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Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Archive for the ‘Consumerism’ Category

Cannabis Trades Association Receives Official Endorsement From the MHRA.

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For nearly two years the Cannabis Trades Association (CTA) has been working with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the Food Standards Agency (FSA), the Home Office, Trading Standards and other UK authorities to bring order and professional standards to the growing market in legal cannabis and CBD products.

The MHRA has now officially recognised CTA by inclusion in its Guidance Note 8 ‘A guide to what is a medicinal product’.

This is long overdue recognition for the CTA’s work which includes regular liaison with the authorities, providing guidance to businesses operating within the market on the law, regulations, professional and quality standards.  The CTA with the MHRA and FSA is also in the process of developing the Cannabis Products Directive (CPD), a framework for regulation and licensing of all cannabis and cannabinoid products. CPD has been translated and submitted to all 28 member states of the EU by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA). It is anticipated that CPD will become UK law within the next two years and will relieve the Home Office of the burden of the cannabis regulation and licensing process, placing it in expert hands.

The CTA was initially conceived at a meeting in Manchester Airport in September 2016. In November 2016, with the assistance of Crispin Blunt MP, then a member of the CLEAR Advisory Board, it was invited to an initial meeting with the MHRA to represent the emerging CBD industry.  The market for legal, low-THC cannabis products derived from industrial hemp had grown rapidly within just a few months but was becoming out of control with a multitude of new companies making unlawful medical claims for their products, which themselves were totally unregulated and of inconsistent quality and unknown provenance.

Through negotiation and a growing relationship with the authorities, CTA was instrumental in bringing the market back from the brink of a serious clampdown.  Now, with over 300 full members and more than 1200 registered sellers, CTA encompasses not just CBD suppliers but also licensed growers and producers of cannabis and businesses involved in the long term development of cannabis products.

CTA is closely involved in the rapidly developing reform of the laws around medical use of cannabis and will be working with the authorities to manage development of the products and systems required for what is expected to be a huge new market.

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WARNING. CBD Flowers, Buds, Weed, Hash Are NOT Legal In The UK.

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This is an extremely serious warning which people need to take seriously.  Both CLEAR and the Cannabis Trades Association have independently dealt with several people who are being prosecuted for possession. The law treats these products exactly the same as any other cannabis. It makes no difference what the THC level is, it is a class B drug and the penalty for possession is up to five years in jail and an unlimited fine.

The confusion arises because of the misunderstood idea that the legal limit for THC is a maximum of 0.2%.  This is the limit for a low THC cultivation licence for what is defined as industrial hemp – but you still need a licence!  Without the licence the law regards industrial hemp exactly the same as the highest THC cannabis that the tabloids would describe as ‘super strength skunk’.

Products ‘derived from’ industrial hemp such as CBD oil or hemp teas can be ‘exempt products’ but there is yet more confusion here.  The THC limit in these products is not 0.2% because, self-evidently, when you extract oil from a low THC cannabis plant you concentrate the THC.  The limit in these products is 1mg of THC per container.  It doesn’t matter how large or small the container is, the limit is 1mg.  That limit also applies to the other ‘controlled drug’ found in such products, cannabinol (CBN).  ‘Exempt products’ must not contain more than 1mg of THC and/or 1mg of CBN in any single container.  The law that defines this is the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001. 2.(1)(c).

There are a number of websites offering these products for sale and, notoriously, one particular shop in Portobello Road.  Whilst these sellers may well misunderstand the law, ignorance is no defence. It is almost inevitable that sooner or later one or more of these sellers will be prosecuted and go to jail.

An email seeking confirmation of the position from the Home Office was replied to as follows:

“Thank you for your email.

I can confirm that the leaves and flowers of the genus Cannabis are controlled and defined as cannabis as outlined in Section 37(1) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971

“cannabis” (except in the expression “cannabis resin”) means any plant of the genus cannabis or any part of any such plant (by whatever name designated) except that it does not include cannabis resin or any of the following products after separation from the rest of the plant, namely—
(a)mature stalk of any such plant,
(b)fibre produced from mature stalk of any such plant, and
(c)seed of any such plant;”.

