Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘GW Pharmaceuticals

Victoria Atkins MP, The UK Drugs Minister, Opposes Drugs Regulation While Her Husband Grows 45 Acres of Cannabis Under Government Licence.

The UK’s New Princess Of Prohibition: Dishonesty, Hypocrisy, Corruption And Cruelty Behind A Pretty Face.

There are many examples of wilful ignorance, blind prejudice and bare faced dishonesty on drugs policy from many former and current MPs.  There is no one though who plumbs the depths of deception and hypocrisy as the new drugs minister Victoria Atkins.

Her recent performance in the Westminster Hall debate on drug consumption rooms (DCR) was riddled with inaccuracies, distorted information and downright falsehood about the success of such facilities throughout the world.  She simply told brazen untruths in order to support her rejection of the clamour from other MPs to introduce DCRs because they are proven to save lives.  I can do no better than Transform in explaining her behaviour. Its press release sets out her lies in detail.  Ronnie Cowan MP even raised a point of order and then a Home Office question about her scandalous dishonesty but as usual the government just brushed aside any criticism.

Victoria Atkins: Barrister, MP, Home Office Minister, Dishonest And Corrupt To The Core

Ms Atkins is the daughter of Sir Robert Atkins, a former Conservative MP and MEP.  She studied law at Cambridge and was called to the bar at Middle Temple in 1998. She has practised as a barrister and was formerly listed as a member of Red Lion Chambers.  She has been appointed to the Attorney General’s Regulators Panel and the Serious Fraud Office’s List of specialist fraud prosecutors.  She claims to have been involved in the prosecution of major, international, drugs gangs and that this, somehow or another, qualifies her as an expert in drugs policy.

I relate her background because it is clear that she is a highly intelligent, clever and well informed woman.  This makes her dishonesty, hypocrisy and corruption all the more serious and completely inexcusable.

Ms Atkins has replaced Sarah Newton as drugs minister.  Ms Newton didn’t last long, perhaps because she couldn’t stand the ridicule that she was subjected to for trying to hold the line on the government’s ridiculous drugs policy.  When she tried to claim that alcohol isn’t really that damaging compared to illicit drugs, she had MPs either gasping in amazement or chuckling in amusement.  Ms Atkins was clearly spotted for the job because she is one of the few MPs still enthusiastic about prohibition.

Paul Kenward, Victoria Atkins’s husband, grows cannabis under government licence

But of course, it’s specifically on cannabis that I must call Ms Atkins to account. Aside from the usual, hysterical and evidence-free claims that so-called ‘skunk’ cannabis is causing an enormous increase in mental illness, which she trots out repeatedly, she rejects any idea of regulation in drugs policy as a means of reducing harm.  In the drugs policy debate on 18th July 2017 (before she was appointed drugs minister) she said:

“We are talking about gun-toting criminals, who think nothing of shooting each other and the people who carry their drugs for them. What on earth does my hon. Friend think their reaction will be to the idea of drugs being regulated? Does he really think that these awful people are suddenly going to become law-abiding citizens?”

and “I do not share the optimism of others about tackling the problem through regulation.”

Paul Kenward’s Cannabis Greenhouse

However, in what must be the most blatant hypocrisy ever from a government minister, Ms Atkins benefits directly from regulation of drugs.  She is married to Paul Kenward, managing director of British Sugar which is growing 45 acres of cannabis under licence in its mammoth Norfolk greenhouse.  Mr Kenward is producing high CBD cannabis for use in Epidiolex, GW Pharma’s cannabis extract epilepsy medicine.  Ms Atkins has tried to brush this off calling it “…a very different substance (from the) psychoactive version of cannabis.”   Of course, anyone with even the most basic knowledge of plant science will know this is nonsense.  The difference between different strains of cannabis is the same as the difference between different varieties of tomatoes.  Whether they’re Ailsa Craig or Alicante, they’re all tomatoes.

With this latest scandal the shameful truth about UK drugs policy and the corrupt nature of this Conservative government is highlighted once again.  It is difficult to believe this bare faced dishonesty can prevail in a country that was once held up as an example of honour and decency but as with so much that Theresa May has been responsible for since she entered government in 2010, we are disgraced, shamed and the electorate is treated with absolute contempt.

