The Tories &
the Cannabis Conundrum
Recent statistics estimate that over 1.4 million people in the UK are using cannabis medicinally, but accessing it illegally. I’m sure when the law regarding prescribing medical cannabis was changed many people thought that they would be able to access cannabinoids through the NHS, the reality has been very different.
To be very clear, there are currently 2 cannabis derived medicinal products available for prescription in England, for a grand total of 3 conditions. Both the products (called Epidyolex and Sativex) are made by one pharmaceutical company who have well-documented links to the Conservative party and its ministers.
The prescribing guidelines published by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence offer a glimmer of hope to a few families scattered across these isles, but the healthcare revolution promised by cannabis advocates is still a long way off. The phrase ‘cannabis user’ can refer to individuals found in almost any demographic; young and old, sick and well, rich and poor, there is no longer a ‘stereotypical’ cannabis user. The reasons that people use cannabis are equally as diverse; some use cannabis products as a sleep aid, an appetite stimulant or an antidepressant.
Many cannabis users are seeking relief from pain and anxiety, or as an alternative to more harmful substances such as opioids or alcohol. There are thousands of types of cannabis, and an infinite number of ways that it can be prepared and administered, with each variation producing a different result in different people.
Recent attempts to reframe cannabis’s medical utility will continue to offer disappointment, because, in the red-tape and process of writing guidelines and policies, we lose sight of the forest for the trees. Often times in the media we are presented with the dichotomy of ‘recreational versus medical cannabis’, but in the real world there is no such clear distinction. Many people consider cannabis a medicine, but also use it socially, and many people using it for ‘mere recreation’ report positive health outcomes that are incidental to their intended use.
It would seem that many people have an intuitive sense of shame and impropriety when considering that something illegal might actually be good, and that something fun can also be healthy. By no means do I consider that cannabis is harmless, but when approached with the right intention, it can be a life-changing product. Take for example our shop on Great Junction Street; we’ve been open for over a year and half, and we have served thousands of people in our community. We frequently meet people who are ‘cannabis naïve’ and don’t really know where to start or what to expect. The products we sell contain CBD, the non-psychoactive cannabinoid that can support and maintain your health without getting you high.
There are many products to choose from, and what works for one won’t always work for another; we can have two people with the same symptoms and yet they will both use totally different types of CBD.
We have big customers who take wee doses and wee customers who take big doses. The most important outcomes cannot be measured easily by lab testing and detailed studies; our aim is to raise the quality of life of our community, and each member of our community will define this in a different way. Part of the reason the UK’s cannabis legislation is so unfit for purpose is that it has been cobbled together over the decades, primarily by people with little to no experience of the plant and it’s potential. Our laws are not based on evidence, but rather on prejudice, anecdote and hearsay. Cherry-picking from the data very seldom yields a positive result, and certainly the 1.4 million cannabis users accessing black market produce for medical conditions are not in any way considered a useful resource for information on the benefits of cannabis.
Surely we should be asking cannabis users, and listening to their experience. Does it not stand to reason that the people who might be best informed on this plant are the people who spend their time and money on it? The industry experts are right under our noses. Doctors get caught in the space between the regulators and the consumers. GP’s have been inundated with requests for medical cannabis products, but there has been no training for any NHS staff on how cannabis works. In the European city-state of Luxembourg where cannabis will be officially legalised next year, every medical professional has already had comprehensive training on cannabis, and more importantly the Endocannabinoid System. At the time of writing, the latest snap general election is about 4 weeks away. I doubt the issue of cannabis law reform will feature prominently in this campaign. Unfortunately, for many people cannabis is not a sufficiently big enough issue to influence their vote. Certainly many criminal gangs dealing cannabis and harder drugs will be happy to continue plying their trade in the absence of true leadership from our elected representatives.
Sooner or later we all face challenges to our health and wellbeing, and cannabis may indeed be part of the solution for many of us. Perhaps it is not until we are affected personally by the lack of legal cannabis provision that we become aware of how remarkably unfair it is. I wear my cannabis badge with pride. I believe the plant should be legal for anyone to access, be it through their doctor, or a licensed retailer, or indeed just grown at home. We can already look to other jurisdictions where cannabis has been legalised and regulated, and we can see the benefits and potential pitfalls. The evidence already exists; we just need to adjust our focus.
Whether cannabis law is reformed or not, cannabis use will continue as it has done for thousands of years. Personally, I feel it would be better to bring it into the open and have a grown-up conversation about how we can best reform the law to benefit the end-user, not the sales rep.
Our aim is to raise the quality of life of our community, and each member of our community will define this in a different way
Dan Collins exposes the hypocrisy involved in the cannabis as medicine saga
Epidyolex pills and leaf