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Cannabis in the UK is a medicine for the rich but a crime for the poor

Tim Henley, medical cannabis patient advocate at Access Kaneh, shares his thoughts on medical cannabis access in the UK.

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Cannabis in the UK is a medicine for the rich but a crime for the poor

Cannabis in the UK is currently a medicine for the rich and a crime for the poor – can the UK continue like this?

Even today judges are sentencing people for growing their own medicine. I believe the industry has to push for decriminalisation to ensure medical cannabis benefits all.

The judiciary seemed to have missed the memo highlighting that cannabis is now legal for medical use. The juxtaposition of legal medicine and illicit crime from the same plant really does come down to money and an EU GMP certificate. Policing by consent in this country is the bedrock of our system and is being eroded by the current cannabis legislation which sees massive disparities in wealth, crime and punishment based on opportunity and ethnicity.  

Now, don’t get me wrong – cannabis farms with modern slaves and electricity theft are the bane of modern society and need to be stamped out. That’s why we need proper regulation with an equitable balance, and it needs to be enacted now. The future will see reparation payments for the lives blighted by the current legislation and highly likely an official apology in time. Why is the UK not looking at the global change happening now?

Well, at the same time medical cannabis became legal in the UK, the Canadians implemented the Cannabis Act. Canada legalised adult-use following two decades of successful and extensive medical access where no one died.

What can the UK learn from Canada? First, the starting point for Canada’s legislation was delivering harm reduction and quality of life outcomes. The previous two decades of medical access were not set up to focus on scientific research or ensuring cannabis was an option of last resort but an option of choice. If someone with a medical condition wanted to choose cannabis they could, if they felt better and gained benefit from using medical cannabis that was good enough for the Canadians. Patients could even get a prescription to grow their own medicine empowering them to take back control of their own health.

This is in stark contrast to the UK approach where only GMC consultants can prescribe Cannabis medication. The consultation at a private clinic can only happen after all other effective treatment options have been considered and exhausted. Each script is a specified product with no leeway for patients to choose options that may be more suitable for them as other countries allow in the dispensary system. 

The private clinics since 2018 have seen around 10,000 cannabis patients, way behind other countries such as Australia with close to 100,000 patients, Germany with over 120,000 and Canada with over 350,000 patients pre-adult use. The UK has come so far but at the same time achieved so little. There are, by most estimates, around 1.75 million people using illicit cannabis for medical purposes. These people have not felt compelled to move to legal medical cannabis even though they risk legal action against them if caught, for them cannabis is a crime.

Why have more people not sought out legal cannabis?

Maybe the initial consult and the monthly script costs are too high. This seems on the surface the reason why medical cannabis has not expanded as quickly. However, the medication costs in some cases are comparable to illicit cannabis so it is not the whole story. Part of the picture seems to be that many people still don’t know medical cannabis is legally available, if they do, it is seen as too difficult to access. 

I happen to think one of the key factors is clinician responses. My own personal experience shows the issues.  I asked my GP about using Cannabis for my lower back pain.  They told me it was only available for epileptic children, but they offered me opioid painkillers instead. I reluctantly started co-codamol but saw no benefit and knew further escalation could lead to dark addictions.

The GP had given me incorrect information and shown no understanding of Cannabis as a medication. This is why AccessKaneh was formed to help people understand cannabis and navigate the regulatory system. But even now in appointments with doctors when I mention Cannabis there is definitely a feeling of disapproval in the air. I am reasonably healthy so visits to my GP are rare.

However, if future treatment decisions are affected by my choice to use medical cannabis that makes me uneasy and for many is an untenable option. That’s why they continue in the shadows of others. Their use of cannabis means they are healthy and don’t have the medical records required to get a script. There is a multitude of reasons that a more relaxed approach will remove. Personally, I hope we move to a system where nurse practitioners or trained GPs can prescribe, like Australia and Canada. I can then find a GP that understands cannabis and looks at holistic medicine as an opportunity, not a snake oil.

On the positive side, I recently went to the Royal Society of Medicine for an event aptly named as “Pain and cannabis medicines: Everything you want to know (but were afraid to ask)” it felt like cannabis is actually starting to make an impact in the medical world amongst the more enlightened doctors so things are starting to move. 

That said, listening to Paul Chrisp from NICE – National Institute for Health Care Excellence, the gatekeepers and advisors on what the NHS should fund and whose current guidelines are blocking cannabis prescribing in the health service, I was so frustrated. Mr Chrisp’s view was there is just not the evidence to the standard NICE will accept to change their opinion. He did however say they would look at real-world evidence and quality of life data but the gold standard was always going to be Randomised Controlled Trials (RCT’s).