 

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The Facts About CBD In The UK. December 2016.

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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.

Fast Developing News On CBD And Medicinal Cannabis.

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We learned today that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has started issuing letters to CBD suppliers advising them that CBD is being designated as a medicine and that sale of CBD products must stop within 28 days.

This will be alarming news to many people.  However, it is a complex situation which has some positive aspects to it.  In the short term, if you are already using CBD products, you would be well advised to stock up as much as you can afford.

CLEAR has been aware of this possibility for several weeks and consequently we have been working with leading CBD suppliers and licensed producers of both low and high THC cannabis on establishing the UK Cannabis Trade Association (UKCTA).  We are already in correspondence with the MHRA seeking to represent all stakeholders, to establish a consultation process on regulating CBD products and to protect the interests of producers, suppliers and consumers.

lovehemp-oilWhat these MHRA letters mean is that for CBD to be sold in future, suppliers will have to obtain either a ‘marketing authorisation’ or a ‘traditional herbal registration’ from the MHRA.

A marketing authorisation can be fantastically expensive, requiring an initial application fee of £103,000 and full scale clinical trials demonstrating safety and efficacy.

A traditional herbal registration is not as expensive, around £6,000 but relies on the product having been “traditionally used to treat the stated condition for a minimum of 30 years, 15 years of which must have been in the European Union (EU).”  It also requires “scientific evidence relating to the safety, quality and traditional use of the herbal product”. It is far from certain that CBD will qualify for this scheme and in any event registration is only granted if the medicine is used for minor health conditions where medical supervision is not required.

CBD is not a ‘controlled drug’ and is not prohibited but most CBD products are in fact low-THC, whole plant extracts derived from industrial hemp, legally grown under licence.  So yes, they are a legal form of cannabis and, of course, according to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, cannabis has ‘no medicinal value’.  So, you may well ask, how can the MHRA classify it as a medicine?

MHRA Headquarters

MHRA Headquarters

This is just the first of many complications for the MHRA, the Home Office and the government. Potentially, it could be very positive as it could make the government acknowledge the medicinal value of cannabis and, in effect, force the beginning of cannabis regulation.

It has been certain for some time that many of the CBD products presently on the market are unlawful because they contain levels of THC and CBN which exceed the limits stated in the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001. Some CBD suppliers have taken a head in the sand attitude to this, even in some cases foolishly promoting the THC levels in their products. This led to CLEAR removing its  endorsement of one supplier earlier this year and recommending CBD Oils UK instead.

epidiolexThe path ahead is uncertain. The UKCTA is pressing for an urgent meeting with the MHRA. Apart from the advice to consumers to stock up, these will be very worrying times for CBD suppliers and their employees. Another factor is that GW Pharmaceuticals is very close to applying for FDA approval in the USA and an MHRA marketing authorisation for its CBD epilepsy medicine, Epidiolex.

CLEAR, the UKCTA and leading CBD companies are working together to clarify and progress this situation.  We will keep you closely informed of developments.

CLEAR’s Submission To The Parliamentary Inquiry Into Medicinal Cannabis

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This was the response that CLEAR submitted to the APPG in February 2016.  In March 2016, Roland Gyallay-Pap, then managing director of CLEAR and Peter Reynolds, president, were called to give oral evidence to the Inquiry.

A PDF copy of this document may be downloaded here.

A copy of the Powerpoint presentation delivered by CLEAR at the oral evidence hearing can be downloaded here.

 

Introduction

In June 2015 the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform (APPG) published a short report arguing for a rescheduling of cannabis to make it more widely available for medical use. Following the publication of that report there are a number of key questions remaining that it would like to address by means of a Short Inquiry.

CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform has been asked to submit evidence to the Inquiry in answer to these specific questions:

  • Whether switching the medical status of cannabis from schedule 1 to a less restrictive schedule would be beneficial?
  • What do you understand to be the range and extent of unofficial use of cannabis for medical purposes?
  • What has been the impact of the current schedule 1 status on research into the medicinal uses of cannabis?
  • Is there useful evidence emerging from the regulation of cannabis in over 20 US states and elsewhere and what does it tell us about the case for cannabis to be included in the UK pharmacopeia?
  • What would be the implications of licencing cannabis for medicinal use following a change in Schedule?
  • What role could EU regulations play in developing the potential for the medicinal use of cannabis?

