Peter Reynolds

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An ‘Expert Panel’ On Medicinal Cannabis Without A Single Expert On It?

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Dr Michael McBride, Chair of the Cannabis-based Medicines Expert Panel

To be fair, the members of the expert panel are hardly a surprise.  It’s the medical establishment writ large.  The chairman, Dr John McBride, was, according to Charlotte Caldwell, “instrumental” in stopping Billy’s medicine being prescribed, despite the original prescription coming from a consultant neurologist specialising in paediatric epilepsy.

A government which has denied any medicinal value in cannabis for nearly 50 years needs ‘cover’ for its long overdue U-turn.  Surely though, there needs to be at least one member of the panel who has some expertise in the subject? It’s doubtful that any of the members have ever seen a vaporiser or could tell the difference between weed, hash and a concentrate. They’d probably just call them all ‘skunk’.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer

The intention is probably to turn ‘medicinal cannabis’ into a pill or a bottle of medicine, a nice square peg that these bureaucrats can slot into their square hole. Such servants of the status quo are incapable of considering that modern medicine might have anything to learn from traditional, plant-based medicine that has been used successfully for millennia, instead of barely a century of the simplistic, reductionist theory that they represent.  Of course it shouldn’t be a matter of either/or, we should use the best of both theories because both have much to offer to the health of the nation.

It’s instructive that Professor Dame Sally Davies managed to find “overwhelming” evidence of the medicinal value of cannabis in about 24 hours flat. The evidence has been wilfuly ignored by every government and the self-serving individuals who have held the role of Home Secretary since 1971.

It’s astonishing though that in her review, delivered at lightning speed, she’s come up with this pejorative term “grown cannabis” yet seems enthusiastic about synthetic cannabinoids on which there is precious little clinical research and strong evidence of severe, even life-threatening side effects, totally different from the natural product.

Dame Sally writes: “Cannabis has many active chemicals and only cannabis or derivatives produced for medical use can be assumed to have the correct concentrations and ratios. Using other forms, such as grown or street cannabis, as medicine for therapeutic benefit is potentially dangerous.”

Where else does cannabis come from if it isn’t ‘grown’?  It has to be synthesised in a lab. Why on earth would Dame Sally want to go down that route when no other jurisdiction enabling legal access to medicinal cannabis has done so? Bedrocan products are grown specifically for medical use and standardisation of “correct concentrations and ratios” is exactly what the company is focused on.

This is a clash between two different approaches to medicine which, as I say should be regarded as complementary, not contradictory but we cannot possibly move forward if the only ‘experts’ have no expertise!

To be fair, this is all unfolding at breakneck speed.  Imagine Theresa May hovering in the wings, the hard line prohibitionist eager for any opportunity to kick this back into touch. As it stands, the expert panel will fail, it’s bound to.  We have to give Dame Sally a chance to adjust to the new reality.  With the assistance of Professor Mike Barnes, CLEAR will be keeping a close watch on progress and we will keep Dame Sally apprised.  We have already written to her twice this week setting out our concerns and we will do so on a regular basis.

 

 

 

 

Written by Peter Reynolds

July 5, 2018 at 7:06 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.

 

 

 

 

“The Settled View Of Ministers Is That The Medicinal Campaign Is Just An Excuse To Take Cannabis”.

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These are the words of Sir Oliver Letwin, my MP, during a meeting with him just a few days ago.

To some this may be an astonishing revelation, to others it will be depressing confirmation that this bigoted and out-of-date view still persists.  Anyone with even a modicum of knowledge will agree that it is deeply ignorant and in defiance of a vast quantity of scientific evidence.

This is the end point of my two and half years of discussion with Sir Oliver.  He’s not currently a cabinet minster but through his 20 year parliamentary career he’s always been at the top of the Conservative Party: Shadow Home Secretary, Shadow Chancellor and then in government in 2010 elevated to the status of right hand man to David Cameron.  As Minister for Government Policy and then Chancellor of The Duchy of Lancaster, he was been described as ‘the intellectual powerhouse of the Tory Party’ and as ‘number three in the government after Cameron and Osborne’.

