Posts Tagged ‘CBD’
If the Government Won’t Regulate Cannabis Then We’ll Do It For Them
The CBD Market
Educating And Influencing Researchers
For cannabis and drugs policy reform, out of 650 MPs, there could not have been a worse person to seize power than Theresa May. There are a few who come close on both Tory and Labour benches but no one who has such a long record of bigotry, denial of evidence and refusal even to consider the subject.
To be fair, I am a member of the Conservative Party, which to many people involved in the cannabis campaign is a mortal sin but my advocacy is based on science and evidence, not tribalism or wider politics. In any case, though many find this fact hard to accept, there has always been more support from Tory MPs than Labour. Highly influential and senior Tory MPs such as Crispin Blunt, Peter Lilley and Dr Dan Poulter are powerful advocates for reform. I firmly believe that the only sustainable route to legalisation is commercialisation and the left wing, nanny state, anti-business types are already pushing the ‘Big Cannabis’ scare stories.
So what can we do and what are we doing to advance our cause in these dark days? Theresa May always has been secretive, inaccessible, unresponsive and entirely disinterested in any opinion except her own. How can we possibly make any progress with a PM who has already shown she is prepared to cover up or falsify evidence and defines herself by her belief in a supernatural power?
There is more support for cannabis law reform in Parliament than ever before. It is now official policy of both the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party. The support from Scotland is far more valuable than that from the discredited LibDems. With the added factors of Brexit and Scottish Independence, the SNP is in a powerful position to advance its policies. Also, in Ireland, both north and south, public support for medical cannabis reform is exploding. Michelle O’Neill, SinnFein’s new leader, has pledged medical cannabis reform if she is re-elected (though she has no power to do so!). Her negotiating position is immensely strong now that the problems at Stormont, the rise of Sinn Fein and the Brexit factor all combine to make a united Ireland a real possibility.
During the coalition government from 2010 to 2015, few doors were closed to us. Over that period, CLEAR conducted more meetings with ministers and senior politicians than the entire UK campaign had achieved in 50 years. Because we had support from the LibDems, and introductions from the Deputy Prime Minister, even Tory ministers were ready to see us, even if they were merely paying lip service. That all stopped with the election of a majority Conservative government and after Cameron stepped down the doors were slammed in our faces, bolted and double-locked. The campaign has been in the doldrums ever since. Or has it?
The last major achievement of the last few year’s campaigning was the release of the APPG report on medical cannabis in September 2016. Alongside it, Professor Mike Barnes, CLEAR advisory board member, published his review ‘Cannabis: The Evidence for Medical Use‘. To all impartial and reasonable observers, these documents should have initiated positive government action towards reform, even if it was only very limited in scope. But no, Theresa May didn’t leave it to Amber Rudd, her successor as home secretary, she stepped straight in herself on the day of publication, before she could even have read it and dismissed the report out of hand. This echoes the apocryphal story of James Callaghan, then PM, throwing the 1969 Wooton Report in the bin without even opening it. Such is the inertia and prejudice that has not softened at all amongst the bigots despite 45 years of science and research proving that there are better, safer, more beneficial options available on cannabis.
For now, individual lobbying of MPs is our only route to power. Over the years we have refined our approach to this and we know what works. Getting into ping pong correspondence with an MP is a waste of time. An initial letter or email needs to be followed up with a face-to-face meeting and a determined focus on getting a tangible result. What sort of result you should look for depends on your circumstances but getting your MP to arrange a meeting with a government minister should be your goal.
If you’re a medical user then you’ll want to meet a health minister, preferably the Secretary of State, if not a junior minister or perhaps an advisor to the Department of Health. Work with your MP to achieve the best result you can. Your MP doesn’t necessarily have to agree with you about cannabis but they should facilitate your communication with government, that’s their job. If you’re more interested in the economic or social benefits to be gained from reform, you could ask for an introduction to the Chancellor, a treasury or business minister, or someone at the Cabinet Office who is involved in policy development. CLEAR can usually provide someone to accompany you on meetings but this must be arranged in advance and agreed with your MP or whoever your appointment is with. Alternatively, we can provide advice over the telephone on how to approach the meeting, what to ask for and what evidence or supporting material to take with you.