Once the separation of the stalk and seeds from the plant has occurred it will not be defined as cannabis. This also extends to the fibre produced from the stalk.

Regards

Jill Frankham
Senior Compliance Officer
Drugs & Firearms Licensing Unit”

 

 

Written by Peter Reynolds

July 8, 2018 at 4:35 pm

Posted in Consumerism

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Let’s Nail the Home Office’s Latest Smokescreen About Medical Cannabis

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As the evidence and support for legal access to cannabis for medical use grows, so the Home Office adjusts and reframes its arguments in denial.

This should come as no surprise. The ‘hostile environment’ revealed by the Windrush scandal runs through the Home Office like a stick of rock. The culture of this department is defined by Theresa May and it reflects her character and personality. It is secretive, demands total control and micro management of everything it touches and whenever it is challenged it finds another excuse to maintain its iron rule. It is institutionally dishonest.

A Home Office spokeswoman said:

“We recognise that people with chronic pain and debilitating illnesses are looking to alleviate their symptoms. However, it is important that medicines are thoroughly tested to ensure they meet rigorous standards before being placed on the market, so doctors and patients are assured of their efficacy and safety.”

The truth is rather different. In every jurisdiction throughout the world where medicinal cannabis has been legally regulated, it is through a special system outside pharmaceutical medicines regulation. You cannot regulate a 500 molecule plant-based medicine in the same way as a single molecule synthesised in a lab.

Regulation by the MHRA is the final excuse, the last obstacle to a revolution in healthcare in the UK. We need an ‘Office of Medicinal Cannabis’ as there is in the Netherlands, or ‘Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations’ as administered by Health Canada. Colorado has its ‘Medical Marijuana Registry Program’ and other US states have similar arrangements. Israel’s Ministry of Health has its ‘Medical Cannabis Unit’. In Australia, its equivalent of the MHRA, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, has established its own set of medical cannabis regulations.

Every other government that has recognised the enormous benefit that medicinal cannabis offers has come to the same conclusion: cannabis is a special case. It is far more complex but much, much safer than pharmaceutical products.

So next time you hear this, the last, lame excuse from a government ideologically opposed to this long overdue reform, treat it and them with the contempt they deserve. They prefer that people should continue in pain, suffering and disability than that they should do what science and medicine says is right.

Written by Peter Reynolds

May 16, 2018 at 1:46 pm

Legalising Cannabis WOULD NOT Save £900 Million. A More Realistic Figure Is £6.7 Billion.

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The £900 million figure being touted around by the Taxpayers’ Alliance as the savings that could be achieved from legalising cannabis is a massive underestimate and isn’t based on the sort of model that is currently being implemented in US states.

CLEAR commissioned independent research in 2011 which shows that a model in the UK simlar to that in Colorado would produce a net gain to the UK economy of around £6.7 billion pa and perhaps as high as £9.5 billion pa.

Ben Ramanauskas, who authored the Taxpayers’ Alliance report, has referenced the research we commissioned in his study but has only considered the savings and not the massive opportunities for additional tax revenue which arise from bringing a £6 billion market out of the black economy.

Full study available here: https://s3.eu-west-2.amazonaws.com/assets.clear-uk.org/taxukcan.pdf

Written by Peter Reynolds

May 14, 2018 at 10:14 am

The UK Government’s Latest Excuse About Medicinal Cannabis Is Yet Another Deception.

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Nick Hurd MP, Home Office Minister

Nick Hurd MP, the Home Office minister, said again this week that as far as any consideration of cannabis for medical use is concerned, the government will “await the outcome” of the report on cannabis due from the WHO in 2019 “before considering the next steps”.

