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Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘pharmaceutical

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

with 5 comments

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.

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Written by Peter Reynolds

May 16, 2018 at 1:46 pm

CLEAR’s Submission To The Parliamentary Inquiry Into Medicinal Cannabis

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This was the response that CLEAR submitted to the APPG in February 2016.  In March 2016, Roland Gyallay-Pap, then managing director of CLEAR and Peter Reynolds, president, were called to give oral evidence to the Inquiry.

A PDF copy of this document may be downloaded here.

A copy of the Powerpoint presentation delivered by CLEAR at the oral evidence hearing can be downloaded here.

 

Introduction

In June 2015 the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform (APPG) published a short report arguing for a rescheduling of cannabis to make it more widely available for medical use. Following the publication of that report there are a number of key questions remaining that it would like to address by means of a Short Inquiry.

CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform has been asked to submit evidence to the Inquiry in answer to these specific questions:

  • Whether switching the medical status of cannabis from schedule 1 to a less restrictive schedule would be beneficial?
  • What do you understand to be the range and extent of unofficial use of cannabis for medical purposes?
  • What has been the impact of the current schedule 1 status on research into the medicinal uses of cannabis?
  • Is there useful evidence emerging from the regulation of cannabis in over 20 US states and elsewhere and what does it tell us about the case for cannabis to be included in the UK pharmacopeia?
  • What would be the implications of licencing cannabis for medicinal use following a change in Schedule?
  • What role could EU regulations play in developing the potential for the medicinal use of cannabis?

We have also added a further response with additional information.

  • Access to prescribed Bedrocan medicinal cannabis is already possible based on careful use of loopholes and errors in existing English law.

 

Whether switching the medical status of cannabis from schedule 1 to a less restrictive schedule would be beneficial?

Yes, we consider that switching cannabis from schedule 1 to a less restrictive schedule would be beneficial, both so that it could be prescribed by doctors as medicine and so that it could more easily be used in research into its use and effects.

Cannabis has been in schedule 1 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations1 (MoDR) since the Misuse of Drugs Act 19712 (MoDA) came into force.  Drugs in schedule 1 are specified as having no medicinal value.  However, an inquiry by the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee published in 19983 recommended that doctors should be permitted to prescribe cannabis and that it should be moved to schedule 2.  Strangely the government’s response to this recommendation was further to tighten restrictions by the Misuse of Drugs (Designation) Order 20014, which designates cannabis under section 7(4) of MoDA so that it is unlawful for a doctor, dentist, veterinary practitioner or veterinary surgeon, acting in his capacity as such, to prescribe, administer, manufacture, compound or supply” it.

In fact, cannabis has already been re-scheduled into schedule 4 under the international non-proprietary name of nabiximols (Sativex)5.  Although this is specified as being an extract of THC and CBD, it is clear from statements by the manufacturing company, GW Pharmaceuticals, that nabiximols is whole plant cannabis.  Dr Geoffrey Guy, founder and chairman of GW, is on the record:

“Most people in our industry said it was impossible to turn cannabis into a prescription medicine. We had to rewrite the rule book. We have the first approval of a plant extract drug in modern history. It has 420 molecules, whereas every other drug has just one.”6

GW pharmaceuticals has confirmed that this quotation is accurate.7

The MHRA has chosen to issue a marketing authorisation8 for nabiximols (Sativex) by regarding it as only a two molecule medicine.  The marketing authorisation is therefore at best inaccurate, at worst dishonest.

 

What do you understand to be the range and extent of unofficial use of cannabis for medical purposes?

In 2011, CLEAR commissioned independent, expert research from the Independent Drug Monitoring Unit (IDMU).  The report, ‘Taxing the UK Cannabis Market’9, reveals there are three million people using cannabis in the UK regularly (at least once per month).  Since then CLEAR has regularly polled its members and followers and consistently one in three of respondents claim at least some part of their use is for medicinal reasons.  It is reasonable to estimate therefore that there are up to one million people using cannabis for medicinal purposes in the UK.  It is certain that there are hundreds of thousands of medicinal users and previous estimates in the region of 30,000 are far too low.

