Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Don’t Believe a Word the FSA Says About CBD.

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It’s reported in The Times and the Daily Mail today that many CBD products must be withdrawn from sale because of ‘safety concerns’. This follows a week of slavish repetition in the media of the FSA’s line that its publication of a list of 3,500 products that ‘might’ be authorised in the future is a “milestone” for the industry.

To be more accurate, it’s the line it’s devised in conjunction with the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI), the most recently formed trade association in the sector which, although repesenting only about 20 of the hundreds of CBD companies, now has privileged access and preferential treatment with the FSA. There is no doubt that the relationship between the two is improper and possibly corrupt. Dishonesty, deceit and underhand behaviour have been in play for at least the past year in order to give ACI and its members a commercial advantage and help the FSA create, on the basis of zero credible evidence, a massively expensive system that benefits no one else except its bureaucracy, least of all consumers.

This is nothing to do with safety. There are no reports from anywhere in the world at any time of anyone coming to any harm from CBD products.

The safety scare is entirely invented by the FSA in order to build its massive new, wholly unnecessary bureaucracy. They have been supported and encouraged by the ACI, most of its members dealing primarily in nasty, ineffective isolate products, not the ‘whole plant’ products which millions of people have found great benefit from.

CBD isolate needs to be taken at doses at least 10 times greater than whole plant products, doesn’t work anywhere near as well and because of the huge doses often causes stomach upsets.

This is a classic case of big business using financial muscle and influence to get the regulator to apply misguided, massively expensive over-regulation which squeezes out the smaller suppliers and bloats the bureaucracy.

It’s corrupt and the people who are harmed by it are consumers.

What was a fantastic British success story is being destroyed by vested interests squashing the small businesses that created the market.

The CBD market does need better regulation and the two longstanding trade associations, the Cannabis Trades Association (CTA) and CannaPro, had implemented very effective self-regulation of their members. What that needed to work was for the two regulators concerned, the FSA and the MHRA, to crack down on the unregulated end of the market but they both failed dismally to fulfil their responsibilities. The MHRA simply washed its hands of its duty to enforce the Human Medicines Regulations 2012, which meant widespread, unlawful claims of medical benefit from cowboy traders. The FSA spurned all the work that CTA and CannaPro had done with it over the previous five years and formed its unlawful relationship with the multimillionaire backers of ACI.

There are just two issues which need addressing in regulating CBD products: what the products contain and how they are marketed. This is the effective and inexpensive approach that CTA and CannaPro were taking and is explained in detail in this article published a year ago: The FSA’s Intervention in the CBD Market is a Farce. Here’s the Clear and Simple Solution.

The effect of the FSA’s action has already been to destroy many small businesses and hundreds of jobs. What lies ahead is a two-tier market: the FSA/ACI ‘authorised products’ which will be ineffective, isolate-based and available in high street chains; and ‘real’ whole plant CBD products, which are what work and what consumers want, operating in a black market, either online or through independent retailers.

Don’t buy CBD isolate products. You will be wasting your money.

Update on the Food Standards Agency’s CBD Fiasco

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At midday today the FSA will publish a ‘public list’ of 3500 CBD products on its website.

What does it mean? What are the products? Does this mean they are legally allowed to be on sale?

These and many other questions come to mind, as a result of which I arranged an online meeting this morning with Paul Tossell, Team Leader on Novel Foods with the FSA.

I only became aware of today’s announcement because I heard from a journalist friend that there was an advance media briefing yesterday. You may well ask and I certainly did, why were the media being briefed before the industry? My roles in CLEAR, CannaPro, the Cannabis Industry Council (CIC) and my past role in the Cannabis Trades Association (CTA) mean that I am well established, along with others, as a stakeholder. Yet, neither I nor anyone else in any of the trade bodies have been contacted by the FSA – except that is, of course, the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI) and its sister organisation, the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC). That is no surprise at all to anyone who knows the history of the FSA’s blunder into the CBD market. It has an improper relationship with ACI/CMC and the three of them have conspired together to create an absurd bureaucracy of vastly expensive but wholly unnecessary regulations which no doubt give preferential status to the few, large companies, mostly in the CBD isolate business, which are associated with ACI/CMC.

