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I’ve gone from a wheelchair to walking thanks to cannabis

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Fibromyalgia sufferer Jane Hinchcliffe was housebound and wheelchair dependent for years, but since using medical cannabis she’s back on her feet.

“Cannabis gave me a life,” says Jane Hinchcliffe, who suffers constant, debilitating pain as a result of fibromyalgia and complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS).

Now 42, despite showing symptoms at 13, it took until she was 26 for her to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

Doctors put it down to growing pains and she was treated with physiotherapy, followed by a prescription for codeine at the age of just 15.

She spent the next three decades of her life in a fog of heavy opioids and painkillers. In 2015 after a cycling accident Jane developed CRPS, a chronic autoimmune condition usually brought on by an injury.

“It’s known as the most painful condition known to man,” she says.

“On the McGill Pain Index it can score up to 47 out of 50, whereas cancer and fibromyalgia score 20.”

Jane’s symptoms were so bad she needed a wheelchair to get around and couldn’t leave the house. It took its toll on her mental health and she struggled with depression, until two years ago when she started using medical cannabis.

“I started smoking it recreationally at 18 and I used it on and off over the years, but I didn’t realise at the time that I was treating my fibromyalgia,” she says.

It wasn’t until she attended a Green Pride event in 2018 that she realised the full potential of medicinal cannabis.

“I knew that it was going to be a painful day so I’d saved a bottle of morphine the hospital had given me so that I had decent pain relief,” she explains.

“I ended up having a space cake and didn’t need the morphine – that’s when I realised cannabis could actually replace my medication.”

In November 2018, Jane came off the opioids completely and now relies solely on cannabis to treat her pain.

“I’m still in constant pain but the cannabis makes it tolerable,” she says.

“I’ve literally gone from being housebound in a wheelchair, not being able to do anything. Now I can go swimming, I go to the gym, I can go out cycling. I’m out and about and walking.”

But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Jane has recently signed up to Project Twenty21, which is subsidising the cost of prescriptions for medical cannabis patients, in a bid to create the largest body of evidence in Europe for the efficacy of cannabis-based medicines.

However, for the last two years she has been forced to access it illicitly, living with the anxiety of not being able to get hold of the right strain, as well as the fear that the police will turn up at the door.

Last year Jane spent time in prison after she was convicted and sentenced to six months for growing cannabis.

“I only served 46 days before I was released on tag, but it was difficult,” she says.“They take your medicine and you are left with nothing.

“I ended up in a wheelchair again in prison, there were some days where I was in too much pain to do anything.”

But despite being left with a criminal record, Jane says she has no intention of stopping using cannabis.

“I don’t have a choice, life without it is just unbearable,” she says.

“It makes me angry, because it’s just medicine.“I think some sort of discretion should be used, if it’s obvious it’s for medical use.”

Jane welcomes initiatives such as the Cancard scheme, which is due to launch in November and aims to protect patients who are accessing cannabis illicitly from arrest and prosecution.

But she fears police officers may choose to ignore it and believes laws should be brought in to allow patients to grow their own medicine at home.“Ideally we need to be able to grow our own,” she adds.

“It would take the strain off the NHS and doctors are always telling us to get a hobby – what better hobby than growing your own medicine?”

Insight

Isle of Man to set ‘benchmark’ for global cannabis sector

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The Isle of Man is ‘seizing the opportunity’ to develop a world leading export-based cannabis sector.

The production and exportation of cannabis-derived products could be legalised on the British Island – with the first crops planted as soon as 2021 – following a consultation period launched on 23 October.

The Department for Enterprise is seeking public opinion on the proposed regulatory framework before it goes to a vote in parliament in December.

The move comes following a public consultation period completed in 2018 which indicated strong support for the creation of a regulatory framework for facilitating an export-based cannabis sector, with over 95 percent of respondents in favour of growing the plant for medical purposes.

The new industry will boost economic activity on the Isle of Man, creating hundreds of jobs for islanders, and is estimated to bring in up to £3m a year in tax revenues.