The most common indications for medicinal use declared by our respondents are chronic pain, fibromyalgia, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis and cancer.

Our interpretation of the responses we have received is that generally cannabis is used as a palliative agent.  Some people find it so effective that they consider it to be a ‘cure’ as long as they keep using it.  Others find it extremely helpful in reducing the amount of toxic and/or dangerous pharmaceutical medicines they are prescribed.  Often the side effects of pharmaceutical medicines are severe and debilitating and cannabis offers a way of minimising these.

CLEAR maintains a Medicinal Users Panel10 which members join in order to gain support in lobbying their MPs and/or attempting to obtain prescribed Bedrocan medicinal cannabis.  The active membership of the panel varies between 20 to 80 people.  Panel members have also been involved in delegations to meet government ministers and other parliamentarians

 

What has been the impact of the current schedule 1 status on research into the medicinal uses of cannabis?

In the UK there is very little research into the medicinal uses of cannabis, except that undertaken by GW Pharmaceuticals11.  There has been some research carried out into single cannabinoids but the evidence is that the therapeutic effects of cannabis depend on the whole plant ‘entourage effect’.

The allopathic, reductionist approach to medicine, which is reflected in the way that the MHRA regulates medicines, is the fundamental, establishment  doctrine that impedes research into cannabis.

Sadly, one of the biggest trials of MS patients, the CUPID study at the University of Plymouth12, intended to look at the many anecdotal reports of benefit, used synthetic THC and consequently the results were disappointing and irrelevant to the claims it sought to test.

It is far easier to obtain funding for research into the harms of cannabis which is undertaken with an almost absurd degree of repetition, most notably by the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London (IOPPN).13  It is also worth noting that IOPPN regularly and consistently overstates the results of its research, encouraging the media to report causal effects between cannabis use and mental illness which its research does not support.14

There is a huge stigma around cannabis, largely due to inaccurate, misleading and hysterical press coverage.  For instance, neither of the pre-eminent MS patient groups, the MS Society and the MS Trust, will take a stand in support of patients, despite the fact that many use cannabis. Similarly, despite extraordinary human clinical trial results on Crohn’s disease, none of the Crohn’s patient groups will engage with the campaign.  Mention cannabis and calls are not returned, people are scared by the stigma.  The immediate reaction from all such patient groups is to overlook evidence of benefit and refer to risks to mental health which, in fact, are very low compared to pharmaceutical products.  The press, unchallenged by politicians in its disproportionate attention to these risks, bears a heavy responsibility for this stigma and the lack of research.

Unlike many within the reform movement, CLEAR recognises and values the expertise and achievements of GW Pharmaceuticals.  However, any doctor or scientist that expresses any interest in medicinal cannabis in the UK is immediately retained or contracted by GW. We receive hundreds of reports of doctors, GPs and consultants, who tacitly and sometimes explicitly support their patients’ use of cannabis but it is impossible to find any doctor who is prepared to speak out publicly.  In the few instances where doctors have spoken out on behalf of patients, they have been contacted by Home Office officials and warned. One GP reported that he felt “intimidated”. By contrast, there are tens of thousands of doctors across Europe, Israel and North America who advocate for the use of medicinal cannabis and further research into its applications.

The security and record-keeping requirements for cannabis as a schedule 1 drug15 are wildly disproportionate to the real potential for harm, requiring a high security safe for storage and an audit trail fit for Fort Knox.

In addition the fee for a high THC licence is currently £4700.00 per annum and applications can take more than a year to process. These requirements, delays and corresponding costs severely impede research into medicinal cannabis.

Recently, in response to two government e-petitions, the Home Office issued the following statement:

In 2013 the Home Office undertook a scoping exercise targeted at a cross-section of the scientific community, including the main research bodies, in response to concerns from a limited number of research professionals that Schedule 1 status was generally impeding research into new drugs.

Our analysis of the responses confirmed a high level of interest, both generally and at institution level, in Schedule 1 research. However, the responses did not support the view that Schedule 1 controlled drug status impedes research in this area. While the responses confirmed Home Office licensing costs and requirements form part of a number of issues which influence decisions to undertake research in this area, ethics approval was identified as the key consideration, while the next most important consideration was the availability of funding.”