My meeting with Paul Tossell followed exactly the same format as all the other meetings I have had with him and his colleagues over the past years. It was a monologue. I couldn’t get a word in edgeways and all Tossell was interested in was very long, very turgid, pointless explanations of the FSA’s process. He wouldn’t answer any of my questions properly.

This is what I have learned.

None of the 3500 products on the list are ‘legal’ in the FSA’s terms and Trading Standards may remove and confiscate any of them at any time. All 3500 are the result of just five novel foods applications which have been ‘validated’ and 65 applications which have not yet been ‘validated’ but look like they are ‘work in progress’ towards providing the information necessary for validation.

Apparently the purpose of the list is to help Trading Standards set its priorities for enforcement. So if a product isn’t on the list it stands no chance of ever being officially ‘legal’. In fact, as has been obvious all along and as I now have from a source right at the top of Trading Standards, it doesn’t have the resources or the intention of going after CBD products. It has far more important things to do, such as going after products which genuinely are dangerous.

As anyone who knows me will confirm, I am no shy and retiring type but I had to be extremely forceful and insistent to try and get a couple of key questions to Tossell, neither of which were answered.

Firstly, what is the basis for this intervention, what evidence do you have that these products can be harmful? This was dismissed as “You’ve got it the wrong way round.” He’d already said that “Consumers need to know the product is safe, that’s the whole point of this.” I couldn’t get any answer and of course the truth is there is no evidence of any danger, or of anyone ever coming to any harm. All Tossell can do is repeatedly refer back to his bureaucratic process which is entirely for its own sake and has no substantive purpose.

My second question was that the scope of novel foods was originally defined by the FSA as being about products that are selective extracts from cannabis. As I’ve been asking for years, what about genuine whole plant extracts which are non-selective extracts? Back came the same old non-answer, side-stepping the question and referring to cold pressed products. When I pressed him that other methods of extraction could be non-selective, he simply denied this and refused to discuss it any further, saying it had been “settled” two years ago.

Novel food applications which have been ‘validated’ will still need to go through further processes. Risk assessment where an independent scientific body will give an opinion. Then risk management where any necessary actions will be determined and finally, extraordinarily, every single product which is to be determined as ‘legal’ will have to be named in a Statutory Instrument which will have to be passed into law by Parliament.

The absurdity and pointlessness of all this is beyond doubt but it is more serious than that. The only evidence on which the FSA’s concern for any harm is based is experiments on rats by GW Pharmaceuticals with its CBD isolate medicine, Epidiolex, administered at doses hundreds or thousands of times the equivalent in humans. And the conflict of interest is obvious. I am no enemy of GW, on the contrary I admire the company and its work but it has the only licensed CBD medicine and its interest would be to restrict access to non-licensed products.

Also, it is my honest opinion that the relationship between the FSA and ACI/CMC is corrupt. Dishonesty, deceit and obfusaction are being used for the purposes of gain, both in a commercial sense and for the sake of bureaucratic power.

All that the FSA’s intervention in the CBD market will achieve, aside from the enormous damage to businesses and jobs, is to promote the black market. For consumers the situation is only going to get worse. They will have the choice of ‘legal’ but useless, ineffective, isolate-based products or the wild west of totally unregulated products, some of which are the ‘real thing’ but many of which are produced and marketed by cowboys.

I set out a year ago the two very simple steps which, taken together, will completely solve the regulatory requirements for the CBD market.

The FSA’s actions are without any real purpose. The novel foods regulations are solely for their own sake and establish a pointless bureaucratic process at huge expense which will only make things worse for consumers.

Written by Peter Reynolds

March 31, 2022 at 11:50 am

Still ‘Insufficient Evidence’ for the NHS to Fund Medicinal Cannabis – or What’s it Really About?

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The laboratory evidence for medicinal cannabis is through the roof in proof of efficacy and safety. The observational clinical evidence is also conclusive.

The evidence that is ‘lacking’ is that which fits in with the medical establishment’s well-established formula for making senior clinicians rich. The same doctors that write the guidelines are the ones who earn the very fat fees for running clinical trials and decide which evidence is valid and which isn’t. When the Royal Colleges and the professional medical bodies have worked out a way to get cannabis under their control, suddenly all the evidence will be OK. Then the committees and advisory boards that these same doctors sit on will turn on the NHS funding tap.

