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Medical cannabis could help long-term effects of COVID-19, says David Nutt

Medical cannabis could play an important role in combatting the long-term health problems associated with COVID-19, says David Nutt, former government drug advisor and professor of Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London.

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“What I find disappointing with the current government response is that we know that the long-term consequences COVID aren’t going to be chronic lung disease, they’re going to be psychiatric problems.

“We’ve already got a massive rise in the number of healthcare professionals, and people who’ve had COVID, with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We haven’t got very good treatments for PTSD, and cannabis is a potential treatment, particularly nightmares and flashbacks. Why don’t we start trying medical cannabis in these people?”

However, Nutt concedes that there are numerous barriers to overcome before medical cannabis could be used readily, for COVID-19 or any other health issues. 

“Very few people in Britain using medical cannabis are getting it through the NHS or a private prescriber, many are getting it through the black market. That’s unacceptable – people don’t know what they’re getting and are running the risk of a conviction if they get caught,” Nutt says. 

The UK’s medical cannabis regulations are “backwards,” despite the fact it could be the most important revelation in medicine over the lifetime of doctors practicing today, he says. 

Since changing the law in November 2018 to allow specialist doctors to prescribe medical cannabis, the government has “taken away with one hand and given with the other hand, in a series of perverse and bureaucratic hurdles”.

Nutt described the series of changes needed to get medical cannabis to those who need it at this week’s Prohibition Partners online event. 

Since November 2018, no NHS doctor has prescribed cannabis to a patient, which Nutt says is because practitioners have very little independence.

“The NHS is very monolithic organisation,” he says. “Every person in the NHS comes under a spotlight – if a doctor in Cornwall prescribes cannabis, someone in the Department of Health knows about it and questions can be put to bear. This has extinguished individual creativity and thought in doctors.”

Instead, the prescribing of medical cannabis should be opened up to GPs, Nutt argues, because they “see the value” in it. 

“Specialists, by their nature, tend to be more academic, more concerned about doing things differently, whereas GPs are in the real world, they have to help people and reduce suffering.”

More widely, Nutt blames bureaucracy for the lack of progress in the UK with allowing patients access to medical cannabis.

“Maybe part of it is that, reluctantly, patients dragged [the government] into a new world and they’re clinging onto the fact that if we make difficult for long enough people will give up, partly because of bureaucracy, and there’s no coordinated decision-making.”

In March this year the government changed import restrictions to allow patients with prescriptions faster access to medical cannabis. However, Nutt argues that the government needs to liberate imports and import a year’s supply into the UK at a time to allow for continuity.

There are concerns doing so would leak cannabis onto the unregulated ‘black’ market, but, Nutt argues, this market is already saturated and the benefits would outweigh the costs. 

Responsibility for drug control, he adds, should be taken from the Home Office and given to the Department of Health. 

“We’re one of the few countries in the world that divides decision-making about cannabis between two government departments – getting two government departments to agree on anything is very difficult,” he says. 

Nutt argues that medical cannabis will save the NHS money, and that the current cost of not properly prescribing medical cannabis in the UK is driven of bureaucracy. 

“If we liberated importation, got rid of the scheduled two status and maybe make it schedule four, if we had a rational approach to the regulation and stopped being so hysterical and fearful about it, it would halve the cost. There’s so much cost involved in importation and regulations.”

Nutt is chair of the Drug Science’s Medical Cannabis Working Group, comprising stakeholders from patient organisations, academics and industry members, with the remit to develop and research and policies for the UK. 

Last year, Nutt set up TWENTY21, which has since published a number of policy documents, including one looking at clinical approaches to prescribing medical cannabis, and a pending report looking at potential dependence of medical cannabis compared to recreational cannabis use. The group is also developing teaching materials for doctors. 

“We’re aware that most doctors don’t have an understanding of cannabis medicines,” Nutt says, who have spent years “vilifying them as dangerous drugs that cause psychosis and dependence”.

“Getting doctors to change from that prohibitionist view is challenging, and the way to do it is to educate them, which is difficult, but less difficult than educating med students.”