So what goes through Oliver’s mind is a pretty good indication of how the Tory Party establishment thinks.  I’m absolutely certain that what he has told me is exactly the present mindset of ministers from Theresa May down.

Back in 2015 Oliver wrote to George Freeman MP on my behalf, then the minister with responsibility for medicines.  He’s also written to Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary and Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary.  None of this correspondence has resulted in anything but the usual, anodyne words that are nothing but a brush off.  I did think I was getting somewhere though when he told me he would establish with the Department of Health what its position was on the scientific evidence. Back came the answer that all the evidence had been considered, expert advice had been taken and the conclusion was that the risks of  legalising for medicinal use would outweigh the benefits.

Now this didn’t make sense to me. I wanted to know what evidence and what experts.  After half a dozen requests for this information and no response I submitted a Freedom of Information Request to the Department of Health.  Eventually it was returned stating quite clearly that it had neither requested, received nor considered any evidence on medicinal cannabis. Coincidentally, just a few days later, Paul Flynn MP asked almost exactly the same question in Parliament and received the same answer. So I wrote to Oliver and said that either he had been misled or he was misleading me, which was it? It was at this point that he stopped replying to my emails.

After several months of repeated requests and no response I went direct to his parliamentary secretary and booked a surgery appointment to see him as a constituent.  I was quite prepared to confront him face to face.  I was amused to receive an email from Oliver the very same day in which he said that would reluctantly agree to see me on the subject “one last time”.  So at the meeting his explanation was that it had all been a huge misunderstanding, he didn’t mean to suggest that any evidence had been examined, it was simply “the settled view of ministers is that the medicinal campaign is just an excuse to take cannabis”.

Such is the state of our so-called democracy and so-called evidence-based policy.

Written by Peter Reynolds

October 18, 2017 at 4:26 pm

The Daily Telegraph Misrepresents ‘Skunk’ Cannabis Mental Health Cases With Figure of 82,000. True Figure is 1,600.

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Martina Lees

Two almost identical articles were published in The Daily Telegraph on 11th and 12th August 2017

Does smoking skunk trigger psychosis? And if so… why aren’t we doing more about it?

The secrets of skunk

In both articles, journalist Martina Lees wrote that:

“…hospital admissions with a primary or secondary diagnosis of drug-related mental and behavioural disorders have more than doubled over the past decade, to almost 82,000 a year. Most are believed to be cannabis-related.”

This is a combination of wildly misleading manipulation of data and brazen falsehood.

Hospital Episode Statistics are maintained in great detail by the NHS using a system of coding called ICD10 – a medical classification list by the World Health Organization (WHO). containing codes for diseases, signs and symptoms, abnormal findings, complaints, social circumstances, and external causes of injury or diseases.

The specific code for ‘mental and behavioural disorders due to use of cannabinoids’ is F12.  For the past 11 years, ‘finished admission episodes’ (FAE) for F12 have averaged 973, so the claim that most of the 82,000 are cannabis-related is simply false. (Unless of course, Ms Lees is going to claim she made a mistake.)

So where does the extraordinary figure of 82,000 come from (the exact figure is 81,904)?

Firstly, it is for all illicit drugs or ‘drug misuse’ including the following ICD10 codes:

F11 Mental and behavioural disorders due to use of opioids
F12 Mental and behavioural disorders due to use of cannabinoids
F13 Mental and behavioural disorders due to use of sedatives or hypnotics
F14 Mental and behavioural disorders due to use of cocaine
F15 Mental and behavioural disorders due to use of other stimulants, including caffeine
F16 Mental and behavioural disorders due to use of hallucinogens
F18 Mental and behavioural disorders due to use of volatile solvents
F19 Mental and behavioural disorders due to multiple drug use and use of other psychoactive substances

Secondly, the figure is not just for primary diagnosis but for secondary diagnosis.  So the primary reason for one of these cases might be a broken leg or any other medical condition. The secondary diagnosis might be that the person was high on speed or any of the drugs mentioned.  The primary diagnoses for all these codes adds up to about 8,000 FAEs but the figure is inflated ten-fold by the inclusion of secondary diagnoses.  Why do this?  Why have the figures been presented in this way?  With what purpose?

