31 Jan The UK Government’s Very Last Excuse For Denying Access To Medicinal Cannabis.

Essentially, UK government policy on cannabis hasn’t altered since 1971.  Despite the vast amount of new evidence published since then and revolutionary change, particularly on medicinal use, all across the world, successive governments have stubbornly and obstinately refused to consider any sort of reform.

It doesn’t matter which party has been in power, Conservative, Labour or the coalition, it’s a subject that ministers and MPs simply refuse to engage with.  It’s easier that way for them and be in no doubt: laziness, fear of a media backlash and deeply ingrained prejudice are the key factors in this impasse.

We had the downgrade to class C in 2003 and then back up to B in 2009 but this was a turgid and useless effort.  No notice was taken of any evidence arising from this experiment.  It was enacted to enable police to concentrate more on class A drugs and reversed based on Gordon Brown’s ‘Presbyterian conscience’ and a grubby, corrupt deal with Paul Dacre to win the Daily Mail’s political support.  In fact, use went down while cannabis was class C and back up again when it was upgraded but governments have no interest in facts or evidence on this subject, only in political expediency and spinning advantage with the media.

The clamour for medicinal access has increased enormously, just as the evidence for its safety and efficacy has become overwhelming. The UK is now virtually isolated amongst first world countries with a cruel, inhumane and anti-evidence policy which makes us a laughing stock with all who are properly informed. It’s not a laughing matter for the victims though.  For those persecuted by this nasty policy it is tears, pain, suffering, disability – all of which could be alleviated to at least some extent just by a stroke of the Home Secretary’s pen.  It is sickening that all those who have held that office over the last 45 years escape without any shame or opprobrium on their character.

CLEAR receives hundreds of letters and emails every year from people who have written to their MP about medicinal cannabis and it is astonishing that unlike almost every other policy, exactly the same words are used by all MPs. They slavishly repeat the Home Office line which is ruthlessly enforced across party lines.

There have been some subtle changes.  The marketing authorisation issued for Sativex in 2010 has led to a minor change in the tired and inaccurate line ‘there is no medicinal value in cannabis’.  It’s now become ‘there is no medicinal value in raw cannabis’.  This is scientifically and factually incorrect.  Pharmacologically, Sativex  and the ‘raw’ plants from which it is made are identical.  It is whole plant cannabis oil and its authorisation by the MHRA as an extract of THC and CBD is fundamentally dishonest.  GW Pharmaceuticals reveals it contains more than 400 molecules, the MHRA says it only contains two and “unspecified impurities”.

More recently, and in the face of an explosion of supportive evidence, another line has been added.  This states that ‘the UK has a well established process for the approval of medicines through the MHRA and that any company wishing to bring a medicinal cannabis product to market should follow this procedure.  In fact, inside sources suggest that the government is very keen to see new cannabis-based medicines approved by the MHRA.  It would take the wind out of the sails of the medical cannabis campaign

This is the very last excuse for denying access to medicinal cannabis. It is nothing but an excuse and one that is misleading and based on deception.  If we can expose how weak, inappropriate and fake it is, the government will have nowhere else to hide.

Firstly, as demonstrated with Sativex, the MHRA process is incapable of dealing with a medicine that contains hundreds of molecules.  It is designed by the pharmaceutical industry for regulating single molecule medicines, usually synthesised in a lab, which have the potential to be highly toxic.  CLEAR rejects the tired, boring theory that ‘Big Pharma’ is engaged in a massive conspiracy to deny access to cannabis and to ‘keep people ill’ so it can continue to sell its products to the NHS. The MHRA isn’t engaged in such malevolent conduct, it’s simply incapable of sativex-with-cannabis-leafproperly evaluating a whole plant extract through its existing methods.

The bright, shining truth of this, that totally demolishes the government’s position, is that in every jusrisdiction throughout the world where medicinal cannabis has been legally regulated, it is through a special system outside pharmaceutical medicines regulation. 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.

