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Ireland’s medical cannabis exclusions will lead to ‘life-threatening’ crisis

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Ireland's Medical Cannabis Access Programme has only approved four cannabis-based medicines for three conditions.

Ireland’s leading medical cannabis experts have warned that the exclusion of patients from the government’s access programme will lead to a ‘life-threatening’ crisis.

Ireland’s Health minister Stephen Donnelly announced funding for the Medical Cannabis Access Programme (MCAP) last week, almost two years since the legislation was signed off in June 2019.

The programme is expected to commence later this year, but will only offer access to four cannabis-based medicines to people living with one of three qualifying conditions.

These include intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, severe treatment-resistant epilepsy and spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis (MS). 

The founder members of the recently-formed, Irish Medicinal Cannabis Council (IMCC) have now written to Minister Donnelly highlighting their “grave concerns” about the products that have been approved for prescription and the medical conditions that are covered.

Medical cannabis patient, Ava Barry

Tom Curran, Gino Kenny TD, Alicia Maher, Clare McAfee, Dr Garrett McGovern and Vera Twomey, campaigner and mum of medical cannabis patient Ava Barry, set up the council to improve access to medical cannabis for Irish patients last year.

Ava, 11, who has a rare form of epilepsy, is among some of the most high profile patients in need of medicinal cannabis.

However the medicine that nearly all of these children use – Bedrocan products from the Transvaal pharmacy in the Netherlands – have not been approved by the MCAP. 

This means parents will be forced to continue to find thousands of euros each month to fund their children’s medicine. 

The IMCC welcomed the “long overdue” activation of the programme, but warned that a “crisis is imminent” and children’s lives could be at risk “within weeks” as supplies run out.

It added that excluding thousands of patients with debilitating health conditions from accessing cannabis treatment will lead to “widespread and unnecessary suffering” throughout the country and the “destructive criminalisation of thousands of people” who have no choice but to self-medicate illegally. 

In particular, the IMCC describes the omission of chronic pain as “bizarre” and places Ireland in conflict with international standards and recognised evidence. 

Alicia Maher

Over 1.5 million people in Ireland live with chronic pain and in its 2017 report the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) acknowledged that the condition is the most researched indication for cannabinoids, with the majority concluding that cannabis is an effective treatment.

Speaking to Cannabis Health, award-winning campaigner, Alicia Maher, who lives with chronic pain and holds a ministerial licence for a medical cannabis prescription said:

“I, along with many others that currently hold the ministerial licence and fall outside the three qualifying conditions, will not be allowed onto the access programme, even though our doctors are currently prescribing cannabis. 

“We won’t have access to any of the cannabis products that have been approved and we won’t have our costs reimbursed. 

“The HPRA who have made this decision does not seem to realise the far reaching impact that this will have. Their decision to exclude chronic pain as a qualifying condition goes against all the available evidence.”

READ MORE  Patients welcome UK’s first medical cannabis ID scheme

Cannabis Health has approached the Department of Health for comment.

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British footballer sentenced to 25 years in Dubai jail over CBD

The footballer said he was unaware that the CBD e-liquids were in the boot of his car

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Dubai: An image of a man with red hair sitting in the sun

A British football coach has been sentenced to 25 years in jail in Dubai after police seized four bottles of CBD e-liquid from his car.

Billy Hood, a semi-professional football for Kensington and Ealing Borough FC, was sentenced earlier this month for trafficking, selling and possessing drugs, following his arrest on 31 January, 2o21.

The vape liquids contained CBD which is illegal in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as it may contain a trace amount of THC. The oils, which had been found in the boot of his car, had been bought in from the UK which amounted to a trafficking charge.

Hood maintains that he was forced to confess in Arabic which he does not speak.

In a statement, he said he was “shocked, scared and confused” but told the police he was “not in possession of any drugs or substances.”

He said he was unaware the oils had been in the boot as they left there by a friend travelling from England.

“I had just moved to a new home in Dubai and a friend of mine came around to see my new place,” he said.

“I ordered a food delivery then went to my car to get a second phone charger for him to use when I was suddenly approached by police. They jumped out to arrest me, handcuffed me. One officer jumped out and pointed a taser at me, threatening to use it if I didn’t cooperate.”

He added: “They demanded I show them where the drugs are. I was shocked, scared and confused. I told them I wasn’t aware or in possession of any drugs or substances.”

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Dubai arrest

The police were reported to have become interested in speaking with Hood after viewing his social media pages.

They then asked to search his home and car for drugs, leading to the discovery of the 5ml oils and vape pen. They also reportedly discovered a sum of money in the apartment as his new employer had paid him in cash while his bank account was being set up. His friend, who was in the apartment, was also arrested.

Hood said he was then detained in isolation for 14 days before being informed that he would face a second prosecution. The possession of the CBD oils and vape pen would have been a small sentence, however, the trafficking charge contributed to a 25-year sentence.

“I coach football six to seven days a week. I am always working with kids and in schools all over Dubai. From age 16, I played football at a professional level for more than 2 years. I have always had a zero-tolerance on any drugs or illegal substances,” Hood said.

“For me to be accused of promoting and selling drugs in a country that has the same beliefs and values as me, is very upsetting as it affects my future.

“One of the main reasons I moved to the UAE was to pursue my coaching career. I have spent six years collecting my coaching badges and would never let something such as drugs ruin everything.”

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has said they are providing “consular support to a British man who has been imprisoned in the UAE.”

Billy’s mother, 55-year-old Breda said: “I have hidden away, crying and crying when I imagine what our sweet boy is going through. It is the worst stress I’ve ever been through and I feel helpless. He’s always been such a good boy and has never been troublesome. He helps out children, coaches and volunteers. He’s never been into drugs, ever. It is impossible that he is guilty of the allegations against him.”