If the Government Won’t Regulate Cannabis Then We’ll Do It For Them
With an intransigent government that does it all it can to evade engagement on this issue, there is more that CLEAR is already doing. If the government won’t take responsibility and regulate cannabis, then step by step we are going to do it for them. Someone has to, there is far too much harm and suffering caused by present policy.
The CBD Market
Through 2016 the CBD market in the UK really began to take off. These are products derived from industrial hemp, grown legally under licence that offer many of the therapeutic benefits of cannabis. They should, in fact, be more accurately termed low-THC cannabis as apart from crystals and a few, rare examples of isolated CBD, they are whole plant extracts and contain all the cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and other compounds found in the plants from which they are made. Therefore they offer many of the ‘entourage effect’ benefits but with very low levels of THC. It was obvious though that this market was heading for problems. More and more dubious suppliers were starting up, many making brazen claims for the medical effects and benefits of their products and many without any product testing, quality assurance or honest customer service. The law was then and always has been crystal clear, you cannot make medical claims for a product without it being properly licensed or regulated. Inevitably, in June 2016 the MHRA stepped in and sent threatening letters to a number of CBD suppliers.
CLEAR took the initiative. We wrote to the MHRA requesting a meeting. We engaged with the leading CBD suppliers and our advisory board members Professor Mike Barnes and Crispin Blunt MP were quickly on the case. The story has already been extensively reported but now, nearly a year on, our efforts are coming to fruition. We led the approach to the MHRA and in the process created what is now the Cannabis Trades Association UK (CTAUK). It is now recognised by the MHRA, it has established a code of conduct and it is now the gold standard of quality, ethics and legality that can give anyone buying CBD products real peace of mind. There are still cowboys out there, making false claims, selling products that offer no real benefit and even endangering their customers with products that are illegal under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 or the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016. Now though, customers can go to the CTAUK website and choose a supplier that is operating legally, ethically and within the regulations that the industry itself has established. We expect the MHRA very shortly formally to endorse CTAUK members as legitimate suppliers of CBD products as food supplements.
Neither can we accept the government’s irresponsible and cruel policy towards people who need cannabis as medicine. So CLEAR has taken a further initiative. After Theresa May’s dismissal of the APPG report, we approached the Royal Colleges of medicine. We pointed out that whatever the government might say, around one million people are using cannabis as medicine. Doctors have a duty and an ethical responsibility to educate themselves on the subject and be able to provide properly informed care to their patients. Our efforts have borne fruit. Professor Mike Barnes and I have worked with Professor Nigel Mathers of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP). We will be producing a draft set of guidelines on medicinal cannabis for GPs which will go the next meeting of the RCGP Council and is planned for publication in June 2017. If the government won’t do it, we will and the medical profession agrees with us. This will be the greatest practical advance ever made in medical cannabis in the UK.
Educating And Influencing Researchers
The UK is the most prolific source of research into the harms of cannabis, particularly the tenuous links between cannabis and psychosis. Despite dozens of studies, mainly from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College Hospital, this has never been shown to be any more than statistical correlation. Most of these studies are confounded by tobacco use but the latest work from Professor Sir Robin Murray and his team shows an even stronger correlation between tobacco and psychosis than cannabis.
Across the world, UK scientists have become notorious for this scaremongering which seems little different from the ‘reefer madness’ hysteria. To be fair, much of this is down to the UK media which has barely advanced since the 1930s in its reporting. It provides the environment in which researchers are able to gain funding for research into cannabis harms but hardly ever for cannabis benefits.
CLEAR is now working with the Institute of Psychiatry to develop a new and more balanced way of surveying the effects of cannabis. Dr Musa Sami has asked us to advise on the construction of a questionnaire on which the Institute will base its future work.
Any CBD products marketed in the UK as derived from ‘indica’ cannabis are illegal and you could be prosecuted for possession, importation or supply as with any other form of prohibited cannabis.
The situation which started last October with the MHRA trying to shut down marketing of CBD products arose because of irresponsible, cowboy companies making medicinal claims about their products. It was well understood by all professional CBD companies that this would cause problems and indeed it has. Only the intervention of CLEAR and the formation of the Cannabis Trades Association UK has saved the market from collapse.
We are deeply concerned to see that at least one company is now advertising some CBD products as derived from indica cannabis grown in the Netherlands. This is unlawful. The only cannabis strains that may be grown as industrial hemp and therefore used to produce exempt products are on the EU approved list. There are no indica strains.
