Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Review. Tobor Elite Vaporiser

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I’ve been using this new device for about a month now and I’m very impressed with it. It produces vapour more quickly than any other handheld vaporiser I’ve tried. It’s very easy to use and doesn’t seem to need the practice that others do before you get the ‘knack’ to using it effectively.

Even better, it costs less than £100, it’s robust and high quality. Like most vaporisers it’s let down by its battery which ideally would hold twice the charge. In practice it will only vape two bowls before it needs a re-charge but that seems to happen pretty quickly.

I think the reason it works so quickly is because the bowl is unusually large. I’ve learned not to fill it more than about one-third full and then the sheer size of the chamber, with hot air being pulled through it from all sides is what gets the evaporation going quickly. Another benefit is that it doesn’t need the temperature increased as you get to the end of the bowl. It just keeps cranking out vapour as the whole device, which nicely fills your hand, warms up and delivers those ‘big clouds’ which with many vapes are largely imaginary!

The poor battery life is a problem and means for those few hours in the evening when I want to use it, I have to have something else as well and at the moment (apart from the occasional neat joint) that’s my Arizer Solo 2 which has a fantastic battery life and I’ve acquired a water bubbler stem which is a definite plus. The Tobor Elite would work also well with a bubbler if one was available.

So this definitely gets a recommendation and the low price makes it a strong contender, particularly if it’s your first vaporiser as it’s so easy to use. The real test will be how the battery perfoms over time. They all deteriorate, hold less charge, take longer to re-charge and eventually give up completely. If it lasts a year I’ll be pleased, any longer would be exceptional. But this is excellent value for money and I don’t think anyone could be disappointed with it at the price.

It’s available here from Canna-Logic.

Written by Peter Reynolds

October 25, 2021 at 4:25 pm

Ireland’s Medical Cannabis Access Programme – One Mistake After Another

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Lorraine Nolan, Chief Executive, HPRA

Short of an outright ban, Ireland has the most restrictive medicinal cannabis programme anywhere in the world and it’s still not operational more than four years after it was announced.

What’s even worse, as demonstrated by the letter nine leading neurologists have sent to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly (Irish Times, 9th August 2021), the four products that the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) have selected are unsuitable for the conditions they are supposed to treat.

The story of how this has unfolded is a lesson in how not to regulate medicinal cannabis, or, indeed, any medicine. The programme is the result of public demand based on increasing recognition of the value and safety of cannabis when used responsibly under medical supervision. But it has been sabotaged by an Irish medical establishment that is hostile to cannabis and officials who have refused to take expert advice, preferring the opinions of clinicians who know nothing about it.

The problems started right at the beginning with a report compiled by the HPRA early in 2017 described as from an ‘expert working group’, yet not one person in the group was an expert in cannabis. It’s not clear that any of them had any knowledge at all about the use of cannabis as medicine when they were appointed. 

Unsurprisingly the report is full of errors and misunderstanding.  It claims there is “an absence of scientific data” on the efficacy of cannabis and not enough information on safety. This is palpable nonsense. History records cannabis being used as medicine for more than 5,000 years and ironically, it was an Irishman, William Brookes Shaughnessy, who published the first scientific paper on it in a medical journal in 1843. Since then it has been one of the most studied medicines on the planet.  It has over 26,000 references on Pubmed, the foremost source for medical literature whereas paracetamol has around 12,000. California has had a medicinal cannabis programme since 1989, the Netherlands since 2001 and its use is now widespread throughout the world. Millions of people are using medicinal cannabis safely and effectively. There is a vast amount of information and evidence available.

The most glaring error in the report is the omission of pain as a condition for which cannabis should be available. Pain is the condition for which cannabis is most often used and is most effective. In 2020 the global medicinal cannabis market was valued at around $9 billion, this is expected to reach $47 billion by 2027 and over 60% of this is for treating pain. Yet the HPRA’s so-called ‘experts’ thought it best to leave it out.

The HPRA started work on MCAP in March 2017. Officials claim to have sought “solutions to the supply of products from Denmark, UK, Canada and further afield”, which has included at least some officials going on international trips. It has taken four years to select four products, one of which is for epilepsy in adults and the other three are, as anyone with any expertise will confirm, best suited to treating pain!

