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From “criminal to licensed cannabis dealer”- the full story behind the new UK dispensary



The company recently announced plans to launch its first store in Preston

In 2017, Michael Dobson was sentenced to 14 months in prison for growing a small number of cannabis plants. Four years after being released, he is now distributing cannabis legally through his dispensary, Cannabliss. Here he shares the full story.

In 2016, Michael Dobson took the home secretary, Amber Rudd, to court. He was fighting for a licence to cultivate and produce cannabis.

Having grown his own plants for many years as he sought to produce a “better-quality product” than what he could find on the black market, Dobson set up a Cannabis Club in his hometown of Preston, Lancashire.

Established as a not-for-profit business, the Preston Cannabis Club approached the Home Office to request a licence for the company to produce its own plants and for all members of the club to be allowed to possess cannabis legally.

Michael recognised that the law did not have any statutory restrictions on who could or could not be granted a licence. This was purely down to the discretion of the Home Secretary, he says.

“If Parliament had never thought that it would be any benefit to the public to be able to get licences to grow, produce or possess cannabis, they never would have voted for that piece of legislation [the misuse of drugs act] to contain that provision,” he says.

At this time, it was still two years before Alfie Dingley received the UK’s first permanent medical cannabis licence and the Home Office was reluctant to engage with Dobson. His request was rejected.

In her defence statement, Amber Rudd stated that there would be “no circumstances” under which the Home Office would consider issuing licences for personal use. But Michael didn’t stop there.

“We said to the Home Office, ‘if you don’t provide evidence, we’re going stand up for our rights and we’re going to take you to the High Court under a judicial review’,” he recalls.

As the Home Office failed to provide evidence, this is exactly what he did. This time, he was acting under his company, Cannabliss, which he founded in late 2016.

The request for a judicial review was dismissed, however Michael was able to engage with the Home Office for the first time and received a response from the government.

“It was never my intention to drag anyone through the courts; I was only ever doing that to stand up for my rights and the rights of the people that I was helping to protect,” he says.

“We went through that long, protracted process which went on all the way through 2017.”

Throughout this time, Michael was also embroiled in a legal battle over a small number of cannabis plants that he was growing for personal use. The prosecution ended with him pleading guilty to the cultivation of 12 cannabis plants for which he was sentenced to 14 months in prison.

“Having your liberty taken away from you is the worst thing you can do to any man or woman,” says Michael.

“This is what we’ve had over the past 12 months and look at how many people are suffering as a result of it.

“You don’t have the freedom to choose to go out and breathe your own air, to go out and walk up a mountain or to just go and visit friends and family.

“When you have that taken away and when you’ve seen it from that side and you’ve seen how it does affect people, it’s tragic.”

Michael had been a regular cannabis smoker in his teenage years, during which time he says he became reliant on the drug. As he got older, he developed a healthier relationship with the plant as he dealt with his personal mental health and past traumas.

Now, he no longer uses cannabis at all.

Although he acknowledges the potential dangers of the drug if misused, he believes that throughout his life, when he used cannabis correctly, it helped “level” him.

“For people that use cannabis regularly, there are usually a lot of underlying issues that they are dealing with – usually psychological or mental health issues,” he says.

“Some people may say it’s not going to actually deal with the problem, but if I hadn’t had it in my life, I would have maybe turned to something else that could have gotten me in far more trouble.”

For Michael, cannabis consumers are often unfairly judged by society. Although he believes daily use of the drug can be a “serious problem”, he thinks branding recreational cannabis users as criminals is the wrong approach.

“I’ve grown up with a lot of good friends and family who use cannabis for social and recreational purposes and they’re all remarkably lovely people,” he continues.

“They work in good jobs, they’ve got families, they pay mortgages. They are really good, upstanding citizens.

“The view that they are some horrendous criminal because of something they choose to do privately just never sat right with me at all.”