If the whole premise of her article is about the mental health effects of cannabis, why does Martina Lees use this massively larger figure for all illicit drugs when the specific figure for cannabinoids is easily available?  And if the purpose of the article is to investigate the effect of cannabis on mental health, why look at secondary diagnoses – except that it handily inflates the figure ten-fold?

Three other important points about this data:

1. ‘Finished admission episodes’ is not the same as people, its caseload, so those 1606 cases in 2015-16 almost certainly includes cases where the same person has been admitted more than once.

2. ‘Cannabinoids’ includes synthetic cannabinoids such as Spice and anyone with any knowledge of current affairs will know how problems with Spice have exploded in recent years.  It is a fact that Spice is much more harmful to mental health than cannabis so the increase in F12 FAEs in recent years is almost certainly explained by this.

3.  I’m not a believer in always comparing any data about cannabis with equivalent data for alcohol but it is worth noting, to put these figures into perspective, in 2015-16 the number of FAEs for mental and behavioural disorders due to use of alcohol was 44,491.   As there about 10 times more people use alcohol regularly than cannabis, that means anyone is nearly three times as likely to be admitted for ‘alcohol psychosis’ as ‘cannabis psychosis’.

I have written to Martina Lees asking her to comment on this data and explain why she has used it in such misleading fashion.

 

 

The Drugs Policy Debate. House Of Commons, 18th July 2017.

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This debate was held in Parliament following the publication on 14th July 2017 of the ‘2017 Drug Strategy’.

The debate may be watched in full here.  It starts at 13:17 and finishes at 19:00.

Highlights include:

Crispin Blunt MP at 14:09

 

 

 

 

 

Jeff Smith MP at 15:21

 

 

 

 

 

Norman Lamb MP at 16:10

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul Flynn MP at 16:32

Written by Peter Reynolds

July 26, 2017 at 4:07 pm

Why Is CLEAR Supporting Lord Monson In His Campaign Against So-Called ‘Skunk’?

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Lord Nicholas Monson

Lord Nicholas Monson

CLEAR’s first and overriding objective is to end the prohibition of cannabis.  The tragedies that have struck the Monson family demonstrate all too clearly that prohibition of cannabis is futile.  Not only does it not protect people from harm, it actually maximises the harms and dangers of the cannabis market.

Nicholas Monson’s eldest son, Alexander, was arrested in Kenya in 2012. allegedly for smoking cannabis.  Toxicology reports found no evidence of cannabis in his system. According to both a government and an independent pathologist he died from a fatal blow to the back of his head while in police custody.  Clearly, it was the law against cannabis that led directly to Alexander’s death.

Nicholas Monson with his son Rupert

Just three months ago, Rupert, Nicholas Monson’s younger son, took his own life after a descent into depression and psychosis in which the excessive consumption of so-called ‘skunk’ was clearly a significant factor.  Rupert himself said that he was addicted and there is good evidence to show that cannabis without CBD is more addictive.  It is well established from research as far back as the early 1990s that approx 9% of regular users develop dependence which produces real physical withdrawal symptoms: insomnia, lack of appetite and irritability, sometimes a headache.  For most people these are easily overcome within a week or so but not for everyone.  Most importantly though, cannabis in the early 1990s contained, on average, half to a third as much THC as it does now and always a healthy buffer of CBD.  The addictiveness of so-called ‘skunk’ with zero or very little CBD, is several times greater than the cannabis available 20 to 30 years ago.

It’s important to add that Rupert was also very badly failed by the dire state of mental health services. Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, a specialist provider of mental health and drug treatment services said that he needed to be admitted but a bed was not available.  It was just a few days later that he committed suicide.

Nicholas Monson has called for so-called ‘skunk’ to be made a class A drug but also for lower potency cannabis, with a maximum THC:CBD ratio of 3:1 to be made legally available through a regulated system.  Theresa May wrote to him after reading coverage of the story in the press.  She expressed her sympathy and said how she shared his concerns.  Importantly, she suggested that Lord Monson prepare a paper and a presentation to the Home Office on his proposals.  This is a tremendous opportunity towards introducing measures that will better protect vulnerable people like Rupert and also for wider reform of the cannabis laws that will reduce all the harms presently caused by prohibition.  Cannabis would be purchased from government licensed outlets just like alcohol and the aim would be to collapse the criminal market just like the market in dangerous, ‘moonshine’ whisky.

