Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘medical marijuana

The Man Who Smashed UK Cannabis Prohibition – And Looks Set To Do The Same In America.

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Dr Geoffrey Guy

Dr Geoffrey Guy

Across social media, it’s ‘on message’ to despise Big Pharma and to promote the idea that government and pharmaceutical companies are engaged in the business of making people ill and feeding them with drugs in the pursuit of profit.

In the cannabis campaign, it’s virtually compulsory to abuse, defame and promote conspiracy theories about GW Pharmaceuticals, the world’s leading developer of cannabis-based medicines.

Now GW Pharma is hardly ‘Big Pharma’. It’s annual revenues for 2014 were £30 million. By contrast, Pfizer’s 2014 revenue was $50 billion. But such trifling facts are of no concern to the keyboard warriors and trolls that plague the cannabis campaign and bring it into disrepute every day.

In any case, I’m not sure whose message this is and why anyone buys into this hate-filled invective and unjust condemnation of an industry that has saved so many lives. Antibiotics, vaccines and, yes, chemotherapy products have saved or extended millions of lives. The most profitable pharmaceutical product of all time, Zantac (ranitidine), cures or prevents stomach ulcers and has prevented millions from having to undergo major surgery. Certainly, as in any industry, there have been mistakes, things have gone wrong and much could be improved but overall, the pharmaceutical industry is a huge force for good in our world.

Those engaged in these bitter, vindictive, online campaigns are largely sheep, ignorant of the facts and simply jumping on another hysterical bandwagon that they understand nothing about. They complain about the pursuit of profit and that money is being made from medicines and healthcare. It’s a strangely socialist and anti-business attitude, particularly as so much of it comes from America, supposedly the home of free enterprise where the maverick and outsider who triumphs against all the odds is usually revered.

Dr Geoffrey Guy, who founded GW Pharmaceuticals in 1998, is such a man. He has broken the UK government’s prohibition of cannabis by outwitting a regulatory process run by the Home Office and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) that is corrupt, dishonest and denies scientific evidence. In my view, he deserves great admiration and should be seen as a hero by cannabis campaigners, not as the villain that he is often portrayed.

Now, both GW’s lead products, Sativex and Epidiolex, look set to gain FDA approval in the US. This will be a fantastic achievement for Dr Guy and all his colleagues. It’s also something that we Britons should be immensely proud about. Even though America is a very long way ahead of us in understanding and using cannabis as medicine, it is British science and expertise that is breaking down US federal prohibition. Soon most Americans will have state sanctioned access to medical marijuana but also the option for doctor-prescribed cannabinoid medicine of unparalleled quality and consistency.

Of course, for now GW Pharma stands against the use of raw herbal cannabis and at present that’s a rational business decision but I won’t be at all surprised if in future it moves into that market too. There are already unconfirmed rumours that GW is considering entering the CBD market.

This is a story of enormous courage, innovation and triumph against all the odds.  It is in the finest tradition of British ingenuity and business skill. Since the Middle Ages we have led the world in engineering, science and technology. Geoffrey Guy is another world leader from Britain, this small island that has given birth to so many. Surely, at least a knighthood, possibly a Nobel prize must be coming his way soon. Even if the curmudgeonly, loud mouthed critics of today attack him, in future years he will be seen as a great pioneer of medicine and he will deserve his place in history.

Written by Peter Reynolds

August 7, 2015 at 3:03 pm

While America Legalises, Back In Blighty It’s Prejudice, Bigotry, Anti-Evidence And Contempt For The Electorate.

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Legalization Oregon

Overnight, voters in Alaska, Oregon and Washington DC have voted to legalise cannabis for recreational use.

legalize dcThe US island territory of Guam approved a ballot to legalise medicinal cannabis  and Florida also voted for medicinal cannabis by 58% but it failed as a 60% vote is required. All over the US, smaller jurisdictions, counties, cities and towns, have also passed legislation on medicinal cannabis and decrimnalisation.

Last week in Britain we saw the shameful spectacle of just 21 MPs turning up to debate drugs policy for the first time in a generation.  David Cameron, Theresa May and the Westminster elite are arrogant, out of touch and detached both from scientific evidence and public opinion.

Authoritarian, Illiberal, Out Of Touch.

Authoritarian, Illiberal, Out Of Touch.