In fact, the results of an FOI request show that the UK government has refused to take part in the WHO committee which will “review cannabis and cannabis-related substances on their potential to cause dependence, abuse and harm to health, and potential therapeutic applications”. This despite the WHO issuing a questionnaire to the Department of Health and Social Care “designed to gather information on the legitimate use, harmful use, status of national control and potential impact of international control”.

Aside from the obvious concerns this raises, it is quite extraordinary considering that the UK is the world’s largest producer and exporter of legal cannabis.

Fundamentally the government’s postion on cannabis for medical use hasn’t changed since 1971. Those who follow the Home Office’s statements will have noticed gradual changes but they all seek to reinforce the fundamental premise that cannabis is a dangerous drug of abuse with no therapeutic benefit.

Recent ‘adjustments’, shall we call them, of the official position have dealt with the now overwhelming weight of evidence that cannabis does have very real and significant medical value.  The response has been to caution that all medicines must go through the etablished system of testing for safety and efficacy.

This is a deception as well.  As CLEAR revealed at the beginning of 2018, in every jurisdiction throughout the world where medicinal cannabis has been legally regulated, it is through a special system outside pharmaceutical medicines regulation.

Theresa May is ideologically opposed to the use of cannabis as medicine, it’s as simple as that.  She won’t permit it to be properly considered, discussed or investigated and every time something forces a response, such as a parliamentary question or an enquiry even from a fellow Conservative MP, another deceptive excuse is conjured up.

Victoria Atkins MP, Theresa May MP. Both Have Family Interests In Cannabis For Medical Use.

CLEAR can further reveal that the Home Office’s public position on prospects for licensed cannabis medicnes is also a deception. The statement that has been published is “As happened in the case of Sativex, the Home Office will consider issuing a licence to enable trials of any new medicine…”  We can’t name names just yet but we now have first hand knowledge that at least one publicly-quoted company with established cannabis production facilities in two other G7 countries has been refused permission by the Home Office even to apply for a licence.

The UK government’s stance on cannabis becomes murkier and murkier the deeper you look.  The stench of corruption becomes overpowering when you consider that Theresa May’s husband’s company is the largest single shareholder in GW Pharmaceuticals and the husband of Victoria Atkins MP, the drugs minister, holds a licence to produce 45 acres of cannabis for medical use.

Written by Peter Reynolds

May 12, 2018 at 6:24 pm

The Facts About CBD In The UK. April 2018.

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This article is an update to ‘The Facts About CBD In The UK. December 2016.

The past three years have seen a true phenomenon develop around the cannabis law reform movement which has quickly crossed into mainstream society, commerce and general awareness.  It’s the explosion of the CBD market, a trade that has grown from zero to £50 million per annum in the UK in this very short period.

There has been a great deal of nonsense published about the market, the products and their legality both under drugs laws, food and medicines regulation. The facts that are set out in this article are established from close involvement with the developing market on a daily basis as well as consultation with a number of lawyers of all types and levels of experience as well as direct contact with the Home Office, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and other authorities.

The market has been driven initially because of growing interest in the medical benefits of cannabis and the recognition that, within certain constraints, products derived from low-THC cannabis, legally grown under licence as industrial hemp, are a legal alternative.  An important factor has been that CBD is most often consumed by placing a few drops of oil under the tongue. This has avoided the stigma of smoking a joint and is more in line with the way people perceive a medicine or health food.

The CBD market has also exposed the contradictions, inconsistencies and errors in the Misuse of Drugs legislation and particularly in the confused and inconsistent way in which the Home Office attempts to administer it. For instance, currently there are CBD products produced legally in other EU countries and the USA which can legally be sold in the UK but which the Home Office will not permit UK companies to produce.

Ironically, the most significant development has been that responsible CBD suppliers have moved away from claiming the sort of medical benefits that are, in fact, the reason for the market’s existence.  Although everyone knows this is why people are buying CBD, if you’re in the business of supplying the products you can’t say a thing, not even indirectly, about the medical benefits it offers.