Responsibility for this situation lies squarely with the HPRA.  It is matched by its corresponding failure to facilitate a medicinal cannabis industry in Ireland. At least a dozen serious proposals have been presented offering multimillion euro investments in Ireland, promising the creation of hundreds of new jobs.  Professor David Finn at NUI Galway is one of the world’s leading researchers into cannabinoid medicines and even his participation has failed to galvanise the HPRA into action.

Medicinal cannabis is the fastest growing business sector in the world. It is coming to Ireland, irrespective of the negative and luddite attitudes that prevail amongst the establishment. What is clear is that public health, the Irish people and the Irish economy are missing out in a big way and many of the opportunities have now been lost for good.

Written by Peter Reynolds

October 20, 2021 at 5:46 pm

Why Do They Always Get The Good Ones?

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Not all MPs are paragons like Sir Michael Amess and Jo Cox

There’s been a lot of talk over the past few days about how face-to-face meetings between MPs and constituents are the ‘foundation of British democracy’. It’s a nice idea and if only it were true. The reality is that far too many MPs do all they can to avoid meeting constituents, particularly if it’s about a subject that doesn’t interest them or where they are being asked to discuss and then represent a point of view with which they disagree.

I know this from bitter experience over many years, helping medicinal cannabis patients try and gain their MP’s support as they were ignored, refused appointments and disrespected, sometimes with great cruelty. Many of those MPs are still in Parliament and most of them are now eager to be seen as supporters of medicinal cannabis. Some are now claiming credit for reform of the law and holding themselves out as being in the vanguard of the campaign!

Of course there are some excellent MPs who take their job seriously, genuinely provide service to their constituents and the country but these are far from the majority.

No one, whatever their conduct, deserves the fate that befell Sir Michael and Jo Cox but the deification of our politicians, which our ridiculous and fickle media has rushed into in the last few days, overlooks a long history of self-serving corruption, laziness, arrogance and dereliction of duty to constituents, sometimes over many decades.

What we need is a complete reset of the way MPs work and their relationship with constituents. Perhaps that does require better security and I would have no objection to protective screens and even armed police officers. I know that the patients I have represented would have seen that as a small price to actually get some access and the attention they deserved. Yet again though, I think MPs treat themselves better than the rest. Many people face danger in their work. I think traffic wardens are probably assaulted more often than MPs.

The police give far higher priority to online abuse and threats to MPs than they do to you and me. Indeed, when I, as a very minor ‘public figure’ was subject to years of abuse and threats, the police first told me I had to put up with it precisely because I was a public figure. It took weeks of pressure from me and my lawyers before they started issuing harassment warnings.

I’d like to see standards of service for MPs with clear obligations to meet constituents, how long they take to reply to emails, etc. There should be a proper complaints system with real sanctions for MPs who fall short. While ministers spend their lives evading questions and hiding behind bureaucracy and crown immunity, if an elector can’t get a straight answer they should be entitled to a full and proper response from their department.

There’s a fatal flaw in this idea though. To get it through, MPs would have to vote on it, so there’s no chance of it, ever!

Written by Peter Reynolds

October 18, 2021 at 4:04 pm

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IRELAND. Politicians And Gardai Who Want To Keep Cannabis Banned are on the Same Side as the Drugs Gangsters.

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In Ireland, 90% of people support the use of cannabis for medical purposes and, remarkably, nearly a third support legalisation for recreational use. So cannabis is very popular indeed. A great deal of money is spent on it, all of which goes into the pockets of criminals. Some are just friends of friends and not really causing any harm but move a step or two up the chain and right to the top it’s gangsters and organised crime. What they earn from cannabis goes into funding far more serious criminal activity with violence never far away. And the largely futile efforts to stop the cannabis trade cost Irish taxpayers hundreds of millions of euros.

So why isn’t the government taking action to enable access for medical use, to regulate an adult use market, save hundreds of millions of euros and pull the rug from underneath organised crime?

Evidence from other jurisdictions proves beyond doubt that a regulated market would remove most of the trade from criminals, cut related crime, protect consumers, control the stength and quality of the product and reduce all harms.

So why do they do nothing? Why do they refuse even to engage with the public on the subject?

You’d think they actually choose to be on the same side as the gangsters. I doubt that’s the case but the end result is the same: Micheál Martin; Leo Varadkar; Frank Feighan, the drugs minister; Eamon Ryan, whose party claims to support drugs reform; every member of the government and their officials, including Commissioner Drew Harris, stand right alongside the Hutch mob, the Kinahans and the other peddlers in misery and violence.