Nutt has set up groups of medical students in different medical schools to educate doctors on medical cannabis. 

Also, last year Nutt launched the project TWENTY21, an initiative of prescribing medical cannabis for anxiety disorder, chronic pain epilepsy, MS, PTSD, substance use disorder and Tourette’s syndrome, overseen by academic experts working voluntarily, who are collecting data on the treatments. 

“Let’s see if we can get prescribing set up in a way which is useful in terms of gathering data and monitoring potential harms of these drugs, and hopefully it’ll assuage some of fears of psychosis development and dependence,” Nutt says. 

There are currently 7,000 people signed up to the registry, and Nutt aims to get 20,000 patients signed up by the end of 2021. They each pay £150 per month, which is estimated to be what they’d be paying through the unregulated market. 

Researchers will collect data about their quality of life and self-reported outcomes, and can follow patients up for up to two years. 

“One of the things that became clear when talking to patients who use medical cannabis is that they find it very helpful but doctors aren’t interested in what they think. We think patients should be driving this,” Nutt says. 

The registry has built a network of independent prescribers, and has trained 15 doctors so they can prescribe “in a sensible, evidence-based way,” Nutt says.

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Everything you need to know about medical cannabis in Mexico

Mexico has a long and complicated history when it comes to cannabis.

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Mexico has a long and complicated history when it comes to cannabis.

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Mexico has a long and complicated history when it comes to cannabis. The experts at Juicy Fields break down everything you need to know.

The cannabis plant has a long history of medical use, as it was included in the US pharmacopeia in 1850 for its sedative and anticonvulsant effects. Technically speaking, its history is complicated, as the British Government removed it from pharmacopeia in 1941. 

Most recently, the medical use of cannabis for treating deliberating chronic pain conditions has come back under the spotlight. As of today, several countries and 29 US states legally allow the medical use of cannabis. 

In June 2017, Mexico legalised medical cannabis.

The legal panorama in Mexico

Mexico has had a long and complicated relationship with cannabis throughout its history. Marijuana has been grown in Mexico since the 16th century when hemp was famous for rope and textiles. But the production of cannabis for recreational use was banned in 1920. 

At the end of 2015, an NGO filed a request to the COFEPRIS – Mexican commission of Health Risk to legalise medical cannabis. The COFEPRIS denied the authorisation, but the Supreme court ordered the COFEPRIS to issue the corresponding license for only non-commercial use.

Similarly, at the end of 2015, a district court ordered COFEPRIS to authorise the import and personal use of the drug for epileptic patients. 

Recently, in February 2016, COFEPRIS authorised the import of drugs produced by the Californian company Medical Marijauan Inc. for young epileptic sufferers.

Following a heated debate, the Mexican Senate and Lower House Congress approved a bill legalising the use of medical cannabis. As a consequence of that debate, on June 9, 2017, the Mexican president issued a decree legalising the therapeutic use of cannabis.

Medical cannabis regulations in Mexico

On January 12, 2021, Mexico’s Ministry of Health published rules regulating the use of medical cannabis. The Mexican government issued the first major cannabis reform measures on their three-year-old medical marijuana program. 

The primary focus of these regulations is on cannabis cultivation for both research and pharmacological products.

Moreover, legalisation allows private and public research with quality control measures and good manufacturing practices.

Doctors who want to practice cannabis will need to register with another agency – COFEPRIS. Medical cannabis will be available in pharmacies. 

Mexico offers an open door for medical cannabis tourism, both Mexican citizens and foreigners can travel with medical cannabis products in the country. 

Mexico medical marijuana programme

With the legalisation of medical cannabis, the marijuana and hemp companies keen to participate in emerging medical cannabis programmes. The new regulatory structure for medical marijuana in the company making it possible for companies to apply for research licenses. 

On 10 March, 2021, the Mexico Chamber of Disputes legalised the production of cannabis for industrial, medical, and recreational purposes.

