Peter Reynolds

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The Root Of All Britain’s Drugs Problems Is In Marsham Street, London, SW1

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The Home Office describes its role as “to keep citizens safe and the country secure”. Its lead role in drugs policy achieves exactly the opposite of this.

It is a scandal encompassing successive governments for more than 50 years that the UK’s approach to drugs has been so utterly disastrous that our policy has caused far more harm than it has prevented.

Currently, the two issues of major concern are the rate of drug deaths and difficulty in accessing cannabis as medicine. It’s no surprise most people now recognise that drugs policy should really be a matter for the Department of Health. The only reason for keeping it in the Home Office is if you believe it is primarily a security issue and about enforcing the law to stop people using drugs and interventions to stop production and importation.  This is an outdated view based on misguided thinking.  The Home Office’s own research shows that laws, enforcement and penalties make absolutely no difference to drug use.  There is no justification for keeping drugs policy in Marsham Street, particularly when we consider the way this focus on security and enforcement has made all our drugs problems so much worse.

Famously, before the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, it is said there were about 3,000 problematic drug users in the UK. Today, the effect of this law, administered by the Home Office, is that figure has exploded to more like 350,000 problematic users.  It has been a disaster of unparalleled scale.

Victoria Atkins and Theresa May. The drug barons of Britain.

And everything about Home Office drugs policy makes the problems worse.  The only purpose of drugs policy must be to reduce harm but the Home Office is obsessed with a moral crusade of reducing drug use and the level of use is not the same as the level of harm.  Most of the time, the Home Office’s attempts to reduce use cause more harm than the use of drugs itself.  This is particularly true with cannabis where a criminal record, even a caution, causes far more harm to an individual than the use of cannabis. The Home Office already knows that criminal justice measures do not reduce drug use, so enforcement is largely futile and it causes harm.

It is dreadful that the Home Office is strongly resisting efforts to introduce drug consumption rooms (DCRs) which have been shown, conclusively, to reduce drug deaths.  In Glasgow, the local council and the Scottish government are backing the proposal but the Home Office is intransigent.  What is truly appalling and demonstrates a criminal standard of corruption at the highest level is the way that Victoria Atkins, a Home Office Minister, has lied and misled Parliament and the public on the evidence for DCRs.  She, of course is also a rabid anti-cannabis campaigner while her husband makes his living from cannabis production, licensed by the Home Office! This conflict of interest and hypocrisy well illustrates the fundamental corruption and dishonesty that is the Home Office culture.  The ‘hostile environment’ towards immigrants, first introduced by Labour but enthusiastically pursued by Theresa May when she became Home Secretary in 2010, is central to the way that Home Office officials conduct themselves, not only about immigration but every area of home affairs.  The ‘customer’ is the enemy in Home Office terms, someone to be distrusted. This is the way officials treat those who they are paid to serve.

Against this background, it’s astonishing that the new regulations enabling access to cannabis as medicine were introduced while Theresa May was PM.   No one is more strongly prohibitionist, nor, during her six years as Home Secretary, more in tune with the Home Office’s interfering, repressive culture.  It’s more than ironic that on leaving Downing Street she has purchased a flat in, you guessed it, Marsham Street!  This, the scene of her most shameful actions in government, is where she feels at home.

The introduction of the new regulations while she was PM shows that with a big enough media outcry , even the most stubborn bigot can be forced to concede. Though now the media spotlight has moved on, the desperately ill children, some having hundreds of seizures a day, have been forgotten. With just a couple of exceptions they still aren’t getting the medicine they need on the NHS. For them, the new regulatiions mean that they can now get their medicine legally but it has to be paid for privately. Typically this means expenditure of thousands of pounds per month which the families simply cannot afford.

Under the new regulations, cannabis-based products for medicinal use (CBPMs) are supposed to be available on prescription from specialist doctors as unlicensed, schedule 2 medicines. It’s proving difficult enough to get a doctor to prescribe, such is the lack of understanding amongst doctors and the incredibly restrictive guidelines that professional bodies have put in place.  On top of all that, the Home Office is doing all it can to obstruct access.  Clearly its duty is to facilitate implementation of the new regulations but it is hostile towards the people that seek access to cannabis.  It is and always has been institutionally opposed to cannabis.