This methodology once again disadvantages cannabis. The current research and licensing system is for single active ingredient drugs where pharma companies can recoup their RCT investment for specific conditions. Cannabis will never be able to fund such research at scale because strains and cultivars are easily reproducible and cannot be patented to get the return on Investment.

One answer is to empower citizen science and open-source research using the data from the many countries endorsing access. This approach can accumulate country-wide data into collaborative research following the model that has been shown so effective in COVID research. Maybe this model can convince NICE to make cannabis accessible to all.

Paul Chrisp’s comments made me think once again why we are not looking at the historic record of safe use. For thousands of years people have used cannabis as a medication before we sanitised medicine to symptom control and lost our holistic approach. It is only in the last hundred years since the real industrialisation of societies started that cannabis fell out of favour. The century of prohibition led patients to the shadows and vilified their medicinal cannabis use. 

Strange to stand on their shoulders, listening to General Medical Council registered (GMC) consultant after consultant presenting slides and case studies on how effective the medication is. The descriptions of patients where pharma meds had not been effective but cannabis or a derivative have been, make compelling real-world evidence. 

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is the critical reason why cannabis is so effective in so many conditions. But we find out during the conference that the ECS and its operation are still not taught in medical schools because the GMC still does not deem it important enough. This is perhaps because cannabis takes us into this area of holistic caring which has always presented problems for the medical establishment and its pharma orthodoxy. The mantra “prevention is better than cure” means to me the ECS should be top of the training curriculum of all future clinicians. 

Back to the question, how does the UK stop cannabis being a medicine for the rich and a crime for the poor? This has to be based on exactly the same criteria Canada used to evaluate its steps forward. Harm reduction and real-world quality of life outcomes. These guiding principles should directly affect the way the UK approaches cannabis. We can learn from around the world where health systems are subsidising the price or cost of consultations for medical cannabis, so it is a medicine for those that choose it. It’s time the NHS looked at the holistic opportunity that the ECS and medical cannabis present. 

Currently, EU GMP cannabis sits in concrete and steel edifices that take away the plant’s power to regenerate our planet’s atmosphere. For me, the most important issue on the horizon is why medical cannabis is not regulated as a herbal medicine, where I believe it should really sit. If cannabis was restored as a herbal medicine the industry could actually be a leader in climate change action and environmental impacts while delivering real social change to benefit the world’s poorest and helping the majority.

The introduction of dispensaries as advocated by the Cannabis Trades Association in our 10 point plan on cannabis would reinvigorate the high street leading to a renaissance of many high streets and providing local jobs.   

Cannabis will be part of the future – the question is who will it benefit?

As the great physicist Carl Sagan said:

“The illegality of Cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world”

Written under his pseudonym Mr. X to avoid the heavy social stigma associated with cannabis in 1969.

What has changed? Enlightened countries are re-evaluating and unleashing the healing power of cannabis, will the UK?

Tim Henley
Medical cannabis patient advocate
Access Kaneh

Opinion

Opinion: former Juicy Fields CEO shares his thoughts on the case

“I might be off the mark, but I don’t think this was an intended Ponzi Scheme,” Willem van der Merwe.

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Opinion: former Juicy Fields CEO shares his thoughts on the case
Image provided by Carola Perez
Home » Opinion » Cannabis in the UK is a medicine for the rich but a crime for the poor

In this opinion article, the former CEO of Juicy Fields, Willem van der Merwe, shares his opinion on the Juicy Fields case so far, with a message to the founders and investors.

I might be off the mark, but I don’t think this was an intended Ponzi Scheme. I believe this was purely a case where a good business concept was mismanaged by inexperienced people, which are more equipped to develop IT solutions, not run businesses in a productive and transparent manner. 

There is a distinct difference between designing a race car, and eventually racing with it. This business took off way beyond anyone’s expectations, including those of the Juicy Fields founders. When they realised the size of the fish they caught, they tied to get help, but unfortunately seems to have recruited both good and a few wrong people to assist them.

Read more: Juicy Fields fraud controversy – company claims it will refund investors

I was informed by a reliable source that the owners/founding members indeed decided to suspend the Juicy Fields.io platform deliberately, once they became aware of one or two rogue people that lead them down the wrong path.

For these owners/founding members to restart up the JuicyFields.io platform will not be inconceivable or event too farfetched, but they will need to have a good and plausible explanation for/to the market for their initial actions taken, and going forward, to give the platform half a chance, will need not only a new platform offering that deals with issues such as proper KYC but be compliant with regulators. 

