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Thousands apply for medical cannabis exemption card

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Cancard founder Carly Barton. Credit: Sam Shaw

A new initiative which could protect over one million medical cannabis users from prosecution has launched this month with an “encouraging” response from police forces.

Cancard was founded earlier this year by Carly Barton, a former university lecturer who became the first patient in the UK to be prescribed cannabis after its rescheduling for medical use in November 2018.

Carly uses cannabis to ease the chronic pain she experiences from fibromyalgia, a condition she developed following a stroke in her early twenties.

The scheme seeks to protect patients who use cannabis-based supplements to treat a medical condition. As such treatments remain unavailable through the NHS, only private practices have been able to prescribe medical cannabis – which can come at a significant cost to the patient.

Although Carly was one of the first to access cannabis legally in the UK, the large monthly prescription bill meant she soon had to resort to growing her own and buying cannabis illicitly.

There are approximately 1.4 million people in the UK who regularly consume cannabis for health reasons, who according to Carly, are often “living in fear” of prosecution or arrest.

Since opening for applications on the 30 November, Cancard has received over 3,700 submissions with an average of 208 applications per hour on the day of its launch. The first applicants are expected to receive their card in the next few weeks.

The scheme has also received a “really positive” response from the UK police. Following a briefing from the National Police Chief Council, Carly says most of the training packages have been delivered by the police intranet.

“It [training] has been delivered really well by the police,” she says.

“They’ve done a smashing job on communicating it all. Every officer in the UK should now know about Cancard and should know what to do if they encounter one.

“Patients are reporting to us that they’ve already spoken to PCSOs [Police Community Support Officers] and police in their areas, and found that they are aware of it, they know about it, and they are supportive.

“We’ve also had a lot of emails and calls from individual police authorities and they’ve been really encouraging. They’ve been getting in touch to say it’s a brilliant idea.”

Unfortunately, it hasn’t been this easy with every police authority. Some have been more reluctant, especially those that take a hard line on drug enforcement. And although the company has worked with the Home Office to roll out the scheme, according to Barton, it “can’t and won’t” make a statement unless there is an official change to the drugs act.

“What we can do is make changes operationally without making a change to the law,” Carly adds.

“That can be done in two ways; police discretion and national guidance.

“We were gradually seeing a shift in attitudes before Cancard but I think that there was still a lack of confidence amongst frontline police officers, particularly new staff, in how safe it felt to use their discretion.”

Cancard gives police officers and PCSOs the confidence to use their discretion, as cardholders have been checked to ensure their condition qualifies for a cannabis prescription.

There are two ways of being certified for a Cancard, either through a GP or through self-certification. People can self-certify by asking their GP receptionist for a copy of their summary of care, a one-page document containing details of previous diagnoses and prescriptions. An email is then sent to their GP to confirm that the individual has the condition which they claim to have on their application.

The self-certification route was put in place to allow people to access the card without it affecting their medical records. Currently, individuals are unable to access NHS mental health services, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, if they have consumed cannabis in the previous three months.

Carly was surprised by the response from GP practices.

“We were anticipating that GPs would be reluctant,” she says.

“But we’ve had literally thousands of GPs confirm patients’ conditions and we haven’t had any that have refused.”

However, Cancard is remains a temporary solution and it is hoped that in the future there will not be a need for the scheme.

Carly says: “We need to understand that there are 1.4 million people in the UK who are successfully consuming [cannabis] for their conditions and they’re choosing a natural supplement over potentially harmful pharmaceutical drugs.

“In my case, I’ve been able to come off fentanyl, morphing and Benzodiazepines because of cannabis. We can’t ignore that people are getting real benefit from this and we can no longer ignore the evidence that’s coming out of countries with sophisticated medical science.”

She adds: “What Cancard does is answer the question: should these people be criminalised for taking this supplement? I have yet to find anybody who says yes to that question in the police or otherwise.”

 

Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia and cannabis: What does the latest research say?

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Fibromyalgia is a condition which causes chronic pain across the body

Cannabis Health rounds up the latest research into the impact of cannabis on fibromyalgia. 