What’s most remarkable is that even the government’s efforts to meet public demand for medical access have been nothing short of pathetic. Four years after the Medical Cannabis Access Programme (MCAP) was announced, it is still not operational. In fact it’s nothing but a joke and, short of an outright ban, is the most restrictive medicinal cannabis programme of any nation anywhere in the world. It raises all sorts of important questions why the Irish medical establishment has such well organised opposition to medicinal cannabis and simply dismisses the vast amount of evidence in favour.  Ireland is isolated in this backwards and cruel policy.

Several large multinationals have tried to invest millions of euros in developing a medicinal cannabis industry, which would create hundreds of new, well paid jobs. But regulators at the Department of Health and Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) block and endlessly delay as if those are their instructions.

The Irish goverment’s policy on cannabis is confused, irrational and impossible to understand. The bottom line is that it is opaque and no one will respond or engage on the subject. That usually means they have something to hide. It could just be that they recognise their own incompetence on the issue. Or it could be something more sinister.

The Irish Cannabis Market.

According to the 2019–20 Irish National Drug and Alcohol Survey, 20.7% of 15-64 year olds have consumed cannabis in their lifetime and 7.1% report recent use, that’s nearly 300,000 people. Cannabis valued at €15.2 million was seized by Gardai in 2020 although based on typical valuations by law enforcement this is certainly an over-valuation.

Based on research carried out in the UK, adjusted pro rata for population size, the value of the cannabis market in Ireland is estimated at a minimum of €225 million and possibly as much as €675 million. It is costing the Irish state a great deal of time and money in law enforcement costs. Drug offences account for 11% of all recorded offences and of these nearly 69% are for personal possession most of which are for cannabis. With a €3 billion budget for justice in 2021 drug law enforcement would appear to cost around €330 million, most of which is for cannabis.

 

Written by Peter Reynolds

October 14, 2021 at 6:32 pm

If Rory Stewart wants to use his time and energy for the human rights of people in Afghanistan, off he should go.

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Staying there for 20 years was a monumental betrayal of the British people.

I’m more concerned about the human rights of British people living below the poverty line. People who are having children abused by gangs of Asian men who we won’t touch for fear of being called racist. People who have no access to justice because legal aid has been destroyed. People who are dying from contaminated drugs of unknown strength because we have fools in charge of drugs policy. The human rights of British people whose sons and daughters have been killed or mutilated while pursuing the foreign adventures of our so-called ‘leaders’.

At great cost of lives and money we have trained 300,000 Afghanis to defend themselves. Now they’re all running away.

Written by Peter Reynolds

August 15, 2021 at 7:06 pm

Review. Kanabo VapePod

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I’ve been intrigued to try this vaporiser ever since I first heard of it.  Its stand-out feature, though not a unique claim, is that it accurately dispenses cannabis vapour, clearly an important facility for medical use.  Perhaps what’s even more important is that it’s part of a package from Kanabo, newly quoted on the London Stock Exchange, alongside cartridges of different cannabinoid content. It’s the first credible, all-in-one prescription product for vaporised medicinal cannabis.

It doesn’t disappoint.  The packaging looks just right to be sitting on a pharmacy shelf.  There’s no silly cannabis branding.  You couldn’t mistake this for a children’s toy or a stoner’s gizmo.  It hits the spot precisely: functional, medical, professional.  It’s going to inspire confidence from anyone, including a naive cannabis consumer, when they collect this from their pharmacy. It elevates the sometimes jokey level of medicinal cannabis products to where they need to be.  It is perfectly judged.

The device itself is a bit fatter and a bit shorter than the standard vape pens that we all know. It’s a black plastic, octagonal tube with a translucent coloured mouthpiece. I think I prefer its thickness compared to standard vape pens but that may be the size of my hands. A woman might still prefer the thinner design.

I was provided with two cartridges which come in smaller boxes. They’re described as “Pure Distillate Hemp Extract” and I have the “Reload. Feels like a moment of clarity and focus” and the “Relax. Quiet your mind & find tranquility”. The difference between them is the blend of terpenes which are added back into the distillate once it’s been refined.  Inside the box is what looks much the same as the small vape cartridges that we’re already used to, with the mouthpiece already attached.  It really couldn’t be easier.  You just drop the cartridge into the end of the tube and it’s ready to go.  Equally you can just pull one cartridge out, it’s held in by a magnet and replace it with another.  The only thing I’ve found to criticise so far is that there is no distinguishing mark on the cartridges so it’s impossible to tell them apart.