The Mexican Senate will approve these modifications. In other countries, cannabis was legalised via the ballot, while in Mexico, it was mandated by the Supreme Court in 2018.

The Supreme Court found that criminalisation violates the constitutional right of Mexicans.  

Once the law passes, Mexico will be the third country to legalise all aspects of cannabis after Uruguay and Canada. 

The implementation of laws will deliver the purported and hoped outcomes:

  • Advancement of civil liberties
  • Reduction in prison populations
  • Reduction in law enforcement abuses
  • Economic generation of economic revenue for the government
  • Improvement in social conditions of poor, marginalised populations
  • Decrease in violent criminality

Under the New Marijuana Law, adults over 18 will be able to purchase and possess less than 28g of cannabis.

However, possession of up to 200g is subject to a fine of $500, while possession of more than 200g can land you in six months prison.

In addition, adults cultivating more than eight cannabis plants can be imprisoned for up to 10 years.

Opportunities for the growing section

According to many sources, the decree opens the door to external investments as many companies in the medical cannabis business may consider the opportunity to expand to Mexico.

Stuart Titus, Medical Marijuana’s chief executive, said Mexico represents a $1 billion to $2 billion opportunity of revenues in the next ten years.

A green wave – Mexico’s marijuana market may be middling

Lawmakers in Mexico are on the verge of legalising marijuana due to its monetary benefits. People in the business world are predicting a Mexican green boom – a new legal and thriving industry offering thousands of jobs, millions of dollars in profits, and the government’s tax revenue.

The cannabis industry promoters are enthusiastic about the prospect, as it will generate income in terms of employment, local economy, and taxation. 

With more than 120 million people, Mexico will represent a substantial marijuana industry. It will be an excellent, economical, natural, ethical, and moral solution for the country. 

The Cannabis Expo, Mexico

The Cannabis Expo Mexico, presented by JuicyFields, is the largest comprehensive cannabis convention and exhibition to take place in the LATAM region, with global industry leaders and local government representatives taking part in moderated panel discussions and presenting talks on a wide range of cannabis-related topics.

Delegates and VIPs have access to the exhibition hall featuring the full spectrum of local and international cannabis businesses, as well as dedicated Networking Areas and the Conference Auditorium hosting presentations and panel discussions throughout the event.

The event will be held in Mexico City, at Expo Santa Fe, from 24 – 25  June.

You can also access a Virtual Pass to attend from anywhere in the world. Get your tickets here.

 

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Case Studies

“Everyone involved deserves a special thank you” – My journey to a medical cannabis prescription

Medical cannabis patient Jack Pierce shares his journey to accessing a legal prescription

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Jack Pierce has thanked those who make it possible for him to access medical cannabis

After Cannabis Health revealed that clinicians were experiencing abuse from some patients, Jack Pierce wanted to share the positive experience he had accessing a medical cannabis prescription.

My journey began several years ago when just like many others, I was struggling greatly with my mental health and found it creeping into all areas of my life.  

I was constantly anxious and felt as though I was in an empty pit of despair. I would often experience episodes of stress, which would lead to long periods of upset, confusion and difficulty.

I struggled to hold down jobs, relationships and then friendships became also difficult. I had frequent issues managing socially and trying to live what would be considered a normal life even with my closest loved ones. I became further withdrawn from society and only found positives in my special interests and routines, if these were to be removed, I would have periods of high stress and emotional distress.

Due to all this negativity, I began to seek treatment from the NHS in the forms of therapy and was prescribed, like many others, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication to try to combat the symptoms I was facing. 

Jack Pierce with his prescribed cannabis medicine

During this time, I also began to self-medicate with medical cannabis as I had found this helped my symptoms when I was depressed, anxious and suffering from other issues such as stress meltdowns and attention problems.  It also seemed to improve my physical health concerning my back and my diet.

However, like many others, I had to keep this treatment secret due to the fears of judgement and prosecution due to the plant’s criminal status. 

