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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.”

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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.

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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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CBD dominant cannabis does not influence driving skills – study

Participants showed no signs of impairment when it came to driving but they did test positive for trace levels of THC

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A study suggests that CBD-dominant cannabis does not influence the skills associated with driving such as reaction time, concentration, time perception or balance.

The Swiss study examined CBD and THC dominant cannabis flowers to see if they impacted on neurocognitive or psychomotor skills.

Some of the participants were given a CBD dominant strain that had a 16.6:0.9 per cent ratio, and others were given a placebo.

After inhaling the cannabis, participants were asked to undergo the Vienna Test System TRAFFIC. This measures reaction time, behaviour in stressful situations, concentration and performance. They also took further tests to determine their fitness to drive, three separate balance tests and coordination along with vital signs such as blood pressure and pulse.

Driving and cannabis

The participants showed no signs of impairment when it came to driving but they did test positive for trace levels of THC in their blood. The blood tests were taken 45 minutes after consuming the CBD dominant cannabis.

The authors noted that the slight change in THC levels within the system would potentially place patients in violation of traffic safety laws.

The researchers noted: “This finding suggests that higher CBD concentrations cause a negative allosteric effect in the endocannabinoid system, preventing the formation of such symptoms. Nevertheless, it is recommended that consumers refrain from driving for several hours after smoking CBD-rich marijuana, as legal THC concentration limits may be exceeded.”

Driving and THC tests

When it comes to THC and roadside testing, new research revealed that THC levels in blood and saliva are poor measures of impairment.

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Researchers analysed a range of studies on the relationship between driving performance and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentrations in blood and saliva.

The researchers took data from 28 different publications that involved ether ingested or inhaled cannabis. They characterised the relationships between blood and saliva THC concentrations, driving performance and skills such as reaction time or concentration.

When it came to infrequent cannabis users, there were some significant correlations between blood and oral levels of THC and impairments were observed. However, It was noted that these relationships were ‘weak.’

There was no significant relationship noted for the more regular consumers.

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Epilepsy

CBGA may be ‘more potent’ than CBD against seizures in Dravet syndrome

Dr Lyndsey Anderson said there is more to explore when it comes to creating more treatment options for Dravet syndrome.

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Athletes: A row of test tubes containing CBGA oil with a doctors white gloved hand holding one up to the light

Scientists say they have found the ‘Mother of all cannabinoids’ which may help to reduce seizures in Dravet syndrome.

A new study on mice from the University of Sydney found that three acidic cannabinoids found in cannabis reduced seizures in Dravet syndrome, an intractable form of childhood epilepsy.

The three cannabinoids are cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), cannabidivarinic acid (CBDVA), cannabigerovarinic acid (CBGVA). All three but CBGA in particular “may contribute to the effects of cannabis-based products in childhood epilepsy” noted the researchers and were found to potentially have ‘anticonvulsant properties.”

The study marks the first time that three acidic cannabinoids were found to potentially help reduce seizures for Dravet syndrome.

Speaking with Cannabis Health News, the lead author of the study, Dr Lyndsey Anderson, said: “We found that CBGA exhibited both anticonvulsant and pro-convulsant effects. CBGA was more potent than CBD against febrile seizures in a mouse model of Dravet syndrome. We also found that a combination of CBGA and clobazam was more effective than either treatment alone. Additionally, we found that CBGA was anticonvulsant in the maximal electroshock acute seizure model, a model for generalized tonic-clonic seizures.”

She added: “CBGA did, however, present some proconvulsant effects. The frequency of spontaneous seizures in the mouse model of Dravet syndrome was increased with a high dose of CBGA. Also, CBGA was proconvulsant in the 6-Hz acute seizure model, a model of focal, psychomotor seizures.”

Although CBGA shows promise, Dr Anderson also stressed that it needs more research before it can replace CBD. She cautioned that Dravet syndrome patients may still need to proceed with caution.

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“Artisanal cannabis-based products are believed to reduce seizures in Dravet syndrome patients,” she said. “As these oils contain rare cannabinoids like CBGA, it is possible CBGA then contributes to the anticonvulsant effects of these artisanal cannabis oils. However, there were proconvulsant effects observed with CBGA, suggesting that Dravet syndrome patients may need to proceed with caution. The proconvulsant liability of CBGA would need to be addressed before it replaced CBD as an anticonvulsant.”