18 months ago, all the leading and responsible suppliers of CBD products in the UK joined together to create their own trade association.  The Cannabis Trades Association UK (CTA UK) now represents 80% by turnover of all the CBD suppliers in the UK. It is governed by its members who have established a set of standards on products, labelling and marketing which all abide by.  These standards are designed to protect and inform consumers and to ensure that all CTA UK members are compliant with the law.

The formation of CTA UK was prompted by the MHRA issuing warnings to some suppliers about making medical claims for their products. To remain within the law, CBD products must be sold as food supplements and the most that can be said about them is that they help to improve and maintain health and wellbeing.  Before any product can be marketed with medicinal claims it must have a marketing authorisation from the MHRA. Food supplements must also comply with certain laws and regulations administered by the FSA.

CTA UK is now engaged in a continuous dialogue with both the MHRA and FSA.  Regular meetings are held to consider new suppliers and products entering the market to ensure they comply with the law, regulations and CTA UK standards.

When supplied by a CTA UK member, consumers can be certain that the product they are buying is 100% legal and is accurately labelled and described.  CBD is not a ’controlled drug’.  It does not appear in any of the classifications or schedules to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

There is widespread misunderstanding about the 0.2% THC limit in industrial hemp.  This is the limit in the growing plant and is not relevant to CBD products.  Clearly what may be under 0.2% in the growing plant would be far higher in an extract which is, by definition, concentrated. The Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 make it clear that any product derived from low-THC cannabis grown legally under licence as industrial hemp is “exempt” provided it contains “not more than one milligram” of THC or CBN. This is the limit that matters. See The Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 ‘Interpretation’ 2-(1) (a)(b)(c)

Contrary to suggestions that the market is “in chaos”, “half-legal”, “a bit of a mess” and other spurious claims, in fact, it is a model of self-regulation where the industry itself has put aside its competitive instincts to co-operate for the benefit of consumers and in its own long term self-interest.

No suppliers will be admitted to membership of CTAUK unless they cease making medicinal claims, stop selling illegal products (for instance with high levels of THC, described as ‘indica’ or intended for pets or veterinary purposes).  Indeed, any suppliers that continue such conduct are likely to be subject to enforcement action by the MHRA and Trading Standards.

There are further changes or clarifications in the law relating to some CBD products which have emerged in the last few weeks.  These arise out of regulations from the FSA.  Isolates or pure CBD are now no longer permitted as they have been classified as ‘novel foods’.  This could mean a prison sentence of up to two years for anyone selling them.

It’s a myth, although regularly reported in the press, that there has been any change in the law or that CBD has been made legal or classified as a medicine. CBD products can already be prescribed by doctors without any restriction, just as any other food supplement. When the inevitable cannabis law reform takes place it will still be unlawful to make medicinal claims about any CBD or cannabis product without a marketing authorisation from the MHRA.

Within the next few months, the first CBD medicine will receive a marketing authorisation from the MHRA. Epidiolex, a whole plant extract, refined to deliver 98% CBD, is GW Pharmaceuticals’ second cannabis-derived prescription medicine which is intended for severe forms of paediatric epilepsy. It is not derived from industrial hemp but from high CBD strains of cannabis grown specifically for the purpose. It should be noted that this is to be administered in massive doses of up to 20 mg per day per kg of body weight,  CBD as a food supplement for adults has a maximum recommended dose of 200mg per day.

The CBD food supplement market will continue to grow.  Other medicines may be authorised in the near future, most likely under the MHRA’s Traditional Herbal Registration scheme, which will permit them to be described as medicines for minor ailments not requiring the supervision of a doctor.

Clearly, it remains urgent that our government gets to grips with the reality of the need and benefits of cannabis for medical use in the wider sense. However, even as we begin to make progress the CBD market in its present form will continue to fulfil an important need for many years to come.