We consider this response to be disingenuous and misleading.  Cannabis is  a special case.  It is a combination of hundreds of molecules, unlike other schedule 1 drugs, most of which are single molecules.  Also, as is well established in written and archaeological evidence, cannabis has been used effectively for at least 5,000 years as medicine without any evidence of harm.

Furthermore. ethical approval and funding are difficult largely due to the evidence-free scaremongering about cannabis and the consequential stigma, in which the Home Office plays a leading role.  Ethical approval and funding do not seem to be a problem in researching potential harms of cannabis.  Indeed, as noted above, there is a massive amount of such research even though much of it is repetitive and inconclusive.

Until it is recognised that for many years, under successive governments, the Home Office has been systematically misleading and scaremongering about cannabis, it is difficult to see how an evidence-based decision can be reached.  The Home Office regularly makes assertions about cannabis that are completely without evidential support.  There is an established prejudice  and determination to misinform and this must be tackled at root as it amounts to misconduct and corruption.

 

Is there useful evidence emerging from the regulation of cannabis in over 20 US states and elsewhere and what does it tell us about the case for cannabis to be included in the UK pharmacopeia?

There is a vast amount of peer-reviewed, published evidence of the safety and efficacy of cannabis as medicine.  Much of this arises from research carried out in the USA, the Netherlands and Israel, where medicinal cannabis regulation has been in place for many years.

It is a populist myth, promoted by the Home Office, the press, the BBC and the prohibitionist lobby, that there is no evidence supporting the use of cannabis as medicine.

In February 2015, a delegation of medicinal cannabis users from CLEAR met with George Freeman MP, the life sciences minister, at the Department of Health who is largely responsible for medicines regulation. At the conclusion of the meeting, Mr Freeman requested CLEAR to produce a summary of the available evidence.

The result is the paper ‘Medicinal Cannabis:The Evidence’16 (MCTE) which has received international acclaim, so much so that in association with Centro de Investigaciones del Cannabis (CIC), a Colombian non profit association, a Spanish language version has been published.

MCTE was submitted to George Freeman MP in April 2015.  Since then he has repeatedly refused to meet CLEAR again or respond to us directly, even after multiple requests from individual MPs representing CLEAR members. His only responses, received through third parties, fail to address the evidence at all. He simply refers to the legal status of cannabis, the theoretical availability of Sativex and the MHRA process for issuing marketing authorisations in respect of medicines.

This refusal to engage, acknowledge or properly consider the very large amount of evidence that is available is indicative of an inexplicable prejudice within government. Although conspiracy theories abound, it is difficult to understand why ministers adopt this position.

Cannabis was one of the most used medicines in the British pharmacopeia until only about 100 years ago.  It could be restored immediately by a stroke of the Home Secretary’s pen to remove it from schedule 1.  This would immediately make it possible for doctors to prescribe medicinal cannabis from Bedrocan17, the Netherlands government’s exclusive contractor.

Bedrocan cannabis is carefully regulated by the Netherlands government’s Office of Medicinal Cannabis. It is available in five different THC:CBD ratios.  It is already exported to many countries in Europe and the company has established itself in Canada as well.  It is less than a tenth the cost of Sativex for equivalent cannabinoid content and can be consumed either by a medical vapouriser or as an infusion.

No minister in this or any previous government has ever presented a coherent reason for the refusal to allow cannabis to be used as a medicine.  Their only response is to fall back on largely spurious or exaggerated claims about the harms of recreational use.

 

What would be the implications of licencing cannabis for medicinal use following a change in Schedule?

Cannabis would not need to be ‘licenced’ for medicinal use following a change in schedule.  As soon as it removed from schedule 1, doctors would be able to prescribe it and businesses interested to grow, process and develop cannabis medicines would be able to obtain cultivation/possession licences from the Home Office.