Of course, I’ve only been provided with the CBD cartridges. Where this product is really going to come into its own is when prescribed with cartridges that contain THC.

So to the crucial issue. How does it accurately dispense vapour, metered dosing as it is called? It’s a patent pending device, designed in Israel, where the only other metered dosing vape, as far as I know, the Syqe, also originates. It seems to work simply by limiting the duration of an inhalation to about two seconds.  In the interests of testing it out, I did see if I could cheat it and it’s definitely the case that if you pull harder you inhale more vapour. Each inhalation is supposd to dispense 1.2mg of CBD, so I think you can increase this fairly easily but only within a narrow band.  It’s no criticism.  I’m impressed with the way this works and I only wish I could try it with a THC cartridge.  But this is a new world now, in a good way.  I can’t see Kanabo sending me a THC cartridge to try if it’s not prescribed and that is the way it should be really.

As for the contents of the cartridges themselves, they’re clearly quality products and I fervently hope that prescribers will have the option of specifying from a wide range of cartridges with different cannabinoid and terpene content.

With the sole exception that each cartridge needs labelling so you know which one you’re using, I can’t fault this. It’s the right idea, well executed and this is the future of medicinal cannabis as a serious medicine.

Written by Peter Reynolds

August 3, 2021 at 12:58 pm

A Small Victory Against Misleading Reporting on Cannabis in the British Press

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The peculiar relationship between drugs policy and evidence in Britain is caused largely by inaccurate, misleading and sensationalist reporting in the press. Our politicians’ inability to deal with this subject, even to engage in serious debate about it, is all about their fear of being dubbed ‘soft on drugs’ by the newspapers.

At last, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) has upheld one of my many complaints about inaccurate reporting. This was a particularly egregious example of distortion and twisting of facts to suit a newspaper’s anti-cannabis agenda.

In January 2021, the Daily Telegraph published an article headlined “’Super skunk’ cannabis led to surge in mental health crisis”. This old trope, that cannabis causes mental illness, is now confined almost exclusively to our corner of North-West Europe. The Irish also suffer under this myth and to a lesser extent, so do Australia and New Zealand but everywhere else in the world a far more balanced and realistic view is taken.

There is no evidence to support it as a direct causal effect, only that it may, in some instances, be one of a number of component factors. Science shows that cigarette smoking and traffic pollution may be far more potent factors, not to say general adolescent angst and many other issues of modern life.

Nevertheless, in Britain, the press and therefore our politicians are obsessed with the idea and regard it as fact. It is this wicked prejudice that for decades has held back access to cannabis as medicine and still does so today. Our most senior clinicians have shown themselves incapable of separating fact from fiction and in a wider context, this myth is probably still the most important factor in holding back general drugs policy reform.  Because of politicians’ weakness in the face of newspaper sensationalism, they have enabled a massive £6 billion market to develop under the control of organised crime which now causes enormous harm throughout society.

My complaint read as follows:

“This article asserts that “cannabis has contributed to a record 100,000 people admitted for NHS treatment for drug-related mental health problems”

In fact, in deliberately misleading and sensationalist fashion, figures for primary diagnosis and secondary diagnosis have been combined. Total figure for primary diagnosis in relation to all drugs is 7,027, secondary diagnosis accounts for the other 93,000+ and means that for 90% of these admissions, the primary reason may have been nothing to do with drugs.

The 100,000 figure is clearly associated with cannabis yet the actual figures for cannabis show a decline from 1135 in 2018/19 to 1087 in 2019/20.

It is crystal clear that this presentation of the data is deliberately designed to mislead and sensationalise.”

What has always surprised me in running many of these complaints is the vehemence with which the newspapers have tried to defend what are nothing more than lies.  The Daily Telegraph did exactly the same this time, trying to adduce a large volume of irrelevant information that had nothing to do with its inaccurate journalism but was just about pushing its anti-cannabis agenda. As I wrote to IPSO at one stage:

“The Telegraph is entitled to publish as much one-sided, cherry picked evidence as it wishes except that if it does not do so accurately or distorts it to the point that it is misleading, it is in breach of clause 1 of the Editors’ Code.

