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Cannabis is now found in a whole host of everyday consumer goods – for both us and our pets

Coca-Cola and Molson Coors are looking into the potential of cannabis infused drinks and CBD (cannabidiol) is now widely sold in Boots, Holland & Barrett and the Body Shop.

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First it was the oil capsules, creams,and vapes but now it can be found beauty products, teas, beers, gins, adult and wellness products – and the treatments of pets. In the last 18 months CBD has emerged as one of the major global health trends, says Neil Hendry, global head of consulting – consumer, retail and technology at London head-quartered market analysts Global Data.

“In many ways CBD is the new superfood. As an an active ingredient it can be adapted into almost every category. “It has a health halo which is being transferred to all products that use it as a distinguishing ingredient.” Neil sees CBD-infused pet food as a growing category, but also the entry of premium beer, spirits, wines and functional drink brands.

High street CBD sellers use British grown or imported hemp, with low doses of the psychoactive THC compound (less than 0.2%). While there is research which shows CBD can help with a variety of conditions including; joint pain, migraine, psoriasis, acne, depression,pain and inflammation, most CBD is categorised as a food supplement.

This is because CBD sellers have to abide by strict guidelines from MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency), which do not allow them to make medicinal benefit claims for their products, without a marketing authorisation licence.

London-based consultants Prohibition Partners says that as of January 2018, there were an estimated 250,000 CBD users – double the number of UK users reported in late 2016. A Canadian company is now
putting CBD in beer, in Amsterdam it is now found in vodka and closer to home, two Lincolnshire
entrepreneurs have added it to gin.

Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle brand Goop last year launched a partnership with a US cannabis dispensary chain to endorse a new line of cannabis-infused teas, and edibles, along with CBD bath bombs and transdermal patches.

Last August, brewing giant Molson Coors entered into a joint venture with HEXO, a Quebec-based company, to produce cannabis-infused drinks for the Canadian market. Its CEO Mark Hunter said the cannabis market could total several billion dollars, in Canada alone.

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Industry

Seeding the future

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The hemp industry has the potential to boost the economy, create jobs and tackle climate change – but we need to act fast, say those behind the first UK Hemp Manifesto.  

Britain’s greatness was built on a thriving hemp industry. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, during the reigns of King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I hemp was so valuable, it was illegal not to grow it – people even paid their taxes with it.

Now Britain is being left behind as the rest of the world cashes in on the hemp renaissance.

These are the views outlined in the UK’s first Hemp Manifesto, put together by experts in the field, including the British Hemp Alliance, Beyond Green and Unyte.

The document makes a compelling case for the as-yet untapped potential of hemp here on British soil. It is calling on the government to recognise and promote hemp as an essential environmental crop and to make the change in policy necessary for the industry to thrive.

The manifesto has been delivered to Number 10 and earlier this week campaigners spoke directly to Michael Gove – former environment secretary and self-proclaimed reformed environmentalist – to educate him on what hemp can do for the British climate.

“The hemp manifesto solves a lot of our UK issues right now,” said Beyond Green’s Sam Cannon, who co-authored the manifesto with the British Hemp Alliance.

“It will boost the economy, tackle green initiatives, create jobs and support the farming industry with a plant that is sustainable and not harmful.

“This has the potential to sort out issues that are directly affecting the people of this country. It’s mind-boggling why they haven’t moved on it already.”

The global hemp industry was worth USD 4.6 billion in 2019, and is expected to grow to USD 26.6 billion by 2025.

In 2018, China made almost $1.2 billion in hemp sales, followed by the US at $1 billion, and all of Europe at $980 million.

Here in the UK the hemp sector is still relatively non-existent.

The manifesto reports that whilst hemp cultivation is growing throughout Europe (33,000 hectares in 2016) the UK lags behind with barely 850 hectares.