Nothing can excuse this failure of our democracy.  Britain is a laughing stock both in Europe and to the Americans.  We are regressing into a caricature of Dickensian history.  Little more than an ‘Old Curiosity Shoppe’ for tourists and the nostalgic.  Our government is concerned only with vested interests, politicians  lining their own pockets and an increasingly authoritarian and illiberal regime. These developments are humiliating for all those who cherish what was once Great Britain.  Surely, even those unconcerned or opposed to cannabis legalisation, must begin to realise that Westminster is destroying our country from within. On this,  the anniversary of Guy Fawkes’ failed attempt to blow up Parliament, who can doubt that he had the right idea?

The ‘Arthur Scargill’ Approach To Cannabis Law Reform Doesn’t Work.

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Arthur Scargill addressing mining industry workers in London.

“Anything less than 100% capitulation on the part of the authorities is unacceptable!

Stand together in solidarity brothers. We’ll fight them in the parks, in the streets, we will never surrender!

We’ll smoke cannabis where we want, when we want and we don’t give a damn who it upsets – ‘cos it’s our rights brothers, it’s our rights!

We’ll show ’em, If we keep defying them, keep showing we don’t care what they think, keep on smoking – WE WILL PREVAIL!”

It’s the hopeless, hapless politics of the school playground.  It doesn’t work.  It’s about defiance, civil disobedience, selfishness and bull-headed obstinacy, always with a simmering undercurrent of aggression and violence. The ‘angry stoner’ is becoming a cliche that is causing immense damage to our campaign.

Progress will be made and is actually being made in small steps by patient negotiation, compromise and hard work.  That’s real work that’s often boring, tedious and has none of the appeal of marching in the streets or sitting round in the park with your mates getting stoned.  This is what has created reform, firstly for medical marijuana in California, now 19 other US states and most recently  a genuine revolution in in Colorado, Washington and Uruguay.  These developments have been achieved despite the demos, not because of them.  Exactly the same is happening in Britain.

Legally prescribed, legally dispensed, legally imported medicinal cannabis is now in Britain.  The greatest progress in the cannabis campaign since the Dangerous Drugs Act 1925 was enacted.

Written by Peter Reynolds

September 15, 2013 at 9:24 am

Medical Marijuana Primer With Michael Backes

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Written by Peter Reynolds

May 2, 2011 at 1:39 pm

An Appeal To Andrew Lansley

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Dear Mr Lansley,

Medicinal Cannabis

I am writing to you about the urgent necessity to permit the prescribing of medicinal cannabis by doctors.

Please do not refer me to the Home Office. Its intransigent position on the subject amounts to a scandalous denial of science and cruel mistreatment of hundreds of thousands of British citizens.  This is a health issue which requires your attention and care for those in pain and suffering.

There is now an overwhelming body of peer reviewed, published research that proves beyond doubt the efficacy of medicinal cannabis for the treatment of many conditions.  Britain is becoming increasingly isolated as a place where patients are denied access to the medicine they need.  Utterly absurd is that patients from the EU can bring medicinal cannabis into Britain under the protection of the Schengen Agreement but British residents risk prison for using exactly the same substance.

Every country in Europe except France and Britain now has some form of medicinal cannabis provision.  15 US states now permit medical marijuana on a doctor’s recommendation and Israel has a fast expanding programme. There are huge cost savings and benefits to be gained and enormous reductions in harm from side effects of poisonous pharmaceutical products.

There are already many instances in Britain where MS patients have been refused Sativex on cost grounds and so have been forced into illegal purchase or cultivation and have then been prosecuted as criminals. This is a shame and disgrace on our nation and I appeal to you to take steps to end it.

Perhaps you do not realise the transformational effect that medicinal cannabis can have on some people’s lives?  Almost miraculous results are being achieved, particularly with MS, Crohn’s and fibromyalgia. People who would otherwise be trapped by pain and disability are able to lead productive lives with the help of medicinal cannabis.

Please Mr Lansley, will you arrange to meet me and a delegation of people whose lives are literally saved by the use of medicinal cannabis?  This cruel and demeaning policy cannot be allowed to continue in the face of overwhelming evidence.  Safe, high quality, standardised dose cannabis is now available from Bedrocan in Holland, the Dutch government’s supplier and is exported all over Europe to fill doctors’ prescriptions.  How much longer must British citizens wait?

Co-ordinated action is already underway for dozens of patients to take the Home Office to judicial review for its refusal to grant import licenses for Bedrocan.  This is at huge cost in public money and people’s lives. You could take steps to end this suffering now.  You could enable the NHS to start making huge cost savings immediately.  This issue is not going away.

CLEAR is a new team of committed professionals that is determined to bring this issue to the top of the political agenda.  Please arrange to meet me and learn at first hand how much good you could do by a change of policy that is, in any case, inevitable. Don’t make those people in pain and suffering wait any longer.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Reynolds

Send a copy of this letter to your MP.  Download and print here.

