Archive for the ‘Science’ Category
On Friday, 27th November 2015, the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London issued a press release titled “Study shows white matter damage caused by ‘skunk-like’ cannabis”. As a result, hundreds of media outlets across the world have published to the effect that cannabis use causes changes in the corpus callosum, the largest white matter structure in the brain, which is responsible for communication between the left and right hemispheres.
In fact, the study showed nothing of the sort. Even one of its authors, Dr Paola Dazzan, is on the record stating “It is possible that these people already have a different brain and they are more likely to use cannabis.”
Sadly, this is par for the course by King’s College and I can only assume is a corrupt attempt to sensationalise its work in order to drum up funding. Every time this institution publishes a study on cannabis it confuses causation and correlation.
For instance, Professor Sir Robin Murray’s annual study on cannabis and psychosis only ever shows correlation but when he talks to the press he always puts across the relationship between cannabis use and psychosis as causative.
We simply cannot rely on these so-called eminent scientists to be honest about their work. They are in the gutter and they aren’t looking at the stars, they are looking at their bank balances.
I have now written twice to Professor Shitij Kapur, Executive Dean of the IoPPN asking for an explanation but he hasn’t seen fit even to acknowledge my emails.
For anyone who takes an interest in the science of cannabis and the reasons this immensely valuable plant is banned, this example should give you an insight into the dishonesty, corruption and propaganda that is behind it all.
It’s the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College London, yet again, with another terrifying story about cannabis that is immediately distorted, exaggerated and misrepresented by the scientifically illiterate hacks of Fleet Street.
This time though King’s College itself has reported the results of its own research inaccurately and published false and misleading claims.
Can King’s College explain why its press release is headlined “Study shows white matter damage caused by ‘skunk-like’ cannabis”, when the researcher Dr Dazzan says “It is possible that these people already have a different brain and they are more likely to use cannabis”? The truth is that the study does not show any causative effect. It is merely correlation yet here we have supposedly eminent scientists and scientific institutions reporting results falsely.
I have written to Professor Shitij Kapur, Executive Dean & Head of Faculty of the Institute asking for an explanation.
On a regular basis the team at King’s College publishes research about cannabis that suggests it is far more harmful than real world experience demonstrates. Always these studies contain the vital caveat that no causation can be shown for the various ‘differences’ or ‘changes’ that the researchers observe. Always, without fail, the researchers overlook this fundamental weakness in their work when they talk direct to the press. As a result we get ludicrous, inaccurate and wildly irresponsible reporting, particularly in the extremist rags such as the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph but often extending, as today, even into The Times, supposedly a responsible and authoritative publication.
This latest study was led by Dr Silvia Rigucci of Sapienza University of Rome in conjunction with Dr Paola Dazzan and Dr Tiago Reis Marques from King’s College. Dr Razzan has fallen over herself in an undignified rush to gain media headlines. She is reported as saying: “There is an urgent need to educate health professionals, the public and policy makers about the risks involved with cannabis use.” Of course, in truth, all these people have been systematically misled about cannabis for many years. All that Dr Razaan is doing is contributing to the vast quantity of misinformation already out there by misrepresenting and overstating her own work.
This is a very small study with no proper controls that proves nothing either way about cannabis use. It is exaggerated and misrepresented by both King’s College and the scientists concerned, presumably in an effort to boost funding. This is the state of science on cannabis where vested interests promote misinformation which defies the real world experiences of hundreds of million of cannabis consumers worldwide. The team at King’s College displays all the classic markers of a cult. It pursues a belief in cannabis as the ‘devil’s lettuce’ as a quasi-religion. It dresses up its meaningless observational studies as significant evidence. It reinforces its belief by exaggerating and misrepresenting its work. It considers no alternative explanations and it endlessly repeats itself, its ‘studies’ and its presentation of them as proof of its own conclusions.
No one in their right mind can claim that cannabis is harmless but neither is there any evidence to support claims that it is dangerous. These untruths are promoted by vested interests such as researchers needing more funds, the alcohol industry guarding its monopoly of legal recreational drugs or newspapers seeking sensational stories.