There are thought to be around 1.5-2 million people in the UK currently living with fibromyalgia, a condition which causes chronic pain around the body, muscle stiffness and fatigue.

With no cure for the illness and symptoms severely affecting day-to-day life, research is focusing on therapeutic treatments – including medical cannabis. 

In 2019, research published by Sagy, Schleider, Abu-Shackra and Novak showed that cannabis can help reduce fibromyalgia pain. The study of 367 patients found that pain intensity decreased when treated with medical marijuana, leading the team to state that “cannabis therapy should be considered to ease the symptom burden among those fibromyalgia patients who are not responding to standard care”.

Chaves, Bittencourt and Pelegrini further supported these findings in October 2020, concluding that phytocannabinoids can serve as an affordable yet well-tolerated therapy for fibromyalgia symptom relief and quality of life improvements. 

After the randomised controlled trial, the researchers went as far as to suggest that the cannabinoid therapy “could become an herbal or holistic choice of medicine for treating fibromyalgia as part of Brazil’s public healthcare system”.

A study in Italy, published in February 2020, also demonstrated that medical cannabis improves the efficacy of standard analgesic fibromyalgia treatments. 

Researchers concluded: “This observational study shows that medical cannabis treatment offers a possible clinical advantage in fibromyalgia patients, especially in those with sleep dysfunctions.” 

Published in the Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology journal, the study followed 102 fibromyalgia patients who had not responded well to conventional treatments. These participants were given two forms of medical cannabis oil extracts and researchers then collected data over a six-month period from patients, who self-reported fibromyalgia symptoms, how well they slept, and feelings of fatigue, as well as depression and anxiety levels.

While only a third of fibromyalgia patients reported reduced symptoms of the disease overall, cannabis did improve overall quality of life for some. Fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety were found in around half of patients, too. 

Despite fibromyalgia being more common amongst women – up to 90 per cent of sufferers are female – one study has found that cannabis may provide better pain relief for men.

The preclinical studies, conducted in 2016, compared the analgesic, subjective and physiological effects of active cannabis and inactive cannabis in male and female cannabis smokers under double-blind, placebo-controlled conditions, and measured pain response through the Cold-Pressor Test. 

Among men, active cannabis significantly decreased pain sensitivity relative to inactive cannabis. However, in women, active cannabis failed to decrease pain sensitivity relative to inactive, indicating that in cannabis smokers, men exhibit greater analgesia compared to women.

Researchers concluded: “Sex-dependent differences in cannabis’ analgesic effects are an important consideration that warrants further investigation when considering the potential therapeutic effects of cannabinoids for pain relief.”

While further research is necessary, it is clear to see that medical cannabis can make a huge difference to treatment and relief of pain caused by fibromyalgia.

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The best ways to take CBD for pain relief

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CBD is becoming a popular tool for pain management, but with so many options out there, how do you know where to start?

With research constantly emerging to support the health benefits of CBD, more and more people are turning to the remedy – especially when it comes to alleviating pain and discomfort.

But how does it actually work? There are several ways to take CBD, each offering various pros and cons – we’ve rounded up some of the best methods. 

Get topical

In terms of pain relief, one of the most common methods is on the skin. Topical products like lotions and balms can be applied to skin over painful joints or bones and are particularly effective when used to relieve symptoms of arthritis.

However, research is still ongoing to determine whether these products deliver CBD below the skin. It is also difficult to pinpoint the exact effect CBD delivers – with many including common over-the-counter ingredients such as menthol, capsaicin and camphor, it’s uncertain whether the positive relief is solely due to CBD, or if these other ingredients play a significant role.  

Several studies have hailed CBD oil as one of the most helpful methods when it comes to relieving pain symptoms, especially when combined with other forms such as topicals. 

Medical nutritionist and health author Dr Sarah Brewer said: “Cannabidiol oil has direct effects on the endocannabinoid system in the brain. This enhances the effects of other brain chemicals, such as serotonin and anandamide, to reduce pain perception. It is also a powerful antioxidant which suppresses inflammation.” 