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Meanwhile, Hood’s family are working with the group, Detained in Dubai and lawyers on an appeal. They have launched a campaign for funding through a GoFundMe page that has raised over £13,752.

In a statement on their website, Detained in Dubai said: “The UAE has arrested dozens of foreigners for ‘crimes’ like having a poppyseed on the bottom of one’s shoe, having prescription medicine, residual hashish from marijuana smoked abroad, a glass of wine on a plane and so on. Tourists and ex-pats are at great risk of police setups and sting operations. The FCDO has been asked to increase travel warnings to citizens.”

Read more: “I tried cannabis again and realised I was in a lot less pain”

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CBD brand teams up with Welsh artist to highlight emotions of lockdown

CiiTECH has commissioned Welsh artist Nathan Wyburn to create a bespoke piece of art.

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Art of Provacan

Leading cannabis and CBD company CiiTECH, has commissioned Welsh artist Nathan Wyburn to create a bespoke, crowd-sourced piece of art entitled ‘The Journey to Calm’.

The pieces are part of a larger campaign called ‘The Art of Provacan,’ launched by CiiTECH flagship CBD health and wellness brand, Provacan, which is also encouraging people to send in their own artwork.

Nathan has created four pieces of art that show how people feel and what they associate with those feelings by using multiple colours and textures.

The feelings portrayed were recorded in the Art of Provacan survey of over 1,000 people. Members of the public were asked to vote on what colours and textures represented the change in their emotions from unease to calm.

The work took hours to complete and incorporates traditional and non-traditional materials.

Art: four pieces of art created by the artist who sits to the top centre of all four

Lockdown was a difficult time for many so it is no surprise that this was reflected in the results.

The survey found that seven in 10 participants experienced heightened levels of unease of the past 18 months with two-third struggling to describe how they feel to family and friends.

The Art of Provacan campaign was launched to make these feelings more visible and accessible to help anyone experiencing unrest to feel they have a support network they can turn to.

 

In a video about the art campaign, Nathan said: “At the height of unease, many people said the sound of scratching was a very common thing. I decided to use the inside of the tape and also nails within this artwork. Red was widely associated with heightened feelings of stress. Navy blue, interestingly, caused mixed reactions from the public.”

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He added: “Some related it to a feeling of unrest while others found comfort in it. For this, I decided to use a scourer to blur the artwork to help that feeling of unease and loneliness.”

Nathan, who appeared on Britain’s Got Talent, specialises in creating iconic celebrity portraits and pop culture imagery with non-traditional mediums such as Food. Previous portraits have included Marmite on toast, sauces, sugar and Chocolate. He also combines these with other everyday items such as newspaper cut-outs, soil, glitter, toothpaste fake tan or motor oil.

The art of Provacan

Provacan is the flagship CBD brand of cannabis healthcare company, CiiTECH.

CiiTECH CEO Clifton Flack said:  “Teaming up with Nathan for this special project has taught us a lot about the visual expression of stress, unease and worry and we love the fact that he used Provacan while creating the art and also used some of the products in the artworks themselves.”

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Breast milk of THC-positive mothers not harmful to short-term health of infants – study

Researchers reported no differences in short-term health impacts such as breathing difficulties or feeding issues.

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Breast milk: A bottle of milk for an infant

According to a new study, the breast milk of THC-positive mothers was not found to be harmful to the short-term health of premature infants.

Researchers compared early pre-term infants who were breast-fed from mothers who consumed THC to those who were fed formula or breast milk from non-THC consuming mothers.

They reported that breast milk caused no differences in short-term health impacts such as breathing difficulties, lung development or feeding issues.

The study analysed the medical records of 763 early pre-term babies from 2014 to 2020. Researchers discovered that 17 per cent of the mothers tested positive for THC at the time of giving birth. They also examined post-natal exposure through breast milk.

Researchers found that overall the babies born to mothers who tested positive for cannabis were similarly healthy at the time of their discharge when fed their mothers breast milk in comparison to those who did not receive their mother’s breast milk.

The authors wrote in the abstract: “In our study, we found no evidence that providing [mother’s milk] MM from THC-positive mothers was detrimental to the health of this early preterm population through hospital discharge. A better understanding of longer-term perinatal outcomes associated with THC exposure both in-utero and postnatally via MM would inform appropriate interventions to improve clinical outcomes and safely encourage MM provision for early preterm infants.”

Breast milk from mothers who consume THC is often restricted by neonatal intensive care units because the effects on early preterm infants are unknown. It is thought that the active ingredient can pass through breast milk. Studies have shown that breast milk is a good way to improve pre-term baby outcomes and reduce infection risk along with intestinal issues.

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Researchers cautioned women to abstain as the long term effects are still unknown.

THC-positive breast milk

Natalie L. Davis, associate professor of paediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine said: “Providing breast milk from THC-positive women to preterm infants remains controversial since long-term effects of this exposure are unknown.”

She added: “For this reason, we continue to strongly recommend that women avoid cannabis use while pregnant and while nursing their babies. Our study, however, did provide some reassuring news in terms of short-term health effects. It definitely indicates that more research is needed in this area to help provide women and doctors with further guidance.”

“Teasing out the effects of THC can be very difficult to study,” Dr Davis concluded. “We found that women who screened positive for THC were frequently late to obtain prenatal care, which can have a detrimental effect on their baby separate from cannabis use. This is important to note for future public health interventions.”

The study abstract will be presented at the virtual American Academy of Paediatrics National Conference and Exhibition.

Read more: Four ways women could benefit from CBD

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