 

 

A Tale Of Two Conferences

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“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”

A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens.

It was at its best as the brave Clark French and Cure Ukay gave their personal testimonies as medicinal cannabis users at the European Student Drug Policy Reform Conference.  It was at its worst when Peter Hitchens confronted me and Sir Ian Gilmore  at the University of Bedfordshire “A Ceasefire In The War On Drugs?” debate.

The Cannabis Panel

I am so proud to have been associated with both Clark’s and Cure’s contributions at the Manchester conference last weekend.  There were tears in the audience as first Clark, who has MS, then Cure, who has Crohn’s,  explained the reality of their daily lives and the relief that cannabis provides.  The following day, Clark had a relapse and he hobbled to the front to explain, his legs in spasm.  He went outside to take his medicine and literally skipped back into the conference hall.  It was like watching Christ telling someone to take up his bed and walk.  It was intensely moving.  It refreshed my enthusiasm.  It reignited my rage.  They are both warriors for the cause of great courage and dedication.  They are my inspiration.

The conference was a worthy and well-organised event.  Lembit Opik gave a barnstorming speech which had them whooping and cheering in the aisles. There were fascinating contributions from Sebastian Saville and Niamh Eastwood of Release, Darryl Bickler of the Drug Equality Alliance, Chris Hallam and Tom Lloyd of the  International Drug Policy Consortium.  There were very practical workshops on campaigning and an engrossing lecture from Chris Rose of Campaign Strategies.  I know I’m biased but I think Clark and Cure were the stars of the show!

And so to London on Wednesday evening for the debate at Kings College University, near Waterloo.  As I walked into the lecture theatre, there was Peter Hitchens chatting with Sir Ian Gilmore. I marched straight up and introduced myself, explaining to Hitchens that I am responsible for the four Press Complaints Commission complaints that he is currently facing.  I enquired after his brother’s health and he gave me a long and detailed explanation about Christopher’s oseophageal cancer.  He was extremely courteous to me.  I took my seat directly in front of him.

Ceasefire In The War On Drugs?

Hitchens spoke first.  He is the arch dissembler, presenting facts in such a way that he draws you towards a false conclusion. To be fair, he is a fine speaker but at the heart of his argument is an intellectual vacuum.

Sir Ian Gilmore, ex-president of the Royal College of Physicians went next.  He was quiet and dignified and presented a very scientific approach to harm reduction. Finally, Tim Hollis, Chief Constable of Humberside, stood in for David Blunkett. He was an entertaining speaker. I always rather like intelligent policemen.  They have a difficult job to do and I think the good ones are very valuable to society.

So to questions…and I was fidgeting in my seat with impatience!  I had my go, talked about the harms of prohibition, about taking the more pragmatic approach with a regulated system and the evil injustice of the denial of medicinal cannabis.  Right in front of me Hitchens was visibly seething. When I pointed out that his brother is a passionate advocate of medical marijuana he snapped.  He pointed at me, glared and shouted “Leave my brother out of it!”.

Steve Rolles from Transform spoke as did Harry Shapiro from Drugscope. Tom Lloyd, who had also spoken in Manchester contributed and there were many other intelligent observations and comments.  Hitchens was clearly unhappy.

We went back to the panel and Hitchens was aggressive in his response, gesturing at me and talking of  “idiots” and accusing Sir Ian of talking “drivel”.  I heckled him. he promised to “deal with you later” with another Alan Sugar-style stab of the  finger.  Sir Ian was next and he rather politely suggested that “Peter has his head in the sand” – at which Hitchens exploded!

He grabbed his coat and bag and made as if to leave.  It was a very deliberate flounce in high dudgeon.  Later it was suggested he did it for dramatic effect but no, it made him look foolish.  He was flummoxed by the opposition.

The chairman, ex-BBC presenter John Silverman, skillfully restrained him and persuaded him to stay.  In his closing statement Hitchens quoted some statistics from Portugal in an effort to disprove that country’s success with decriminalisation.  It would be against the rules for me to accuse him of anything more than dissembling but no one in the room recognised any truth in his figures.

It was an entertaining evening and a good opportunity to raise the profile of  CLEAR.  I’m back next week for another session entitled “How the World’s View of the Drugs ‘war’ is Changing”.

Waiting To Inhale

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Written by Peter Reynolds

March 9, 2011 at 10:19 pm

Medicinal Cannabis And Its Impact On Human Health

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This is an excellent US documentary featuring three of the most eminent advocates of medicinal cannabis:  Dr David Bearman, Dr Donald Tashkin and Dr Donald Abrams.  You can watch the film here.

