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Why Is CLEAR Supporting Lord Monson In His Campaign Against So-Called ‘Skunk’?

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Lord Nicholas Monson

Lord Nicholas Monson

CLEAR’s first and overriding objective is to end the prohibition of cannabis.  The tragedies that have struck the Monson family demonstrate all too clearly that prohibition of cannabis is futile.  Not only does it not protect people from harm, it actually maximises the harms and dangers of the cannabis market.

Nicholas Monson’s eldest son, Alexander, was arrested in Kenya in 2012. allegedly for smoking cannabis.  Toxicology reports found no evidence of cannabis in his system. According to both a government and an independent pathologist he died from a fatal blow to the back of his head while in police custody.  Clearly, it was the law against cannabis that led directly to Alexander’s death.

Nicholas Monson with his son Rupert

Just three months ago, Rupert, Nicholas Monson’s younger son, took his own life after a descent into depression and psychosis in which the excessive consumption of so-called ‘skunk’ was clearly a significant factor.  Rupert himself said that he was addicted and there is good evidence to show that cannabis without CBD is more addictive.  It is well established from research as far back as the early 1990s that approx 9% of regular users develop dependence which produces real physical withdrawal symptoms: insomnia, lack of appetite and irritability, sometimes a headache.  For most people these are easily overcome within a week or so but not for everyone.  Most importantly though, cannabis in the early 1990s contained, on average, half to a third as much THC as it does now and always a healthy buffer of CBD.  The addictiveness of so-called ‘skunk’ with zero or very little CBD, is several times greater than the cannabis available 20 to 30 years ago.

It’s important to add that Rupert was also very badly failed by the dire state of mental health services. Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, a specialist provider of mental health and drug treatment services said that he needed to be admitted but a bed was not available.  It was just a few days later that he committed suicide.

Nicholas Monson has called for so-called ‘skunk’ to be made a class A drug but also for lower potency cannabis, with a maximum THC:CBD ratio of 3:1 to be made legally available through a regulated system.  Theresa May wrote to him after reading coverage of the story in the press.  She expressed her sympathy and said how she shared his concerns.  Importantly, she suggested that Lord Monson prepare a paper and a presentation to the Home Office on his proposals.  This is a tremendous opportunity towards introducing measures that will better protect vulnerable people like Rupert and also for wider reform of the cannabis laws that will reduce all the harms presently caused by prohibition.  Cannabis would be purchased from government licensed outlets just like alcohol and the aim would be to collapse the criminal market just like the market in dangerous, ‘moonshine’ whisky.

CLEAR does not agree that raising so-called ‘skunk’ to class A would be an effective measure.  It would be virtually impossible to enforce, requiring a massive increase in laboratory testing of cannabis and the supply of high potency varieties would simply be pushed underground. The price will go up and all the harms of a criminal market will be increased.  All the evidence is that drug classification or penalties have absolutely no effect whatsoever on consumption.  However, Lord Monson suggests that all personal cannabis possession should be decriminalised and police would focus only on dealers in so-called ‘skunk’.  There is a very strong argument that with high quality cannabis available legally, people would turn away from the black market.

Of course, we support the idea of legally available cannabis with a maximum THC:CBD ratio of 3:1.  This could be the basis of a system that could work very successfully. The product would be available only through a limited number of licensed outlets to adults only.  It would be supplied in appropriate packaging with detailed labelling of contents.  Possession of any cannabis not in this packaging would be reasonable grounds for it to be seized and tested.

Lord Nicholas Monson, Peter Reynolds

This will, of course, provoke outrage amongst many cannabis consumers, particularly those who grow their own but it would be fantastic progress.  It would usher in a far more rational, sensible regime where we could establish real data about harms and risks.  If appropriate, this could lead to the regulation of higher potency varieties.  Of course, we recognise that for medical use, a completely different approach to cannabinoid content is required and much higher potency may be necessary in some instances.

CLEAR is in the business of reform and this is the most likely path to reform that has ever emerged in the UK.  We are not in the business of promoting a cannabis market which enthusiasts and connoisseurs would regard as some sort of utopia.  The only purpose of any drugs policy must be to reduce harm and this proposal, if implemented, would massively reduce all the social harms caused by prohibition and reduce the risk of health harms.