For years there has been a procedure in place for those who are prescribed schedule 2 medicines containing controlled drugs to bring up to three month’s supply into the country without requiring a licence.  For cannabis this has been swept aside without any explanation or reason.  The process involved in importing CBPMs is tortuous and complex as the Home Office shows no flexibility, no compassion and places obstacles at every turn. And there is no accountability at all. All Home Office policies, decisions, actions and processes are opaque.  They see no reason to explain themselves. They do what they want, irrespective of the needs of the people concerned, or even the law. Marsham Street considers itself above the law, exempt from any judicial or democratic accountability. Ultimately, the prospect of applying for judicial review of its actions is completely out of reach for everyone except the super rich.

The other crucial aspect of delivering on the new regulations is to develop a UK-based cannabis industry where we are producing ourselves what our people need.  The Home Office has failed entirely to grasp this nettle. Reports are that dozens of applications have been submitted for licences but so far, a year on, the best information I can get is that only one, highly restricted, research-only licence has been issued. So even it doesn’t allow for porduction of CBPMs, all of which have to be imported at huge expense.

It remains the case that the only company licensed for commercial production of cannabis is GW Pharmaceuticals and its subsidiary/supplier companies.  A company in which Home Office minister Victoria Atkins and former Home Secretary and PM Theresa May both have a personal financial interest.  The depth of this corruption and the failure to hold these two crooks to account is surely one of the biggest political scandals ever in British history.

Home Office ministers have a great deal to answer for but also the officials who have restrained those few ministers, such as the Liberal Democrat Norman Baker, who have even dared to consider reform.  The prejudice and bigotry on drugs policy runs so deep it is difficult to see how it can change.  But change it must.  Britain desperately needs a PM and a Home Secretary with the courage and intelligence to grasp this nettle.  Until those people emerge we are destined to stay in a very dark and destructive place while more and more deaths, misery and serious violent crime are caused by those who are failing us so badly.

Written by Peter Reynolds

November 30, 2019 at 6:49 pm

An Update On CBD, the Novel Food Scam and the Fatcats Who Plan to Take Over the Market.

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The CBD Market Has Been Built By Small British Businesses.

It is About To Be Stolen By Government-Backed Big Business.

Over about the last five years, small British businesses have built the CBD market from zero to hundreds of millions in annual sales. It’s been driven by rapidly changing attitudes towards cannabis and a realisation that many of its medicinal benefits could be available legally by using traditional hemp extracts.

Big business, the established supplement and health food companies weren’t interested. They saw the stigma around cannabis before they saw the changing attitudes.

Now it’s all very different. Millions of people are using CBD. All the big multiples are stocking it. It’s become a media fascination and many people say they gain great benefit from it. Suddenly, big business and all the regulators are interested. Suddenly those who weren’t bothered previously are cautioning about all sorts of dangers and concerns. They don’t actually have any evidence of CBD products causing any harm but clearly they don’t think these small, independent businesses can be trusted anymore. Of course, the truth is they want a slice of the action – or preferably all of the action if they can get their chums in government and the bureaucracy to step in and assist with their plans.

In fact the British CBD industry has been a model of responsible self-regulation. Two trade associations, the CTA and CannaPro, represent virtually all the leading UK suppliers and maintain high levels of quality control and trading standards, including regular reporting of non-compliant businesses to the MHRA.

But in June this year, the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC) published a sensational report alleging that most of the CBD on the market was very poor quality, contained illegal levels of THC and some contained no CBD at all.

Its report was presented as some sort of independent, academic study that should be regarded as science. It wasn’t. It was a cheap marketing stunt. Sure enough, just a few  weeks later it announced that all its members’ products were good quality and there was no problem with them.