Cannabis medicine gave me hope and a reason to carry on. It meant my life was liveable, just like any other person’s. I have not stopped using cannabis since to treat and manage my symptoms, as without the flower I would be lost.

The medication prescribed by the NHS had very little effect and often came with severe reactions such as night terrors and health problems. My insomnia only began to worsen during this time as stress from my daily life increased and my mental health began to take a hit. 

I had then been prescribed medication to combat the sleeping issues I was facing, as I would be awake for almost two days at a time. Again, the medication came with addictive side effects as well as the feeling of withdrawal after consumption.

I sought out further help from my GP and local services and was officially diagnosed with what they thought had been anxiety and depression, but was actually autism.

Due to the recent diagnosis, I learned why the general medication prescribed to treat my illness would not work and I was left confused and worried about how I would treat the symptoms I faced daily, which caused life to almost be unbearable.

I began to look at how I could use cannabis legally in the UK as the current laws consider patients like myself as criminals, who only contribute to the lower levels of society. Which is not the case.

Here is my journey to accessing a legal medical cannabis prescription, so far:

Getting a medical cannabis card 

The first step I took was to access a medical cannabis card from CanCard UK. 

The UK-based organisation works towards giving patients access to a medical identification card that shows the patient is using the plant for medicinal purposes.

Once I had received my card my anxiety reduced greatly, I felt safer when having to purchase my medication the only way possible. The card meant that my self-medicating was deemed acceptable by those close to me, as it was for medicinal purposes not  recreational like many people  think. 

However, despite having the card I still felt limited in the way I had to receive the medication, often having to put myself at risk and being  taken advantage of financially was the only option. 

Accessing a private prescription

I began to do some more research and came across a company called Sapphire Medical Clinics, which I booked my first appointment with. 

The appointment was to take place over Zoom within two weeks of payment which I found to be a huge positive and reduced my anxiety almost straight away. 

My final reasoning was that this form of treatment was not only more appropriate for me,  but more importantly, I was growing tired of funding a criminal network that would only take advantage of me due to my disabilities.

What was the first appointment like?

My first appointment went smoothly. The doctor I saw was very understanding of my conditions and previous history, which eased my anxiety greatly. 

We spent a large amount of time discussing why and how I used cannabis already. 

I consume my flower as a medicine three times a day, as I find it best to manage and function this way. We discussed which treatment I would benefit most from and in the doctor’s opinion, this would be a High THC flower with a low amount of CBD to help manage my disability.  

The positives here are not just centred around the fact I can receive my flower this way. There is great reward in finally being understood by a doctor who understands the use of medicinal cannabis and to be able to discuss an effective treatment plan, rather than purchasing off someone with very little knowledge of the product.

The doctor was able to refer my case to the board meeting which takes place weekly to decide patients eligibility. Of course, I had anxiety about this like any other patient, would I be accepted? Would my money be wasted? Would I still have to use  the same old route? 

But after a few days of waiting, I was accepted and was prescribed the Indica flower the doctor had spoken of. This would be sent to the private pharmacy.

Receiving my medication

Now all the hard work had been done, it was just a matter of paying for my medication and waiting to receive it. As the flower is a Schedule 2 Controlled Substance the flower must be prescribed in written form and sent to the private pharmacist via courier. 

The pharmacy then logs this prescription and forwards a very simple invoice with a payment link attached. Once the payment is received the medication is then sent on a next day delivery service via DPD. This is so much better than the  route of access I was used to.

What was the quality of the medication like?

I had been prescribed an Indica Flos as my first flower and was to vape 0.3mg three times per day, just as I had been doing previously. 

I saw no difference in changing from black market cannabis to medicinal cannabis, apart from the flower felt cleaner and lighter to vape which is a huge positive for patients who already have pre-existing conditions which affect breathing.

The sweet lemon terpenes of the flower captivated my nose with the undertones of woody earth to compensate. The flower is a very uplifting high energy flower that is great for managing my autism in the daytime. 

I have found my anxiety to be reduced and my productivity increasing. I can concentrate on my studies and spend longer improving my work and myself. 