Finally, it has to be said that, in typical fashion, a substantial part of the cannabis community has reacted in almost hysterical anger to Lord Monson’s proposals.  The only effect of such behaviour is to hold back reform.  We have been horrified and disgusted at the abuse directed at the Monson family.  It has shown cannabis consumers in the very worst light and demonstrated that some are so stupid that they damage the very cause they seek to advocate.  Nicholas Monson is a grieving father who, despite his agony, has seen the rational way forward and lent his energy and commitment towards reform that will benefit everyone.  We stand alongside him and we urge all cannabis consumers to consider these ideas carefully – and please, lend us your support!

Lord Nicholas Monson adds:

“The motivation for my campaign is to protect the young and vulnerable in particular from ingesting any substance whose contents can have a deleterious short or long term effect on their minds. To watch one’s son spiral into psychosis from a heavy usage of skunk is distressing to behold. Rupert’s psychiatric team put his psychosis down to skunk. This is unequivocal. Yes there are other psychoactive drugs around but skunk is what did for Rupert. It so happens that the remedy for skunk is a legalised and regulated market in cannabis where clear information is available. This should be applauded by the recreational cannabis community. Separately I have long supported the medical community’s initiatives to prescribe variants of cannabis with high CBD for people suffering from a wide variety of conditions.”

Written by Peter Reynolds

June 7, 2017 at 7:10 pm

So-Called ‘Skunk’ – What Does The Word Mean And How Much Of A Problem Is It?

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The meaning of the word ‘skunk’ has changed.   Today it has come to mean high potency cannabis that contains zero or very little CBD and this is a definition that is now in general use worldwide, including by scientists such as Professors David Nutt and Val Curran who are very much supporters of reform.

Skunk #1

Originally, it meant a strain of cannabis selectively bred from a Colombian sativa, a Mexican sativa and an Afghan indica that was christened skunk because of its extremely strong smell. The smell has nothing to do with its strength and is produced by the terpenes in the plant, not the cannabinoids. In fact, contrary to popular opinion, skunk is not particularly strong, producing about 8% THC which in today’s terms, with many strains now exceeding 20%, could even be described as weak. However what defines the strain was that it was one of the first to breed out virtually all the CBD content.

Skunk #1 was one of the earliest successful cannabis hybrids. In fact, its genetics are fundamental to the cannabis grown by GW Pharmaceuticals and incorporated into its licensed whole plant cannabis medicine Sativex.

The word was quickly adopted by headline writers in the British gutter press, the Daily Mail, the Sun, the Daily Express and the Daily Telegraph, all off which are relentlessly engaged in publishing anti-cannabis propaganda, often completely fake and always wildly exaggerated.  In the UK media the term simply became a sensationalist synonym for cannabis.

As well as an unregulated, often wildly irresponsible press, the UK is also home to a small group of researchers who are steadily and consistently funded to investigate the negative effects of cannabis, more than anywhere else in the world. The figurehead and lead scientist is Professor Sir Robin Murray of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London.  No one else has published as much research on the negative effects of cannabis which, although they can be very serious in a few cases, apply only to a tiny, fraction of one percent of the hundreds of millions of people worldwide who are cannabis consumers.

Professor Sir Robin Murray

I have met Sir Robin several times.  In fact I once spent two days sitting next to him at a conference in the House of Lords.  His views on cannabis are much more balanced than they are presented in the press.  In fact he is on the record stating that the majority of people gain a great deal of benefit and enjoyment from cannabis.  As a scientist he also recognises the now considerable body of evidence demonstrating that cannabis is a safe and effective medicine for a wide range of conditions.  He is, however, the poster boy for modern day reefer madness and his work his quoted on a selective basis by all those who oppose cannabis law reform.  Even Kings College’s own press office has a record of exaggerating, overstating and misrepresenting Sir Robin’s work.

