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Interviews with influential voices in the CBD and medicinal cannabis industries
The duplicity of the UK government’s approach to cannabis, particularly medicinal cannabis UK, has been all too evident in recent times. Several cases of parents going to extreme measures to secure the CBD oil needed to treat their severely epileptic children have been reported, but the public seems in large part unmoved.
A former teacher, Phil Monk, became engaged in lobbying for the decriminalisation of cannabis after struggling with pain for many years. His own experience motivated him to action. He spoke to The Extract about his organisation, We The Undersigned (WTU), and their work in trying to effect change in the government stance.
“We’re trying to change the law so people don’t suffer like that. It seems inhumane that they should be left to suffer pain and indignity over nonsense rules.”
Government stance causing desperation
Monk was reflecting on the most recent incidence of a family being forced to take extreme measures to ensure their child has legal access to CBD. The Guardian this week reported the case of Julie Galloway, a mother who had no option but to leave Scotland with her seven-year-old daughter Alexa. The child suffers from epilepsy and a rare neurological condition, so mother and child were forced to depart, almost a year ago, to live with relatives in Rotterdam.
She says she is still living out of a suitcase and her savings are almost gone – but she fears that returning home without the medication would put her daughter's life in danger.
Mrs Galloway said: “I feel like a refugee forced to live abroad to save my child.
I have no other option. I miss my family. I want to come home but I am terrified the medication will be confiscated. I am struggling to pay for it and I know this can't go on forever.”
This follows the highly publicised case of Tegan Appleby, whose mother’s supply of CBD capsules were confiscated at Southend Airport.
The authority’s action seems at odds with the official government line, where ministerial approval was seemingly granted late last year. However, in practice, a dual standard has opened up in the treatment of medicinal cannabis, as Monk explains.
“The NHS guidelines are a hindrance. According to the letter of the law, cannabis can now be prescribed by General Medical Council-registered specialists to any person with any condition. But when you look at the guidelines from British Neuropsychiatry Association (BNPA) and the NHS, they have these very narrow strict conditions. What it has led to in practice is if you are wealthy you could go to a private health specialist and you can get a prescription no problem.”
But that is not the reality for the typical UK citizen.
A fortunate few, who are not independently wealthy, have managed to secure funding for a private prescription, as was the case for Karen Gray, following the BNPA refusal to allow her administer the CBD required for her son Murray through normal channels.
What government says against what it does
What galls Monk is the credibility given to misinformation around CBD and medicinal cannabis generally. Authorities regularly cite lack of long-term evidence for their decision to make the substance more widely available through the NHS, but Monk claims the government is fully aware of the real picture.
“The government has been researching cannabis since 1996 with GW Pharmaceuticals – they’ve got hundreds of patents so how they can claim they have not got the evidence? They’ve been selling their products around the world – especially Sativex since around 2006 so they've been making hundreds of millions of profits from these products yet they won’t allow access to British people in severe need.”
It would be easy to dismiss those such as Monk and other sufferers as conspiracy theorists, but the evidence suggests those in authority being less than candid about their true motives.
Monk points to the apparent contradiction in facilitating access to ‘massively damaging synthetic drugs meant for adults’ to children, while denying access to herbal remedies like cannabis.
An accepted understanding is that cannabis maintains homeostasis in the human body across all physiological systems. It could be likened to nature’s jigsaw piece on the cycle of human health.
Cannabis role as a food
“Cannabis is more of an essential food or nutrient rather than a medicine,” Monk says. “The same as Vitamin C’s ability to combat scurvy. It’s only when you develop scurvy from a lack of Vitamin C that oranges become medicinal – apart from that it's just a fruit.”
“It’s the same with cannabis – it's just an herb until you become deficient in which case its medicinal.”
Then, he gets more forcefully to the point – in laying out what he believes is the government’s true nature and intent.
“I've read so many papers on this and what we are witnessing is a pharmaceutical manipulation of the endocannabinoid system for targeted treatment of specific conditions.
It is the pharmaceutical takeover of a plant that humans have used for tens of thousands of years.”