CLEAR does not agree that raising so-called ‘skunk’ to class A would be an effective measure.  It would be virtually impossible to enforce, requiring a massive increase in laboratory testing of cannabis and the supply of high potency varieties would simply be pushed underground. The price will go up and all the harms of a criminal market will be increased.  All the evidence is that drug classification or penalties have absolutely no effect whatsoever on consumption.  However, Lord Monson suggests that all personal cannabis possession should be decriminalised and police would focus only on dealers in so-called ‘skunk’.  There is a very strong argument that with high quality cannabis available legally, people would turn away from the black market.

Of course, we support the idea of legally available cannabis with a maximum THC:CBD ratio of 3:1.  This could be the basis of a system that could work very successfully. The product would be available only through a limited number of licensed outlets to adults only.  It would be supplied in appropriate packaging with detailed labelling of contents.  Possession of any cannabis not in this packaging would be reasonable grounds for it to be seized and tested.

Lord Nicholas Monson, Peter Reynolds

This will, of course, provoke outrage amongst many cannabis consumers, particularly those who grow their own but it would be fantastic progress.  It would usher in a far more rational, sensible regime where we could establish real data about harms and risks.  If appropriate, this could lead to the regulation of higher potency varieties.  Of course, we recognise that for medical use, a completely different approach to cannabinoid content is required and much higher potency may be necessary in some instances.

CLEAR is in the business of reform and this is the most likely path to reform that has ever emerged in the UK.  We are not in the business of promoting a cannabis market which enthusiasts and connoisseurs would regard as some sort of utopia.  The only purpose of any drugs policy must be to reduce harm and this proposal, if implemented, would massively reduce all the social harms caused by prohibition and reduce the risk of health harms.

Finally, it has to be said that, in typical fashion, a substantial part of the cannabis community has reacted in almost hysterical anger to Lord Monson’s proposals.  The only effect of such behaviour is to hold back reform.  We have been horrified and disgusted at the abuse directed at the Monson family.  It has shown cannabis consumers in the very worst light and demonstrated that some are so stupid that they damage the very cause they seek to advocate.  Nicholas Monson is a grieving father who, despite his agony, has seen the rational way forward and lent his energy and commitment towards reform that will benefit everyone.  We stand alongside him and we urge all cannabis consumers to consider these ideas carefully – and please, lend us your support!

Lord Nicholas Monson adds:

“The motivation for my campaign is to protect the young and vulnerable in particular from ingesting any substance whose contents can have a deleterious short or long term effect on their minds. To watch one’s son spiral into psychosis from a heavy usage of skunk is distressing to behold. Rupert’s psychiatric team put his psychosis down to skunk. This is unequivocal. Yes there are other psychoactive drugs around but skunk is what did for Rupert. It so happens that the remedy for skunk is a legalised and regulated market in cannabis where clear information is available. This should be applauded by the recreational cannabis community. Separately I have long supported the medical community’s initiatives to prescribe variants of cannabis with high CBD for people suffering from a wide variety of conditions.”

Written by Peter Reynolds

June 7, 2017 at 7:10 pm

So-Called ‘Skunk’ – What Does The Word Mean And How Much Of A Problem Is It?

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The meaning of the word ‘skunk’ has changed.   Today it has come to mean high potency cannabis that contains zero or very little CBD and this is a definition that is now in general use worldwide, including by scientists such as Professors David Nutt and Val Curran who are very much supporters of reform.

Skunk #1

Originally, it meant a strain of cannabis selectively bred from a Colombian sativa, a Mexican sativa and an Afghan indica that was christened skunk because of its extremely strong smell. The smell has nothing to do with its strength and is produced by the terpenes in the plant, not the cannabinoids. In fact, contrary to popular opinion, skunk is not particularly strong, producing about 8% THC which in today’s terms, with many strains now exceeding 20%, could even be described as weak. However what defines the strain was that it was one of the first to breed out virtually all the CBD content.

Skunk #1 was one of the earliest successful cannabis hybrids. In fact, its genetics are fundamental to the cannabis grown by GW Pharmaceuticals and incorporated into its licensed whole plant cannabis medicine Sativex.