It was Sir Robin and his team who first started to use the word ‘skunk’ in a scientific context.  As far as I am aware, they have never properly defined it and as the thrust of much of their work is that psychotic symptoms from cannabis use are dose dependent, it is difficult to understand why they have chosen to use it without specifying what it means in terms of THC and CBD levels.

Gradually however, the term has become accepted within the scientific community and this reinforces its use in the media.  Perhaps the last nail in the coffin of the correct definition was the Channel 4 Drugs Live programme in 2015 when Professors David Nutt and Val Curran adopted the word.  This despite the fact that the cannabis they used was provided by Bedrocan, the Netherlands government’s official producer and was a haze strain, most definitely not skunk.

Ch 4 Drugs Live: Cannabis. Prof. David Nutt, Jon Snow, Prof. Val Curran

So, after much consideration, CLEAR has decided to bow to the inevitable and recognise that the meaning of the word has changed.  It is now shorthand for high potency, low CBD cannabis and it has become counterproductive to hold out for the correct definition. We must accept that language and words evolve and change over time.  In future we will refer to so-called ‘skunk’ and we will explain what it means.  Importantly this means stressing that it is not so much the absolute level of THC that matters but the absence or virtual absence of CBD.  Even a strain that contains 5% THC can be harmful to vulnerable people if it contains no CBD.  Conversely, a strain containing as much as 25% THC but perhaps 5% CBD is much safer and virtually harmless for the vast majority of adults.

How Much Of A Problem Is So-Called ‘Skunk’?

It remains a fact that peanuts are a far riskier substance to consume than cannabis, even so-called ‘skunk’.  About one in 100 people suffer from peanut allergy which in severe cases can be life threatening.  By contrast, the data shows that about one in 20,000 people risks a psychotic episode after consumption of cannabis.  To add more context, about four in one hundred people are allergic to seafood and, adjusting for the number of users, alcohol consumption is five times more likely than cannabis to see anyone admitted to hospital for mental health problems.

On the face of it then, relatively speaking, so-called ‘skunk’ is safer than peanuts or oysters – but this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do everything we can to protect those few people who are at risk.

No one really understands why, how or even if cannabis is a significant factor in some people becoming seriously mentally ill.  Psychosis in all its forms, including schizophrenia, strikes most commonly in young men just as they are dealing with all the other problems of reaching adulthood: becoming independent from parents, the hormonal changes of adolescence, forming relationships and reaching sexual maturity, pressure of exams, starting work and beginning to experiment with alcohol, cannabis and other drugs.  Nevertheless it is perfectly reasonable to conclude that it is at least a component factor in some cases and possibly much more significant in a few.  Clearly, cannabis is a powerful psychoactive substance and it can have positive and negative effects on the mind.  Science proves that the developing brain is more vulnerable to the effects of any substance while it is at the height of its ‘plasticity’ when its course of development can easily be changed.  Science also proves that so-called ‘skunk’ with zero or very little CBD can be more harmful than when this protective compound is present.

The same vulnerabilities exist in respect of other mental health issues, particularly depression.  Again, depression, manifested at its extreme by suicide, is most common in young men experiencing the turmoil of their time of life.  While some people find cannabis helps with this, for others it can make the condition far worse.  For some a small amount of cannabis can be beneficial but take a little too much and the effect is reversed.  In all cases, the absence of CBD only makes matters worse.

So, in conclusion, the absolute risk of consuming so-called ‘skunk’ is very small but for a few people it can be very serious.  It’s inaccurate to deem so-called ‘skunk’ as dangerous, just as no one calls peanuts or oysters dangerous but for those few people who are vulnerable, ‘skunk’, peanuts and oysters can all be very, very dangerous.

Written by Peter Reynolds

June 7, 2017 at 5:38 pm

Bad Behaviour On Both Sides Of The Cannabis Debate.

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Is Mr Angry For Or Against?

Cannabis evangelists, with their conspiracy theories and religious ‘belief’ that cannabis is totally harmless and cures everything, are every bit as delusional as those who subscribe to ‘reefer madness’.

We see this every day on the CLEAR Facebook page.  Anything we share that is even slightly negative about cannabis or that suggests some people might be vulnerable to some harm from using it, produces a hostile, often hysterical reaction.