Written by Peter Reynolds

March 8, 2011 at 1:02 pm

Legal Opportunities For Medicinal Cannabis Users

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Recent developments mean that there are new opportunities to challenge the prohibition of cannabis as medicine.    Now I am not a lawyer, so these ideas should be carefully discussed with your legal advisors before you even consider pursuing any of them.  I may be wrong about the correct procedure, process or terminology.   I am highlighting opportunities that I have identified, based on my personal experience and knowledge.  Qualified legal advice is essential.

Disingenuous

The British government’s current position on medicinal cannabis is absurd and irrational.  As I understand it, those are exactly the criteria for which the process of judicial review is intended.  That is one route.  Another, more risky opportunity arises if you are facing prosecution or have been convicted of an offence of possession, cultivation or production.  There are ideas here which you may want to consider as a defence or an appeal.  However, please be very careful.  If things go wrong, advancing such arguments might result in a heavier sentence, such is the cruel, oppressive and iniquitous intent of current government policy.

Dishonest

The Home Office is simply dishonest in its current stance saying that there “are no medicinal benefits” from cannabis.  James Brokenshire, the drugs minister, cannot hide behind a lack of knowledge so he looks either more stupid or dishonest every day.  David Cameron made the most dreadful, disingenuous comment about medicinal use in his Al Jazeera World View YouTube interview last week.  See here.  He said “That is a matter for the science and medical authorities to determine and they are free to make independent determinations about that.” That, of course, is absolute rot and Cameron should be ashamed of himself for such misinformation.

Obtain A Doctor’s Prescription For Medicinal Cannabis

There is nothing to prevent your British doctor from prescribing medicinal cannabis for you if he/she believes it is appropriate.  Bedrocan BV is the official contractor to the Dutch government for the production of medicinal cannabis.  Go to its website here and you will discover it has a range of products offering different proportions of cannabinoids and terpenoids for different conditions.  Prescribing information is available for your doctor in exactly the same way as any other drug.  All he/she has to do is select the product and write out a prescription in the normal way.  Your doctor can’t get in trouble for this.  There is nothing improper or unethical about it, but it is, of course, your doctor’s decision whether to do so or not.

If your doctor isn’t prepared to help, the next best thing is to go to a doctor in Holland, Belgium, Germany, Spain or Italy, all countries where medicinal cannabis is regularly prescribed.  In theory, you should be able to see a doctor in another EU country under reciprocal healthcare arrangements but if you can afford it, it may be simpler to go privately.

Another option is to go to one of the 15 US states that permit medical marijuana and obtain a doctor’s recommendation.

Once you have your prescription, you need to apply to the Home Office for a personal import licence to bring your medicine in from Holland.  The licensing section on the Home Office website is here.  If you obtain a licence you will also need to go through a similar process with the Dutch Bureau voor Medicinale Cannabis to obtain an export licence.  The correct section of its website is here.

Of course, the reality is that the Home Office is not going to grant you a licence.  You can then pursue the matter through your MP who should make representations to the minister on your behalf.  You are then at the point to make an application for judical review of the Home Office’s decision.

Challenge The Government’s Interpretation Of The Schengen Agreement

The Schengen Agreement provides protection for travellers to carry their medicine with them within the EU.  The crucial factor is your country of residence.  See here for detailed information. Although there is no precise definition of residency, if you are resident in an EU country where medicinal cannabis is permitted, then you may bring your medicine into Britain and, believe it or not, there is no restriction on your use of it.  You would be perfectly entitled to sit on the steps of Scotland Yard or even the Home Office’s Marsham Street HQ and smoke a spliff.  However, if you are a UK resident, even if you have obtained your medicine on prescription abroad, you are not protected.  This is clearly discriminatory under EU law and could be challenged in court.  I’m not certain whether you would apply to a British court or to the European court but your solicitor would advise you on this.

Defence Or Appeal On The Grounds Of Medical Necessity

The Appeal Court disallowed a defence of medical necessity back in 2005.  A petition to the House Of Lords Judicial Committee and to the  European Court Of Human Rights was dismissed without any reasons given.  I understand that the Appeal Court’s reasoning was that there were no proven medicinal benefits of cannabis.  However, things have changed enormously since then.  The MHRA approval of Sativex and the Home Office’s issue of a general licence for it are conclusive proof of medicinal value.  Whatever misinformation the Home Office may promote, expert evidence would prove that Sativex is pharmacologically identical to, for instance, one of the Bedrocan products.  There is also now a vast resource of peer-reviewed clinical evidence of medicinal benefits.