The word was quickly adopted by headline writers in the British gutter press, the Daily Mail, the Sun, the Daily Express and the Daily Telegraph, all off which are relentlessly engaged in publishing anti-cannabis propaganda, often completely fake and always wildly exaggerated.  In the UK media the term simply became a sensationalist synonym for cannabis.

As well as an unregulated, often wildly irresponsible press, the UK is also home to a small group of researchers who are steadily and consistently funded to investigate the negative effects of cannabis, more than anywhere else in the world. The figurehead and lead scientist is Professor Sir Robin Murray of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London.  No one else has published as much research on the negative effects of cannabis which, although they can be very serious in a few cases, apply only to a tiny, fraction of one percent of the hundreds of millions of people worldwide who are cannabis consumers.

Professor Sir Robin Murray

I have met Sir Robin several times.  In fact I once spent two days sitting next to him at a conference in the House of Lords.  His views on cannabis are much more balanced than they are presented in the press.  In fact he is on the record stating that the majority of people gain a great deal of benefit and enjoyment from cannabis.  As a scientist he also recognises the now considerable body of evidence demonstrating that cannabis is a safe and effective medicine for a wide range of conditions.  He is, however, the poster boy for modern day reefer madness and his work his quoted on a selective basis by all those who oppose cannabis law reform.  Even Kings College’s own press office has a record of exaggerating, overstating and misrepresenting Sir Robin’s work.

It was Sir Robin and his team who first started to use the word ‘skunk’ in a scientific context.  As far as I am aware, they have never properly defined it and as the thrust of much of their work is that psychotic symptoms from cannabis use are dose dependent, it is difficult to understand why they have chosen to use it without specifying what it means in terms of THC and CBD levels.

Gradually however, the term has become accepted within the scientific community and this reinforces its use in the media.  Perhaps the last nail in the coffin of the correct definition was the Channel 4 Drugs Live programme in 2015 when Professors David Nutt and Val Curran adopted the word.  This despite the fact that the cannabis they used was provided by Bedrocan, the Netherlands government’s official producer and was a haze strain, most definitely not skunk.

Ch 4 Drugs Live: Cannabis. Prof. David Nutt, Jon Snow, Prof. Val Curran

So, after much consideration, CLEAR has decided to bow to the inevitable and recognise that the meaning of the word has changed.  It is now shorthand for high potency, low CBD cannabis and it has become counterproductive to hold out for the correct definition. We must accept that language and words evolve and change over time.  In future we will refer to so-called ‘skunk’ and we will explain what it means.  Importantly this means stressing that it is not so much the absolute level of THC that matters but the absence or virtual absence of CBD.  Even a strain that contains 5% THC can be harmful to vulnerable people if it contains no CBD.  Conversely, a strain containing as much as 25% THC but perhaps 5% CBD is much safer and virtually harmless for the vast majority of adults.

How Much Of A Problem Is So-Called ‘Skunk’?

It remains a fact that peanuts are a far riskier substance to consume than cannabis, even so-called ‘skunk’.  About one in 100 people suffer from peanut allergy which in severe cases can be life threatening.  By contrast, the data shows that about one in 20,000 people risks a psychotic episode after consumption of cannabis.  To add more context, about four in one hundred people are allergic to seafood and, adjusting for the number of users, alcohol consumption is five times more likely than cannabis to see anyone admitted to hospital for mental health problems.

On the face of it then, relatively speaking, so-called ‘skunk’ is safer than peanuts or oysters – but this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do everything we can to protect those few people who are at risk.

No one really understands why, how or even if cannabis is a significant factor in some people becoming seriously mentally ill.  Psychosis in all its forms, including schizophrenia, strikes most commonly in young men just as they are dealing with all the other problems of reaching adulthood: becoming independent from parents, the hormonal changes of adolescence, forming relationships and reaching sexual maturity, pressure of exams, starting work and beginning to experiment with alcohol, cannabis and other drugs.  Nevertheless it is perfectly reasonable to conclude that it is at least a component factor in some cases and possibly much more significant in a few.  Clearly, cannabis is a powerful psychoactive substance and it can have positive and negative effects on the mind.  Science proves that the developing brain is more vulnerable to the effects of any substance while it is at the height of its ‘plasticity’ when its course of development can easily be changed.  Science also proves that so-called ‘skunk’ with zero or very little CBD can be more harmful than when this protective compound is present.