100% Fake News

Actually, the evangelists play straight into the hands of prohibitionists.  They make fools of themselves by behaving as if we have committed the most heinous blasphemy by daring to criticise their favourite plant.  Particularly amongst our American followers, many cannot distinguish between sharing something and endorsing it.  We share many news items we disagree with but when it comes to science we neither agree nor disagree, it’s all part of the body of evidence that needs to be considered and balanced.

Of course, the reality of social media is that those who shout loudest or comment most frequently are not necessarily representative of the whole audience.  We put a lot of effort into moderating our page to make it as informative as possible.  We have a very strict policy on bad language.  We won’t tolerate commenters abusing each other or launching vicious personal attacks (even if they are against Donald Trump or Theresa May).  All single word comments are deleted.  No one wants to read an endless string of “bullshit”, “BS” or worse.  Far too often we have to ban some commenters immediately.  We simply don’t want people who can express themselves only through a string of obscenities getting in the way of our newsfeed.

A few days ago we shared the study presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 66th Annual Scientific Session, held in Washington, D.C.  It suggests that cannabis use can raise the risk of stroke and cardiac failure.  The furore and firestorm of abuse that erupted is quite ridiculous and only serves to make the cannabis campaign look completely ridiculous.  There are clearly limitations in the study.  Firstly, it doesn’t show causation, merely statistical correlation.  Secondly, all the subjects had been discharged from hospital so clearly had suffered some serious health problem.

It is a ridiculous way to behave for anyone who wants to advance the cause of cannabis law reform.  It’s also utterly stupid constantly to accuse scientists, researchers or indeed CLEAR of being corrupt, dishonest, ‘in the pocket of Big Pharma’ or often far, far worse.

It is true that the history of cannabis prohibition is all about lies, deceit, misinformation and propaganda.  There are still some people, even in elevated positions such as UK prime minister Theresa May, who wish to continue with this form of repression but wiser counsel is prevailing in most parts of the world.

More and more scientists, researchers and doctors are studying the effects of cannabis and rarely does a day pass without a cannabis report being published somewhere in the world. What were almost accepted prejudices such as the ‘gateway theory’ and that ‘cannabis causes psychosis’ are being debunked more and more often.

Of course, scientists, researchers and doctors, just like everyone else, have been subject to all the propaganda for the past 100 years, so there is still much prejudice and confusion to dispel but we should respect and value the work of such people even if we don’t like all their conclusions.

On any subject, truth lies in assessing and balancing all the evidence that is available.  CLEAR will continue to share all significant evidence published about cannabis whether it is positive or negative.  Similarly, we will continue to share stories from the tabloid media that seek to demonise or scaremonger about cannabis.  It is important that people see the propaganda that is being published and the way that public opinion is formed.

 

Written by Peter Reynolds

March 12, 2017 at 3:48 pm

‘This House Would Say No To Drugs’, The Oxford Union, 16th February 2017.

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pjr-deangelo-crop

Peter Reynolds, Stephen DeAngelo

On Thursday, 16th February 2017, the Oxford Union held a debate on the motion ‘This House Would Say No To Drugs’.

thwsntd-graphicI was honoured to be invited to speak against the motion in the august company of Paul Hayes and Stephen DeAngelo. Speaking for the motion were Andrew Ng, Assistant Commissioner Patricia Gallan and Shaun Attwood.

We successfully defeated the motion by approximately 120 votes to 90.  A video of the debate will be released shortly.  I reproduce my speech below.

“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”

These are the words of Harry Anslinger, who in 1930 was appointed the first ever commissioner of the US Federal Bureau of Narcotics. 

And this is the exactly same standard of argument and evidence that we have in favour of drug prohibition today.

Anslinger went on to start the war on drugs 40 years before Richard Nixon invented the term.  His anti-cannabis crusade was based on racism, the suggestion that it caused madness, violence and depravity – yes, the same scare stories, myths and deceit that we still see published every day in the pages of the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph.  Indeed, exactly the same nonsense which every home secretary continues to trot out and on which our present prime minister bases UK drugs policy.