We The Undersigned are attempting to at least force the government out in the open, to engage in real discussion around the whole area of medical cannabis. But how difficult is it to use the power of the public to lobby and change the way the system operates?
This has proven to be very difficult after the government introduced evidence-based practice on the use of the substance by the NHS. The rule effectively created a two-tier approach to cannabis in the UK and access for the haves and have-nots.
We believe working with reputable and best UK CBD wholesalers and ensuring quality product and compliance is key to a growing industry we call all be part of.
Damaging conflict of interest
“I think it was Professor Mike Barnes who petitioned the NHS to bring in evidence-based practice into the NHS. That was introduced and now the NHS Get to hide behind it.”
In a nutshell, any medical practitioner who recommends medical cannabis has to make an Individual Funding Request (IFO) due to it being unlicensed. The request is made to the NHS trust body who will respond by asking ‘Where is your evidence for efficacy (that it works) and safety?' The specialist must demonstrate that evidence through a triple blind placebo study. Unless this highly-rigorous evidence is produced, funding is denied, even despite the specialist’s desire to provide it for their patient'.
Monk is no stranger to the unfairness involved. His condition led him to seek medical help, where doctors initially prescribed him a lengthy list of pharmaceutical drugs, with all the subsequent side effects – a mini stroke scare, mini brain hemorrhage scare, two cancer scares- all from prescribed drugs. He made the decision to rely on cannabis instead.
Those with private care do not face the same scenario.
“If you go to a private consultant they aren't bound by NHS guidelines so they can do what's in the best interests of the patient. It is £200 for a consultation fee and its around £1600- 2000 for 1 ounce of cannabis for one month and the bulk of that is actually importation costs and fees because they come over in little three and a half gram pots – so you have lots of these little 3 and a half gram pots to make up the ounce and they all have to have an importation fee, that's why it’s so expensive.”
The opioid contradiction
The unfairness involved was illustrated in the case of Karen Gray. The authorities refused to prescribe her a CBD oil called Bedrolite which is an oil with some THC content.
She raised the money to see a private consultant and the consultant agreed to give the prescription and her son Murray has never looked back.
“When she went through the NHS, the BPNA contended there was insufficient evidence and that THC might harm their brains so we won't give it to them, yet they gave them all these other horrendous drugs that do exactly what they say they are afraid THC will do.”
“So we definitely have this dual system now in Britain. Another story that came to my attention today, involved a woman with MS who is suicidal due to the pain. She can't afford to buy legal cannabis and won't take the risk to grow because she is too scared. They refuse to give her access to Sativex because she doesn't meet the NHS criteria and it's too expensive.”
There are politicians across the spectrum in the house who support a fairer approach to the dispensation of medicinal cannabis, but in Monk’s experience, the ruling Conservative Party are not sympathetic.
A visit to his local Conservative MP on the matter, saw him being threatened with being thrown out of that person’s office, Monk being told that the MP in question only wanted to hear from constituents ‘with real problems.’
That Monk suffers from long-standing debilitating conditions – chronic myofascial pain from joint hypermobility syndrome, bilateral ulnar impaction syndrome and depression – did not fit the billing of ‘real problems’.
“He’s a Tory MP and his party are invested in cannabis itself and they don't want to change the law as it will affect their investment from donors.”
But when you go to Labour and or Green or Liberal Democrat politicians you get a different response altogether. I've found the same with police crime commissioners. When you speak to Tory-appointed commissioners they are staunchly against. They want to keep it rigid and exactly as it's going. Then you speak to members of other political parties and they want change and reform and it angers them the dualistic hypocrisy of it all that there is a waste of resources in putting people like me in prison.”
“I believe it comes down to invested conflict of interest when you look at the government connections with companies like GW Pharmaceuticals and others.”
Governments ignoring UN and WHO advice
So what about international recommendations? Both the United Nations and the World Health Organisation have been explicit in their support of greater access. Despite the advice from those influential bodies, a pattern has emerged throughout the world of governments apparently seeking to build up their own cannabis-related products via the backdoor, while continuing the practice of criminalisation in contemporary society.