Until then, doctors are frightened of cannabis. A medicine that works, that is safer than virtually all the pills you can buy over-the-counter and has powerful, beneficial effects for a very wide range of conditions is a real threat to vested interests and doctors’ status. It shakes their world and so they are eager to disparage it, exaggerate its risks and diminish its efficacy.

Only when the medical establishment understands how its pre-eminence is going to be maintained, knows where fees and prestige are coming from, then cannabis will be ‘discovered’ by the NHS and all the benefits to patients and in reduced costs will follow.

Written by Peter Reynolds

March 27, 2022 at 10:21 am

We Trusted Our Leaders Never to Permit Another Holocaust.

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We relaxed really, complacent, appalled at the past but confident that we as civilised people would never allow a tyrant to commit genocide, cause suffering on such a scale.  But that is exactly what Putin is doing in Ukraine.

The truth is our leaders are weak, indecisive and cowardly.  There is no leadership, merely reaction to opinion polls, focus groups and newspaper headlines.  None of them has the mettle that is required.  All of them will evade any courageous decision and any action they do take will be because they have been forced into it.

This is the perfect scenario for a bully and despot like Putin but we have already seen that the courage of the people of Ukraine is beating him back.  Were it not for the sheer quantity of soldiers and firepower that he has, he would already be defeated and probably disappeared to Siberia.

I believe the people of Europe, Britain and the EU countries are courageous like the Ukrainians, far more courageous than our leaders.

The only way to deal with a bully is to stand up to him, exactly as the Ukrainians are demonstrating.  We have submitted to Putin in Syria. We have appeased him over Crimea. We have stood back and watched him flatten Mariupol and now start the forced deportation of refugees – perhaps to slave labour or extermination camps?

We must stop him. Supplying arms and aid to Ukraine is helping to hold him back and he is running out of resources to run his war.  He is being backed into a corner, so we are creating the same peril as if we were fully engaged in the war.  He could easily unleash chemical, biological or nuclear weapons without any further reason.

I believe we have the capability from US and British warships in the Black Sea to impose a no-fly zone instantly and to launch devastating cruise missiles and air strikes at his key frontline units and supply lines.

My view is we should also have special forces engaged on assassination missions, multiple teams, each trying different routes and methods to locate and kill him.  This is the ethical choice, rather than military action that inevitably kills civilians.  The US, Britain and France have the military capability for this and now is the time to act.

We must not cower in fear, for if we do continue to permit these crimes against humanity then we become complicit in them.  I and I believe the majority of European people have the courage to act now and face him down.  If we do not, we may not get another chance.

Written by Peter Reynolds

March 24, 2022 at 6:13 pm

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Home Affairs Committee Inquiry into Drugs. Evidence Doesn’t Work with Politicians, Will Common Sense?

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I am unable to share my detailed response to the inquiry until it has formally accepted and published it. However, this introduction explains the basis of my submission.

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I am the president of CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform, the longest established and largest membership-based cannabis policy group in the UK, founded in 1999 with more than 600,000 followers. We represent people who support cannabis law reform, not all but most are also cannabis consumers. We are committed to a responsible, science and evidence-based approach.

I have participated in the cannabis law reform campaign for over 40 years. For over 30 years I have worked professionally in healthcare and medicine and for the past 10 years in the legal cannabis and cannabinoid industry.

The committee’s first inquiry into drugs was in 1983. I submitted evidence then at the tender age of 26 and to every inquiry since up to this year’s at the age of 64.

What stands out in all these inquiries is the overwhelming weight of evidence and opinion in favour of radical reform.  Yet despite this, apart from the legalisation of access to prescribed medicinal cannabis in 2018, no progress has been made.  On the contrary, politicians continue to prefer to posture as ‘tough on drugs’ rather than follow evidence or public opinion.

There is no doubt of the failure of current policy, yet both major parties continue to stick rigidly to prohibition. This despite the highest ever level of drug deaths, the de facto decriminalisation of cannabis by police and widespread contempt for our drug laws demonstrated by colossal consumption, particularly of cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy (MDMA) by people of all ages and social backgrounds.