I have no doubt that the newspaper will continue its current policy until the flood of money into the cannabis sector reaches such a level that it will be acting against its own self-interest.  That day is now very close and then the Telegraph will face the challenge of explaining to its readers why it has misled and deceived them for so long.”

So, IPSO has upheld my complaint and its full decision can be seen here. On the face of it, the result will just be another small correction that few people will read. But I hope that the time and money it has cost the Telegraph to deal with this might have some impact in future.

I’ve just heard that the Telegraph has appealed against IPSO’s decision which demonstrates just how keen it is to continue misreporting about cannabis!

 

 

 

Written by Peter Reynolds

July 26, 2021 at 5:46 pm

Dame Carol Black’s Review of Drugs. A Missed Opportunity To Speak Truth to Power

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Dame Carol Black

There is some useful work in Dame Carol’s review but by definition it was only ever about supporting current strategy. She was constrained from the beginning by the terms of reference which stated: “The review will not consider changes to the existing legislative framework or government machinery.”

Given such an absurd restriction, I wonder why any self-respecting expert in policy would take on the role? At best it could only ever advise on tweaks and adjustments rather than the fundamental changes that are urgently needed.

It’s clear that drugs cause harms in our society.  They cause health harms to individuals, particularly in the case of the legally regulated drugs alcohol and tobacco but other drugs cause far more harms as a result of the illegal, unregulated markets through which they are produced and distributed.  These are called social harms but there is not a clear dividing line.  For instance, drugs produced illicitly are of unknown strength, purity and consumers cannot know whether they are contaminated with other, perhaps more harmful substances.

So treatment for addiction and dependency, which is what most of Dame Carol’s review focuses on, is essential and is scandalously under-resourced.  This is an entirely false economy as the consequences are devastating for our society.  As Dame Carol writes: “The drugs market is driving most of the nation’s crimes: half of all homicides and half of acquisitive crimes are linked to drugs. People with serious drug addiction occupy one in three prison places.”

Politicians don’t put sufficient resources into drug treatment because they are fools and their failure is based on stigma and lack of vision. They don’t think such funding wins votes. Why should people who aren’t consumers of street heroin or cocaine fund healthcare for people who have a problem they have brought on themselves and for which they broken the law in the process?

This indicates the very low opinion that our so-called leaders have of the electorate.  Of course there are people who hold such a short-sighted view and believe it’s not their problem and some even take the same view about those who suffer health harms from the legally regulated drugs, alcohol and tobacco.  But these people are in the minority and if politicians paid them the respect and took the time to explain how intelligent policy can benefit us all, then this nasty and self-defeating attitude would very quickly all but disappear.



So any rational person with even a modicum of foresight must support Dame Carol’s call for increased funding, better co-ordination and accountability between government departments.  She also writes that “A whole-system approach is needed, with demand reduction a key component, to drive down the profitability of the market.”  This is where the logic, usefulness and validity of her review begins to fall down, in large part because of those idiotic constraints placed on her that she cannot propose “changes to the existing legislative framework or government machinery”.

Of course, no one in their right mind aspires to a lifestyle of addiction and dependency which dominates their life and inhibits fulfilment and success.  Substantial reduction in demand can be achieved through properly funded treatment. We should aspire to turning round the lives of the majority of the 300,000 problematic consumers of opiates and cocaine.  To do this we need to understand more effectively how and why their drugs consumption works.

Addiction to opiates shares the same dreadful reality as addiction to alcohol, that stopping or withdrawing from regular use is difficult, can be very dangerous and causes its own health harms.  Cocaine is different.  It’s not really addiction in the same sense, it’s more about compulsive behaviour. If you stop, after initial recovery from the tiredness and destructive lifestyle you will, quite quickly, begin to feel better. 

Where Dame Carol’s review falls over and becomes a little ridiculous is when she writes: “We can no longer, as a society, turn a blind eye to recreational drug use. A million people use powder cocaine each year and the market is worth around £2 billion. The vast majority of users do not see themselves as having a drug problem and they are unlikely to come forward for treatment.”

These people, alongside the vast majority of consumers of MDMA (ecstasy), cannabis and most other currently prohibited drugs are not suffering any health harms.  With very few exceptions, the only significant harms around their drug consumption are those caused by the criminal markets which current legislation has created.  The drugs themselves are, in most cases, far less harmful to health than the legally regulated drugs, alcohol and tobacco. 