Don’t be in any doubt about it, the Home Office, under successive governments, has been engaged in the systematic deception of the British public.  It misleads, misinforms and repeatedly publishes bare faced lies about drugs and drugs policy and subverts every effort towards reform advocated by more enlightened politicians. 

In 2013, according to Norman Baker and Nick Clegg, Theresa May tried to falsify the international comparators report which showed that across the world harsh penalties make no difference to the level of drug use.  The facts simply don’t fit with her ideology.

And this idiocy pervades our society.  It is reflected in this motion which I oppose.  The premise of ‘This House Would Say No to Drugs’ is false from the very start.  It’s preposterous! We all say yes to drugs, every day, inevitably, in cocktails of medicines and recreational stimulants, in food, drink, in endogenous highs released through exercise and emotions, repeatedly, regularly, all of us, without exception, do drugs.

That our governments have seen fit to draw arbitrary lines as to which drugs are acceptable and which are not, which drugs that we can celebrate and which we will be locked up for, has nothing to do with evidence, science and, least of all, absolutely nothing to do with how harmful or dangerous they are. They are based on prejudice and thinking in 2017 that has advanced no further than Harry Anslinger in 1930. 

Sometimes these prejudices have strange echoes in the past. Coffee was banned in Mecca in 1511, as it was believed to stimulate radical thinking – the governor thought it might unite his opposition. What does that remind you of?

Often these lines are not arbitrary, they are based on vested interests. In 1777, Frederick the Great of Prussia also tried to ban coffee. He argued it interfered with the country’s beer consumption.  Before the first International Opium Convention in 1925 Egyptian cotton farmers successfully lobbied for cannabis to be banned as they feared the superior fibre crop of hemp.  Back to Harry Anslinger and he was in league with the timber barons who greatly feared the far better option of using hemp to make paper and the fledging oil industry which had just invented nylon, a synthetic alternative to the job that hemp fibre had done for thousands of years.  When Henry Ford invented the Model T he designed it to run on ethanol produced from hemp. He planted hemp on his own land for the purpose.  It’s no conspiracy theory to argue that the entire oil industry in predicated on the prohibition of cannabis, it’s just good, solid evidence.

Today, in the UK, prohibition of much safer substances like cannabis and MDMA is enforced to preserve the monopoly of legal recreational drugs that belongs to the alcohol industry – a drug that is at least a dangerous as heroin and causes far more misery and death in our society.  It’s no surprise when the UK alcohol industry spends £800 million every year on advertising that the media which enjoys that income supports the alcohol monopoly.

As if we didn’t have the clearest possible lesson from the prohibition of alcohol which gave birth to organised crime and demonstrated beyond any doubt that prohibition never works, it just makes the problem worse.  

The UK is more backwards, more disgraced, more shamed by a drugs policy that causes far more harm than it prevents, than almost any other first world country.

Prohibition is a fundamentally immoral policy.  If you remember one thing that I say today, please make it this. It sets law enforcement against the communities it is supposed to protect.  Being a police office is a noble and honourable calling.  Every society needs policing but drugs policy has perverted this profession.  The demand for what are deemed illicit drugs comes from society but instead of protecting us from danger, police action increases the dangers we are subject to.   The harder the police clamp down, the more the price of drugs rises, the more unscrupulous and violent the unregulated criminal trade becomes and the more contaminated, more concentrated and more dangerous are the drugs themselves.

In Amsterdam, there is no problem with Spice, the synthetic cannabinoid that is ravaging our streets and British prisons at present.  In sane, civilised society like California, Colorado or Washington, where adults can access safe, properly regulated cannabis, there is no Spice problem like we have in the UK. This disgusting, horrible product is the direct responsibility of the politicians who continue to pursue our ignorant anti-cannabis policy.  It is just one example of the great, immoral evil that prohibition causes.  And I ask you, if this crazy policy of prohibition cannot be enforced in prisons, then how do we expect to enforce it in wider society?

It is prohibition and drugs policy based on prejudice that destroys police and community relations.  It is current policy that means 70% of all acquisitive crime is caused by drug addiction – for which we send sick and poorly people to jail where they find easy access to more and nastier drugs.  This is the real madness that drugs cause.  It is the madness of deranged government ministers and their refusal to consider evidence or to resist pressure from their masters in Fleet Street.

