The Cannabis Conundrum

The central question on the legality of cannabis is not if, but how it will be legalized says Dan Collins

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GW Pharma’s legal cannabis farm in Norfolk is the size of 34 football pitches

We have been thinking about our health more than you usual. That’s no coincidence; pandemics have a way of changing how people feel, act and behave, we’ve all shared in an experience that few humans in history have endured and we’re probably only halfway through.

Meanwhile there is another public health crisis closer to home, a crisis created through too much human deliberation.

Cannabis has existed on earth for about 25 million years and the part your nervous system reacts to is even older, and every animal on the planet has a spine that reacts to cannabis in a broadly similar way.

Another dichotomy that cannabis presents is in the form of the plant’s key components - THC and CBD. Two chemicals that are similar on paper but behave differently when ingested.

Experience of both is essential to an understanding and application of medical cannabis. Although THC remains a controlled substance, CBD can be bought and sold as a food supplement.

Until recently the CBD products that were legal were treated like any other herbal extraction, self-regulated and providing a variety of CBD supplements including oils, edibles and vapes. However, cannabis isn’t any other herb.

All of these offerings maintained a THC concentration lower than 0.2%, the practical limit of what manufacturers would be able to control, given the source material’s complex nature. 0.2% isn’t enough to get you high; it’s just the leftovers.

To be very clear; THC is not dangerous; it ranks next to coffee in terms of the relative risk that it poses. Where it differs from coffee is its varied and important medical applications.

THC is however illegal and the powers-that-be have decided that a trace of the stuff be regulated out of every product, threatening to up-end the nascent market.

The majority of CBD users and probably in excess of 90% of cannabis users do so with some medical intention. Studies from around the world show that when asked why they used cannabis, respondents reported increased quality of life with benefits relating to stress, sleep, pain, depression and anxiety.

Healthy people don’t seek out medicine, and it’s safe to say that regardless of what you think cannabis does, it certainly does something worth paying attention to, if you’re goal is helping people find health and happiness.

The UK has become the world’s biggest exporter of medical cannabis products. Billion pound deals are signed on British soil as giant greenhouses sprout rows of 7ft tall full-fat cannabis plants.

Sophisticated laboratory equipment shreds raw cannabis flower and carefully extracts the target ingredients. Meticulous distillation, clever marketing and subtle political influence return maximum return for investment.

Shareholders will sleep well but it is still borderline impossible to access medical cannabis on the NHS. Meanwhile it’s never been easier to access medical weed on private prescription.

As a world leader in cannabis medicines, one would like to think the UK had a culture of acceptance of the kind herb, but 2021 offers a gloomy landscape for the hitherto good-spirited CBD industry.

Strict new regulations about CBD and THC content in consumer products are being introduced with little to no input from small businesses, healthcare professionals or anyone with experience of cannabis outside a few establishment elites.

There’s even a corporate lobbying body, set up by a consortium of private healthcare providers and international cannabis producers for the sole purpose of influencing policy at government level. Without consulting CBD users, the sick, sad and sore people who have found some little comfort in an oil drop.

Soon, CBD products our community has known and loved will be sold out and replaced by something less than the whole. Nobody who takes CBD will from stricter rules about who can fill the bottle. Large-scale importers will control the market - some start-up pharmaceutical companies are offering to produce CBD in a lab at industrial capacity without growing a single plant.

The direction of travel for cannabis policy in the UK is antithetical to the experiences and preferences of cannabis users who use the plant as an intervention to benefit their health and wellbeing.

Cannabis policy in the UK is written by and for the pharmaceutical industry, in the last 10 years the cannabis market has flourished under successive Conservative governments, happy to trample organic growth in the pursuit of ideological purity.

The central question on the legality of cannabis is not if, but how it will be legalised, influential parties are more interested in wealth than health, reducing choice and increasing healthcare inequality.

Our cultural attitudes and language we use to describe cannabis needs to change. It’s not good enough that regulation of this amazing resource is being mismanaged both deliberately and profitably, the entire weight of harm from that mismanagement allocated to shoulders already carrying a heavy burden.

There are children and parents at home right now trying to fund life and death cannabis prescriptions while UK customs waves through tonnes of the stuff on the way to Canada and the US.

The health crisis brewing in our midst is the result of a lack of compassion and a refusal to accept something extremely obvious; cannabis is only illegal because it works.

Info: Dan runs The Hemp Community, Scotland’s first CBD shop/cannabis social enterprise

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Parents struggle to fund life and death cannabis prescriptions, while UK customs waves through tonnes of the stuff heading for the USA

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