I also feel I am closer with my loved ones due to the fact that my mood is better managed, along with my communication issues, once I have consumed my medication.

The clinicians I have met have been nothing but caring professionals with a real passion to help and therefore deserve a special thank you from not only myself but other patients who have been benefited. 

If it were not for the clinics, I would still be at a loss and constantly being taken advantage of by black market providers, just so I could live what would be classed as a normal life.  

I would like to place a special thank you here to all the doctors, clinicians and pharmacists who are all involved in the process of supplying my medicine and that of other patients, as if it were not for you our lives would be an endless struggle.

Why should I consider getting a private prescription?

Overall, I would recommend any person suffering from a condition that could be helped by medicinal cannabis to look into seeking private treatment and not to be put off by the costs. 

Yes, private medicine is considered expensive initially, but so is the high standard of flower you have to purchase on the black market which is not regulated.

To be able to converse with a qualified doctor is so much more reliable and healthier for those suffering anxiety and stress disorders like myself. 

I have found the improvements to my quality of life and mental health have been staggering in just four weeks of receiving the flower and I hope for this to continue in the years to come.

For anyone thinking about beginning their journey with medical cannabis I would implore you to conduct your research into which clinics could help you and to take control of your medication once and for all.

I would also like to take this time to remind current and potential patients that we are very lucky to have access to such a service considering the legislation surrounding medical cannabis.

We all need to show the same respect to keep this help service alive and not risk patients returning to old routes which worsen their health and society as a whole.

 

 

 

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“It was always about building a community” – Savage Cabbage CBD five years on

As the UK brand Savage Cabbage CBD marks its fifth anniversary, what does the next chapter hold? 

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Savage Cabbage has been the official UK distributor of Charlotte’s Web hemp CBD oil for the last four years.

Five years since launching Savage Cabbage CBD, Jade Proudman is one of the UK’s leading CBD experts, working closely with the world-famous Charlotte’s Web. As the brand marks its fifth anniversary, she reflects on the progress so far and looks forward to a new chapter.

It was Charlotte Figi, the little girl who created a movement and kick-started the world’s CBD industry, who finally convinced Jade Proudman it was worth a shot.

Charlotte, who suffered from a rare form of epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome famously discovered that a CBD oil, produced by Colorado growers the Stanley brothers, helped keep her seizures under control and vastly improved her quality of life.

Diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME) at the age of 14, Jade has battled her own health issues, including epilepsy and arthritis over the years. At her lowest point, she recalls barely being able to leave the sofa due to the side-effects from her medication.

But after watching Dr Sanjay Gupta’s CNN documentary following Charlotte’s journey, Jade was finally persuaded to try CBD.

“I was reluctant to try it, as I’d had a negative experience of cannabis when I was younger, but seeing this little girl on the screen, taking these oils and doing really well, it convinced me,” she explained.

“The fact that it had such a positive impact on my own health, triggered a eureka moment for me and I realised that I needed to tell people about it.”

Jade launched Savage Cabbage in 2016, a time when little was known about CBD and misinformation even led to accusations that she was using “drugs”.

Jade Proudman, founder and CEO of Savage Cabbage

But in a short space of time Jade was supplying products to customers around the world and building a community of people, many of whom were suffering and needed support.

“It was always about building a community for me,” said Jade.

“I’d never run my own business before, and I just thought, if I was that person at the end of the phone, what would I need? 

“We hit 44 countries without any paid advertising, that was all through communications, chats on Facebook and word of mouth here and there.”

In the early days, Jade partnered with Realm of Caring (RoC), a non-profit organisation setup by Charlotte’s mum Paige Figi and the Stanley brothers to support families around the world to gain education and understanding of cannabinoids. 

Her relationship with Paige and the brothers blossomed, and led to Savage Cabbage becoming the official UK distributor of Charlotte’s Web hemp CBD oil for the last four years.

Jade was devastated when Charlotte passed away on 7 April 2020, at the age of 13.