In addition, any new offering will require a new, revitalised marketing strategy to build up trust again. The issue is not the business offering itself, it became the way in which the business was promoted, perceived and disclosed to its members.

Personally, my first thoughts were that the brand is most certainly tarnished. Having had some time to think about it, I think the best way forward for owners/founding members of the JuicyFields.io platform is to almost “relaunch” it, with the proviso already mentioned. 

If they don’t at least try, a stigma will not only follow these owners/founding members but also the business of crowd growers in general.

Following the news release that was released by the owners/founding members on 27 July, it is apparent that Juicy Fields was duped into believing the BaFin regulatory issues should be dealt with by registering new Juicy Fields companies outside of Germany, where this all started. This, of course, is not correct, as the BaFin situation to my understanding, was simply a case of filing the requisite prospectus as required by German financial regulators, to clarify the grey area that Juicy Fields was operating in.

A person by the name of Von Luxburg presented himself as an attorney that could help the owners/founding members with the BaFin requirements, including writing a prospectus for the group as was suggested and required by BaFin at the time. 

It appears now from what we have all learned, that he clearly did not have the best interest at heart of the owners/ founding members of the Juicy Fields platform. When these inexperienced owners/ founding members realised this, they did what any person in their shoes probably would have done, and that was to shut down or suspend operations, to prevent losing all the investors’ funds. 

Their fears were actually credible, as I further understand that Von Luxburg had indeed sent people to at least one of the Juicy Fields banks, to try and take over signature control of this account.  

According to news that started flowing into the markets via social media since mid-July when the JuicyFields.io platform was suspended, both Von Luxburg and the owners/founding members started blaming each other publicly, another tragedy in this saga, and again in my opinion showing some inexperience by the owners’/ founding members in dealing with such situations. 

They really should have simply obtained legal court orders, but I reckon they were overwhelmed by the mess that was created. Again, these are my observations from the outside.

My message to investors will be to be patient. Logic tells me that nobody can steal this type of money and get away with it. Rather, engage with the company or its lawyers and see if a refund can be arranged. I’m sure the owners/ founding members will be eager to deal with the threats and accusations accordingly. 
 
To the owners, I would say be transparent and in constant communication with the eGrower clients. Also, do your best to get everything operational again, but in a way that will increase security for all involved, and with the future blessing of the authorities such as BaFin. 

This situation will not be resolved overnight as the financial institutions have apparently frozen all the Juicy Fields accounts. Not because the authorities requested it, but because the owners/founding members did. The financial institutions are highly regulated and I’m almost certain they, in turn, would have to have reported these events to their local Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs). 

Regarding my earlier comments that I doubt that this was a Ponzi scheme or money laundering – there is simply too much at stake for any bank, never mind the owners/founding members to even try and engage in this type of business.

The current status and situation of the Juicy Fields business, unless amicably resolved in the very near future, will most certainly be investigated by the regulatory bodies to determine the reasons for any such account activities nor part of a bigger investigation. The owners/ founding members can either decide to wrap up the business, refund whoever is owed money and wind down the business or refund everyone and then start fresh with a new approach to market.

May logic and good sense ultimately prevail and the investors be made whole again, and the cause of this whole situation be dealt with properly and adequately.

Willem van der Merwe
Former Juicy Fields CEO

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Opinion

Despite US federal court ruling Delta-8-THC remains in legal limbo – what’s next?

Despite the cannabinoid receiving federal legal status in the US, more than 20 individual states have sought to restrict Delta-8.

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Delta-8-THC

Scott Mazza, co-founder and COO of Buffalo’s Vitality CBD, discusses the future of Delta-8-THC, the first psychoactive cannabinoid to achieve nationwide legal approval in the US.

Delta-8-THC is in the crosshairs of regulators in the United States. Despite the cannabinoid receiving federal legal status, more than 20 individual states have sought to restrict Delta-8.

The controversy arises from the fact that Delta-8, unlike cannabidiol (CBD), produces psychoactive effects. Though less intense than Delta-9-THC, the cannabinoid reportedly creates more of an ‘in-your-body’ sensation and physical relaxation. Here, however, lies the problem. Some regulators aren’t happy that Delta-8 is the first psychoactive cannabinoid to achieve nationwide legal approval thanks to a perceived loophole in 2018’s Farm Bill.

It begs the question: what’s next?

The history behind Delta-8-THC

Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as delta-8-THC, is a psychoactive substance found in the cannabis sativa plant, of which marijuana and hemp are two varieties. Delta-8 is one of more than 100 cannabinoids produced naturally by the cannabis plant though it’s not found in significant amounts. Its chemical structure is similar to Delta-9-THC, which is regarded as the main psychoactive element found in marijuana. That said, Delta-8 counts smoother effects than Delta-9, making it appealing to many THC consumers.