We have also added a further response with additional information.

  • Access to prescribed Bedrocan medicinal cannabis is already possible based on careful use of loopholes and errors in existing English law.

 

Whether switching the medical status of cannabis from schedule 1 to a less restrictive schedule would be beneficial?

Yes, we consider that switching cannabis from schedule 1 to a less restrictive schedule would be beneficial, both so that it could be prescribed by doctors as medicine and so that it could more easily be used in research into its use and effects.

Cannabis has been in schedule 1 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations1 (MoDR) since the Misuse of Drugs Act 19712 (MoDA) came into force.  Drugs in schedule 1 are specified as having no medicinal value.  However, an inquiry by the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee published in 19983 recommended that doctors should be permitted to prescribe cannabis and that it should be moved to schedule 2.  Strangely the government’s response to this recommendation was further to tighten restrictions by the Misuse of Drugs (Designation) Order 20014, which designates cannabis under section 7(4) of MoDA so that it is unlawful for a doctor, dentist, veterinary practitioner or veterinary surgeon, acting in his capacity as such, to prescribe, administer, manufacture, compound or supply” it.

In fact, cannabis has already been re-scheduled into schedule 4 under the international non-proprietary name of nabiximols (Sativex)5.  Although this is specified as being an extract of THC and CBD, it is clear from statements by the manufacturing company, GW Pharmaceuticals, that nabiximols is whole plant cannabis.  Dr Geoffrey Guy, founder and chairman of GW, is on the record:

“Most people in our industry said it was impossible to turn cannabis into a prescription medicine. We had to rewrite the rule book. We have the first approval of a plant extract drug in modern history. It has 420 molecules, whereas every other drug has just one.”6

GW pharmaceuticals has confirmed that this quotation is accurate.7

The MHRA has chosen to issue a marketing authorisation8 for nabiximols (Sativex) by regarding it as only a two molecule medicine.  The marketing authorisation is therefore at best inaccurate, at worst dishonest.

 

What do you understand to be the range and extent of unofficial use of cannabis for medical purposes?

In 2011, CLEAR commissioned independent, expert research from the Independent Drug Monitoring Unit (IDMU).  The report, ‘Taxing the UK Cannabis Market’9, reveals there are three million people using cannabis in the UK regularly (at least once per month).  Since then CLEAR has regularly polled its members and followers and consistently one in three of respondents claim at least some part of their use is for medicinal reasons.  It is reasonable to estimate therefore that there are up to one million people using cannabis for medicinal purposes in the UK.  It is certain that there are hundreds of thousands of medicinal users and previous estimates in the region of 30,000 are far too low.

The most common indications for medicinal use declared by our respondents are chronic pain, fibromyalgia, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis and cancer.

Our interpretation of the responses we have received is that generally cannabis is used as a palliative agent.  Some people find it so effective that they consider it to be a ‘cure’ as long as they keep using it.  Others find it extremely helpful in reducing the amount of toxic and/or dangerous pharmaceutical medicines they are prescribed.  Often the side effects of pharmaceutical medicines are severe and debilitating and cannabis offers a way of minimising these.

CLEAR maintains a Medicinal Users Panel10 which members join in order to gain support in lobbying their MPs and/or attempting to obtain prescribed Bedrocan medicinal cannabis.  The active membership of the panel varies between 20 to 80 people.  Panel members have also been involved in delegations to meet government ministers and other parliamentarians

 

What has been the impact of the current schedule 1 status on research into the medicinal uses of cannabis?

In the UK there is very little research into the medicinal uses of cannabis, except that undertaken by GW Pharmaceuticals11.  There has been some research carried out into single cannabinoids but the evidence is that the therapeutic effects of cannabis depend on the whole plant ‘entourage effect’.

The allopathic, reductionist approach to medicine, which is reflected in the way that the MHRA regulates medicines, is the fundamental, establishment  doctrine that impedes research into cannabis.

Sadly, one of the biggest trials of MS patients, the CUPID study at the University of Plymouth12, intended to look at the many anecdotal reports of benefit, used synthetic THC and consequently the results were disappointing and irrelevant to the claims it sought to test.