The same vulnerabilities exist in respect of other mental health issues, particularly depression.  Again, depression, manifested at its extreme by suicide, is most common in young men experiencing the turmoil of their time of life.  While some people find cannabis helps with this, for others it can make the condition far worse.  For some a small amount of cannabis can be beneficial but take a little too much and the effect is reversed.  In all cases, the absence of CBD only makes matters worse.

So, in conclusion, the absolute risk of consuming so-called ‘skunk’ is very small but for a few people it can be very serious.  It’s inaccurate to deem so-called ‘skunk’ as dangerous, just as no one calls peanuts or oysters dangerous but for those few people who are vulnerable, ‘skunk’, peanuts and oysters can all be very, very dangerous.

Written by Peter Reynolds

June 7, 2017 at 5:38 pm

Bad Behaviour On Both Sides Of The Cannabis Debate.

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Is Mr Angry For Or Against?

Cannabis evangelists, with their conspiracy theories and religious ‘belief’ that cannabis is totally harmless and cures everything, are every bit as delusional as those who subscribe to ‘reefer madness’.

We see this every day on the CLEAR Facebook page.  Anything we share that is even slightly negative about cannabis or that suggests some people might be vulnerable to some harm from using it, produces a hostile, often hysterical reaction.

100% Fake News

Actually, the evangelists play straight into the hands of prohibitionists.  They make fools of themselves by behaving as if we have committed the most heinous blasphemy by daring to criticise their favourite plant.  Particularly amongst our American followers, many cannot distinguish between sharing something and endorsing it.  We share many news items we disagree with but when it comes to science we neither agree nor disagree, it’s all part of the body of evidence that needs to be considered and balanced.

Of course, the reality of social media is that those who shout loudest or comment most frequently are not necessarily representative of the whole audience.  We put a lot of effort into moderating our page to make it as informative as possible.  We have a very strict policy on bad language.  We won’t tolerate commenters abusing each other or launching vicious personal attacks (even if they are against Donald Trump or Theresa May).  All single word comments are deleted.  No one wants to read an endless string of “bullshit”, “BS” or worse.  Far too often we have to ban some commenters immediately.  We simply don’t want people who can express themselves only through a string of obscenities getting in the way of our newsfeed.

A few days ago we shared the study presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 66th Annual Scientific Session, held in Washington, D.C.  It suggests that cannabis use can raise the risk of stroke and cardiac failure.  The furore and firestorm of abuse that erupted is quite ridiculous and only serves to make the cannabis campaign look completely ridiculous.  There are clearly limitations in the study.  Firstly, it doesn’t show causation, merely statistical correlation.  Secondly, all the subjects had been discharged from hospital so clearly had suffered some serious health problem.

It is a ridiculous way to behave for anyone who wants to advance the cause of cannabis law reform.  It’s also utterly stupid constantly to accuse scientists, researchers or indeed CLEAR of being corrupt, dishonest, ‘in the pocket of Big Pharma’ or often far, far worse.

It is true that the history of cannabis prohibition is all about lies, deceit, misinformation and propaganda.  There are still some people, even in elevated positions such as UK prime minister Theresa May, who wish to continue with this form of repression but wiser counsel is prevailing in most parts of the world.

More and more scientists, researchers and doctors are studying the effects of cannabis and rarely does a day pass without a cannabis report being published somewhere in the world. What were almost accepted prejudices such as the ‘gateway theory’ and that ‘cannabis causes psychosis’ are being debunked more and more often.

Of course, scientists, researchers and doctors, just like everyone else, have been subject to all the propaganda for the past 100 years, so there is still much prejudice and confusion to dispel but we should respect and value the work of such people even if we don’t like all their conclusions.

On any subject, truth lies in assessing and balancing all the evidence that is available.  CLEAR will continue to share all significant evidence published about cannabis whether it is positive or negative.  Similarly, we will continue to share stories from the tabloid media that seek to demonise or scaremonger about cannabis.  It is important that people see the propaganda that is being published and the way that public opinion is formed.

