an extremely unwise proposal and inconsistent with the whole basis for a regulated market.

6. We would encourage a more positive and supportive approach to enable producer countries such as Morocco, the Lebanon, Pakistan and Afghanistan to supply varieties of cannabis resin and hashish. Encouraging such trade under strict regulation will further undermine criminal activity and offers great potential for better relations and positive ‘soft power’ influence on these countries. We recognise the difficulties involved in this with regard to the UN conventions but consider it is a prize worth working towards.

7. For the same reasons set out above we consider that a refusal to regulate concentrates and vapouriser products undermines the whole purpose of a regulated market. Vapouriser products are almost certainly going to be an important component of the medical cannabis market. These nettles must be grasped. To avoid them is irresponsible.

8. We would argue for far more emphasis on harm reduction information, particularly about smoking and avoiding mixing cannabis with tobacco. As in 7. above, we would actively promote the choice of vapouriser products.

9. In principle we agree with the proposal for three levels of THC content and for minimum CBD content. However, there is no evidence to support the necessity for CBD content as high as 4%. The evidence suggests that levels of 1% or 2% adequately meet the desirable ‘entourage’ effects of CBD. Furthermore, at these levels, existing strains are available. Little consideration has been given to the practicalities of developing three new strains to meet the THC:CBD ratios proposed. To develop such strains and ensure they are stable and consistent is the work of several years, requiring significant investment and so undermines the ability to implement these proposals in timely fashion.

10. We consider that the ‘plain packaging’ proposal is unnecessarily restrictive in the UK’s market economy. We agree with child proof containers but would recommend that far more emphasis is given to content and harm reduction labelling. There is nothing to be gained from restricting the marketing and commercial enterprise of companies wishing to develop brands and packaging styles within strict regulations.

11. For reasons already set out we consider that the restrictions on exterior and interior retailer environments are oppressive and will be self-defeating. The UK is not accustomed to such overbearing and anti-business regulation. Existing pharmacies do not operate under such heavy restrictions and they make significant use of point-of-sale and merchandising techniques.

Overall, we welcome this document and the proposals it contains. One final point that is of significance is that clearly there was no ‘consumer’ representation on the panel and this is obvious in some of the tone and detail of the report. We recommend that account should be taken of consumer opinion in any future development of the proposals.

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