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Was it something I said?

September 16, 2011


This revealing picture has appeared on Facebook. Students of body language will notice the lack of support I appear to have from my fellow speakers. One seems to have her head in her hands. As the five of us were purring in sweet agreement on the subject of the need for for a pathway towards legalised medicinal cannabis, I believe that this time the camera has lied.�

For the first time ever a very competent campaigning group is leading the call for a compassionate rational policy on end the prejudiced law that denies hundreds of thousands of seriously ill people their medicine of choice. Their website is www.clear-uk.org/

This is part of their message:

This is a plan for the regulation of the cannabis supply chain in Britain. It has been developed in conjunction with the Independent Drug Monitoring Unit (IDMU) report "Taxing the UK Cannabis Market" (TUKCM) 1. However, it is not entirely synchronous with that report nor is it set in stone. The development of such a plan is an iterative process that requires expertise from many areas. An expert committee should be established by government to finalise a working implementation of these proposals.

The plan is predicated on the fact that the prohibition of cannabis provides no control whatsoever over this multi-billion pound market. Present policy is, in fact, an abdication of responsibility by government to both individuals and organised crime. As a consequence, Britain has one of the lowest "age at first use" 2 and one of the highest proportion of children using cannabis 3 than anywhere else in the world. These are particularly important indicators as although the health risks of cannabis are very low, lower than all other recreational (including alcohol and tobacco), OTC and POM drugs 4, the risks to health are greatest in children.

It should be noted that the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (MoDA) which seeks to control the possession, cultivation/production and supply of cannabis does not prescribe prohibition, nor is the use of cannabis illegal. Neither is its purpose to minimise any health risks. Its purpose is regulation in order to minimise social harms. Neither new legislation, nor any change in the law is required in order to introduce a system of regulation. Everything can be accomplished by ministerial order.

The only exception to the prohibition of cannabis in Britain is the licence granted to GW Pharmaceuticals in connection with the production of Sativex. The Home Office refuses even to consider any other applications for licences. This is almost certainly unlawful, providing GW with a monopoly of medicinal cannabis which is sustained by misinformation as to what Sativex is and what its effects are.

GW describes Sativex as an "endocannabinoid system modulator" or an extract of THC and CBD. In fact, it is an whole plant extract containing all the cannabinoids that naturally occur in the plant. It is manufactured by blending together two strains of herbal cannabis; a high-THC sativa "skunk" and a high-CBD ruderalis. The only accurate description of Sativex is that it is cannabis - even though the Home Office states that there is "no medicinal value" in cannabis.

GW also promotes the untruth that Sativex does not produce a "high" or the euphoria that is sought by recreational users of cannabis. Evidence from Sativex users directly contradicts this. Conclusively, the Summary of Product Characteristics (SPC) for Sativex 5, a statutory document, describes "euphoric mood" as "common".

Sativex is undoubtedly a valuable and effective cannabis medicine which deserves its place in the pharmacopoeia. In the interests of everyone, it needs to be described, regulated and marketed honestly.