London-based cannabis consultancy firm the The Canna Consultants have been working with the Government on the Isle of Man since last year to draft the legislation – which is said to be the ‘gold standard’ in global regulatory regimes for the cannabis export sector.

Co-founder and director Steve Oliver told Cannabis Health the emerging sector was a ‘huge opportunity’ for the island to supply some of the world’s leading cannabis companies.

“None of us know what this industry is going to look like, but in 10 years it will be unrecognisable,” he said.

“The Isle of Man is trying to position itself so whichever way the market moves it is highly regulated and producing a high quality product.”

The company consulted with cannabis producers in North America, Canada, South America, Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa to learn from the problems faced by other jurisdictions.

They have developed two regulatory frameworks, one of which governs the types of licenses which can be issued, including the minimum standards and guidelines for applicants.

The other outlines the proposed regulations for domestic cultivation of industrial hemp, cannabis and the manufacture of related cannabis-derived products for export including prescribed fees.

“The Isle of Man wanted to create a benchmark, if you like a ‘Centre of Excellence’ for the regulation of cannabis-derived products for export,” continued Steve.

“If they pass the regulations, we could have a situation where test crops are in the ground outdoors next year and the industry can hopefully start to generate jobs on the island. We have seen significant interest already.”

The Government is said to have accelerated the process after the coronavirus pandemic hit earlier this year leaving many industries facing uncertainty.

Under current UK legislation hemp is not considered an agricultural crop and farmers must apply for a licence from the Home Office. They are then prohibited from using the flower and the bud of the plant (from which the cannabinoids are extracted) under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

However, the Isle of Man is a self-governing British Crown dependency and has its own parliament, government and laws.

“As the Isle of Man has its own parliament they are quite progressive and can act in a streamlined fashion, much quicker than other jurisdictions. There is a lot of support for this across the parliament,” Steve explained.

With the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey also introducing less restrictive regulations around the production of cannabis, is the mainland missing out on a huge economic opportunity?

“The UK is notoriously less transparent, there’s a lack of guidance and a lot of red tape with regard to getting licences. UK hemp farmers are at a distinct disadvantage because they have to destroy the most valuable parts of the crop,” added Steve.

“It is my personal belief that it’s a missed opportunity for any jurisdiction that isn’t looking at this.”

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Insight

Biosportart awarded ‘Certified CBD’ status

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A British CBD firm has received an Olympic-standard certification that could boost its stock among professional and amateur athletes.

CBD formulator Biosportart has achieved Banned Substances Control Group (BSCG) Certified CBD status under the finished product category for its Biosportart 2000 milligram CBD Gel product — a high-concentration CBD topical gel for professional and amateur athletes.

BSCG applies the Olympic standard of drug testing to quality control dietary supplements and natural products.

Biosportart CEO Richard O’Halloran: “Many CBD brands claim to have legal, low, or even ‘zero’ levels of THC, but only a select few have submitted themselves to rigorous 3rd party certification to prove it. We formulate our products for tested professionals performing at the highest level and we are extremely proud to be the first nature identical CBD product to achieve BSCG’s prestigious certified CBD status.”

BSCG president Oliver Catlin said: “We are delighted to welcome Biosportart as a client to our illustrious roster and to share that its 2000 milligram CBD Gel product has been certified in the BSCG Certified CBD programme. BSCG Certified CBD was the first broad-spectrum third-party certification program in the world for CBD products and is a unique all-in-one programme that offers brands, manufacturers, and ingredient suppliers a complete compliance solution.”

The BSCG Certified CBD program checks for illegal levels of THC as well as environmental contaminants including heavy metals, pesticides, solvents and microbiological agents.

To further protect consumers and athletes, the program screens for 276 drugs on the WADA Prohibited List and 220 over-the-counter, illicit, or prescription drugs, offering the broadest protection available in the industry today.

BSCG is an international third-party certification and testing provider offering a complete suite of certification, testing, and Good Manufacturing Practices compliance services to the sports nutrition, natural products and dietary supplement industries. It was co-founded by Don H. Catlin, director of the first anti-doping lab in the US in 1982.

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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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