Something to digest

Another well-known method for using CBD is by mouth. Whether in capsules, food or liquid, CBD that is swallowed is absorbed through the digestive tract. 

Despite its popularity, this method does have its downfalls. Absorption is slow and dosing can be tricky due to the delayed onset of effect (it can take one to two hours to fully have an impact), plus many believe there isn’t enough research into how recent meals and other factors affect consumption.   

But it has been widely reported that after a safe and effective dose has been established, capsules can work for daily use.

While it may not taste particularly pleasant, CBD can also be effectively absorbed directly into the bloodstream by holding liquid from a spray or dropper under the tongue. Research shows effects can the be felt in as little as a few minutes. 

Give the vapors

CBD can also be inhaled via a vaporising, ‘vape’ pen. However, it’s possible that inhalation can carry unknown risks, particularly in those with respiratory issues and ailments such as inflammatory arthritis, and so isn’t widely recommended as a method for use. 

With all methods, the common downfall is wavering dosage guidelines. Measures can change depending on a number of factors including age, weight and reason for use, however resounding guidance from experts is to ‘go low and slow’. Start with just a few milligrams twice a day, and if relief is inadequate after one week, increase the dose by the same amount, in small increments over several weeks if needed. 

It’s clear that more research is needed to determine exact details into these methods, but this is only set to increase as the number of people turning to CBD for pain relief continues to grow. 

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CBD distillates, isolates & full spectrum – what’s the difference?

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Fresh Bros take you through the more technical side of CBD

With so many CBD products on the market, do you know your distillates from your isolates? The experts at US manufacturer Fresh Bros break it down.

Las Vegas manufacturer Fresh Bros have nearly a decade of experience in the hemp industry.

The team’s aim is to produce innovative formulas that suit personal needs in terms of performance, recovery, relaxation, and overall wellbeing. 

But with so many products on the market Fresh Bros want to help consumers find the best products for their needs.

Here they explain the differences between CBD distillate, CBD isolate, and full-spectrum CBD products, as well as highlighting the key differences between Delta 8 THC and Delta 9 THC.

CBD isolates 

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the most researched compounds of all the known phytocannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. 

CBD isolates are, unsurprisingly, isolated forms of CBD. During the extraction process, cannabidiols are removed or filtered out of the hemp plant except for CBD, resulting in a pure product. 

CBD isolate is great for anyone who struggles with the original earthy flavors of other conventional oils or edibles, so if you’d prefer a high-potency CBD product that is tasty, doesn’t contain THC and or any “extra” cannabinoids that are found in a distillate or full-spectrum product — CBD isolate may be the way to go.

CBD distillates

Unlike CBD isolate, CBD distillate (aka broad-spectrum CBD) typically contains an array of cannabinoids, terpenes, vitamins, and fatty acids that are very beneficial to the body. CBD distillate contains only negligible amounts of THC after going through special processing. 

CBD isolate is an incredible healing source, of course, but there are hundreds of other beneficial cannabinoids found in the hemp plant besides CBD – cannabinol (CBN) and cannabigerol (CBG) to name a couple. 

Therefore, if you want to reap all of the potential benefits of CBD without the high, and you don’t mind the stronger taste, CBD distillate may be the best option for you. 

Full spectrum

Full-spectrum CBD products contain all cannabinoids, terpenes, and plant materials – including the naturally occurring small amount of THC in hemp. 

 

Delta 8 THC vs Delta 9 THC

The cannabis plant has more than 120 cannabinoids, but only a fraction of these have really been studied and marketed. Delta 9 THC is the psychoactive compound found in cannabis, and has received a lot of attention over the last few years. 

However, consumers are slowly noticing the lesser-known Delta 8 THC (a less available double-bond isomer of the more common Delta 9 THC, also derived from hemp) due to its unique properties. The main differences between these two types of THC are found in the molecular structures of both, and it’s worth noting that Delta 8 THC is capable of producing a milder, more manageable, and more enjoyable high compared to Delta 9. 

Delta 8 also has added therapeutic benefits and less severe and functionality-impairing side effects.

 

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