The glaring error in Dame Carol’s review, forced on her by the constraints, that show her work to be propaganda in supporting an already failed policy, is when she writes “they are causing considerable harm to others through the supply chain, both here and abroad.”

This is a staggeringly irrational and biased statement, contrived to shift the blame from failed policy and irresponsible ministers onto drugs consumers.  You cannot blame consumers for the harms caused by politicians’ failure to regulate drugs markets.

In every other aspect of life we rightly expect government to act to protect us and keep us safe.  This is why we have speed limits, safety belts, MOT tests, why other forms of transport such as trains and aeroplanes are strictly regulated.  This is why alcohol, tobacco and also food are subject to regulation, why sports have governing bodies that set rules and standards to keep participants safe.

We know from history the consequences of prohibiting alcohol which gave rise to the first gangsters and we have stumbled into the same dystopia by prohibiting drugs.  When alcohol was banned in the USA and consumption went underground, people stopped drinking wine and beer, preferring high-strength, much more harmful, often contaminated hooch.  The ultimate perversion of government’s responsibility was when it started to poison illicit supplies in an effort to deter consumption.  We are on exactly the same path now with drugs.  It is a path that will lead to greater criminality, more harm, more death, misery, ruined lives, massive expenditure, crime and the degradation of our society.  This is where current drugs policy is taking us and Dame Carol Black’s review supports this stupidity.

I cannot believe that an intelligent, experienced woman like Dame Carol would not recommend changes in current policy had she been allowed.  What we desperately need is people in her position to have the courage to defy the stupidity of government minsters and speak the truth, the whole truth.  All drugs must be legally regulated in direct relation to their potential for health harms.

Thus, alcohol, tobacco, opiates and cocaine, while legally available to minimise the criminal market, must be under strict control. In my view, with its well established place in our society, the sale of alcohol should be permitted in far fewer outlets.  There should be quantity limits.  It is crazy that in a supermarket you can only but two packs of painkillers but as many cases of whisky as you want.

Opiates should be on prescription only, with compulsory therapy but much easier to access so that those with a problem get their clean supply of known strength from a pharmacy, not from a gangster-controlled dealer.  Necessary funding for treatment must be in place but there will not be a surge of demand. Most people don’t want to use heroin!

Cocaine, which is not really any more harmful than alcohol, in some ways less, should be available to adults in restricted quantity and frequency for registered consumers from pharmacies.

At the other end of the health harm scale, cannabis and MDMA must be restricted by age and regulated for quality with known strength and absence of contamination.  We can virtually eliminate the criminal market in these drugs if we regulate them properly.

If we want to reduce the harms from drugs, this is the inevitable solution.  We can either continue to delude ourselves that we can stop drug use, which is a gift to the criminal market, or we must recognise that there is no other effective policy except legal regulation.

Whoever comes next of Dame Carol’s status and influence must speak this truth to power.

Written by Peter Reynolds

July 11, 2021 at 10:26 am

100 Days Since Health Minister Stephen Donnelly Promised To #talktovera

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Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD

It was in late March.  The #talktovera hashtag had already been trending on Twitter in Ireland for several weeks when Vera Twomey received a text message from Stephen Donnelly promising that he would be in touch shortly.  100 days on and he hasn’t made contact at all.  A few days ago an official from the Department of Health (DOH) telephoned with some vaguely encouraging words but Donnelly himself has completely failed to honour his promise.

#talktovera is a campaign that has attracted the support of millions of people but the abuse the Twomey family has endured at the hands of politicians and officials is only the tip of the iceberg of Ireland’s self-destructive problem with cannabis.  It is an issue that highlights the division between a youthful, progressive electorate and a political establishment that is 20 years behind, confused between the repression of the Catholic Church and deep seated vested interests in medicine and the civil service.

Vera Twomey honoured at the 2018 People of the Year Awards

Vera’s remarkable personal effort, including walking in protest from Cork to Dublin, led to a special ministerial licence for her daughter Ava, enabling her to access medicinal cannabis that has undoubtedly save her life.  Now around 50 people in Ireland also benefit from a similar licence but funding of the medicine is a mess with no consistent or rational policy in place.  Ava is far more fortunate than others as the cost of her medicine is met by the state but only after her parents have to find €9500.00 every three months and then wait five weeks for it to be reimbursed.  This is an enormous burden for any working family and means they live in peril where illness or work problems could easily result in a serious threat to Ava’s life. #talktovera started as a straightforward and reasonable request to the health minister to discuss the matter and find a resolution.