Medicines are no longer ‘licenced’ in the UK.  The MHRA grants marketing authorisations. The initial fee, simply for filling in the application form is £103,000.00, thus prohibiting any but the very largest, established businesses from even considering such a venture.  The very term ‘marketing authorisation’ reveals the mindset of medicines regulators which is now more about commercial interests than the evaluation of the safety and efficacy of medicines.

The MHRA does have a regulatory scheme for ‘Traditional Herbal Registration’ (THR) but it only applies if the medicine is used for minor health conditions where medical supervision is not required.”.  An application for a THR for cannabis could not be made while it remains in schedule 1 but, if granted, would not permit its use for many conditions where there is excellent evidence of its efficacy.

The MHRA is locked in an inflexible, unscientific and restrictive process which can only evaluate medicines which are either one or two molecules.  Its process is designed for synthetic, potentially very dangerous molecules and is entirely unsuitable for a plant based medicine such as cannabis.  This is why, as explained above, Sativex has been improperly regulated as containing only two molecules: THC and CBD.

When the Sativex (nabiximols) patent expires, independent analysis of the medicine would certainly demonstrate that it is whole plant cannabis oil.  Presumably alternative and/or generic versions could then be produced.  However, by any standards, for all parties, the regulation and scheduling of Sativex is inaccurate, if not dishonest, and needs revision.

If cannabis is removed from schedule 1, most appropriately to schedule 4 alongside Sativex, in our judgement there will be a large number of businesses applying for cultivation/possession licences for research which will eventually result in applications for marketing authorisations.  In the meantime, it can only be described as cruel and evidence-free not to permit doctors to prescribe Bedrocan, a safe, effective medicine already regulated by another European government.

It is likely that enabling the prescription of Bedrocan would result in substantial savings to the NHS medicines budget.  However, any idea that this could be quantified based on existing evidence is fanciful.  Certainly, compared to existing prescription medicines and Sativex, Bedrocan is very inexpensive, probably less than 10 euros per patient per day.  However, the complexity of calculating which medicines it could replace by individual, partly or wholly and for how long makes the exercise so hypothetical as to be meaningless.

It must be true that once local, UK-based cultivation of medicinal cannabis was permitted, prices would reduce even further.

 

What role could EU regulations play in developing the potential for the medicinal use of cannabis?

Aside from France and Ireland (which is moving rapidly towards drugs policy reform), every other EU country has a more intelligent, compassionate and evidence-based policy towards medicinal cannabis.  Based on existing policy and its record, the UK government would simply refuse to comply with any EU regulation of medicinal cannabis.

Under the Schengen Acquis (of which UK is a signatory, though not to the full Schengen Agreement), if a medicine is prescribed to a resident of a member state, that resident may travel to other member states with up to three month’s supply under the protection of a Schengen certificate.  The effect of this is that a resident of the Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Italy, etc. can bring prescribed cannabis, likely Bedrocan, into the UK and use it without restriction.

The crucial test here is residency, so it is not possible for a UK resident to travel to another country, obtain a prescription and then return to the UK legally with cannabis.  Presently, a Schengen certificate for a UK resident has to be issued by the Home Office.  Strangely and in contravention of this explicit provision, Norway (Non EU but a signatory to Schengen) does permit its residents to obtain prescriptions, usually in the Netherlands, and return home with cannabis.

It is also likely that given the hostility towards EU regulation, adding cannabis into that debate would be counterproductive.  It would be used as another stick with which to beat the EU.

 

Access to prescribed Bedrocan medicinal cannabis is already possible based on careful use of loopholes and errors in existing English law.

As some members of the APPG are aware, CLEAR has been involved in trying to obtain legal access to prescribed Bedrocan since 2012. We now have approximately a dozen members who regularly receive private prescriptions from their doctors (both consultants and GPs) and travel to the Netherlands to have them dispensed.

In all instances, these individuals have either declared their medicine at customs and/or have made prior arrangements with the Border Force, producing supporting documentation.

This is possible because of errors and inconsistencies in the MoDA and the MoDR.  All English drugs legislation, including the recent Psychoactive Substances Act 2016, is badly drafted, contradictory and scientifically illiterate.

