The UK Policy On Medicinal Cannabis Is Dishonest And Cruel
Britain is one of only two countries in Europe that denies traditional medicinal cannabis to its residents.
The UK government maintains cannabis in schedule 1 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations which states that it has no medicinal value. The Home Office regularly confirms this position in response to enquiries. Whatever scientific evidence is offered, its position remains "there is no medicinal value in cannabis".
Strangely though, Britain is the only country in the world which has a major pharmaceutical company growing, processing and marketing cannabis across international borders with a comprehensive programme of product development and clinical trials. The company is GW Pharmaceuticals and the product is SATIVEX.
SATIVEX is not a synthesised pharmaceutical product but a liquid extracted by processing the whole cannabis plant which includes all its active constituents in a highly concentrated form.
SATIVEX consists of two varieties of cannabis grown under lights in exactly the same way as most illegal cannabis farms. One of the varieties is high in the pain relieving, anti-psychotic, anti-cancer cannabinoid known as cannabidiol (CBD) while the other is a skunk-type high in the psychoactive cannabinoid known as delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The two varieties are blended together and extracted into an oil to produce a THC:CBD ratio of 51:49. The content of the other 400+ ingredients, e.g. other cannabinoids, terpines and flavonoids is not specified.
The precise legal status of SATIVEX is difficult to understand. Under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 the Home Office is able to issue licences to grow cannabis for "special purposes such as research". Although an open general licence has now been issued to allow SATIVEX to be prescribed and dispensed there is no provision under the Act for a licence which permits cannabis to be grown and/or processed for medicine or for commercial gain.
In January 2011 the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs recommended that SATIVEX should be placed in schedule 4 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations. However, the government has yet to act as it is required to provide a "suitable description of the relevant components of SATIVEX". The fact is that the only scientifically accurate description of SATIVEX is that it is cannabis. It is pharmacologically identical to the cannabis plants from which it is made.
SATIVEX is massively expensive. GW Pharma charges the NHS 10 times the price that the black market equivalent is available for on the streets, a huge commercial advantage that is only possible because of the prohibition of traditional medicinal cannabis.
The government and GW Pharma with the support of the Home Office and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) seeks falsely to distinguish SATIVEX from cannabis. A large number of FOI requests has revealed the dishonesty and deception around SATIVEX. Even doctors and nurses have been inveigled into pretending that it does not produce the "high" associated with traditional cannabis, despite the fact that the statutory product information describes "euphoric mood" as a "common" side effect.
Meanwhile, throughout most of the USA, Israel and all of Europe except France, people can legally obtain traditional cannabis through their doctors or grow it themselves in order to treat a wide variety of illnesses. Conclusive scientific evidence now proves its efficacy for MS, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, cancer, Crohn's disease, glaucoma, epilepsy, arthritis, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease and many other conditions which may be modulated by the body's endocannabinoid system.
Residents of other European countries are entitled to bring traditional medicinal cannabis to Britain under the protection of the Schengen Agreement and use it without restriction, whereas a British resident would face arrest and jail.
Peter Reynolds said:
"I congratulate GW Pharmaceuticals for bringing the medicinal benefits of cannabis to market. However, all that can be said about British governmment policy is that it is dishonest, deceptive and deeply cruel to those who need cannabis as medicine. GW now has an unlawful monopoly to profit from cannabis which is enforced under government direction by our police service. This is a scandal at the very highest level for which surely, one day, heads must roll and corruption must be exposed".
If you would like more information on this topic or an other aspect of the work of Cannabis Law Reform (CLEAR), or to arrange an interview with Peter Reynolds please contact him on 07880 872022