What we need to do is say yes to a drugs policy that is designed to reduce harm and protect our communities.  Alcohol is promoted and so easily available as to be ridiculous, in every other shop on the high street, yet we control the access of children to alcohol and tobacco quite effectively.  But we abandon them to the street weed dealer who sells them muck grown by other children who have been trafficked from overseas and locked in hidden farms which are dangerous fire risks.  This is the shameful reality that our policies have produced.

Doctors freely prescribe anti-depressants, tranquilisers, highly toxic opioids such as tramadol, weird drugs for pain and epilepsy like gabapentin, which we don’t really understand at all.  Yet it is a criminal offence for a doctor to prescribe cannabis, a remedy that mankind has used safely and effectively for at least 10,000 years.

We mislead and misinform.  We encourage young people to go out and drink, yet we make ecstasy, MDMA, a drug far safer than even paracetamol, a class A substance , and we threaten people with years in jail just for handing a single dose to a friend.  It’s estimated that between two and ten million doses of MDMA are taken every weekend in the UK and we get about 50 deaths a year.  200 people die every year from paracetamol.  How much safer would MDMA be if the product was regulated with known strength and purity? It would probably be virtually harmless.

Now everyone is a victim of this drug war propaganda and the terrible effects of prohibition. Politicians, police officers, social workers, mothers and fathers have all been drenched in this propaganda from birth.  Many sincerely believe the rubbish they have been fed and they do all they can to pass on misguided ideas to the next generation.

We need to grow up, get a grip and drag Britain out of the dark ages. Drugs can cause harm but British drugs policy is a scourge on our society.  It damages the lives of millions and costs us billions.  Please oppose the motion, saying no to drugs is a nonsense.  Let’s say yes to a rational drugs policy.

More Misguided Expenditure From The Monkeys At The BBC.

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baby-chimp

The BBC can mount a year-long investigation into the trade in baby chimpanzees and drown us all in heartbreaking, sentimental images for days on end.

But when it comes to the hundreds of thousands of people who live in pain, suffering and disability in the UK, in constant fear of a knock at the door because they use medicinal cannabis, the BBC are just stooges and slaves to government misinformation.

The only time the BBC covers the medicinal cannabis issue is when it’s forced to by proceedings in Parliament or when its promoting the work of cannabis oil scammers and rip off artists as it has done on BBC3 recently.

One properly funded documentary, interviewing patients, scientists, doctors and people involved in the genuine campaign could force our government to change its wicked and cruel policy.  That wouldn’t suit the BBC’s paymasters though would it?   They’re the same people as enforce the evil policy in the first place.

Written by Peter Reynolds

February 2, 2017 at 5:05 pm

The UK Government’s Very Last Excuse For Denying Access To Medicinal Cannabis.

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hop-cannabis-leaf
Essentially, UK government policy on cannabis hasn’t altered since 1971.  Despite the vast amount of new evidence published since then and revolutionary change, particularly on medicinal use, all across the world, successive governments have stubbornly and obstinately refused to consider any sort of reform.

It doesn’t matter which party has been in power, Conservative, Labour or the coalition, it’s a subject that ministers and MPs simply refuse to engage with.  It’s easier that way for them and be in no doubt: laziness, fear of a media backlash and deeply ingrained prejudice are the key factors in this impasse.

Grubby, Corrupt Deal Between Brown And Dacre

Grubby, Corrupt Deal Between Brown And Dacre

We had the downgrade to class C in 2003 and then back up to B in 2009 but this was a turgid and useless effort.  No notice was taken of any evidence arising from this experiment.  It was enacted to enable police to concentrate more on class A drugs and reversed based on Gordon Brown’s ‘Presbyterian conscience’ and a grubby, corrupt deal with Paul Dacre to win the Daily Mail’s political support.  In fact, use went down while cannabis was class C and back up again when it was upgraded but governments have no interest in facts or evidence on this subject, only in political expediency and spinning advantage with the media.