It is far easier to obtain funding for research into the harms of cannabis which is undertaken with an almost absurd degree of repetition, most notably by the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London (IOPPN).13  It is also worth noting that IOPPN regularly and consistently overstates the results of its research, encouraging the media to report causal effects between cannabis use and mental illness which its research does not support.14

There is a huge stigma around cannabis, largely due to inaccurate, misleading and hysterical press coverage.  For instance, neither of the pre-eminent MS patient groups, the MS Society and the MS Trust, will take a stand in support of patients, despite the fact that many use cannabis. Similarly, despite extraordinary human clinical trial results on Crohn’s disease, none of the Crohn’s patient groups will engage with the campaign.  Mention cannabis and calls are not returned, people are scared by the stigma.  The immediate reaction from all such patient groups is to overlook evidence of benefit and refer to risks to mental health which, in fact, are very low compared to pharmaceutical products.  The press, unchallenged by politicians in its disproportionate attention to these risks, bears a heavy responsibility for this stigma and the lack of research.

Unlike many within the reform movement, CLEAR recognises and values the expertise and achievements of GW Pharmaceuticals.  However, any doctor or scientist that expresses any interest in medicinal cannabis in the UK is immediately retained or contracted by GW. We receive hundreds of reports of doctors, GPs and consultants, who tacitly and sometimes explicitly support their patients’ use of cannabis but it is impossible to find any doctor who is prepared to speak out publicly.  In the few instances where doctors have spoken out on behalf of patients, they have been contacted by Home Office officials and warned. One GP reported that he felt “intimidated”. By contrast, there are tens of thousands of doctors across Europe, Israel and North America who advocate for the use of medicinal cannabis and further research into its applications.

The security and record-keeping requirements for cannabis as a schedule 1 drug15 are wildly disproportionate to the real potential for harm, requiring a high security safe for storage and an audit trail fit for Fort Knox.

In addition the fee for a high THC licence is currently £4700.00 per annum and applications can take more than a year to process. These requirements, delays and corresponding costs severely impede research into medicinal cannabis.

Recently, in response to two government e-petitions, the Home Office issued the following statement:

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.”

We consider this response to be disingenuous and misleading.  Cannabis is  a special case.  It is a combination of hundreds of molecules, unlike other schedule 1 drugs, most of which are single molecules.  Also, as is well established in written and archaeological evidence, cannabis has been used effectively for at least 5,000 years as medicine without any evidence of harm.

Furthermore. ethical approval and funding are difficult largely due to the evidence-free scaremongering about cannabis and the consequential stigma, in which the Home Office plays a leading role.  Ethical approval and funding do not seem to be a problem in researching potential harms of cannabis.  Indeed, as noted above, there is a massive amount of such research even though much of it is repetitive and inconclusive.

Until it is recognised that for many years, under successive governments, the Home Office has been systematically misleading and scaremongering about cannabis, it is difficult to see how an evidence-based decision can be reached.  The Home Office regularly makes assertions about cannabis that are completely without evidential support.  There is an established prejudice  and determination to misinform and this must be tackled at root as it amounts to misconduct and corruption.

 

Is there useful evidence emerging from the regulation of cannabis in over 20 US states and elsewhere and what does it tell us about the case for cannabis to be included in the UK pharmacopeia?

There is a vast amount of peer-reviewed, published evidence of the safety and efficacy of cannabis as medicine.  Much of this arises from research carried out in the USA, the Netherlands and Israel, where medicinal cannabis regulation has been in place for many years.

It is a populist myth, promoted by the Home Office, the press, the BBC and the prohibitionist lobby, that there is no evidence supporting the use of cannabis as medicine.

In February 2015, a delegation of medicinal cannabis users from CLEAR met with George Freeman MP, the life sciences minister, at the Department of Health who is largely responsible for medicines regulation. At the conclusion of the meeting, Mr Freeman requested CLEAR to produce a summary of the available evidence.

The result is the paper ‘Medicinal Cannabis:The Evidence’16 (MCTE) which has received international acclaim, so much so that in association with Centro de Investigaciones del Cannabis (CIC), a Colombian non profit association, a Spanish language version has been published.