Now the CMC has thrown itself in with the EU and is backing the classification of CBD products as ‘novel foods’, meaning that any business selling CBD would have to apply for an authorisation at a cost of at least £250,000 in a process taking perhaps two years to complete.  The CMC has also aligned itself with an interpretation of the law on THC levels in CBD products which is completely at odds with the established industry.  It has sided with the Home Office that there cannot be any THC at all, whereas the industry relies on a  definition of ‘exempt products’ in the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 which permits up to 1mg of THC in each container.

As Brexit approaches, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) is expected to issue guidance on enforcement of the novel foods classification.  If it acts before Brexit then the position will be carried over in the Withdrawal Agreement.  And now the CMC has launched yet another trade body, the Association for the Cannabinoid Industry, (ACI) which it is implying will enable CBD suppliers to enjoy a ‘grace period’ from FSA enforcement.

It would be unlawful for the FSA to make any arrangements or offer any ‘grace period’ to CMC or ACI members that is not available to any other business. Mike Harlington of the CTA tried this on before, claiming he had made special arrangements with the FSA for CTA members only. None of this is true. These claims are confidence tricks but the CMC/ACI is pushing it with the requirement to sign up to membership at a cost said to be between £10,000 and £50,000 per year, completely prohibitive for the small businesses that have worked so hard to develop this industry.

The Centre For Medicinal Cannabis Is A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing,

The ‘Big Pharma’ Of British Medicinal Cannabis And CBD.

The CMC appeared sometime in 2018 announcing itself as the UK’s first and only industry membership body for businesses and investors operating in cannabis based medicinal products (CBMPs) and cannabidiol (CBD) wellness markets.  This, of course, is nonsense. It’s about the fifth or sixth to set itself up as a trade body in this market and it’s certainly not the only.  Between them, the CTA and CannaPro represent hundreds of businesses with millions of satisfied customers.  The CMC has only a handful of members.

What the CMC/ACI does have is a great deal of money from its backer, the multimillionaire Paul Birch and a great deal of influence from ex-David Cameron ‘fixer’, Steve Moore, who knows all the right people in all the establishment elites and knows how to pull their strings.  In just a few short months it has pumped a fortune into PR and media relations and made itself the go to source for anything on medicinal cannabis and CBD.  It has also bought and paid for a large number of highly qualified people with impressive credentials who inevitably carry great weight with the authorities. Its ambitions are clear.  It intends to destroy the small businesses that built this market and seize it all for itself and it looks as though it may well succeed.

CannaPro spoke with the FSA earlier this week.  For the moment, the FSA cannot act as we are in election ‘purdah’, the civil service can’t really do anything except keep the status quo but that will all change after the election.  Then, depending on the new government, it may move rapidly to commence enforcement. What this will mean is impossible to predict but almost certainly the multiples will take stock off the shelves unless some interim arrangements are agreed.  Those with retail premises will be in the most immediate danger, online sellers will be in a better position but if Trading Standards officers try to seize stock, they have extraordinary powers and trying to obstruct them may result in arrest.

Of course, the novel foods classification is fake and a lot of evidence has been presented to prove this but it is simply being dismissed. It’s rather like the way the medical establishment dismisses the evidence on medicinal cannabis.  If these institutions don’t like evidence they simply ignore it.  For obvious reasons, it suits the CMC to get behind the novel food scam but the result for consumers will be a lot less choice and probably substantial price rises. It’s also very bad news for CBD businesses.  A lot of people are likely to lose their jobs.

 

Written by Peter Reynolds

October 31, 2019 at 9:35 pm

Centre for Medicinal Cannabis CBD Report Confirmed as Cheap Marketing Stunt

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Steve Moore, ex-advisor to David Cameron, now leads the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis

At the end of June, the ‘Centre for Medicinal Cannabis’ (CMC) published a report which painted an appalling picture of the CBD market in the UK and has led to headlines and alarm everywhere that consumers are being ripped off and the whole industry is not to be trusted. See: Mischievous ‘Centre for Medicinal Cannabis’ Report Smears UK CBD Industry With Misleading Data

Now, as it publishes what it calls a “further update”, it is confirmed that the report and the extremely expensive PR operation around it is nothing more than a cheap marketing stunt.