The clamour for medicinal access has increased enormously, just as the evidence for its safety and efficacy has become overwhelming. The UK is now virtually isolated amongst first world countries with a cruel, inhumane and anti-evidence policy which makes us a laughing stock with all who are properly informed. It’s not a laughing matter for the victims though.  For those persecuted by this nasty policy it is tears, pain, suffering, disability – all of which could be alleviated to at least some extent just by a stroke of the Home Secretary’s pen.  It is sickening that all those who have held that office over the last 45 years escape without any shame or opprobrium on their character.

comp-home-secretaries

Home Secretaries Have A Lot To Answer For

CLEAR receives hundreds of letters and emails every year from people who have written to their MP about medicinal cannabis and it is astonishing that unlike almost every other policy, exactly the same words are used by all MPs. They slavishly repeat the Home Office line which is ruthlessly enforced across party lines.

There have been some subtle changes.  The marketing authorisation issued for Sativex in 2010 has led to a minor change in the tired and inaccurate line ‘there is no medicinal value in cannabis’.  It’s now become ‘there is no medicinal value in raw cannabis’.  This is scientifically and factually incorrect.  Pharmacologically, Sativex  and the ‘raw’ plants from which it is made are identical.  It is whole plant cannabis oil and its authorisation by the MHRA as an extract of THC and CBD is fundamentally dishonest.  GW Pharmaceuticals reveals it contains more than 400 molecules, the MHRA says it only contains two and “unspecified impurities”.

More recently, and in the face of an explosion of supportive evidence, another line has been added.  This states that ‘the UK has a well established process for the approval of medicines through the MHRA and that any company wishing to bring a medicinal cannabis product to market should follow this procedure.  In fact, inside sources suggest that the government is very keen to see new cannabis-based medicines approved by the MHRA.  It would take the wind out of the sails of the medical cannabis campaign

This is the very last excuse for denying access to medicinal cannabis. It is nothing but an excuse and one that is misleading and based on deception.  If we can expose how weak, inappropriate and fake it is, the government will have nowhere else to hide.

Firstly, as demonstrated with Sativex, the MHRA process is incapable of dealing with a medicine that contains hundreds of molecules.  It is designed by the pharmaceutical industry for regulating single molecule medicines, usually synthesised in a lab, which have the potential to be highly toxic.  CLEAR rejects the tired, boring theory that ‘Big Pharma’ is engaged in a massive conspiracy to deny access to cannabis and to ‘keep people ill’ so it can continue to sell its products to the NHS. The MHRA isn’t engaged in such malevolent conduct, it’s simply incapable of sativex-with-cannabis-leafproperly evaluating a whole plant extract through its existing methods.

The bright, shining truth of this, that totally demolishes the government’s position, is that in every jusrisdiction throughout the world where medicinal cannabis has been legally regulated, it is through a special system outside pharmaceutical medicines regulation. Every other government that has recognised the enormous benefit that medicinal cannabis offers has come to the same conclusion: cannabis is a special case.  It is far more complex but much, much safer than pharmaceutical products.

Of course, there is also the ludicrous status  of cannabis as a schedule 1 drug, which prevents doctors from prescribing it.  If it was moved to schedule 2, alongside heroin and cocaine, or to schedule 4 alongside Sativex (the logical choice), doctors could be prescribing it tomorrow and high-quality, GMP and EU regulated medicinal cannabis from Bedrocan would be immediately available.

So the MHRA is the final excuse, the last obstacle to a revolution in healthcare in the UK.  We need an ‘Office of Medicinal Cannabis’ as there is in the Netherlands, or ‘Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations’ as administered by Health Canada. Colorado has its ‘Medical Marijuana Registry Program’ and other US states have similar arrangements.  Israel’s Ministry of Health has its ‘Medical Cannabis Unit’.  In Australia, its equivalent of the MHRA, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, has established its own set of medical cannabis regulations.

This is now the most important factor in achieving medical cannabis law reform.  Next time you contact your MP or in any advocacy or campaign work you do, this is where to focus your energy.  Cannabis is a special case, it is not like other medicines.  Once we can open the eyes to this truth the path ahead will be clear.