MCTE was submitted to George Freeman MP in April 2015.  Since then he has repeatedly refused to meet CLEAR again or respond to us directly, even after multiple requests from individual MPs representing CLEAR members. His only responses, received through third parties, fail to address the evidence at all. He simply refers to the legal status of cannabis, the theoretical availability of Sativex and the MHRA process for issuing marketing authorisations in respect of medicines.

This refusal to engage, acknowledge or properly consider the very large amount of evidence that is available is indicative of an inexplicable prejudice within government. Although conspiracy theories abound, it is difficult to understand why ministers adopt this position.

Cannabis was one of the most used medicines in the British pharmacopeia until only about 100 years ago.  It could be restored immediately by a stroke of the Home Secretary’s pen to remove it from schedule 1.  This would immediately make it possible for doctors to prescribe medicinal cannabis from Bedrocan17, the Netherlands government’s exclusive contractor.

Bedrocan cannabis is carefully regulated by the Netherlands government’s Office of Medicinal Cannabis. It is available in five different THC:CBD ratios.  It is already exported to many countries in Europe and the company has established itself in Canada as well.  It is less than a tenth the cost of Sativex for equivalent cannabinoid content and can be consumed either by a medical vapouriser or as an infusion.

No minister in this or any previous government has ever presented a coherent reason for the refusal to allow cannabis to be used as a medicine.  Their only response is to fall back on largely spurious or exaggerated claims about the harms of recreational use.

 

What would be the implications of licencing cannabis for medicinal use following a change in Schedule?

Cannabis would not need to be ‘licenced’ for medicinal use following a change in schedule.  As soon as it removed from schedule 1, doctors would be able to prescribe it and businesses interested to grow, process and develop cannabis medicines would be able to obtain cultivation/possession licences from the Home Office.

Medicines are no longer ‘licenced’ in the UK.  The MHRA grants marketing authorisations. The initial fee, simply for filling in the application form is £103,000.00, thus prohibiting any but the very largest, established businesses from even considering such a venture.  The very term ‘marketing authorisation’ reveals the mindset of medicines regulators which is now more about commercial interests than the evaluation of the safety and efficacy of medicines.

The MHRA does have a regulatory scheme for ‘Traditional Herbal Registration’ (THR) but it only applies if the medicine is used for minor health conditions where medical supervision is not required.”.  An application for a THR for cannabis could not be made while it remains in schedule 1 but, if granted, would not permit its use for many conditions where there is excellent evidence of its efficacy.

The MHRA is locked in an inflexible, unscientific and restrictive process which can only evaluate medicines which are either one or two molecules.  Its process is designed for synthetic, potentially very dangerous molecules and is entirely unsuitable for a plant based medicine such as cannabis.  This is why, as explained above, Sativex has been improperly regulated as containing only two molecules: THC and CBD.

When the Sativex (nabiximols) patent expires, independent analysis of the medicine would certainly demonstrate that it is whole plant cannabis oil.  Presumably alternative and/or generic versions could then be produced.  However, by any standards, for all parties, the regulation and scheduling of Sativex is inaccurate, if not dishonest, and needs revision.

If cannabis is removed from schedule 1, most appropriately to schedule 4 alongside Sativex, in our judgement there will be a large number of businesses applying for cultivation/possession licences for research which will eventually result in applications for marketing authorisations.  In the meantime, it can only be described as cruel and evidence-free not to permit doctors to prescribe Bedrocan, a safe, effective medicine already regulated by another European government.

It is likely that enabling the prescription of Bedrocan would result in substantial savings to the NHS medicines budget.  However, any idea that this could be quantified based on existing evidence is fanciful.  Certainly, compared to existing prescription medicines and Sativex, Bedrocan is very inexpensive, probably less than 10 euros per patient per day.  However, the complexity of calculating which medicines it could replace by individual, partly or wholly and for how long makes the exercise so hypothetical as to be meaningless.

It must be true that once local, UK-based cultivation of medicinal cannabis was permitted, prices would reduce even further.

 

What role could EU regulations play in developing the potential for the medicinal use of cannabis?

Aside from France and Ireland (which is moving rapidly towards drugs policy reform), every other EU country has a more intelligent, compassionate and evidence-based policy towards medicinal cannabis.  Based on existing policy and its record, the UK government would simply refuse to comply with any EU regulation of medicinal cannabis.