Four years ago, largely as a result of the attention that Vera had brought to the issue, the Irish government announced its Medical Cannabis Access Programme (MCAP).  Not a single patient has yet been prescribed cannabis under its provisions and funding for it has has only just been announced.  It enables consultants to prescribe for just three conditions and they are restricted to just four products, all of which will be funded at source by the state. But none of the products used by the 50 people with a ministerial licence are included and on the face of it they were abandoned to continue finding the money themselves, with only a few, including Ava, ever getting it reimbursed.

This ridiculous state of affairs has transfixed Stephen Donnelly. He and his officials have failed to deal with the issue properly and the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be an excuse for something that needed only a few minutes of his time.  It does require the courage to grasp the nettle and cut through reluctant, stubborn officialdom and a medical etablishment that is way behind every other country in Europe in embracing the remarkable power that medicinal cannabis offers.

To be fair, Micheál Martin, the Taoiseach, has spoken directly to Vera on a number of occasions. He was always supportive of Vera’s initial campaign for Ava but his contact has been in a personal capacity and for some reason he has felt unable to instruct his health minister to deal with the matter. He could also have instructed DOH officials over Donnelly’s head but he hasn’t been prepared to do this either.

The reality is that in Ireland, on this issue, its political leaders are not in charge. The tail is wagging the dog.  Officials at the DOH and the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) are not in charge either.  They submit to a regressive, bigoted medical establishment that ignores best practice and evidence from around the world and is fundamentally hostile to cannabis.  They in turn submit to the powerful forces of gangsterism and organised crime that pervades Irish society, still, tragically, with significant paramilitary influence behind it.

I can attest to my own experience of Ireland’s self-destructive problem with cannabis.  Although I have now lived in the Republic for four years, before that while living in the UK, then still a member of the European Union, I have been trying to help Ireland develop a medicinal cannabis industry. I have learned that there are powerful forces resisting any progress with a calculated determination to procrastinate and prevaricate. As far back as 2015, I first approached the DOH with a proposal from one of the leading Canadian licensed producers to establish an Irish facility.  Since then, three further clients, each substantial international organisations, actively seeking to invest tens of millions of euros in Ireland, have walked away, frustrated by backwards, negative thinking, prejudice and bigotry.  Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of jobs have been lost and tens of thousands of Irish people are denied access to the medicinal cannabis that could improve their health.

The UK remains way behind where it should be in access to medicinal cannabis but as I work with clients in both countries, in comparison Ireland makes the UK look like Califiornia.  It’s pathetic the way that senior clinicians in the UK continue to resist the inevitable and the huge weight of positive evidence but Ireland is far, far worse. Some of it is to do with it being a very small country, a population of only five million, any one senior doctor who achieves professional and political influence can become immensely powerful.

Dr Ray Walley leads Irish doctors against cannabis

Dr Ray Walley, formerly president of the Irish Medical Organisation and prominent in health politics, runs the Cannabis Risk Alliance, a cabal of senior clinicians that promote 1930s ‘reefer madness’ ideas about cannabis. In 2019, to its eternal shame. the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland invited Alex Berenson, a tabloid journalist and author of spy and conspiracy fiction, to address its members on his theories that cannabis causes violent crime and has no medical benefits. It’s hardly surprisng that when in 2017, the HPRA convened an expert working group to review the medical use of cannabis, its conclusions were about as negative as you would expect from ‘experts’ with zero knowledge of cannabis steeped in prejudice from all their colleagues. It would be funny, were it not so tragic, that the ludicrous conclusion of its work is that pain is now excluded from MCAP. It’s the condition for which millions of people around the world successfully use cannabis but according to these fools it doesn’t work in Ireland.

It’s absolutely clear that it’s these attitudes that control officials in the DOH and HPRA and have led them to frustrate any political will to support medicinal cannabis.  It’s the HPRA that has taken an absurd length of time to identify four products for MCAP that are actually a hopeless mismatch for the three conditons that it covers.  Ironically, the products selected would be more suited to treatment of pain which is, of course, excluded from the programme.  There is a suggestion that officials selected these products based on lobbying from their producers rather than their suitability.  I have seen no evidence for this but based on my other experiences, it makes sense.