Written by Peter Reynolds

January 31, 2017 at 11:56 am

The Facts About CBD In The UK. December 2016.

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oil-dropper-green-bg

On 3rd October 2016 the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)  issued notices to a number of CBD suppliers stating that cannabidiol (CBD) was being designated as a medicine and that sale of all CBD products must stop within 28 days, ostensibly by the 1st November.

A lot has happened since.  Most importantly, the Cannabis Trades Association UK (CTAUK) has been established to represent the industry and protect the interests of CBD consumers but there remains great confusion as to the legal status of CBD and whether these products will still be available.  This article sets out the facts and explains how the market is likely to develop. The most important point is that there is no need for panic.  There will be some changes but no one will lose access to CBD for the foreseeable future.

Background

Through the summer of 2016, rumours and half stories had been swirling around about the MHRA taking action on CBD. When the news broke it caused real panic, both for the thousands of people using CBD products and for those working in CBD businesses.  It looked like a real disaster for everyone. On the one hand the government, through the MHRA, was finally recognising the truth that CBD and cannabis are medicine.  On the other, it seemed that the whole industry was going to be shut down, businesses would close, people would lose their jobs and, most importantly, those who rely on CBD products for maintaining their health were going to suffer real harm.  If CBD was going to be regulated as a medicine it would require the investment of hundreds of thousands of pounds to obtain the necessary authorisation to put any products on the market.

It quickly became clear that the MHRA was unprepared for the reaction it received. Its switchboard was swamped by worried callers.  Social media exploded with the inevitable Big Pharma conspiracy theories and even the national press covered the story demonstrating that medicinal cannabis is now an issue of mainstream interest.

ctauk-logoCLEAR took action to rally our friends and colleagues in the legitimate cannabis business and this led to the creation of CTAUK.  The same day the news broke we wrote to the MHRA notifying it of the formation of the trade association and seeking a meeting.

On 13th October, the MHRA issued a statement on its website explaining its actions.

CLEAR’s advisory board members, Professor Mike Barnes issued a statement to the media and Crispin Blunt MP wrote to Dr Ian Hudson, the chief executive of the MHRA.  Even the British Medical Journal covered the story.

On 19th October the MHRA finally confirmed a meeting with the CTAUK to take place on 3rd November.  On 21st October, Dr Ian Hudson replied to Crispin Blunt’s letter.  CTAUK appointed solicitors who in turn obtained counsel’s opinion and on 28th October a solicitor’s letter was sent to the MHRA formally objecting to its action. On 1st November the MHRA updated its statement on its website softening its position by claiming that its notices to CBD suppliers were merely its “opinion” that it should be designated as a medicine.

The meeting took place at MHRA headquarters on 3rd November.  It was cordial and constructive and on 16th November CTAUK wrote to the MHRA formally proposing a system for the regulation of CBD.  Essentially this suggests that CBD products with daily adult dosage of up to 200mg should continue to be marketed as a food supplement.  Products with a daily adult dosage of up to 600mg would require a Traditional Herbal Registration and higher dosage products would require a full Marketing Authorisation.  We await the MHRA’s response.

The MHRA has since written to CBD suppliers requiring them within seven days to provide samples of their products along with various information about them.  However, CTAUK has been able to negotiate that our members have until the end of January to comply.  This is excellent news and demonstrates recognition of the association by the MHRA.

Is CBD Legal In The UK?

Yes, CBD is not a controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, neither is it covered by the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016.  As long as it is marketed as a food supplement without any medicinal claims it is perfectly legal to sell and to buy.

Is The MHRA Going To Ban CBD?

No, the MHRA will have to assess each product on its own merits, particularly taking into account how it is marketed and whether any claims of medicinal benefit have been made.

What Will Happen In the Future?

We hope that the MHRA will accept our proposals for a system of regulation, meaning that only the highest dose products, such as GW Pharma’s soon-to-be- released ‘Epidiolex’ will require a full Marketing Authorisation.  However, even if the MHRA tries to take formal action about any other products, this is going to take many months and probably a much as a year before anything changes.  We remain confident that we will come to an agreement that will enable everyone to continue to access CBD products.