 

Written by Peter Reynolds

March 12, 2017 at 3:48 pm

‘This House Would Say No To Drugs’, The Oxford Union, 16th February 2017.

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Peter Reynolds, Stephen DeAngelo

On Thursday, 16th February 2017, the Oxford Union held a debate on the motion ‘This House Would Say No To Drugs’.

thwsntd-graphicI was honoured to be invited to speak against the motion in the august company of Paul Hayes and Stephen DeAngelo. Speaking for the motion were Andrew Ng, Assistant Commissioner Patricia Gallan and Shaun Attwood.

We successfully defeated the motion by approximately 120 votes to 90.  A video of the debate will be released shortly.  I reproduce my speech below.

“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”

These are the words of Harry Anslinger, who in 1930 was appointed the first ever commissioner of the US Federal Bureau of Narcotics. 

And this is the exactly same standard of argument and evidence that we have in favour of drug prohibition today.

Anslinger went on to start the war on drugs 40 years before Richard Nixon invented the term.  His anti-cannabis crusade was based on racism, the suggestion that it caused madness, violence and depravity – yes, the same scare stories, myths and deceit that we still see published every day in the pages of the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph.  Indeed, exactly the same nonsense which every home secretary continues to trot out and on which our present prime minister bases UK drugs policy.

Don’t be in any doubt about it, the Home Office, under successive governments, has been engaged in the systematic deception of the British public.  It misleads, misinforms and repeatedly publishes bare faced lies about drugs and drugs policy and subverts every effort towards reform advocated by more enlightened politicians. 

In 2013, according to Norman Baker and Nick Clegg, Theresa May tried to falsify the international comparators report which showed that across the world harsh penalties make no difference to the level of drug use.  The facts simply don’t fit with her ideology.

And this idiocy pervades our society.  It is reflected in this motion which I oppose.  The premise of ‘This House Would Say No to Drugs’ is false from the very start.  It’s preposterous! We all say yes to drugs, every day, inevitably, in cocktails of medicines and recreational stimulants, in food, drink, in endogenous highs released through exercise and emotions, repeatedly, regularly, all of us, without exception, do drugs.

That our governments have seen fit to draw arbitrary lines as to which drugs are acceptable and which are not, which drugs that we can celebrate and which we will be locked up for, has nothing to do with evidence, science and, least of all, absolutely nothing to do with how harmful or dangerous they are. They are based on prejudice and thinking in 2017 that has advanced no further than Harry Anslinger in 1930. 

Sometimes these prejudices have strange echoes in the past. Coffee was banned in Mecca in 1511, as it was believed to stimulate radical thinking – the governor thought it might unite his opposition. What does that remind you of?

Often these lines are not arbitrary, they are based on vested interests. In 1777, Frederick the Great of Prussia also tried to ban coffee. He argued it interfered with the country’s beer consumption.  Before the first International Opium Convention in 1925 Egyptian cotton farmers successfully lobbied for cannabis to be banned as they feared the superior fibre crop of hemp.  Back to Harry Anslinger and he was in league with the timber barons who greatly feared the far better option of using hemp to make paper and the fledging oil industry which had just invented nylon, a synthetic alternative to the job that hemp fibre had done for thousands of years.  When Henry Ford invented the Model T he designed it to run on ethanol produced from hemp. He planted hemp on his own land for the purpose.  It’s no conspiracy theory to argue that the entire oil industry in predicated on the prohibition of cannabis, it’s just good, solid evidence.

Today, in the UK, prohibition of much safer substances like cannabis and MDMA is enforced to preserve the monopoly of legal recreational drugs that belongs to the alcohol industry – a drug that is at least a dangerous as heroin and causes far more misery and death in our society.  It’s no surprise when the UK alcohol industry spends £800 million every year on advertising that the media which enjoys that income supports the alcohol monopoly.

As if we didn’t have the clearest possible lesson from the prohibition of alcohol which gave birth to organised crime and demonstrated beyond any doubt that prohibition never works, it just makes the problem worse.  