There is an horrendously improper judgement (R -v- David King,  St Albans Crown Court), where a medicinal user was not allowed even to mention medicinal reasons to a jury on pain of imprisonment for contempt.  Your lawyers would need to study this carefully.  However, it is so clearly unjust that I do not believe it could be sustained.

Re-Scheduling  Of Sativex

Sativex is currently a schedule 1 controlled drug which means it has no medicinal value. As mentioned earlier, the Home Office has dealt with this temporarily by issuing a general licence for it.  However, it needs to be re-scheduled and the Advisory Council On the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) has recommended that it be placed in schedule 4.  See here for the full story.

Sativex cannot be re-scheduled under its brand name and the only pharmacologically accurate way of describing it is cannabis.  The ACMD left a possible escape route for the Home Office by saying that its “active” ingredients  would have to be specified. GW Pharma, the makers of Sativex would say that this means an extract of THC and CBD.  However, this is dishonest.  Sativex contains all the 60-odd cannabinoids that occur naturally in the plant.  There is no other way of describing it accurately than to call it cannabis. If Brokenshire and his cronies try to prolong this deception then they can be challenged by judicial review.  The aim here is to ensure that the re-scheduling is accurate and so cannabis becomes a schedule 4 drug.  This would then open up all opportunities for cannabis as medicine.

I have no doubt now that medicinal cannabis will be permitted in some form or another in Britain within the near future.   We may need to force the government’s hand through litigation or, perhaps Brokenshire will be moved to another department and then the Home Office can “adjust” its position.

At present, it is a monstrous injustice, an evil and obscene scandal, that those who need cannabis as medicine are denied it.  The way of politics is that a few years from now it may well all have changed and Brokenshire will be at the Ministry of Silly Walks or somewhere better suited to his talents. However it works out, what I care about is that those in pain and suffering get the relief they need.  One day soon, Brokenshire will have to answer to his constituents and later to an even higher power.  How he will justify his cruelty and negilgence I don’t really care but I know I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes on judgement day.


Who Is Secretly Working To Keep Pot Illegal – Big Pharma?

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This is an extract from an article by Steven Kotler,
a science writer who lives in New Mexico.
The full article can be read here.

 

In 2009, the global pharmaceutical market was worth $837 billion—and it’s on track to top $1 trillion by 2014. This is a lot of money to spread around, so when it comes to lobbying efforts, very few have this group’s clout. Mostly, Big Pharma gets what Big Pharma wants. And one thing it wants is for marijuana to remain illegal.

It’s not hard to figure out why. You can’t patent a plant—and that’s a big problem for pharmaceutical companies when it comes to medical marijuana.

Why?

Imagine a wonder drug able to provide much-needed relief from dozens and dozens of conditions. Imagine it’s cheap, easy to grow, easy to dispense, easy to ingest and, over millennia of “product testing,” has produced no fatalities and few side effects—except for the fact that it “reportedly” makes you feel really, really good. That would be quite a drug. Knowing all this, it’s easy to see why the pharmaceutical industry worries about competition from marijuana.

And besides its palliative prowess, researchers consistently find that patients prefer smoking marijuana to taking prescription drugs. In another study run by Reiman, 66 percent of her patients used cannabis as a substitute for prescription drugs; 68 percent used it instead of prescription drugs to treat a chronic condition and 85 percent reported that cannabis had fewer side effects than other medicines.

Miracle Medicine

Early on, the pharmaceutical industry fought back by spending money on anti-pot efforts, but the same NORML investigation that fingered the alcohol and tobacco industries as heavy backers of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America found that Big Pharma was doing so as well. “They were so embarrassed by that revelation” says MAPS founder Rick Doblin, “that they mostly stopped spending money on anti-marijuana lobbying efforts.”

Since then, the pharmaceutical industry has shifted its focus to developing alternatives to medical cannabis, often taking the traditional reductionist approach. Specifically, these days, if a pharmaceutical company wants to turn a plant into a medicine they isolate the most active ingredient and make what’s known as a “single-compound drug.” Morphine, for example, is really just the chemical core of the poppy plant. This too has been tried with marijuana. Out of the 400 chemicals in marijuana, 80 of them belong to a class called “cannabinoids.” Out of those 80 cannabinoids, a number of pharmaceutical companies have tried reducing marijuana to only one: THC. But the results have been unsatisfactory.

“There are certain cases,” says Doblin, “where the single-compound formula works wonders. But it’s just not true in every case. The pharmaceutical industry keeps claiming they’re not worried about medical marijuana because they make a better product, but when you reduce cannabis to just THC, you lose efficacy and gain side effects.”