It’s difficult to get hold of a copy of the actual study without paying for it. My advice is read the reports, understand the facts rather than the deliberate misinterpretations and expect more of the same. Remember that unless such evidence is compared with evidence in respect of other substances it is meaningless. All in all there is no evidence to suggest cannabis is any more harmful than coffee.
Yet another cannabis petition amongst hundreds of similar pleas was filed earlier this autumn. This one though is more tightly focused on removing cannabis from schedule 1, which defines it as having no medicinal value. The petition is also commendably concise but characterises itself as a ‘demand‘ that cannabis be rescheduled, an unfortunate choice of words.
Nevertheless, congratulations are due in that it has exceeded the threshold of 10,000 signatures which means the government must respond. That response is now in and it is predictably dishonest, dismissive and authoritarian in its tone. The Home Office has responsibility for drugs policy so it has drafted the response but it surely must have consulted with the Department of Health.
In fact, I was told only this week by a senior minister that “… the search into the medicinal use of cannabis is something that falls within the jurisdiction of the Department of Health.” That may be a subtle shift in policy from which we can draw some hope. But I fear that the response to this petition offers no hope at all. It is stubborn, obstinate, inaccurate and in denial of evidence and experience.
To be clear, the Home Office has been systematically lying and misleading the British people about cannabis for at least 50 years. The Department of Health is timid on the issue, leaves the public statements to the Home Office heavies and seems more interested in generating fee income for the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), than in actually treating patients effectively.
I analyse the response paragraph by paragraph.
“Herbal cannabis is listed in Schedule 1 as a drug with no recognised medicinal uses outside research. A substantial body of scientific evidence shows it is harmful and can damage human health.”
By far the majority of scientists and doctors now recognise that cannabis has real and significant medicinal uses. Of course it is possible that cannabis can cause harm, as can any substance. However, there is no scientific evidence that shows cannabis as being any more harmful than over-the-counter medicines or many common foods. Professor Les Iversen, chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, is on the record saying: “cannabis is a safer drug than aspirin and can be used long term without serious side effects”.
“The Government will not encourage the use of a Schedule 1 controlled drug based on anecdotal evidence. It is important that a medicine is very thoroughly trialled to ensure it meets rigorous standards before being licensed and placed on the market so that doctors and patients are sure of its efficacy and safety. “
It is not the government’s role to encourage the use of any drug as medicine, that is the role of a doctor. Only by removing cannabis from schedule 1 can that decision be placed in doctors’ hands. There is a vast quantity of peer-reviewed, published scientific evidence on the medicinal use of cannabis including human clinical trials. It is false to suggest that only anecdotal evidence is available. See ‘Medicinal Cannabis: The Evidence’. Thousands of doctors and millions of patients are sure of the efficacy and safety of cannabis based on existing research, trials and experience. Many commonly prescribed medicines have nowhere near as much evidence behind them as cannabis.
“Cannabis in its raw form (herbal cannabis) is not recognised as having any medicinal purposes in the UK. There is already a clear regime in place to enable medicines (including those containing controlled drugs) to be developed and subsequently prescribed and supplied to patients via healthcare professionals. This regime is administered by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which issues Marketing Authorisations for drugs that have been tried and tested for their safety and efficacy as medicines in the UK.”
The lack of recognition for the medicinal purposes of cannabis is a grave error with no evidence that supports it. Cannabis is a traditional medicine which recorded history shows has been used safely and effectively for at least 5,000 years. The only thing that stands in the way of cannabis being prescribed by doctors is its schedule 1 status. The MHRA is a diversion and is irrelevant. It exists to trial and regulate new medicines and requires a £100,000 application fee before very costly clinical trials take place. This is an unnecessary obstacle to a traditional medicine which contains more than 400 compounds. The MHRA process is designed for potentially dangerous, single molecule drugs and is not applicable to cannabis.
“It is up to organisations to apply for Marketing Authorisation for products that they believe have potential medicinal purposes so that these can be subject to the same stringent regime and requirements that all medicines in the UK are subjected to.”