The principle active ingredients of cannabis are delta-9-THC and cannabidiol (CBD).  Bedrocan products are specified with different ratios of these substances.  While cannabis is classified in schedule 1, so is delta-9-THC but it is also in schedule 2 described as dronabinol, which is the international non-proprietary name (INN) for delta-9-THC.  CBD is not a controlled drug.

Therefore, if a doctor is prepared to write a prescription e.g. dronabinol (Bedrocan 22%) or dronabinol (Bediol 7.5%), three month’s supply of the medicine may be legitimately imported as a schedule 2 drug.

In the past four years only one CLEAR member has been frustrated in this.  He had his medicine seized but he was not prosecuted.  An appeal against the seizure failed.

Clearly, the vital factor in this scheme is a doctor who understands the law and the science and is prepared to write the prescription.

 

References

 

1. Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2001/3998/contents/made
2. Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1971/38/contents
3. House of Lords Science and Technology Committee report 1998 http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/ld199798/ldselect/ldsctech/151/15101.htm
4. Misuse of Drugs (Designation) Order 2001 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2001/3997/made
5. Nabiximols (Sativex) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nabiximols
6. Cambridge News, 24th Jan 2012 http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/Cannabis-company-enjoys-major-growth/story-22509041-detail/story.html
7. Email corres with Marc Rogerson, GW Pharma, 160312. Attached.
8. Sativex (nabiximols) marketing authorisation, MHRA , 2010 http://www.mhra.gov.uk/home/groups/par/documents/websiteresources/con084961.pdf
9. Taxing the UK Cannabis Market, IDMU, 2011 http://clear-uk.org/media/uploads/2011/09/TaxUKCan.pdf
10. CLEAR Medicinal Users Panel http://clear-uk.org/pages/medicinal-panel/
11. GW Pharmaceuticals website http://www.gwpharm.com/
12. CUPID study, University of Plymouth, 2015 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25676540
13. Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London website http://www.kcl.ac.uk/ioppn/index.aspx
14. King’s College Confirms Institute of Psychiatry Misled Media On Cannabis Brain Study. CLEAR, 2015 http://clear-uk.org/kings-college-confirms-institute-of-psychiatry-misled-media-on-cannabis-brain-study/
15. Controlled Drugs (Supervision of management and use) Regulations 2013, Dept of Health https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/214915/15-02-2013-controlled-drugs-regulation-information.pdf
16. Medicinal Cannabis: the Evidence, CLEAR, 2015 http://clear-uk.org/static/media/PDFs/medicinal_cannabis_the_evidence.pdf Attached
17. Bedrocan BV website http://www.bedrocan.nl/

 

 

An Appeal To Andrew Lansley

with 32 comments

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.

 

 

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

with 13 comments


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.”

The Cannabis Campaign In 2011

with 85 comments

I believe that we can make real progress this year towards ending the prohibition of cannabis.

What we have to do, each and every one of us, individually, is take responsibility.

We have to stop complaining and start campaigning.

However just our cause, however unjust our opposition, no one is going to give us the right to cannabis.  We are going to have to take it.  Take it back from those who took it away from us.

Many of us can point to years and years of fighting for the cause but it is never enough!  We have to keep on. We have to welcome new campaigners and encourage them, not take the view that we’ve seen it all before, done it ourselves and why aren’t we getting the credit?   We have to welcome our fellow citizens to the war against prohibition, support them, bolster their confidence, build them up, not knock them down.

If the millions of people in Britain who use cannabis were to join together and be counted, we could make change happen!  I don’t know whether there are two million of us or ten million.  That’s how widely the estimates vary.  The Home Office used to say six millon use cannabis regularly.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that it is an outrage to democracy and justice that we are denied legal and properly regulated access to cannabis, whether we use it for medicine, relaxation or spiritual fulfilment.

We don’t all have to be campaigners but we do all have to be counted.  If we want change, we have to be prepared, at least, to sign petitions, to write the occasional letter, to put our heads above the parapet.  It’s so easy nowadays.  It can all be done online in the blink of an eye but more of us need to do it and keep doing it until politicians understand that they can bully us into silence no longer.