There is also no doubt of the cost of this failed policy, estimated to be in the region of £20 billion per annum, and that it drives crime, violence, gangsterism and the breakdown of cohesion in society.  One of the common misconceptions, which ministers dishonestly promote, is that it is drugs that drive these problems when in fact it is almost always policy that is the cause. Present policy directly supports and encourages organised crime.

What will it take for politicians to grasp this nettle?

Clearly, erudite submissions of evidence and logical argument do not work, however well qualified or experienced the source. Despite many politicians’ admissions of drug use, once in office they choose to continue with policies that, had they been caught with illegal drugs, would probably disqualify them from the jobs they now hold. Frequently, when they leave office they suddenly reverse their position and support reform. This brazen hypocrisy causes great damage to our society and contributes to widespread contempt for our political system.

So, in this submission, I address the issues concerned with common sense. For instance, specifically on cannabis, it is easily possible to find scientific evidence either maximising its dangers or minimising them. In the UK, mainly due to research at the Institute of Psychiatry, we have a particularly extreme point of view on its likelihood to cause mental illness but this is unique in the world. Most other countries take a far more balanced approach and the media is not as hysterical about these potential harms.  It is possible to swap studies ad infinitum and nothing is achieved by this. Instead, I propose the common sense that since the 1960s the number of cannabis consumers has risen from about zero to about 3 million, yet there is no correlation at all with the rate of diagnosed mental illness which is steady or declining.

The fantastic statistical projections from the Institute of Psychiatry, using the most esoteric mathematical formulae, drive fear about cannabis but they simply do not match the real word experience of the millions of people who regularly consume the drug.  It is this sort of mismatch that paralyses our ability to reach a consensus. This is why I believe that far more weight needs to be given to common sense.

Drug use is a normal part of life for most people. The distinction between drugs which are legally permitted, alcohol and tobacco, and drugs which are banned is, in itself, extremely harmful. Alcohol and tobacco are two of the most harmful drugs, much more harmful than many drugs that are banned. It is common sense that the law should guide people accurately, not mislead them as at present.

Written by Peter Reynolds

March 24, 2022 at 1:55 pm

Putin’s War. He has to be Stopped Now. Delaying Will Make it More Difficult.

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M

Ukrainian soldiers trying to save the father of a family of four — the only one at that moment who still had a pulse — moments after being hit by a mortar while trying to flee Irpin, near Kyiv, on Sunday. Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

Written by Peter Reynolds

March 6, 2022 at 7:46 pm

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Assassination Is the Ethical Option.

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I am for assassination of Putin and key Russian government and military officers.

sniper4 rifleThis is the option that minimises casualties and puts most risk on professionals who have chosen their role.  Special forces would welcome this task. They may bear heavy casualties before they succeed but they are volunteers and it is better than the death of civilians, particularly children. Multiple small teams infiltrating by helicopter, HALO parachute jump and every possible route equipped with our most sophisticated weaponry.  Many will die but only one needs to succeed.

It’s what we should have done with Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi, Netanyahu and Assad.  In any circumstances, if there is justification for action that may result in civilian casualties, there is better justification for assassination.  It’s the ethical option.

Written by Peter Reynolds

February 26, 2022 at 8:15 pm

Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelenskyy

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The leader of a proud, free nation. A beacon of hope, strength, and freedom. A President willing to die for his people rather than cower to an autocrat. Centuries from now, statues of this man will stand across Ukraine remembering his leadership.

Written by Peter Reynolds

February 26, 2022 at 2:41 pm

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Regardless of any Police Inquiry, the Corrupt Nature of Parliament has at last been Exposed

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It’s up to the Speaker to act. This arcane old boys club must be brought into the 21st Century and the dishonest, secretive nature of political parties and the whipping system abandoned for ever.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle’s biggest problem is that the status quo suits the Conservative and Labour Parties very well. Although they may seem to be opposed to each other, the reality is that they act in unison to shore up this system which keeps power ebbing and flowing between them and the last people they are concerned about are voters.

The UK’s democracy is unfit for purpose. It should be producing governments that are genuinely representative of the whole country. Even though one manifesto or set of proposals may win an election, a modern democracy cannot be ruled by tyranny of the majority. Governnment must act in the best interests of all.