You have been warned. Please do not endanger yourself.
Capone Stanley Reynolds, to give him his full name, has been my faithful, handsome and sweet-natured companion since 2007. He really is a lovely dog, a strong silent type, very self-contained, gentle, calm and, I believe, wise.
Sadly, he developed epilepsy around the age of five and a couple of years later was struck with severe arthritis which means for the last three years or so he hasn’t been able to walk with me as he used to. However, regular use of CBD oil has transformed his life and I think we will have several more years together before he goes to that neverending walk in the sky where he will be able to run and play as he did when he was younger.
He’s a cross between a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and a German Shorthaired Pointer – which is where he gets his gorgeous coat from, a mottled mixture of grey, black, white and a few touches of orange. I believe that, apart from his siblings, he is unique and he attracts a great deal of attention. People say he looks like a leopard and several times I have been offered large sums of money for him.
We have walked hundreds of miles together. He first came to live with me when I lived in Emsworth, Hampshire. We learned the pleasure of walking together around Chichester Harbour and I had an article about our adventures published in Country Walking magazine.
I had once before, in the late 70s, seen someone fall down on a zebra crossing while having an epileptic fit. Nothing prepares you though for when someone you love first endures a seizure. It is frightening and deeply distressing. I can only despair at what it must be like for a parent whose small child suffers so.
Quickly though, you become used to it. You have to, for your own sake and so that you can look after the one who is fitting. In fact, there’s not a lot you can do, except protect them from hurting themselves while thrashing about. Every seizure is different but for Capone they all start with the most intense rigidity, arched back, teeth clenched and violent shaking. Then, after a minute or so, he will appear to relax and his legs will start a frantic bicycling motion while he froths at the mouth and usually loses control of his bladder, weeing everywhere. Occasionally he will go back into the rigid phase but at some point, usually within three or four minutes, he will jump slightly as if he’s just woken up – and indeed he has. Then he wants to stand up, although he doesn’t have proper control of his legs and he will fall over or walk into the wall or furniture. For up to an hour afterwards he will be wide-eyed, panting crazily and usually ravenously hungry. Gradually he calms down, until at last he sleeps, exhausted.
Capone’s seizures come in clusters over a 36 to 48 hour period. To begin with it was about every three hours, so it’s utterly draining, all through the night, never more than an hour or two’s sleep before the next one starts. When at last it comes to an end, it takes three or four days for him to recover. It’s almost like he’s had a stroke and he seems stupid, off balance and doesn’t really seem to know where he is. Thankfully, he always has recovered, right back to normal again and a week later it’s all forgotten.
I can’t remember the exact sequence of events now but it was around this time that the story of Charlotte Figi became known, the remarkable effect of CBD oil on this small child with Dravet’s Syndrome, a severe form of paediatric epilepsy. It wasn’t long before I decided to try Capone on CBD.
His arthritis had also dramatically worsened by now. We went from walking five miles every day to the point where it was taking the same amount of time for him just to walk half a mile or so. Both I and my other dog, Carla, were frustrated and suffering from a lack of exercise. Eventually I had to make the heartbreaking decision to leave him at home and just Carla and I would go for a walk. With a lack of exercise he began to put on weight and it became a vicious circle. About three years ago it had reached the stage where he couldn’t walk more than about 20 yards and I feared I would have to make the toughest decision of all. In this state, when a cluster of seizures came along, he truly was a pathetic sight, my wonderful, beautiful dog and friend in so much distress and pain.
I tried various CBD products. I didn’t really know what I was doing and they didn’t seem to have much impact. But then, nothing did. The best the vet could offer was rectal tubes of diazepam, like a small toothpaste tube with a nozzle that you stick up his bum and squeeze. They had no impact at all. I have given him 30mg of diazepam while he was fitting (enough to lay me flat out for 24 hours) and it’s made absolutely no difference. But then neither did CBD. There was none of this immediate effect like you see on the many YouTube videos of children being dosed with CBD oil.
Gradually though the frequency and intensity of his seizures started to diminish. I had settled on using PlusCBD Gold oil. Two grams of this dissolved in olive or hempseed oil contains about 500mg of CBD and that would last for a month or so, giving him a dropper full every morning with his breakfast.