It bears repeating that Delta-8-THC is only naturally found in small traces, which is why it’s typically synthesised from legal, hemp-derived CBD. This is possible thanks to the similar molecular structure of cannabinoids and a process called isomerisation. This method sees CBD dissolved in glacial acetic acid to convert it to Delta-9 THC. After three days, half of the material becomes Delta-8-THC. Of course, for quality control, an experienced chemist should oversee the entire process and a third party must test the final products.

The result reportedly produces a clear high without the anxiety often associated with Delta-9. A survey of 500 Delta-8 users largely reported relaxation, pain relief and euphoria, with most participants reporting they could perform their normal daily activities without experiencing the adverse side effects associated with cannabis use, like paranoia, anxiety or the ‘munchies’. Great, right? Well, the answer depends on who you ask.

A cannabinoid in legal limbo

Critics of the cannabinoid claim that it should not be legal in the first place. This is because 2018’s Farm Bill legalised hemp across the country. Since the legislation made no mention of Delta-8, it also became legal to sell. Since then, the industry boomed, especially in prohibitionist states due to the relative lack of specific, restrictive policies.

Despite protests from certain sectors, this ruling continues to stand the test of time. In May, a California federal appeals court ruled that Delta-8 and other cannabinoids derived from hemp are legal even if the substances have psychoactive properties. Further, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has conceded that Delta-8-THC is generally unregulated because the current statute only bans cannabis products with more than 0.3 percent Delta-9 THC by dry weight.

Federally, there remain no restrictions against hemp-derived Delta-8. However, the story is different at a state level. Today, more than 20 states have sought to restrict Delta-8. Meanwhile, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued warnings to companies that are marketing products with Delta-8 and making what the agency says are “unsanctioned claims” about their therapeutic potential.

What’s next for Delta-8?

The legal limbo between federal approval and state prohibition is creating a patchwork of standards across the country. Unfortunately, fewer and fewer consumers can access the cannabinoid as a result. It remains to be seen what will happen next in this saga but, interestingly, the judges in May’s case noted that “it is for Congress to fix its mistake” if Delta-8’s legalisation was an unintended consequence of the Farm Bill.

In my view, it should be Congress that clarifies this issue. Currently, we’re seeing the discrepancy between legalising low THC cannabis plants yet criminalising high-THC varieties. In an ideal world, Congress will step in and put an end to prohibition once and for all.

With more research, we can hope that rigorous academic studies confirm the anecdotal benefits of the cannabinoid, giving more reason for consumer availability. For now, it’s encouraging to see that Delta-8 remains legal at a federal level, perhaps opening the door for larger legislative change regarding psychoactive cannabinoids going forward.

This article is by Scott Mazza, co-founder and COO of Buffalo’s Vitality CBD. Hailing from a background in finance, Scott is well-versed in the benefits of hemp and passionate about providing people with a natural alternative to the pharmaceutical industry.

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Opinion

Brains Bioceutical: building a cannabis dream team 

CEO of Brains Bio, Rick Brar, discusses his philosophy that a CEO is only as good as the team they lead.

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Brains Bioceutical: building a cannabis dream team 
Home » Opinion » Cannabis in the UK is a medicine for the rich but a crime for the poor

In this article, CEO of Brains Bioceutical, Rick Brar, discusses how building an expert team makes for a successful cannabis business. 

I have always subscribed to the mantra that you are only as good as your team. As an entrepreneur and CEO, my relative success has always been the result of the high-performing teams that I have had the privilege of working with over the years. They have been instrumental in creating positive synergies, bringing innovative ideas to the forefront and helping to bring the company vision to life.

When I founded Brains Bioceutical, a global manufacturer of naturally-sourced active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), I knew the company would be embarking on a new frontier in the research and development of cannabinoids for the health and wellness sectors. 

Read more: Brains Bioceuticals announce FSA validation for its CBD as a novel food

This ambitious undertaking would require the top minds across a number of industries, from pharmaceutical to cannabis and everything in between. Our team is strategically positioned to cover a diversified approach to pharmaceutical cannabinoids – with operations across the pharmaceutical, nutraceutical and medical markets.

With that in mind, I went in search of the infrastructure and the people I would need to help fulfil my vision of creating a company that specialised in the development of natural, plant-based cannabinoid APIs, backed by evidence-based research.

My team of advisors tracked down an API manufacturing facility in the United Kingdom that was EU-GMP certified. Not only did the facility (BSPG Laboratories) check all of the boxes, it was run by Dean Billington, an accomplished scientific professional with decades of experience in the pharmaceutical industry. 