It’s inevitable that any such reforms will also have to examine our first-past-the-post election system. Again, this has served the two main parties well and they will resist any change. Indeed they will in unison to sabotage any progress as they have in the past. That is why these decisions cannot be trusted to MPs. We need to find a democratic method that will achieve a fair result. The idea that comes to mind is a Citizens Assembly and/or a series of referenda held by a modern, digital system that will produce accurate results quickly.

At every stage the old guard will try to wrest back control, so there is no point making the assembly or referenda advisory. They must be decisive and no backroom deals between party grandees in Mayfair restaurants or gentlemans’ clubs must be able to intervene.

Switzerland manages to govern by referenda and there is simply no reason (whatever we will undoubtedly be told) why an efficient online system involving every registered voter cannot be developed.

I won’t be holding my breath. I’ll be surprised if such reforms can be completed within the 20 or 30 years that I have left but unless we start to move in this direction, then I predict much more conflict of the sort we had over Brexit. With the scrutiny that our politicians are now subject to, however much they try to resist it, there will likely be further police inquiries as grubby politicians try to succeed in 21st Century government using an 18th century system.

Written by Peter Reynolds

January 22, 2022 at 5:34 pm

The Times Picks up the Reefer Madness Baton from the Daily Mail

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Stigmatising cannabis consumers and patients with one-sided and biased reporting is irresponsible misinformation, not journalism

It’s that time of year, King’s College Institute of Psychiatry has started its fundraising round so it’s time for the annual cannabis and psychosis scare story.

Over the past 10 years, in January or February each year, a press release goes out with its lead researchers, Professor Sir Robin Murray and Dr Marta di Forti, pushing another set of extremely scary statistics about how cannabis is driving consumers insane.

This year, two things are different, Firstly, there’s no new study, just repetition of previous claims.  Secondly, instead of being led by the Daily Mail, it’s The Times that has taken up the role of terrifying parents and this year there’s also a new story about over-55s who are ‘addicted’ to cannabis.

The Times’ reputation as the newspaper of record and the supreme example of English-language journalism has been faltering for some time. The decline started, inevitably, when Rupert Murdoch bought the newspaper in 1981.  It’s now tabloid-sized and, surprisingly often, tabloid in its style and disdain for the truth. In the main it is still a good source of news reporting and has an honourable record in covering the increasing acceptance of and value in the medical use of cannabis.

However, starting in September 2021 with a major feature in the Sunday magazine by Megan Agnew,‘Cannabis psychosis: how super-powered skunk blew our minds’, it has become an uncritical promoter and advocate for everything that comes out of King’s College about cannabis.

Ms Agnew interviewed me at length several months before her piece was published and I dare say she spoke to other people on the reform side of the debate as well.  Certainly not one word of what I said made it into print.  It might as well be a paid-for advertorial for Marta di Forti and Robin Murray’s work.

I’ve met Robin Murray several times. In fact, I once sat next to him for two days in a conference held in the House of Lords. In person he’s nowhere near the anti-cannabis zealot he’s portrayed as in the press and there are other people in his team who I have worked with on research projects who I think, although they wouldn’t say it, are actually on my side!  Nevertheless, the message about their research that is portrayed in the media is clearly deliberate and it is wildly misleading.

This is best demonstrated by going to the Lancet website, where all the Murray/di Forti papers are published and reading the other scientists who debunk both the results and the methodology that Murray/di Forti use.  Of course, this never gets mentioned in the press. The Times has completely excluded it from all its coverage.  Go to https://www.thelancet.com/ and search for ‘High-potency cannabis and incident psychosis: correcting the causal assumption’. You’ll see a whole new perspective on King’s College and its scientists.

This obsession with demonising cannabis is centred on the UK, precisely because of the endlessly repetitive work carried out at King’s College and the appetite that British press has for sensationalising it.  Australia also suffers from it to some degree but nowhere else in the world experiences the same systematic, ludicrous scaremongering.  That’s not to say that the potential dangers of cannabis as a psychoactive substance are ignored, they’re simply given proportionate recognition.  Clearly anything that affects the mind can, potentially, cause harm and needs consideration, just as we do with alcohol, coffee, energy drinks and many medicines. Sadly there will always be casualties but provided we do all we can to minimise them, they do not justify prohibition.  The evidence is clear that always causes more harm than good and it is self-evident that harm is better controlled and casualties more effectively prevented in a legal environment, not in a market run by gangsters and organised crime.