Many substances and drugs which have medicinal purposes are regulated either as Traditional Herbal Products or food supplements. It is the schedule 1 status of cannabis which prevents it being regulated and controlled in this way which is far more appropriate given its very low potential for harm and the very wide range of conditions for which it can be useful.
“Since 2010 UK patients can use the cannabis-based medicine ‘Sativex’ for the treatment of spasticity due to multiple sclerosis. ‘Sativex’ can also be prescribed for other conditions at the prescribing doctor’s risk. ‘Sativex’ was rigorously tested for its safety and efficacy before receiving approval, and is distinguished from cannabis in its raw form. It is a spray which is standardised in composition, formulation and dose and developed to provide medicinal benefits without a psychoactive effect. Due to its low psychoactive profile ‘Sativex’ was rescheduled from Schedule 1 and placed in Schedule 4 Part 1 to enable its availability for use in healthcare in the UK.”
Sativex is a massively expensive form of cannabis oil which is not prescribed because of its cost. It is at least 10 times the price of Bedrocan medicinal cannabis as regulated by the Netherlands government which could be immediately made available in the UK. It is a deliberate falsehood to claim that Sativex does not have a psychoactive effect. The statutory document ‘Summary of Product Characteristics’ describes “euphoric mood” as a “common” side effect. The scheduling of Sativex in schedule 4 is a deception requiring 75 words falsely to distinguish it from other forms of cannabis whereas every other drug in every other schedule requires just one word.
“The MHRA is open to considering marketing approval applications for other medicinal cannabis products should a product be developed. As happened in the case of ‘Sativex’, the Home Office will also consider issuing a licence to enable trials of new medicines to take place under the appropriate ethical approvals. “
Cannabis, which contains 400 + compounds is not suitable for MHRA regulation which is designed for single molecule drugs which are potentially dangerous. There is no significant danger from the use of cannabis when prescribed by a doctor. This is already well established in scientific evidence and the referral to the MHRA is a diversion and an excuse for failing simply to put the decision in doctors’ hands.
“In view of the potential harms associated with the use of cannabis in its raw form and the availability of avenues for medicinal development, the Government does not consider it appropriate to make changes to the control status of raw or herbal cannabis. “
The government has offered no evidence of the potential harms to which it gives such weight. No “development” of cannabis is required. It is a traditional medicine consisting of the dried flowers of the cannabis plant.
“The Government’s view is that the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and regulations made under the Act continue to facilitate the development of medicines which are made from Schedule 1 controlled drugs. The legislation is aimed at protecting the public from the potential harms of drugs and is not an impediment to research into these drugs or development of medicines.”
The government’s view is intransigent and as demonstrated by this response is ignorant of the available evidence. This response reinforces the government’s clear intention not to consider the evidence and simply to deny it. The evidence shows that the potential harms of cannabis as medicine are trivial and inconsequential. If its schedule 1 status was not an impediment to research, there would already be a great deal more research into cannabis as medicine.
“In 2013 the Home Office undertook a scoping exercise targeted at a cross-section of the scientific community, including the main research bodies, in response to concerns from a limited number of research professionals that Schedule 1 status was generally impeding research into new drugs.
Our analysis of the responses confirmed a high level of interest, both generally and at institution level, in Schedule 1 research. However, the responses did not support the view that Schedule 1 controlled drug status impedes research in this area. While the responses confirmed Home Office licensing costs and requirements form part of a number of issues which influence decisions to undertake research in this area, ethics approval was identified as the key consideration, while the next most important consideration was the availability of funding.”
The Home Office is entirely untrustworthy and dishonest on anything to do with cannabis. Researchers, scientists, doctors and those already using cannabis as medicine simply do not trust anything it says on the subject based on long experience of its calculated dishonesty and misinformation.
This film carries my highest recommendation.
There are a number of excellent documentary films about cannabis which for those of us interested in the subject make enthralling viewing. This is also the great weakness of movies like ‘The Culture High’ and ‘In Pot We Trust’ – they are all preaching to the choir and, certainly for non-consumers of cannabis or people without a special interest, they are far too long.