Under the Schengen Acquis (of which UK is a signatory, though not to the full Schengen Agreement), if a medicine is prescribed to a resident of a member state, that resident may travel to other member states with up to three month’s supply under the protection of a Schengen certificate.  The effect of this is that a resident of the Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Italy, etc. can bring prescribed cannabis, likely Bedrocan, into the UK and use it without restriction.

The crucial test here is residency, so it is not possible for a UK resident to travel to another country, obtain a prescription and then return to the UK legally with cannabis.  Presently, a Schengen certificate for a UK resident has to be issued by the Home Office.  Strangely and in contravention of this explicit provision, Norway (Non EU but a signatory to Schengen) does permit its residents to obtain prescriptions, usually in the Netherlands, and return home with cannabis.

It is also likely that given the hostility towards EU regulation, adding cannabis into that debate would be counterproductive.  It would be used as another stick with which to beat the EU.

 

Access to prescribed Bedrocan medicinal cannabis is already possible based on careful use of loopholes and errors in existing English law.

As some members of the APPG are aware, CLEAR has been involved in trying to obtain legal access to prescribed Bedrocan since 2012. We now have approximately a dozen members who regularly receive private prescriptions from their doctors (both consultants and GPs) and travel to the Netherlands to have them dispensed.

In all instances, these individuals have either declared their medicine at customs and/or have made prior arrangements with the Border Force, producing supporting documentation.

This is possible because of errors and inconsistencies in the MoDA and the MoDR.  All English drugs legislation, including the recent Psychoactive Substances Act 2016, is badly drafted, contradictory and scientifically illiterate.

The principle active ingredients of cannabis are delta-9-THC and cannabidiol (CBD).  Bedrocan products are specified with different ratios of these substances.  While cannabis is classified in schedule 1, so is delta-9-THC but it is also in schedule 2 described as dronabinol, which is the international non-proprietary name (INN) for delta-9-THC.  CBD is not a controlled drug.

Therefore, if a doctor is prepared to write a prescription e.g. dronabinol (Bedrocan 22%) or dronabinol (Bediol 7.5%), three month’s supply of the medicine may be legitimately imported as a schedule 2 drug.

In the past four years only one CLEAR member has been frustrated in this.  He had his medicine seized but he was not prosecuted.  An appeal against the seizure failed.

Clearly, the vital factor in this scheme is a doctor who understands the law and the science and is prepared to write the prescription.

 

References

 

1. Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2001/3998/contents/made
2. Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1971/38/contents
3. House of Lords Science and Technology Committee report 1998 http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/ld199798/ldselect/ldsctech/151/15101.htm
4. Misuse of Drugs (Designation) Order 2001 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2001/3997/made
5. Nabiximols (Sativex) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nabiximols
6. Cambridge News, 24th Jan 2012 http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/Cannabis-company-enjoys-major-growth/story-22509041-detail/story.html
7. Email corres with Marc Rogerson, GW Pharma, 160312. Attached.
8. Sativex (nabiximols) marketing authorisation, MHRA , 2010 http://www.mhra.gov.uk/home/groups/par/documents/websiteresources/con084961.pdf
9. Taxing the UK Cannabis Market, IDMU, 2011 http://clear-uk.org/media/uploads/2011/09/TaxUKCan.pdf
10. CLEAR Medicinal Users Panel http://clear-uk.org/pages/medicinal-panel/
11. GW Pharmaceuticals website http://www.gwpharm.com/
12. CUPID study, University of Plymouth, 2015 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25676540
13. Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London website http://www.kcl.ac.uk/ioppn/index.aspx
14. King’s College Confirms Institute of Psychiatry Misled Media On Cannabis Brain Study. CLEAR, 2015 http://clear-uk.org/kings-college-confirms-institute-of-psychiatry-misled-media-on-cannabis-brain-study/
15. Controlled Drugs (Supervision of management and use) Regulations 2013, Dept of Health https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/214915/15-02-2013-controlled-drugs-regulation-information.pdf
16. Medicinal Cannabis: the Evidence, CLEAR, 2015 http://clear-uk.org/static/media/PDFs/medicinal_cannabis_the_evidence.pdf Attached
17. Bedrocan BV website http://www.bedrocan.nl/

 

 

Home Secretary Invites CLEAR To ‘Enter A Dialogue’ On Cannabis Law Reform.