The report claimed to have tested 30 major UK CBD products that can be purchased from the UK high street or bought online. It presented alarming results showing that many of the products contained far less CBD than claimed and almost half contained illegal levels of THC and/or CBN. It refused to release information about which products were concerned with evasive answers and excuses that there were ‘legal implications’. Now, in its further update, surprise, surprise, it says that all its members’ products were within 10% of the CBD content indicated on the label.

As CLEAR reported at the time, the report is nothing but a market manipulation exercise. We didn’t expect their preference for their own products to come so quickly and so brazenly, which is why we now christen the whole exercise a cheap stunt. Certainly, there are some rogue businesses and fake products but the impression given by this report is false, misleading and wildly inaccurate. Consumers can be confident if they buy from members of the two trade associations Cannabis Professionals (CannaPro) or Cannabis Trades Association (CTA) they will be getting a quality product which is lab tested and contains exactly what is claimed.

CMC now defines itself as a trade body, although it only has two or three members in the CBD business in the UK, which were formerly members of the long-established trade associations. It should be noted that the so-called ‘independent’ laboratory it used for testing CBD products is itself a member of CMC.

Written by Peter Reynolds

July 18, 2019 at 1:09 pm

Mischievous ‘Centre for Medicinal Cannabis’ Report Smears UK CBD Industry With Misleading Data

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A new report from the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC) paints an appalling picture of the CBD market in the UK and has led to headlines and alarm everywhere that consumers are being ripped off and the whole industry is not to be trusted.

Cannabis has great medical potential. But don’t fall for the CBD scam – The Guardian

Calling on the UK CBD sector to have better regulation and reform – Health Europa

Centre for Medicinal Cannabis survey finds six million adults used CBD in UK – NHS Executive

CBD oil brands contain little to no CBD, test by Sativa’s UK lab reveals – Proactive Investors

It is true that there are some rogue businesses and fake products but the impression given by this report is false, misleading and wildly inaccurate.  For nearly three years the leading CBD businesses in the UK have been engaged in serious, responsible self-regulation and consumers can be confident if they buy from members of the two trade associations Cannabis Professionals (CannaPro) or Cannabis Trades Association (CTA) they will be getting a quality product which is lab tested and contains exactly what is claimed.

The report is nothing but a market manipulation exercise by the authors. To understand why, it’s necessary to understand who is behind the ‘Centre for Medicinal Cannabis’ and examine their record.

The CMC is the latest front for Paul Birch, a multimillionaire, who since 2015 has been funding a series of ventures in the cannabis campaign. Mr Birch has brought one extremely valuable commodity to the campaign which it had been sorely lacking – money.  He has hired a lot of people with the right connections, impressive letters after their name and has thrown a great deal of his cash into expensive PR which, to be fair, has proved very effective. In fact, as with this CBD report, it is characterised by just how much media coverage it has obtained.  This, of course, has earned Birch’s cannabis ventures a reputation as leaders in their field. In fact, they are very much followers.  The content of their work is either directly copied from others’ work or is just a repeat of what has been done before.

The most high profile success achieved with Birch’s money and PR was the campaign around Billy Caldwell and Alfie Dingley, two children with severe epilepsy, whose stories touched the heart of the nation and under enormous moral pressure forced the UK government into long-overdue reform of its blanket ban on cannabis as medicine.  Birch’s money certainly made all the difference. Exactly the same stories and messages had been delivered to the media many times before but it is a fact of life that you only get on to the breakfast and daytime TV shows and in all the tabloids with a very expensive PR operation.

So Birch is at it again with the CMC. It describes itself as the UK’s first and only industry membership body for businesses and investors operating in cannabis based medicinal products (CBMPs) and cannabidiol (CBD) wellness markets.“, which is as wholly false a claim as has ever been published about anything, anywhere.

The existing trade associations, CannaPro and the CTA, were formed years before the CMC and between them represent nearly 1,000 businesses operating in the legal cannabis sector.  Neither of them were consulted before or since the CMC’s report and the fact of their existence and the work they do in regulating the industry has been excluded from the report.