“There are so many barriers to growth in the UK and while the rest of the world is opening up to hemp as agricultural crop and seeing a huge renaissance, we are still very far behind and missing out on a lucrative new industry,” said Rebekah Shaman, managing director of the British Hemp Alliance.

“We haven’t looked at hemp as an agricultural crop since 1993 when they gave out the first hemp licences.

“This is the first time there has been a manifesto that very clearly lays out what needs to happen.

“It is offering a new perspective of hemp as an essential agricultural and environmental crop for future generations.”

Under current legislation hemp is not considered an agricultural crop and farmers must apply for a licence from the Home Office. This requires every farmer to provide an enhanced DBS check and for every new field grown, a new licence has to be applied for.

These are then awarded in April, too late for hemp farmers to prepare for the seasonal crop.

In addition, while hemp is under the Home Office farmers are unable to access any funding or support from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the National Farmers Union (NFU).

The flower and leaf of the plant, which contain the cannabinoids, are then prohibited from being used, reducing any potential return they can make on it. This is despite the fact that CBD products can be legally imported into the UK – a market which is currently worth £300million and growing.

The manifesto calls for the Government to remove hemp as a controlled substance from the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, permitting the use of the whole plant and to remove all Home Office licencing restrictions.

It also advocates for the descheduling of all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, and seeds of the whole hemp plant, as long as those portions of the plant remain below the THC threshold.

“We’re asking the Government to recognise the importance of this crop in a post-Brexit, coronavirus landscape and remove those crippling barriers,” said Rebekah.

Sam, who alongside Rebekah led the Seed the Future campaign earlier this year to raise awareness of hemp, added: “We can import CBD products from other countries but farmers in the UK have to destroy the leaves. If they were allowed to use them it would become a viable crop for them because of the potential return that they can get on it.”

He continued: “Hemp will bring new innovation to farming, inspiring a new generation of young farmers to come through into a cool industry, that’s sustainable and can do so much good.”

Then there’s the small matter of the climate. The UK has signed up to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, pledging to become Net Zero by 2050. The manifesto highlights how hemp could have a huge role to play in helping reach those targets.

Growing four metres in just four months, hemp requires little or no pesticides and absorbs 15 tonnes of CO2 per hectare – 25 times that of the equivalent size rainforest.

Rebekah said: “The Government has signed up to these green initiatives and here is a crop that could potentially support them in meeting their targets and yet they’re not recognising that there’s a potential solution here.”

But we need to act fast. With the rest of the world already ploughing on with production, we risk becoming importers of hemp rather than producers, according to Rebekah.

“Five years down the line America and other countries will be so far in the innovation and manufacturing process that we won’t be able to catch up,” she said.

“This is about highlighting this is a profitable crop that everyone should be able to benefit from –  the farmers, the rural economy and small businesses that want to sell products to feed their families.

“The hemp boat is in the port and if we don’t act now to remove the barriers it will be too late.”

The manifesto also asks that the Government dedicate a proportion of the green jobs plan, promised by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in his Green Jobs Summer 2020 Statement, to the hemp industry.

“The ideal scenario is that Gove comes back and organises a sit-down with the Prime Minister and says let’s stop mucking around,” added Sam.

“Let’s be the entrepreneurs that this country is thought to be. We should be allowed to drive this forward and let the hemp industry thrive.”

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How to find the right CBD products for you

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New to CBD? Tom Bourlet, who runs the award-winning blog, CBD Sloth, reveals everything you need to know to help you find what works for you.

You’ve made the decision that you want to give CBD a try, but where do you start? A quick look online will present you with hundreds of brands, offering what appears to be an identical product, so which one do you invest your money with?

Consumption method

The first choice you should make should be on how you would like to consume CBD. There is a wealth of options nowadays, from edibles such as gummies and chocolates, to oils and lozenges.

Vaping is the fastest-acting method, therefore is useful if you need it to work very quickly, however not everyone is a fan of vaping. I personally prefer to consume CBD via a full spectrum oil. The packaging will probably tell you to keep it under your tongue for around 20-30 seconds, however I’d recommend keeping it there for 1-2 minutes to ensure a high level of absorption.