The HPRA was also charged with setting up a licensing system for the cultivation of cannabis and production of medicines but to my first hand knowledge it has been dilatory to the point of negligence. Senior officials at HPRA have twice made promises to my clients on timings which they have reneged on, costing my clients substantial investments of time and money.

It is clear to me that there is institutional hostility towards cannabis in the DOH and HPRA and that this is fuelled by the prejudice and ignorance that pervades the medical establishment.  In the face of this, Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly are impotent, useless and incapable of making any progress.

Irish drugs gangsters thank their customers for their continuing support

Then, to far more sinister effect and at the root of all this is the burgeoning criminal market in cannabis, the credible evidence that at least 10,000 Irish people are regularly accessing illicit cannabis to deal with their medical conditions, that probably half a million more are engaging with the gangsters to buy cannabis for pleasure and relaxation. Behind this is violence, misery, human trafficking and the massive cannabis cashflow that funds the even more dangerous trade in hard drugs by the gangsters and paramiltaries.

Cannabis could be a huge opportunity for Ireland in better medical treatment, new businesses, increased employment and a healthier and happier society. Instead it is a massive problem caused by weak politicians, incompetent officials, a corrupt medical establishment and violent orgainsed crime.  An Garda Siochana, the Irish police, are trapped in the middle but it’s the Irish people that are the real victims. And the weak, pathetic, hypocritical and cowardly health minister, Stephen Donnelly, still won’t #talktovera.

Written by Peter Reynolds

July 3, 2021 at 5:20 pm

The FSA’s Intervention in the CBD Market is a Farce. Here’s the Clear and Simple Solution.

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I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry about the mess the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has got itself into in the cannabidiol (CBD) market.  After imposing costs of millions of pounds on business for no good reason, its deadlines have been missed, it’s got very few products on its ‘approved’ list and the whole situation is chaos.  It’s changed the staff involved (again) and there is no sign it is going to achieve anything except fritter away more taxpayers’ money and impose more unnecessary costs on more businesses.

It was always going to be a disaster because deeming CBD products ‘novel foods’ was false from the beginning. It was the European Commission (EC) that first imposed this nonsensical ruling, refusing to consider the comprehensive evidence submitted by the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) that extracts of CBD (and other cannabinoids) have been widely used in foods since as long ago as the 12th Century. Then, in anticipation of Brexit, the FSA, with no good reason, chose to adopt the EC’s novel foods policy and so this sad and futile story began.

The CBD market does need better regulation but ‘novel foods’ doesn’t address any of the issues of concern at all. It is a completely misguided policy.

There is no evidence of anyone, anywhere in the world, ever coming to any harm from consuming CBD as a food supplement, so the whole basis of deeming it as a ‘novel food’, as well as being false, is predicated on nothing. The reason for ‘novel foods’ regulation is safety and there is no evidence that CBD is unsafe.

There are just two issues which need addressing in regulating a CBD product: what the product contains and how it is marketed.

The first can be solved, at a stroke, by requiring all products to have an independent laboratory test certificate.  Not a certificate of analysis (COA) from a laboratory commissioned by the supplier but a certificate from an independent laboratory that has itself been certified by the regulator which, yes, should be the FSA. So this independent, ‘official’ COA will specify the cannabinoid content, certify that controlled cannabinoids are within the legal limit and that heavy metals and other contaminants are within prescribed safety limits.

The second can be solved, at a stroke, by properly funding the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to fulfil its function as regulator of the Human Medicines Regulations 2012, the law that prohibits claims of medical benefit being made for commercial gain about products which are not licensed as medicines.  The MHRA has dismally failed to fulfil this function, which is ironic as it first brought CBD to regulatory attention in 2016 over the issue of these medical claims.  It simply does not have the resources to do this job. Hundreds of reports have been submitted to the MHRA by the two trade associations, the CTA and CannaPro, but not acted upon.  As a result the law is now widely ignored both by unethical suppliers and by all the national newspapers which regularly run unlawful advertisements and advertorials despite the fact that in theory, the maximum penalty for these offences is two years in jail.

These two steps, taken together, will completely solve the regulatory requirements for the CBD market.