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Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘World Health Organization

Another Attack by Bureaucrats on CBD and its Consumers

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Today’s article in the Daily Mail on CBD follows that publication’s usual pattern – there is a kernel of truth but on top of that is piled inaccuracy upon misleading comment upon nonsense.

So let’s deal with the truth and send the nonsense back to the Daily Mail where it belongs.

Within the last few days it has emerged that the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA), has been working surreptitiously with its opposite numbers in four other EU countries to add all products derived from cannabis except hempseeds to the EU Novel Food Catalogue. This step has been taken without any communication or consultation with the CBD industry or the millions of consumers benefiting from the products. It is important to understand that inclusion in this catalogue does not create law.  Suppliers of CBD are entitled to continue marketing their products if they consider they are not ‘novel’.

What does ‘novel’ mean?  The EU novel foods legislation states that any food or ingredient used in foods that was not in widespread use prior to 1997 will be subject to an authorisation process that must demonstrate either evidence of widespread use prior to 1997 and/or that it is safe.

To be clear, the Daily Mail’s claim that this means “experts probe whether it has any real health benefits” is nonsense. It has nothing to do with that at all.

Love Hemp, CBD market leaders

Anyone who has any knowledge at all about cannabis will understand how ludicrous it is to suggest that it is ‘novel’ in any form.  It is even described as the oldest cultivated plant in the Guinness Book of Records. It is widely recognised to have been cultivated for at least 12,000 years.

So this move by the FSA and its equivalents in France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands is, demonstrably, bureaucracy for bureaucracy’s sake. Cannabis is the oldest crop cultivated and used by mankind. Asking for evidence of its widespread use before 1997 is no different and as absurd as asking for the same evidence for wheat or barley.

The CBD industry and consumers faced a similar atack from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in 2016.  Then, as now, it was CLEAR that stepped in and organised the response.  The MHRA quickly backed off, accepted that it had no power to carry out a wholesale shutdown of the industry and the leading CBD companies began a process of self-regulation which has led to the development of a very successful marketplace.  Millions of consumers now gain great benefit from CBD products which help to maintain health and improve wellbeing.

Whichever side of the Brexit debate you are on, it is precisely this sort of overbearing, oppressive bureaucracy at an EU level that led many people to vote leave. There can be no sensible suggestion that CBD is harmful.  In 2017, the World Health Organisation (WHO) published an unequivocal conclusion that CBD “does not cause harm”. It is, therefore, safe and is demonstrated to be so by thousands of years of use.  So why is the EU and the FSA, its agent in the UK, engaged in this spurious and wholly unnecessary attack?  Can it be for any other reason than simply to sustain the bureaucracy and create work for the bureaucrats keeping them in their comfortable jobs?

It remains to be seen whether the FSA will try to explain its actions.  CLEAR’s trade association for CBD businesses, Cannabis Professionals (CannaPro), has been dealing with the FSA for some time and trying, unsuccessfully, to obtain straight answers. We participated in a conference which included the Head of Novel Foods in December 2018 and only yesterday we wrote to him complaining that, if anything, the situation was becoming more confused.  Now, unconfirmed statements from the FSA suggest that it is requesting Trading Standards to work with it on ‘enforcement’ and to remove CBD products from shelves. In our view the FSA and Trading Standards would be exceeding their lawful authority if they took this action as inclusion in the EU Novel Food Catalogue does not represent law.

It’s also important to understand the context in which the FSA bureaucrats are flexing their muscles and trying to talk tough.  For some time, CBD isolate has been in the EU Novel Food Catalogue and it has been genrally accepted by the industry that it is genuinely novel.  All responsible businesses have stopped selling isolate but there are a host of disreputable companies still selling isolate and neither the FSA nor Trading Standards have taken any enforcement action whatsoever.

Similarly, when the MHRA tried to get tough in 2016, it had a legitimate complaint that unlawful claims of medicinal benefit were being made.  All responsible businesses have ceased to make such claims but the marketplace is still full of confidence tricksters and the MHRA has taken no enforcement action whatsoever.  There are full page advertisements appearing in newpapers (including the Daily Mail) making the most outrageous medicinal claims but the MHRA does nothing. And this lack of enforcement severely damages responsible businesses that are working hard to remain compliant.

So, the truth is that even when justified and necessary, no enforcement is taking place.  In austerity Britain, even if you report a burglary or a car theft, the police will do nothing about enforcement.  The FSA’s action may well cause some of the major retailers to step back from the market.  It will certainly cause unnecessary confusion and damage to this burgeoning market but there is zero chance that it will stop people buying and selling CBD products.  Thousands of jobs now depend on the British CBD industry and millions of people find the products helpful and beneficial.

Key Points of Advice and Guidance

Don’t panic.  If you’re using CBD it will continue to be available. You might find it easier to buy it online in future.

Don’t panic.  If you’re a CBD business, the future remains bright, you should be used to a few obstacles in your path!