 

 

 

 

Home Office Denies FOI Request In Cover-Up Of All Information On Cannabis Production Licences

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On 6th March 2018 CLEAR submitted a Freedom of Information Request to the Home Office asking for full details of the licences accounting for the legal production of cannabis in the UK.  This arose from the story which we broke on 4th March revealing that the UK is the world’s largest producer and exporter of legal cannabis, this according to data provided to the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) by the government.

The Home Office has refused the request.  Its grounds for refusal are that disclosure “would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any person or would be likely to prejudice the prevention or detection of crime“.

Presumably this means that the commercial interest of GW Pharmaceuticals and whoever else has been granted such licences would be prejudiced and that they would risk robbery or other crime at their places of business.

INCB Production of Cannabis 2015-2016

We consider this to be false and without any merit whatsoever. How would it prejudice anyone’s commercial interest?  We would not expect any detail that goes behind the licence holder’s normal commercial confidence and it must be right that the identity of those companies or individuals licenced to produce cannabis should be on the public record together with outline information about the terms of the licence – what is it for, for what period, in what quantities.  Furthermore, with the security precautions required for such a licence, any attempt at crime would be foolhardy and utterly stupid.  It would be much easier either to import or produce your own cannabis.  The sort of criminal enterprise that would be required to raid, for instance, one of GW’s grows would be on a grand scale, incredibly risky and with sentences probably higher than for production of cannabis.

Clearly, disclosure of the information around these licences could, in any case, be limited to redact any specific information which should be kept confidential

It’s quite clear that this refusal is simply an excuse, probably to cover-up not only the extent of the licences but also the basis on which they have been issued.

Of course, the Home Office has pre-empted the next step in a FOI request and states that “the public interest falls in favour” of not providing this information.  We consider this to be nonsense.  It is clear that the public interest (not just the interest of the public) is very much that the issue of such licences should be a matter of public record.  It is outrageous that this information is being kept secret.

The answer to the second part of our FOI Request provides further insight into how little trust can be placed in the Home Office and demonstrates that its answers are dishonest.  In answer to a written question in Parliament on 1st March 2018, Home Office minster Nick Hurd MP said “No licences for pharmaceutical companies to grow and process medicinal cannabis for exportation to other countries have been issued.”  However the INCB report, which information can only have come from the Home Office, shows that in 2015/16 the UK exported 2.1 tons of medical cannabis.  We asked for an explanation of how Mr Hurd’s answer is consistent with the facts reported.

Nick Hurd MP, Home Office Minister

The Home Office’s answer is that “these figures could include any plant material exported for pharmaceutical purposes or pharmaceutical products containing cannabinoids that are manufactured in the UK and exported, such as Sativex.” and that it takes ‘medicinal cannabis’ to mean “substances produced to be consumed, be that smoked or ingested in any way.”

It is clear therefore that the Home Office has given two different answers to the same question and that the answer given to the INCB is correct whereas the answer given by Mr Hurd is without doubt intended to mislead Parliament.  It also seeks falsely to create a distinction between Sativex and other forms of cannabis which is manifestly and beyond doubt another deception, based on information published by GW Pharmaceuticals which CLEAR revealed in 2016.

In summary therefore, the Home Office has refused to answer the FOI Request in relation to licensing on grounds which are entirely spurious and has demonstrated that it is actively engaged in deceiving both Parliament and the public on the export of medicinal cannabis from the UK.

Following the required procedure, we have now requested an internal review of the Home Office’s handling of the FOI Request.  We argue that: “It goes directly to the question of the massive public demand for legal access to cannabis for medical use and the total denial of this by government. This policy is itself irrational and against the public interest and the refusal to disclose the information requested is a political cover-up.”

We anticipate this will be a whitewash and further attempt at a cover-up. Thereafter we have a right to complain to the Infomation Commissioner.  At this stage we would also seek to mobilise support from MPs with an interest in this area.  Ultimately, we may be able to apply to the High Court for judical review of the Home Office’s decision and we will consider mounting a crowdfunding campaign to enable this.