The UK is more backwards, more disgraced, more shamed by a drugs policy that causes far more harm than it prevents, than almost any other first world country.

Prohibition is a fundamentally immoral policy.  If you remember one thing that I say today, please make it this. It sets law enforcement against the communities it is supposed to protect.  Being a police office is a noble and honourable calling.  Every society needs policing but drugs policy has perverted this profession.  The demand for what are deemed illicit drugs comes from society but instead of protecting us from danger, police action increases the dangers we are subject to.   The harder the police clamp down, the more the price of drugs rises, the more unscrupulous and violent the unregulated criminal trade becomes and the more contaminated, more concentrated and more dangerous are the drugs themselves.

In Amsterdam, there is no problem with Spice, the synthetic cannabinoid that is ravaging our streets and British prisons at present.  In sane, civilised society like California, Colorado or Washington, where adults can access safe, properly regulated cannabis, there is no Spice problem like we have in the UK. This disgusting, horrible product is the direct responsibility of the politicians who continue to pursue our ignorant anti-cannabis policy.  It is just one example of the great, immoral evil that prohibition causes.  And I ask you, if this crazy policy of prohibition cannot be enforced in prisons, then how do we expect to enforce it in wider society?

It is prohibition and drugs policy based on prejudice that destroys police and community relations.  It is current policy that means 70% of all acquisitive crime is caused by drug addiction – for which we send sick and poorly people to jail where they find easy access to more and nastier drugs.  This is the real madness that drugs cause.  It is the madness of deranged government ministers and their refusal to consider evidence or to resist pressure from their masters in Fleet Street.

What we need to do is say yes to a drugs policy that is designed to reduce harm and protect our communities.  Alcohol is promoted and so easily available as to be ridiculous, in every other shop on the high street, yet we control the access of children to alcohol and tobacco quite effectively.  But we abandon them to the street weed dealer who sells them muck grown by other children who have been trafficked from overseas and locked in hidden farms which are dangerous fire risks.  This is the shameful reality that our policies have produced.

Doctors freely prescribe anti-depressants, tranquilisers, highly toxic opioids such as tramadol, weird drugs for pain and epilepsy like gabapentin, which we don’t really understand at all.  Yet it is a criminal offence for a doctor to prescribe cannabis, a remedy that mankind has used safely and effectively for at least 10,000 years.

We mislead and misinform.  We encourage young people to go out and drink, yet we make ecstasy, MDMA, a drug far safer than even paracetamol, a class A substance , and we threaten people with years in jail just for handing a single dose to a friend.  It’s estimated that between two and ten million doses of MDMA are taken every weekend in the UK and we get about 50 deaths a year.  200 people die every year from paracetamol.  How much safer would MDMA be if the product was regulated with known strength and purity? It would probably be virtually harmless.

Now everyone is a victim of this drug war propaganda and the terrible effects of prohibition. Politicians, police officers, social workers, mothers and fathers have all been drenched in this propaganda from birth.  Many sincerely believe the rubbish they have been fed and they do all they can to pass on misguided ideas to the next generation.

We need to grow up, get a grip and drag Britain out of the dark ages. Drugs can cause harm but British drugs policy is a scourge on our society.  It damages the lives of millions and costs us billions.  Please oppose the motion, saying no to drugs is a nonsense.  Let’s say yes to a rational drugs policy.

More Misguided Expenditure From The Monkeys At The BBC.

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The BBC can mount a year-long investigation into the trade in baby chimpanzees and drown us all in heartbreaking, sentimental images for days on end.

But when it comes to the hundreds of thousands of people who live in pain, suffering and disability in the UK, in constant fear of a knock at the door because they use medicinal cannabis, the BBC are just stooges and slaves to government misinformation.

The only time the BBC covers the medicinal cannabis issue is when it’s forced to by proceedings in Parliament or when its promoting the work of cannabis oil scammers and rip off artists as it has done on BBC3 recently.

One properly funded documentary, interviewing patients, scientists, doctors and people involved in the genuine campaign could force our government to change its wicked and cruel policy.  That wouldn’t suit the BBC’s paymasters though would it?   They’re the same people as enforce the evil policy in the first place.

Written by Peter Reynolds

February 2, 2017 at 5:05 pm