The gummies taste unbelievable, however, I don’t tend to find they offer the same level of results as either CBD oil or the e-liquid.

Checking the lab reports

Before making a purchase, I always recommend checking the lab reports for any product containing CBD. This is integral to ensure they have been checked by a third party lab for quality standards and to ensure they had the quantities stated.

There are a number of things you should be looking for. Firstly, you need to check that there aren’t any pesticides present in the lab results. Hemp is highly-porous and if they use pesticides or chemical fertilisers then these would be absorbed and would be present in the oil.

The next thing you should be checking for is the presence of any heavy metals, which can be

dangerous if consumed. Following this, you want to ensure the batch test shows at least the quantity stated of CBD that you should be getting.

You should also look to see what other cannabinoids are present. Considering I like a full spectrum oil, it’s always an added benefit when there is a decent quantity of CBG.

You will normally find the lab reports on the product page as a PDF file, however if you can’t spot it, don’t hesitate to email the company and they’re normally more than happy to provide you with the certificate of analysis. If the brand refuses to provide you with a certificate of analysis, you should certainly avoid them, as they’ve got something to hide.

Flavour

Most people I know that have tried CBD oil have struggled with the taste. If this is the case for you, then there are plenty of great-tasting flavoured options. Some of the best tasting include the Orange County CBD orange flavour or the CBDFX lychee, lemon and kiwi CBD oil.

Just a year ago, the only flavours on the market were based around mint, however, CBD brands have expanded their horizons quite drastically in the space of 12 months – much to our benefit.

Over the past year, I have tried flavours including cherry, apple, orange, strawberry, chocolate and hazelnut, lemon, tropical and mixed berries.

Full spectrum, broad spectrum or isolate

These terms are branded around quite loosely and I’ve found a number of CBD brands mislabel their products on their own pages.

An isolate means, as you can imagine, they’ve completely isolated the cannabinoid and that is the only ingredient present. Full spectrum means it contains all the cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids you would expect from the hemp plant. Broad spectrum means it contains all the cannabinoids except for THC.

If you are drug tested for work, you will be looking to avoid THC and you should either go for a broad spectrum or an isolate, but double-check the lab reports before believing what they state.

Carrier oil

The carrier oil is important in increasing the bioavailability of CBD after consumption. Nowadays, any trusted brand will use some form of carrier oil in their product, whether that’s virgin hemp oil or olive oil. However, most studies have shown MCT oil yields the greatest results and this has become the benchmark for what you should expect.

Choosing the strength

This is a difficult one, as everyone’s tolerance level is different, while you might have a very different reason for taking CBD oil than someone else.

Some people opt for cheap options with low amounts of CBD, which can then leave them disappointed with the results. Just the same, some people are bought over by high price tags, thinking that will instantly mean better results.

If you’re buying a CBD oil for the first time, I’d recommend either going for a 500mg or a 1,000mg option.

I personally take 1,000mg CBD each night, which works well for me, but it can be worth starting out with a 500mg option and building up from there if required. Anything below 500mg never really gets results, so isn’t worth your money in my experience.

Find Tom at www.cbdsloth.com

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Fire, fencing and a newfound lease of life

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When mum-of-three Lara Smith accidentally set her kitchen on fire while taking heavy opiates for chronic pain, it was a turning point. Here she explains how medical cannabis shaped what happened next.

Rock bottom came one evening, while washing up after dinner.

Lara, a former nurse, who lived with her three children in Newcastle upon Tyne, answered the door to collect an Amazon parcel.

Back in the kitchen she placed the package on the stove, believing she had turned the gas off and returned to the dishes.

Just moments later she smelled the smoke and turned to see three-foot flames leaping from the cooker. 

“It all happened in a split second – it was scary how quick it was,” she remembers.