This excellent documentary on the life and work of Raphael Mechoulam is a breath of fresh air. For an old cannabis hack like me who has seen it all, read it all and discussed it all, ad nauseam, it gave me new information and insights – and it’s only an hour long. It’s well worth sixty minutes of your time.
The preposterous response from the UK government to the massive petition for the legalisation of cannabis is a pack of lies.
Yes. Lies. Not a word it’s wise to use unless it’s accurate but in this case it is. The Home Office is disgraced on so many aspects of its work but it has been systematically misleading, misinforming and promoting untruths about cannabis since 1971. Individual Home Secretaries are fully complicit in this dishonesty, most notably James Callaghan, Merlyn Rees, William Whitelaw, Leon Brittan, Douglas Hurd, Michael Howard, Jack Straw, Jacqui Smith, Alan Johnson and the incumbent, Theresa May.
Certainly in the last 20 years there can be no excuse at all. The balance of scientific evidence has been quite clear for at least that long that although a very small number of people may be vulnerable, for 99% of people cannabis is almost completely benign and often beneficial.
The dishonesty of these disgraced ministers brings shame on both the Conservative and Labour parties and the civil service officials in the Home Office. They all know full well that they have lied to the public and they continue to do so, undoubtedly because of corrupt influence from vested interests, principally the tabloid editors, press barons and the alcohol industry. Their lies have resulted in the unnecessary criminalisation of over one million people, the frittering away of tens of billions in futile law enforcement costs and lost tax revenue. Most dreadful of all, the denial of access to medicinal cannabis by those in pain, suffering and disability.
The basis for the government’s dismissal of the petition is given as the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) 2008 report ‘Cannabis: Classification and Public Health’.
In the covering letter to the report, the then chair of the ACMD does say “… the use of cannabis is a significant public health issue. Cannabis can unquestionably cause harm to individuals and society.”
Judge for yourself whether the evidence in the report supports the idea that cannabis is a “significant public health issue”. I don’t think it does and nowhere in the report is such an unequivocal statement made except in the covering letter. Of course it is true that cannabis can cause harm to individuals, just as digestive biscuits, chips and sugary drinks can, so that’s pretty meaningless. There is no evidence in the report at all of cannabis causing harm to society.
But the covering letter then makes the point very strongly that “strategies designed to minimise its use and adverse effects must be predominantly public health ones. Criminal justice measures – irrespective of classification – will have only a limited effect on usage.”
The report recommends that cannabis remain in class C of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 but the government of the day, led by Gordon ‘Skunk is Lethal’ Brown, ignored that and increased it to class B.
Read the report yourself. Compare it with the government’s response to the petition. To claim that the report supports present policy is false. It directly contradicts present policy. There is also now a host of high quality evidence on the reality of decriminalised or regulated cannabis markets from the Netherlands, Portugal, Colorado and Washington. This shows beyond any doubt that the government’s suggestions of “drug dependence… misery… increased misuse” have no basis in evidence at all. Furthermore the idea that new tax revenue would be outweighed by new costs is directly contradicted by every study on the subject. I repeat, the government’s response is a pack of lies
Sadly, the United Kingdom is a country where government ministers are prepared to lie, mislead, distort evidence and deceive the British people in order to maintain policies based on prejudice and the corrupt influence of vested interests.
Cannabis Saves Lives And Cannabis Prohibition Ruins Lives Every Day. All the Media Can Worry About Is Djokovic’s Nose.
The BBC, The Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, countless international publications, blogs and websites have published this ridiculous story.
Apparently, Novak Djokovic felt “dizzy” because he could smell cannabis during his Rogers Cup semi-final win over Jérémy Chardy in Montreal. Now let’s be clear, the smell of cannabis comes from terpenes, not from cannabinoids. It cannot get you high or dizzy.