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Rt. Hon. Amber Rudd MP, Secretary of State for the Home Department

Rt. Hon. Amber Rudd MP, Secretary of State for the Home Department

In a letter dated 15th August 2016, Amber Rudd, the new Home Secretary, has invited CLEAR to raise “any queries and concerns” about present UK policy on cannabis. This is the first time since 2006, with Charles Clarke, that the UK cannabis campaign has had any direct contact with a serving Home Secretary.  It reflects the reality, now recognised in government, that changes in cannabis policy are imminent.

In recent months, there has been a manifest and significant change in attitudes within the Home Office.  We have seen this through the process of obtaining a low THC cultivation licence for our partnership with GroGlo Research and Development.  The response from the drugs licensing department has been enthusiastic.  There has been no difficulty with our declared purpose of producing CBD oil for sale as a food supplement and we are now in detailed discussions on our application for a high THC licence, looking towards clinical trials for a medical product for chronic pain.

As soon as Theresa May announced that Amber Rudd would be heading up the Home Office, I contacted my MP, now Sir Oliver Letwin, thanks to Cameron’s resignation honours list.  Although he will not openly support our campaign, in the past year or so he has been very helpful indeed, meeting with me on roughly a monthly basis and helping me navigate through the Conservative government.  He has now put me in direct contact with Ms Rudd and I will be preparing a written submission as a preliminary to a face-to-face meeting.

In accordance with CLEAR policy, our first concern is how we can enable UK residents to gain access to medicinal cannabis on a doctor’s prescription.  In practice that means Bedrocan products as there is presently no other source of prescribable, consistent, high-quality, herbal cannabis.  I would expect that to change very soon though. Both Canada and Israel look like potential near-future sources.  GW Pharmaceuticals is undoubtedly considering entering the market and our venture with GroGlo could shift gear depending on how quickly UK policy changes.

We will also be addressing the need for wider reform and a legally regulated market for adult consumers.  Although medicinal access remains the top priority, there is no doubt that more overall harm is caused by prohibition of the recreational market.  It is this that creates the £6 billon per annum criminal market which is the cause of all the social harms around cannabis.  This will need to be handled much more carefully as, due to nearly a century of misinformation and  media scaremongering, many people still retain great fear as to what legal cannabis will mean.

The one thing that has been very lacking in the cannabis campaign is pragmatism. Most campaigners for recreational use continue to be lost in a swirl of ‘free the weed’, teenage angst, outrage, revolution and delight in being a rebellious outlaw. That was until 2011 when CLEAR introduced a new approach which has led to more engagement with government than ever before.  The emergence of the United Patients Alliance and now the End Our Pain campaign has helped this but these campaigns are focused only on medicinal use

The fact is that we need to work with Theresa May’s government and the anti-Tory tribalism that many still adopt is nothing but an obstacle to reform.

In addressing Ms Rudd, our overall strategy for wider reform will be:

1. A final separation from the ridiculous ‘free the weed’ movement and ‘stoner’ groups which are incapable of understanding how they are seen and despised by wider society.

2. Differentiation between medicinal use and the more controversial legalisation for adult, recreational use.

3. Shift public attention onto scientific and medical evidence rather than the very poor standard of media reporting.

4. End the fake policy that says ‘cannabis is dangerous therefore it must be regulated’.  Educate that nearly all the harms around cannabis are caused by its prohibition, not by cannabis itself.

5. Emphasise the importance of harm reduction information, education about excessive use and essential investment in treatment for those who do suffer health harms.

6. Clarify that decriminalisation is no solution and is a dangerous option that would probably increase harm.  The product needs to be sold within a properly regulated environment, careful that over-regulation would support a continuing criminal market.

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

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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.

 

GW Founder And Chairman, Geoffrey Guy, Explains Sativex.

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“Most people in our industry said it was impossible to turn cannabis into a prescription medicine. We had to rewrite the rule book. We have the first approval of a plant extract drug in modern history. It has 420 molecules, whereas every other drug has just one.”

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Written by Peter Reynolds

February 14, 2016 at 12:27 pm