Don’t panic.  If you are visted by Trading Standards, stay calm and explain that your products contain nothing ‘novel’ and have been in widespread use for hundreds of years.

Don’t panic.  All CannaPro Certified businesses will have support in compiling evidence that your products are not ‘novel’. You are entitled to be given time to submit this.

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A final point that needs to be made on this subject.  When CLEAR organised the successful response to the MHRA’s intervention in 2016, it led directly to the establishment of the Cannabis Trades Assocation UK (CTA).  For reasons concened mainly with the ethical conduct and antecedents of Mike Harlington, who we appointed to run the CTA, we, along with many CBD businesses have disassociated themselves. This is turn led to the formation of Cannabis Professionals.

One of the main concerns about Harlington were his false claims of a ‘special relationship’ with the MHRA and FSA. These events should put the final nail in the coffin of those lies.  He and the CTA have had more than two years to establish a successful working relationship with these authorities but this has clearly been an absolute failure.  More than ever, the UK’s legal cannabis, CBD and hemp businesses need proper and effective representation.  Clearly, the CTA is unable to provide that.

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Misleading Parliament Again. Victoria Atkins, The Drugs Minister With A Family Cannabis Farm.

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She’s back!  Victoria Atkins MP is again engaged in answering parliamentary questions on cannabis for the UK government.  Clearly this is wholly improper when she directly benefits from commercial production of cannabis.

Ms Atkins disappeared from public view for a few weeks after CLEAR revealed that her husband is growing 45 acres of cannabis under government licence while she argues against drugs regulation in Parliament. It was particularly notable that she was absent from the House of Commons during the recent urgent question debate on a medical cannabis licence for Alfie Dingley.  Instead, her colleague Nick Hurd MP, ostensibly the Police Minister, was required to answer a question on drugs.  Similarly, she was nowhere to be seen as Paul Flynn MP’s bill came up for debate, which sadly, as CLEAR had predicted, never took place.

It is simply extraordinary that the so-called Drugs Minister should duck and dive out of view when such issues of massive public interest hit the headlines.  She has a massive conflict of interest and it is completely unacceptable for her to continue in her present role.

Yesterday, 7th March 2018, she answered a written question from Roger Godsiff, the Labour MP for Birmingham Hall Green.

“To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, if she will assess the health and economic benefits of legalising cannabis for medical use.”

Ms Atkins answered:

“The World Health Organization’s Expert Committee on Drug Dependence has committed to reviewing the scheduling of cannabis under the United Nation’s 1961 Convention. This is due to consider the therapeutic use, as well as dependence and the potential to abuse constituent parts of cannabis. This is due in 2019 and we will await the outcome of this report before considering the next steps.”

This answer is at best disingenuous and misleading.  Once the full facts are understood it is clear that it is deceptive and mendacious.

British Sugar’s giant greenhouse in Wissington, Norfolk where Victoria Atkins husband, Paul Kenward, grows cannabis

Ms Atkins husband, Paul Kenward, managing director of British Sugar, grows cannabis under contract to GW Pharmaceuticals for the production of medicine.  Ms Atkins deceit is predicated on another deception promoted by the UK government that is some way or another, Sativex, GW’s cannabis medicine is not cannabis.  GW is perfectly straightforward about this.  Sativex is a whole plant cannabis extract adjusted by simple blending of two different strains to deliver 1:1 ratio of THC:CBD.  It contains all the other cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and other compounds present in the plants from which it is made.  The government deception is to justify the issue of a marketing authorisation (MA) for Sativex by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) which is itself a deception.  The MA was issued on the basis that Sativex is THC and CBD alone.  The MHRA conveniently overlooks the hundreds of other ingredients and calls them “unspecified impurities”. The consequence of this is that, ludicrously, Sativex is a schedule 4 drug whilst any other form of cannabis remains schedule 1 and may not be prescribed

But the plot thickens.  The deceit goes even deeper.  It has been widely reported and British Sugar confirms that its grow is not for Sativex but for production of Epidiolex, the 98% cannabidiol (CBD) medicine that has not yet received an MA.  If, as appears certain, this is the case then the British Sugar grow is unlawful under the declared policy of the government.  Cannabis production licences (other than low-THC industrial hemp) can only be issued for “research or other special purposes“. They most certainly cannot be issued for the production of a medicine that is not yet authorised.  Even if the British Sugar cannabis is low-THC, it is definitely not an approved EU industrial hemp strain and the purpose of its production is presently unlawful.

Ms Atkins through her husband is therefore engaged in the unlawful production of cannabis and is directly engaged in misleading Parliament as to government policy, the law and the medical value of cannabis.  The World Health Organization story is a trick, a distraction, an excuse to divert Parliament from understanding the truth.

Ms Atkins conduct cannot be described in any other way except as corrupt.  She is a disgrace as a minister of the Crown, to Parliament, to her profession as a barrister, to the Conservative Party, to her constituents in Louth and Horncastle and to the United Kingdom as a whole and all of its citizens.  She is manifestly unfit for any public office.

 

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.