He was walking better. On a good day he could now manage a couple of hundred yards. In the summer he was able to do his very favourite thing and walk up the garden into full, unshaded sunlight and spend most of the day there sleeping on the lawn. The seizures seemed to have stopped.
Then, perhaps a year ago, I quadrupled his dose. I now use LoveHemp 20% oil which provides a full 2000mg of CBD. I dissolve this in olive or hempseed oil in a 50ml dropper bottle and he continues to get one dropper full every day.
In the past two years, Capone has had just one cluster of seizures. It took place over the same period but there were far fewer fits of much less intensity, perhaps seven or eight over 48 hours. He can walk a few hundred yards now. He’ll never be the vigorous, fast-running dog he once was but occasionally I take him for a slow walk now for half an hour or so. If he sees another dog he gets excited and gets up a rather ungainly and clumsy turn of pace – but it’s almost a run and he’s still Capone and I treasure every minute that we have together. CBD oil, or as it should be more accurately termed, low-THC whole plant cannabis extract, has saved his life.
This statement was published on the MHRA website at lunchtime today.
“Update 1 November 2016
An MHRA spokesperson said:
While MHRA has given its opinion that products containing cannabidiol (CBD) used for medical purposes are medicines, we have also carefully considered the needs of individuals using CBD products to treat or manage the symptoms of medical conditions.
Our primary concern is patient safety. In order to ensure that products remain available until individuals have the opportunity to discuss their treatment with their doctor, companies now have until 31 December 2016 to voluntarily operate within the law, by withdrawing their existing products from the market, or working with MHRA to satisfy the legal requirements of the Human Medicines Regulations 2012.
We have today written to the manufacturers of CBD to make them aware of the timeline for engagement.
It is vital that medicines meet safety, quality and efficacy standards to protect public health.”
Originally the MHRA wrote to CBD suppliers in threatening terms:
“You must cease to sell, supply, promote, advertise or process orders for the above products until appropriate authorisation has been granted for them. You must confirm this in writing within 28 days from the date of this letter that you have taken the above steps.”
So quite a change in tone. The MHRA seems to have recognised that contrary to its declared mission ‘to improve health’, its original statement actually endangered the health of tens of thousands of people.
Additionally, solicitors representing the UKCTA have now written to the MHRA seeking clarification of its intentions and making three crucial points:
- The letters to CBD suppliers and the MHRA’s original press statement have caused serious financial damage to the CBD industry.
- The MHRA has conducted no effective consultation with stakeholders.
- The MHRA’s own guidelines require it to consider each product on a case by case basis and a blanket ban on products containing CBD would be unlawful.
Professor Mike Barnes, scientific and medical advisor to CLEAR, commented:
“The MHRA’s new stance is an improvement from their previous position. However, I cannot see any value in delaying only a few months. Some patients might be able to find an alternative medicine from their doctor but many people will have already tried alternative medications and found that CBD is the only satisfactory treatment for their condition. This is the case, for example, for children with epilepsy who will have almost certainly have been under the care of a specialist and tried available anticonvulsants and found that CBD is the only treatment that works for them. The MHRA does not seem to realise the impact of this arbitrary and rushed decision which will clearly be detrimental and potentially have very serious (and in some cases life threatening) implications for some people. The MHRA need to work with the manufacturers and the medical profession to determine the best way forward that both recognises that cannabis based products have medicinal value, and as such need proper trials of efficacy and safety, yet on the other hand does not place existing users at risk of harm”.
After all the speculation, many misleading and false reports and a plethora of attempts to interpret the MHRA’s actions concerning cannabidiol (CBD), this week the chips are down.
On Thursday 3rd November, at MHRA headquarters in Victoria, six representatives of the UK Cannabis Trade Association (UKCTA) will sit down with those responsible for the agency’s statements on CBD. We will be armed with counsel’s opinion on the legality of the MHRA’s action but most importantly we hope to secure clarification for those who rely on CBD as a food supplement. We will publish details of the outcome of the meeting as soon as we can.
Those attending as UKCTA representatives are:
Anthony Cohen, Elixinol UK
Mike Harlington, GroGlo Horticultural Research & Development
Peter Reynolds, CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform
Tom Rowland, CBD Oils UK
Karl Spratt, Hempire
Tom Whettem, Canabidol