Of course, the CMC won’t name the products which its report showed to be so deficient because this would show that they are not from members of CannaPro or CTA and are therefore not at all representative of what consumers are actually buying. The irony is that PhytoVista, the lab used by the CMC, is itself a member of the CTA and provides testing services to many CannaPro and CTA members.

So take the results of the CMC CBD report with a very large pinch of salt, or perhaps with a tablespoon of hempseed oil containing only a trace of CBD.  It doesn’t tell the truth. It paints a false picture of an industry that is actually a model of self-regulation.

Written by Peter Reynolds

July 9, 2019 at 3:38 pm

Review. ‘Cannabis Health’ Magazine

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This is a milestone in cannabis law reform.  A glossy magazine, produced to the highest standard, fit to sit alongside Country Life, Cosmopolitan or Vogue.  It treats the subject with intelligence, with insight and the stories it tells are told with respect, sensitivity and common sense.

It would be easy to have made this sensationalist, to have made exaggerated claims, launched strident attacks on those who still oppose consumption of the plant or fallen into the trap of folklore rather than science, magic rather than medicine.  The publishers have hit the bullseye with the right tone and style and provided it reaches the right coffee tables, perhaps doctors waiting rooms, it will help to drive reform. Never before have I been moved by a magazine but this represents the achievement of a level of acceptance that sometimes I doubted I would see in my lifetime.

CLEAR was able to contribute to this first issue, introducing our members, Robert Cohen and Marie Emma Smith, whose stories of how cannabis has transformed their lives are beautifully told and I am honoured to have been interviewed as part of a feature on the campaign.

It’s intended to be quarterly but I won’t be surprised if it takes off and becomes monthly before very long.  There is a huge reservoir of advertising expenditure which has been stymied by the short-sighted attitude of social media companies. It will be poetic justice if traditional publishing can do well out of the reintroduction of this traditional medicine. A free, one year, postal subscription is available to the first 10,000 people to register by emailing chloe@aspectpublishing.co.uk

There is still a logjam of prejudice and lack of understanding, particularly amongst cowardly politicians and a medical establishment that feels threatened by a subject where patients know more than doctors.  ‘Cannabis Health’ wll help to break this down.  The sheer weight of public support, enthusiasm and real life experience will soon leave these sceptics desperate to catch up.  Get yourself a copy and enjoy quality writing about cannabis published in print rather than online.  The world is changing!

Written by Peter Reynolds

June 6, 2019 at 3:31 pm

The CBD Market Can Help Drive Cannabis Law Reform But Selling So-Called ‘CBD Flowers’ Could Take Us Backwards

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Jim Weathers of Puff ‘n Stuff CBD shop, Cork, Ireland

Compliant businesses operating responsibly within the legal cannabis sector will help to drive reform. Blurring the lines between legal and illegal products will delay progress.

It seems that the crackdown on the open sale of cannabis flowers online and in high street stores is here.  Both in the UK and Ireland, several shops have been raided in recent weeks and some people are facing potential charges of supplying a class B drug and a possible jail sentence.

These flowers, sold under meaningless pseudonyms such as ‘CBD buds’ or ‘hemp flowers’ are cannabis and cannabis is a controlled drug in both the UK and Ireland.  As CLEAR has been warning for many months, there is no way that these can ever be ‘exempt products’ in the same way as CBD oil.  Their THC content makes no difference. The penalty is the same for any type of cannabis whether it contains zero THC or 25% THC.

It’s unclear whether CBD oil is legal at all in Ireland.  A more accurate description for these products is low-THC cannabis extracts and whereas the UK makes specific provision for exempt products in the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001, there does not seem to be any such provision in Irish law.

In other EU countries an even wider crackdown on CBD products is underway, fuelled also by the extraordinary and clearly unsustainable attempt to deem all cannabis extracts as ‘novel foods’.

Now it shouldn’t need to be said but CLEAR stands for an end to the prohibition of cannabis and all our work is directed towards that end.  Some people seem very confused that our efforts to clarify the law mean that we are on the side of prohibition but this is not the case.  Through our trade association, Cannabis Professionals (CannaPro) we refuse to certify businesses that sell cannabis flowers.  They are cheating their customers by misleading them that these products are legal.  They are also cheating all those other businesses operating within the legal cannabis sector who are working hard to remain compliant.  They are undermining the very good work that the CBD industry is doing to drive wider cannabis law reform.