One of the problems of the online world, of Facebook, the forums and blogs, is that we’re just preaching to the converted all the time.  We may feel that we’re getting our message across but it’s to the same people over and over again.  When you see the disgusting response that Bob Ainsworth had to his brave initiative just before Christmas, when you see James Brokenshire smugly trotting out his prohibitionist agenda, when you see Cameron and his poodle backtracking on all their enlightened and liberal ideas, then you realise that the forces of darkness are set against us.   The war on drugs, which Brokenshire fights so enthusiastically,  is another Vietnam. It can never be won because it is, in fact, a war on democracy but there will be many casualties along the way.  Brokenshire counts the high level of adulteration of drugs on the street as a measure of success.  This is the sort of thinking that we are up against.  It is perverted.  It is evil.  It denies truth and science and justice.

It denies people in constant pain and suffering access to the medicine that they need.  Even if a doctor has prescribed cannabis, ignorant, professional political oiks who have never done a day’s real work in in their lives, think they know best.  Instead they force people towards expensive pharmaceutical products with horrendous side effects but huge profits for their co-conspirators in the corrupt world of Big Pharma and its self-important regulators.   As was seen so clearly in America in the last century, prohibition is fundamentally immoral and self-defeating yet our cowardly politicians hide behind it, preferring inaction, oppression and lies to the truth.

So I have asked myself, what can we do to break this stranglehold that politicians have on the truth?  How can we counter the crass and appalling propaganda that the Daily Mail puts out?  Why does the media love the story of Debra Bell, the mother who blames cannabis for her delinquent and dishonest son?  Why is the truth about cannabis so rarely told?  Where is the voice of the millions who know the truth?

I return to the divisions there are within our cause.  Just as in California, where the growers sabotaged Proposition 19, so we have our own subversive and destructive elements. We have a breakaway group here, an independent campaigner there.  We have medicinal users who are eloquent and persuasive on their own account but will not work with others.  We have hugely courageous individuals who have campaigned and put their freedom on the line but will not reconcile themselves to co-operation.  We have to cut through this.  We have to unite, to generate a momentum that means we cannot be ignored.

That is why, just before Christmas, I decided to join the Legalise Cannabis Alliance.  I was a member of the original Legalise Cannabis Campaign and I saw how the LCA made strenuous efforts, particularly around the 2005 general election. I believe it was right and effective to put forward our views on the political stage.  This is what we must do again.

The LCA is to re-register as a political party and, in due course, I hope to stand as a parliamentary candidate.  Realistically, I don’t expect to be elected but I do expect to make our voice heard. I expect our opinions and our views to be respected and given proper consideration.  When the Daily Mail or the BBC turns to Debra Bell for comment, I expect them to turn to us as well.  When Mrs Bell is on the TV sofa, I want to be alongside her.  I want the opportunity to speak the truth in the face of propaganda.  If they want to put up eminent professors and doctors as well then I encourage it.  Science and independent reason is on our side.  The intellectual and scientific debate has been won many times over.  Now we must win the political battle and the truth is our strongest weapon.  All we have to do is shine the light on it so that the scare stories, the hysteria and the propaganda shrink back into the shadows.

We will be a single issue party with a commitment to de-register once we have achieved our aims.  I urge you all to join the LCA.  I’m going to do everything I can to make it easier to join. Possibly we need to make it cheaper.  Certainly we need to do everything we can to encourage as many people as possible to stand up and be counted.  We need to be able to accept card payments, operate direct debits.  We need as many as possible to join whether or not they use cannabis. We need to reform the law, regulate supply and distribution and realise the huge benefits as a medicine, as a gentle pleasure and as a new source of billions in tax revenue.  That’s the way forward.  Reform, regulate and realise.

One of the most repulsive images I saw last year was the fat, conceited Simon Heffer chortling into his glass of wine and saying that we need to “get nasty” in the war on drugs.  Well I’ve got news for the pompous, hypocritical boozer and for James Brokenshire and his cronies, nobody’s going to be getting nasty from this side.  We’re just going to tell the truth.  And we’re going to keep on telling the truth until it drowns out their lies.  We’re going to tell the truth again and again and again until we get the right to our drug of choice, to the plant that creates peace not violence, to the plant that heals that doesn’t kill, to the plant that we have a right to use and enjoy as we please.