Both the WHO and UN have confirmed that the foundation evidence for the original schedule 1 status of cannabis never existed, and that it was done under bias and ideology rather than science.
“That is why they are trying to correct the wrongs of the past and that is why they were trying to have the vote on cannabis a few months ago but it was postponed because some countries objected.”
“The UN have also advocated the end of criminalisation. So we have the two biggest bodies in world governance advising against criminalisation and admitting wrong in having cannabis as schedule 1, yet countries are still ignoring that advice.”
Monk’s enthusiasm for a change in government direction is dampened to say the least, due to the most part, by how much leading elite figures are intertwined in profit-making enterprises around cannabis. Will government bend to public will if it becomes more and more obvious that pain sufferers are benefiting from a switch from opioids to cannabis, for example?
“Not if it's going to block their investment. It’s all about the money.”
“The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) have members of the
opiate pharma industry advising them about cannabis policy and they are advising that cannabis should not be used. Well of course they will because less opiates will be used. That conflict of interest has to be examined.”
“I believe once they’ve developed their own cannabis-based products, which will be very expensive, they’ll then start using it more and coining it in. There is a little company that supplies the NHS with all the cannabis that they use. MPs own this business and the drugs get sold to this business from the pharma industries and then get sold to the NHS at three or four hundred per cent profit. It is virtually a case of MPs shafting the NHS system.”
“Once they see profit from it they’ll change their stance. They’re doing it slowly so they can shape how it changes the way in which they wish it to change.”
Government connections impeding short-term progress
On the surface, the level of interconnection between government-sponsored cannabis entities and powerful public figures is obvious, but it is harder to prove any malign purposes.
Monk points to publicly-available documents which show the Prime Minister Theresa May's husband is invested in the Capital Group, which owns Monsanto, who in turn owns Bayer, who are contracted to GW Pharma. Meanwhile Victoria Atkins, a minister with jurisdiction over UK drugs policy, recently recused herself after it came to light that her husband Richard’s company, British Sugar, grows cannabis under permit for the aforementioned GW Pharma.
“You have the whole chain between the Prime Minister, the drugs minister and their husbands and this huge conglomerate of international businesses but you can’t pinpoint any one person so it’s all easily dismissed as conjecture.”
What’s most fired Monk’s ambitions to reform policy in the UK, came from research he carried out on government documents quietly filed 20-odd years ago, which, he believes, shows the real truth in how the government behaves with regard to this subject today.
Understanding the government’s approach – the robson report
In 1998 the Department for Health commissioned a report by Philip Robson which officially documented the therapeutic aspects of cannabinoids. He believes the government took its cue from that report to begin the process of creating marketable, profitable, cannabis-based products while continuing to criminalise ordinary people attempting to assuage their symptoms.
“The government put all this on a shelf and I found the statement to that effect. They then spent 21 years lying about the benefits of it and speaking about how bad it is. Not only that – they gave Robson time to develop products in his role as medical director of GW Pharma.”
“For 21 years they have been putting people in prison despite knowing that cannabis is therapeutic, while giving him time to make the products. We, in growing, use the same raw materials as that company. They use it to make a product that's ok. When we use it, we’re criminals and that is the injustice of it all really.”
For Phil Monk that battle against injustice has an uncertain future, with again lack of access to funding threatening to derail the movement he is part of.
“I have a barrister willing to fight for us but unfortunately it's lack of money. Out of 4,400 followers, less than 300 have pledged to the crowd justice fundraiser so far because they are all sick and broke on benefits. I've got a chance to move forward but will need an investor or benefactor, but there is an added factor to consider.”
“If we make the challenge to the government and it fails I personally will be responsible for the Home Secretary’s legal fees.”
WTU are currently running a fundraiser “No more Government war on the CannaCommunity” having found a law firm to take on a case to demonstrate that the war on cannabis is unjust and based on misinformation.
Support the fundraiser: http://link.growstreetjournal.com/WTUCampaign