She had been due to fly out to Colorado to meet her in February, but the outbreak of Covid-19 meant she was unable to travel. 

“It’s very difficult to grieve for someone when you’re not directly related or connected to them,” she said. 

“Charlotte was just incredible, when she passed I just felt this void, I didn’t know what to feel, it was like a punch to the gut.

“As a company, Savage Cabbage put out a letter to Charlotte, saying that we would continue to run with this torch and I committed to do my very best to keep her legacy going. I maintain that to this very day.”

Despite not getting the chance to meet Charlotte in person, Jade remains close to Paige and the brothers and Savage Cabbage recently donated £5,000 to help RoC host Rock the RoC, a virtual tribute concert to mark the anniversary of Charlotte’s death. 

It’s not the first time the brand has stepped up. Over the last five years Jade has donated in the region of £50,000 worth of products to those who need support in maintaining access to wellness products.

As Savage Cabbage prepares to move into the next stage of business development, Jade is exploring the potential for a more structured approach to the charitable arm of the brand moving forward.  

She also now offers personal consultations with customers through the website, a role which she describes as not a million miles away to her former career in social work.

She said: “Although I left social work when I got sick, I’ve actually stepped back into it but just wearing a different uniform. 

“We’ve tried to be responsive and flexible to customer needs and to go that extra mile to ensure that they get those needs met. The customer journey is the most important part of what we do.”

The strategy seems to have paid off, with Savage Cabbage just about to launch in Europe and plans to expand its product offering to concentrate on the growing wellness sector beyond CBD.

“We’ve seen rapid growth in the wellness sector,” said Jade. 

“Now is the time to reflect and reconsider what is available for the UK consumer. People are switching to a more self-care approach to life, they don’t want to be at the doctor’s every five minutes.

“I want to focus on additional health and wellness products that are not necessarily CBD-related but are of high quality and new to the market, but we’ll take our time with it and make sure we get it right.”

Jade has carved a career in the industry as a CBD expert in her own right, a regular on the expo and cannabis conference scene (pre-covid restrictions) and holds advisory roles with respected educational organisations, such as MedCan Support.

Savage Cabbage is also continuing to collaborate and grow its valued partnership with Charlotte’s Web.

“Deanie [Elsner, CEO and president of Charlotte’s Web] is an amazing woman,” said Jade. 

Deanie Elsner, CEO and president, Charlotte’s Web

“The fact that she and I are working together demonstrates two strong women in a very male dominated industry, acknowledging and recognising each other’s skills, and commitments, and combining our efforts to grow our outreach.”

And Deanie sent her congratulations to Jade from across the pond.

“On behalf of Charlotte’s Web, I congratulate Savage Cabbage CBD upon its five-year anniversary and sincerely thank Jade for the vitally important work she has done to open up access to hemp CBD wellness products in the UK and beyond,” she said.

“We’re excited to continue our partnership with her as we work together to expand our reach internationally. The ‘Wellness Awakening’ taking place is a global phenomenon, and we intend to be a hemp CBD leader around the world so that access to these botanical products will be possible for millions of wellness seekers.”

But Jade’s experience as a woman – not to mention a patient – navigating trials and tribulations of the cannabis industry, has not been without its challenges. 

“I think a lot of people have made assumptions that I was not cut out for this and underestimated my abilities,” she said.

“You’ve really got to believe in yourself because it’s a challenging industry, but if you look hard enough there’s always good people around you who will help.”

Starting from the kitchen table in the Proudman family home, Savage Cabbage has grown into a dynamic team, with 10 forward-thinking individuals now in senior management roles, to ensure the brand continues to go from “strength to strength”.

“I didn’t do this by myself, without my community and my team, we wouldn’t exist,” said Jade. 

“If you have got the right people around you, you will go from success to success.”

And there’s one little girl who Jade keeps especially close.

“Charlotte’s always with me in my heart when I’m speaking to parents, families and individuals,” she added.

“She kick-started this whole industry, without her and the Stanley brothers would there be a CBD industry like there is today? I don’t think so.”

 

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