Big Pharma Plugs Weed

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God's Herb

The news that Sativex, a whole plant extract of cannabis,  was approved as a medicine in the UK was welcome, of course.

But £125 for 10 ml, two teaspoons – please!

According to Sativex’ prescribing information, each 1 ml contains 27mg of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol  (THC), that’s the magical ingredient.  So in each spray that’s £125 for 270mg of THC.

At today’s extortionate street price of £10 per gram, good weed contains about 12% THC.  So that’s £10 for 120mg of THC.

At Big Pharma prices you get stoned for 46p/mg.  On the street you get high for 8p/mg.

Draw your own conclusions but please, do check my figures.  Let me know if you disagree.

Under Pressure

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About four months ago I embarked on a course of medication for high blood pressure.  For some time I’d been warned that I was marginal with a reading of 140/90 so I decided it was time to start looking after myself.  I was a heavy smoker and drinker.  My only redeeming factor was that I walk with my dogs every day for about an hour – and that’s vigorous walking, up and down steep hills.

I was started on a calcium antagonist and within a few days I had virtually lost the will to live.  I had no energy at all.  I’d lost all motivation.  In the most degrading epsiode of all, one morning I found myself prostrate on the sofa watching “Homes Under the Hammer”.  That’s when I knew it was serious.

I took myself straight off that poison and went back to see my GP.   My blood pressure reading was now 168/100.  He advised a change to a thiazide diuretic.  Being the not so patient patient that I am, I insisted on a full explanation as far as my “O” level science was capable of understanding.

This time it was more subtle.  My energy, motivation and enthusiasm was sapped gradually.  As my positive life signs went down my thirst rocketed to absurd proportions.  After a month or so I was regularly up six times a night with a raging thirst and a full bladder.  When I cleaned out the space behind the passenger seat in my car I had two carrier bags full of empty drink bottles.

In the meantime, I gave up smoking.  I give the pharmaceutical industry credit for this.  A month of patches and a nicotine inhaler weaned me off the evil weed easily.  About this I am both pleased and proud.  I have at least one  “cigarette moment” every day but I am not going back to it.  Although I can recognise no physiological benefit at all (if anything I seem to get more breathless now), I am much richer and everything around me is cleaner as a result.

The next visit to my GP saw my pressure reduced to 150/95.  Better but not good enough.  He advised me to start taking an ACE inhibitor as well as the diuretic.

I researched ACE inhibitors and was horrified at the range of side effects and contraindications.  Then, suddenly, coming fast up behind and undertaking me before I knew what was happening (forgive my blushes) I discovered I was impotent.  One embarrassing date and then a dawning realisation that nothing was happening, even involuntarily.  No more waking up with a big itch!

I’m not ready to give up my sex life just yet.  The one and only criticism I have of my GP is that he never warned me of this side effect.  I have also cut my drinking by a huge proportion.  From a half bottle of whisky upwards a day I am now comfortable with a single glass of wine or a small beer.  In the last few weeks my motivation has gone again.  I can’t be bothered with long walks with the dogs anymore.  Just half an hour out in the mornings and I’m exhausted.  I’m not interested in anything.   My occasional lunchtime nap has become a necessity.  Sometimes, even before midday I feel so exhausted, I just can’t wait to go back to bed.

Four days ago I stopped the diuretic and yesterday I felt like I had got my life back.  I have so much more energy.  I’m enthusiastic as I can’t remember for months.  I fair romped up the hill with the dogs this morning.  My thirst is calming down and I was only up twice last night.  My mojo isn’t back yet but I can feel a little twitch developing.  Come Christmas time I advise you to lock up your daughters once again.

The punch line? My blood pressure is now 170/110.  I may be heading for a massive stroke or heart attack any minute but at least I’ll die happy.  Despite giving up smoking and decimating my alcohol consumption, my blood pressure is much worse than when I started.  So what does that tell me?

I have no idea at all but at least now I have a smile on my face!