Of course, there is also the ludicrous status  of cannabis as a schedule 1 drug, which prevents doctors from prescribing it.  If it was moved to schedule 2, alongside heroin and cocaine, or to schedule 4 alongside Sativex (the logical choice), doctors could be prescribing it tomorrow and high-quality, GMP and EU regulated medicinal cannabis from Bedrocan would be immediately available.

So 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.

This is now the most important factor in achieving medical cannabis law reform.  Next time you contact your MP or in any advocacy or campaign work you do, this is where to focus your energy.  Cannabis is a special case, it is not like other medicines.  Once we can open the eyes to this truth the path ahead will be clear.

  • Anny Smile

    It’s not a problem! Visit Los Angeles, get a medical marijuana card online and treat any disease!

    • MauriceRabbit

      You mean not a problem if you live in California.

      • Andrew Bridges

        Not a problem if you don’t have a criminal conviction for cannabis … because you can’t get into the USA with one

  • davidraynes

    Is this article entirely accurate Peter?

    Surely the seminal activity by government was in 1998 (I think) when the license to GW to grow cannabis and experiment in the hope of producing viable medicines was granted?

    History will show that the UK government was thus ahead of most of the world.

    Personally I have always been far more interested in the potential of CBD, since the early 70s in fact, when the pharmacology of cannabis was first explained to me.

    CLEAR campaigns for raw cannabis as a medicine. Fair enough, you are entitled to do that, but the association with your broader “legalisation for recreational use’ and your own position on recreational use, does surely contaminate your position, more than a little.

    • Cannabis needs to be fully legalised for all adults because the law against it causes far more harm in our society than cannabis ever has. For self-evident reasons of compassion and mercy, urgent priority needs to be given to medicinal access. However, the total of harms caused by general prohibition is far greater than the harms caused by prohibition of medicinal access.

      The ‘contamination of my position’ as you hilariously describe it is entirely a construct of your own and other prohibitionists desire to smear what is a perfectly rational position that I am entirely open about.

      Cannabis prohibition is a great force for evil in our society. It is a fundamentally immoral policy and your continuing refusal to recognise this truth is shameful.

    • smoke a J

      I written to MP and got a very similar worded reply. Also stating neither labour or conservative will legalise. Sorry folks for the bad news. If you medicate with Cannabis from UK wise. Make sure there is not glass in your stash.

  • An Alternative Way To Get Your Meds Discretely Without Any Hassles.
    Top grade Medicinal Cannabis Strains, Pure Cannabis Oils, Cannabis Capsules/Pills, and more available!!!! Overcome your lost of appetite, cure insomnia, chronic pain, peripheral neuropathy, cancer, chemotherapy side-effects, anxiety, disorders, major depression and many other ailments. For inquiries and orders, visit http://anncannamed.com/.

  • IanandBrooke Amcsignpost

    Just for the record, what’s happening in Australia is an absolute horror story. For the very reasons so eloquently described in your piece, the TGA is utterly incapable of regulating cannabis and so, predictably, has botched it completely. Over and above a nigh-on impossible-to-navigate Federal ‘access pathways’ to ‘unregistered medicnes’ the States and Territories also have their own legislation/regulations around access ON TOP of those at national (TGA) level. It is a fiasco which has meant only a minuscule number of people (perhaps in the region of 300) have managed to obtain a legal product, the vast majority of them CBD oil. No fewer than seventeen would-be growers however have been able to obtain licences to cultivate, research and / or manufacture cannabis products (since the law does now allow for this) and also become listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. The TGA is about to allow cannabis to be exported since domestic demand is ‘so low’. Meanwhile people are dying, including children, for want of this medicine and raids, arrests etc. continue unabated. One of the country’s leading cannabinologists recently estimated around 250,000 individuals are using illicit products purely for medical purposes. If the UK does pursue this route, it need only look to Australia to see what the outcome will be. This country is, in practice, no better off than you are.