I’m pleased that Novak recognises the delightful smell of weed. More and more sportspeople are using it as an aid to recovery. NFL and rugby players are advised to use it to protect against the dangers of concussion or brain injury. Stimulating the endocannabinoid system helps to promote healing and growth. Not long before cannabis is ruled out of sport as a performance enhancer, not just because of blind prejudice against a safer recreational drug.
But it is sickening that so much coverage is given to this when across the world there are so many more important stories about the almost miraculous, life saving, therapeutic effects of cannabis. Similarly, there are important but tragic stories of people being incarcerated for growing the plant or treating their illness with it. There are disgusting stories of corruption in governments, parliaments and bureaucracies where lies and misinformation about cannabis are promoted, mainly to protect vested interests in the alcohol and law enforcement industries.
All the media is interested in is this sort of trivial nonsense, unless of course it’s some mythological scare story about mental illness or deranged axe murderers. A free press is a valuable and essential part of our pretence at democracy. We also need freedom from the lies, misinformation and corrupt agendas of press barons and editors.
Across social media, it’s ‘on message’ to despise Big Pharma and to promote the idea that government and pharmaceutical companies are engaged in the business of making people ill and feeding them with drugs in the pursuit of profit.
In the cannabis campaign, it’s virtually compulsory to abuse, defame and promote conspiracy theories about GW Pharmaceuticals, the world’s leading developer of cannabis-based medicines.
Now GW Pharma is hardly ‘Big Pharma’. It’s annual revenues for 2014 were £30 million. By contrast, Pfizer’s 2014 revenue was $50 billion. But such trifling facts are of no concern to the keyboard warriors and trolls that plague the cannabis campaign and bring it into disrepute every day.
In any case, I’m not sure whose message this is and why anyone buys into this hate-filled invective and unjust condemnation of an industry that has saved so many lives. Antibiotics, vaccines and, yes, chemotherapy products have saved or extended millions of lives. The most profitable pharmaceutical product of all time, Zantac (ranitidine), cures or prevents stomach ulcers and has prevented millions from having to undergo major surgery. Certainly, as in any industry, there have been mistakes, things have gone wrong and much could be improved but overall, the pharmaceutical industry is a huge force for good in our world.
Those engaged in these bitter, vindictive, online campaigns are largely sheep, ignorant of the facts and simply jumping on another hysterical bandwagon that they understand nothing about. They complain about the pursuit of profit and that money is being made from medicines and healthcare. It’s a strangely socialist and anti-business attitude, particularly as so much of it comes from America, supposedly the home of free enterprise where the maverick and outsider who triumphs against all the odds is usually revered.
Dr Geoffrey Guy, who founded GW Pharmaceuticals in 1998, is such a man. He has broken the UK government’s prohibition of cannabis by outwitting a regulatory process run by the Home Office and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) that is corrupt, dishonest and denies scientific evidence. In my view, he deserves great admiration and should be seen as a hero by cannabis campaigners, not as the villain that he is often portrayed.
Now, both GW’s lead products, Sativex and Epidiolex, look set to gain FDA approval in the US. This will be a fantastic achievement for Dr Guy and all his colleagues. It’s also something that we Britons should be immensely proud about. Even though America is a very long way ahead of us in understanding and using cannabis as medicine, it is British science and expertise that is breaking down US federal prohibition. Soon most Americans will have state sanctioned access to medical marijuana but also the option for doctor-prescribed cannabinoid medicine of unparalleled quality and consistency.
Of course, for now GW Pharma stands against the use of raw herbal cannabis and at present that’s a rational business decision but I won’t be at all surprised if in future it moves into that market too. There are already unconfirmed rumours that GW is considering entering the CBD market.
This is a story of enormous courage, innovation and triumph against all the odds. It is in the finest tradition of British ingenuity and business skill. Since the Middle Ages we have led the world in engineering, science and technology. Geoffrey Guy is another world leader from Britain, this small island that has given birth to so many. Surely, at least a knighthood, possibly a Nobel prize must be coming his way soon. Even if the curmudgeonly, loud mouthed critics of today attack him, in future years he will be seen as a great pioneer of medicine and he will deserve his place in history.