Of course, many of us are buying cannabis illegally already.  Without our local dealers where would we all be under the oppressive and ridiculous regime under which we live? But our aim and the aim of all responsible cannabis campaigns is to ‘get the dealers off the street’ and move the trade into licensed, regulated outlets.  The emergence of the CBD market and high street retailers selling CBD oil has shown how this could work and there is no doubt at all that it has been a very significant factor in increasing public acceptance of cannabis and the recent reforms for medical access.

The people selling cannabis flowers and claiming they are legal are not heroes, campaigners or warriors in the war on prohibition. They are confidence tricksters, seizing the opportunity to make a quick buck by cheating and endangering their customers. No one is going to go to jail for buying cannabis but if you’ve bought low THC flowers and get charged with possession that could ruin you future prospects of travel, a career, even of keeping your driving licence.  If you’re going to take that risk you need to do so with your eyes open, with the honest trade of an illegal dealer rather than the dishonest trade of a shop or a website that is telling you lies.

Also, be very careful what you are buying.  The ‘CBD flowers’ currently being advertised are most certainly not what they claim to be.  The strain names are being misused.  White Widow, Lemon Haze or Pineapple Express do not come with 20% CBD and only traces of THC.  These products have been doctored.  There simply aren’t any cannabis strains that contain these constituents in these proportions.  What is probably happening is that they are being sprayed with CBD isolate and possibly terpene extracts to come with what are artificial cannabis buds.  Buy these and you are being cheated on many levels and you really don’t know what you are actually inhaling.

We are making steady and accelerating progress towards a rational cannabis policy but this latest development is unwelcome and unhelpful.  Trust your usual dealer.  If you’re buying cannabis flower, it comes with THC.  If you want added CBD take a little oil or vape some CBD crumble.  This will give you a far better result than these fake flowers. It will enhance the therapeutic properties of your cannabis if you’re consuming for medical reasons.  It will give you a far better buzz if you’re consuming for pleasure.

Nothing good will come from these fake flowers. Compliant businesses operating responsibly within the legal cannabis sector will help to drive reform. Blurring the lines between legal and illegal products will delay progress.

 

 

Written by Peter Reynolds

May 21, 2019 at 2:40 pm

The EU’s Attempt To Deem Cannabis Extracts As Novel Foods Will Fail.

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Status of Hemp Extracts in Europe – European Industrial Hemp Association

The European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) has published an excellent eight page document which refutes the recent move by EU food safety agencies to deem cannabis extracts as ‘novel foods’.

Download the document here.

The document explains the entire situation and demonstrates very clearly that this move by the EU is misguided. It shows how these products have been consumed in Europe fro many years, if not centuries, probably millennia and that the EU has previously confirmed in writing that they are not novel.

Aside from these fundamental issues, there are a number of reasons why the process the EU and the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) have followed is flawed and unlawful.

What seems absolutely clear is that this initiative, which is intended to close down the burgeoning CBD market, is based on the intervention of vested interests which are concerned to see a multimillion pound/euro industry emerge in the space of a few years, almost exclusively amongst small and medium-sized businesses.  This is an opportunity which multinational conglomerates have missed and there is no doubt that its success is affecting many existing markets, notably over-the-counter pain medicines.

The EU and government agencies such as the FSA have always been the friends of big business and the intention here has been to force small business into huge costs associated with novel food authorisation which would effectively close their businesses down.

There are many overblown conspiracy theories, particularly around cannabis for medical use and the pharmaceutical industry but this attack on the CBD market, for no valid reason, is difficult to explain in any other way. It seems certain that improper pressure has been brought to bear on these regulators and they are trying to use their powers, improperly and unlawfully, to protect the interests of big business.

They are too late.  The CBD business has grown very quickly and is now too far advanced to be closed down and there is no justifiable reason to do so.  This attempt to impose novel foods status will fail.

 

Written by Peter Reynolds

May 13, 2019 at 10:20 am