Dean is one of the most knowledgeable people in the industry when it comes to the CBD molecule and what it takes to navigate the complex global regulatory environments associated with cannabinoid APIs. He has a proven track record of commercial and business development success with major pharmaceutical companies including Caligor RX Ltd., Bilcare GCS Europe Limited, Fisher Clinical Services and Pharmalytic Limited. 

He has also provided independent consulting services to a wider range of pharmaceutical companies at various stages of growth, providing expertise on all aspects of the drug development cycle including clinical trials, analytical chemistry and quality assurance.

Read more: Former GSK director joins cannabis company

Once Dean accepted the position as global chief operating officer for Brains Bioceutical, I knew this company was going to be well-positioned for hyper growth in the CBD health and wellness industries.

Following Dean’s hiring, I was in search of candidates that could lead our vertical markets – ingredient, wellness and pharmaceutical development. Terry O’Regan, who had a demonstrable track record of high performance in the pharma and biotech sectors, was my primary target. Having worked in a number of senior executive roles with pharmaceutical giant Biogen, I knew Terry could provide the expertise when it comes to the development and launches of new products and drive sustainable growth strategies. 

With Biogen, Terry developed a comprehensive portfolio strategy that maximised the potential of Biogen’s MS brands, ensuring the company had the top three most prescribed MS drugs in the United Kingdom. He also made significant strides as chairman of the American Pharmaceutical Industry group, influencing government policy within the life science sector by identifying opportunities for further collaboration between the UK Government and the industry.

But it wasn’t just Terry’s track record in product innovation, business development or policy reforms that made him the ideal candidate for President of Brains Bio. It is his passion for creating a company culture where employees feel valued and respected; where everyone is an equal part of something extraordinary. Terry is a man that does his homework and before accepting the role as President, he consulted with a number of neurologists, oncologists, patients and conducted a thorough literature review of the potential that cannabinoids could have on the future of healthcare and patient outcomes. Convinced that our natural, plant-based cannabinoid API could be used to treat various chronic diseases facing the world, Terry graciously agreed to lead our team.

Thankfully for us, Terry had deep connections with prominent people in the pharmaceutical industry, including Bill Purves, who is now our chief commercial officer. Bill is a veteran in both the pharmaceutical and cannabis industries, ideally suited to lead Brains Bioceutical’s business development strategy, exploring new revenue streams and solidifying relationships with existing and prospective customers. 

He started his pharmaceutical career with GlaxoSmithKline, where he stayed for over 10 years leading the company’s international business development unit. His entrepreneurial ventures began shortly thereafter with Iroko Pharmaceuticals, where Purves helped establish the company’s global sales and distribution networks for branded generic and specialty prescription products. In 2018, he entered the cannabis space, serving as CCO and CFO for Jacana, a Jamaican cannabis company. In these roles, Purves helped transform the startup into a fully vertically integrated cannabis company with business arms that included research and development, cultivation, production and extraction.

As CCO of Brains Bioceutical, Purves is able to combine his passion and experience in the pharmaceutical industry with his background in working with a cannabis startup.

And last but not least, what is a company without a tactical political strategist, public policy expert and master communicator? Barinder Bhullar, our senior vice president of corporate affairs, serves as the crucial link between the company and its customers, investors, employees and government, responsible for overseeing Brains Bioceutical’s overall communications strategy and providing direction on the company’s image, reputation and general performance. 

Barinder has held multiple senior level positions within the BC government, with a proven track record in establishing and maintaining relations with domestic and international governments and stakeholders. He also served as vice-president of international affairs for The Supreme Cannabis Company, a leading Health Canada licensed cannabis producer. In this role, Barinder worked with governments in the United Kingdom and Brussels to provide input on Europe’s medical cannabis policy. More importantly, Barinder demonstrates incredible leadership and passion and is eager to lead the Brains Bio team in unlocking transformative health and wellness solutions for patients and consumers.

Collectively, we have an incredible mission ahead of us. The strength of our combined team brings over 100 years of relationships with large pharmaceutical and research institutions. This combined with an exclusive partnership with one of the world’s largest human nutrition companies, will allow us to rapidly expand our global sales footprint. Using our industry leading hemp-based cannabinoid API, we are pioneering a new frontier in medicinal and wellness solutions across the world. 

Our leadership team possesses unparalleled expertise and institutional knowledge in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and cannabinoid-based product development. Now that we have the people, the infrastructure, the licensing and the research and development well underway, I am proud to say that Brains Bio is strategically positioned to be a trailblazer in healthcare innovation across the world.

Rick Brar
CEO
Brains Bioceutical

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