“The minute I saw the flames I told my daughter to get the others out and I grabbed the washing up bowl and threw it on top.

“There was soot everywhere. I thought I’d turned the gas off, but I must have turned it the other way. That was the turning point,” Lara continues.

“I was in floods of tears and I ripped the fentanyl [an opioid] patch off. I had had enough.

“I thought, what has my life come to? I can’t cope like this. I don’t care what I have to do, I need to just manage my life differently.”

The mum-of-three, 47, suffers from advanced spondylosis with symptoms of myelopathy – a type of arthritis of the spine, often described as a slow-motion spinal cord injury, which causes the discs and joints to degenerate.

In her teens she was at the top of her game as a junior British champion fencer.

But since she first prolapsed a disc at the age of 17, the condition has left her battling years of chronic pain and mobility issues. 

After her sporting career was sadly short-lived, Lara went onto become a paediatric nurse before her condition left her too ill to work. 

Since 2007, she has dealt with daily debilitating pain, which she describes as electric shocks – caused by the degeneration of the spine – running down her back, through each limb and into her toesc

The shocks, which occur at the movement of her head, would not only leave her crippled in pain but often unable to move.

Over the years doctors tried over 35 different medications to manage her pain, progressing from anti-inflammatories – which destroyed the lining of her stomach – to heavy opiates including tramadol (which gave her an irregular heartbeat), buprenorphine, fentanyl and ketamine. 

“It was not a nice place to be, drugged up all the time,” she says.

“They took away my capacity to operate. My day was about 12 hours long and I had to give up driving and rely on favours from friends and family to get my children to school.”

Despite the horrendous withdrawal symptoms she suffered from suddenly coming off the drugs, Lara went back to her doctor and pleaded for other options. 

She tried steroid injections which left her angry and aggressive and even nabinol, a synthetic cannabinoid, which gave her severe headaches and low blood pressure.

Having tried cannabis illegally, once while recovering from an injury in her early 20s, Lara was already aware of its effectiveness for pain management.

And after exhausting all other options she was eventually prescribed Becrocan privately. 

Since 2014 she has been making the journey to The Netherlands to collect the medication – at a cost of around £750 a month – declaring it to customs on return. 

“The effects have been really positive, but the main thing is that I’ve been able to come off all the other drugs,” she says.

“It really dampens down the electric shocks – the difference is like somebody is lightly touching a pin to the outside of my foot, rather than stabbing me with a needle.

“I still have to pace myself but I can do more, I can drive again in an adapted car and I have got my memory back.”

Being able to come off opiates has given Lara her sense of self back and, she believes, has even made her a better mother to her children, now aged 17, 15 and 13. 

“My daughter was 12 when I came off the drugs and one of the first things she said was ‘I feel like I’ve got my mum back’.” It must have been horrible for her – she said there was a coldness when she would speak to me.

“The drugs make you numb, not only do they block out the pain but all your other emotions too.”

Lara has now become a prominent campaigner, advocating for drug reform and wider NHS access. 

She is a member of drug reform policy group CLEAR and in 2015 gave evidence at the All Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform.

She has spoken out about the need for wider access to medical cannabis on The One Show, The Victoria Derbyshire show and most recently BBC 5Live. 

“I’m contacted by people all the time and it’s heartbreaking to have to tell them there is no NHS access,” she says.

“I’m not comfortable with the fact that they have created a two-tier system; the haves and have-nots.

“My belief is that patients should be able to access the medicines that they need, on the NHS and not have to resort to a drug dealer or growing their own.” 

Guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) state that other than cannabidiol used on its own in the context of a clinical trial, no cannabis-based medicinal products should be used for treating chronic pain. 

Lara continues to fight to bring an end to the stigma associated with medical cannabis.

She adds: “People talk about cannabis getting you high, but they have no idea the impact that strong opiates like fentanyl have. 

“Cannabis doesn’t get me high, it just allows me to be comfortable.” 

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