What is CBGA?

Sometimes referred to as ‘the mother of all cannabinoids,’ CBGA is the precursor molecule to many different cannabinioids including CBD and THC. It is thought to help some diseases such as colon cancer, metabolic disease and cardiovascular disease. It is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid much like CBD.

Dr Anderson explains that more research is needed to explain how the three cannabinoids work together.

“We don’t know how they work together yet,” she said. “We found that CBGA, CBDVA and CBGVA were all individually anticonvulsant against thermally induced seizures in the mouse model of Dravet syndrome. We did not investigate whether a combination of these three cannabinoids would result in a greater anticonvulsant effect than either cannabinoid alone. Future work will definitely explore this possibility.”  

CBGA future research

This isn’t the end of the research into CBGA for Dravet Syndrome. Dr Anderson said there is more to explore when it comes to creating more treatment options for Dravet syndrome.

 

She said: “Next on the horizon for this research is to explore whether the anticonvulsant properties of CBDVA and CBGVA translate to other seizure types including spontaneous seizures in the mouse model of Dravet syndrome. Additionally, we have extensively interrogated the anticonvulsant potential of individual cannabinoids and identified ten with anticonvulsant properties.”

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“We are now interested in investigating what happens when we combine these anticonvulsant properties. It remains an open possibility that greater anticonvulsant effects are achieved when the cannabinoids are administered in combination.”

The study was recently published in the British Journal of Pharmacology (DOI: 10.1111/bph.15661)

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Epilepsy

CBD-enriched cannabis oil may reduce seizures in children with West syndrome

Four of the eight children had less than half the seizures they had before the trial.

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Seizures: A black and blue x-ray of a brain on a black background

A new study on CBD-enriched cannabis oil for seizures involving eight children revealed that electroencephalogram (EEG) abnormalities improved by 20 to 80 percent.

The study on seizures, published online, examines if CBD-enriched cannabis oil used as an add-on therapy could help children with condition that causes spasms. It found that four of the eight children in the trial had less than half the seizures they had before the trial.

The researchers reviewed the experiences of eight West syndrome children who were refractory to anti-seizure medications between May 2020 and March 2021. The children were aged between sixteen to twenty-two months and each received a dose of 25:1 CBD to THC as an add-on therapy.

Seizure decrease

The participants record a mean of 63 seizures per day with the lower rate recorded as 31 and the higher amount recorded as 79.

At the follow-up appointment, two of the patients reported a 75 percent to 99 percent decrease in frequency. A further two children recorded a 50 percent decrease while one patient did not experience any changes at all.

The authors wrote: “The index of EEG (electroencephalogram) abnormalities improved between 20 per cent and 80 per cent in seven patients concurrently with the reduction in seizures.”

“Tolerability among those patients experiencing fewer seizures was good and, overall, “adverse effects were mild and transient.”

Epilepsy seizures

West syndrome is a form of epilepsy. According to Epilepsy Action UK, West syndrome happens in about one in every 2,5000 to 3000 children. This means that about 350 to 400 children will develop the syndrome each year in the UK.

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In 9 out of every 10 children, the first seizures will take place in the first year between three to eight months of age. They may happen in clusters or runs rather than singularly. The children may go on to develop learning difficulties as a result of the syndrome.

Earlier studies

A new study published this month shows that CBD transdermal gel may help to reduce seizures and improve children’s quality of life.

The study, Safety and Tolerability of Transdermal Cannabidiol Gel in Children With Developmental and Epileptic Encephalopathies, was conducted in Australia and New Zealand. It involved 40 children with Developmental And Epileptic Encephalopathies (DEE). The authors noted that the DEEs were the most severe type of epilepsy typically beginning in childhood.

The non-randomised, clinical trial involved CBD gel being applied twice a day for six and a half months on children aged three to eighteen. The gel had a CBD content of 125 to 500 mg.

The researchers found that the gel helped in response to facial impaired awareness seizures potentially reducing them to 44.5 percent. It also helped to reduce tonic-clonic seizures where the muscles violently contract by 22.5 percent. Overall, the seizures in 33 participants were reduced by 43.5 percent.

The children also recorded improvements in alertness, alongside the seizure reduction.

Read More: Study on CBD gel shows potentially positive effect seizures

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