Michael remained involved with the legal proceedings against the Home Office from behind bars, then in 2018, Cannabliss was able to take a step back as Alfie Dingley received his licence and set the country on its path towards widening access and availability to legal cannabis.

“There was never any need to change the law to legalise cannabis. All it required is the Home Secretary to sign a piece of paper. And that’s exactly what happened in 2018 when Sajid Javid issued the first license. It was purely down to the discretion of the Home Secretary,” he says.

“As soon as that first licence was issued, the rest was history. We had basically achieved what we set out to achieve. Our litigation wound up because we didn’t need to pursue it any further.”

The original vision for Cannabliss was for it to become a licensed grower, producer and supplier of licensed, regulated cannabis products.

However, after Sajid Javid issued the nation’s first licence and NICE released its guidance on medical cannabis one year later, Michael made the decision to change direction.

Having experienced for himself both the benefits and risks of cannabis, he wanted to help people access the drug safely.

However, as it became clear that producing GMP-certified cannabis products would be outside the company’s budget, he decided to reposition Cannabliss as a specialist pharmacy for medicinal cannabis, launching its online service in 2019.

“As cannabis was now available on prescription, we saw that there was another way for the consumer to possess cannabis where they would no longer need a licence,” he explains.

“We realised that there was a better route for us to go down, which was to try and establish ourselves as a go-to provider for dispensing.

“I’ve gone from prison to pharmacy, so I’m actually now a licensed cannabis dealer.”

Despite the change of focus, he has not ruled out making a return to producing licensed cannabis later down the line.

“Personally, I would like to produce cannabis at some point in the future.” Michael adds.

“But now I’ve got to look at the bottom line in terms of what is most beneficial for us as a company and our patients.”

Horticulture is a passion that runs through his family. His parents both spent time working for the Ministry of Agriculture and his mother later worked for a firm that pioneered the process of micro-propagation, which has now become a buzzword in the cannabis sector.

“It’s always been something that I’ve been very interested in and when I started growing myself, I just fell in love with it – the application of technologies and all the different aspects of growing it – it became a passion of mine,” he says.

It was this passion that became the driving force behind Cannabliss and his experiences with the law that galvanised him into taking action.

Michael adds: “I already knew that there was provision for doing what we set out to do, I just never really had the compulsion to do it.”

As of February 2021, Cannabliss is now a registered pharmacy, providing cannabis prescriptions and over the counter CBD products.

The company is now opening its first brick and mortar site in Preston in April, where it will sell legal cannabis-based products and offer advice and guidance to patients who are seeking a medical cannabis prescription.


New research refutes ‘gateway drug’ fears over cannabis legalisation

Young adults consumed less alcohol, cigarettes and other substances following cannabis legalisation in Washington State.



New research refutes cannabis as 'gateway drug' theory
Adult-use cannabis has been legal in Washington State since 2012

Young adults consume less alcohol, cigarettes and other substances following cannabis legalisation, according to a new study.

A paper published earlier this month by researchers at the University of Washington, found that young people consumed less alcohol, nicotine, and non-prescribed pain medication, after cannabis was legalised for adult-use. 

Researchers assessed trends in alcohol, nicotine, and non-prescribed pain reliever use among a cohort of over 12,500 young adults (ages 18 to 25) in Washington State following legalisation in 2012.

Contrary to concerns about the detrimental effects on wider society, according to the study, “the implementation of legalised non-medical cannabis coincided with decreases in alcohol and cigarette use and pain reliever misuse.”

The findings show that prevalence of alcohol use, heavy episodic drinking and cigarette use in the past month, as well as prevalence of past-year pain reliever misuse decreased. 

While the prevalence of substance use other than cannabis was “higher among occasional and frequent cannabis users compared to cannabis non-users”, associations between cannabis and pain reliever misuse and heavy episodic drinking “weakened over time”. 

However the team did find that the prevalence of past-month e-cigarette use had increased post-legalisation.

They concluded: “Our findings add to evidence that the legalisation of non-medical cannabis has not led to dramatic increases in the use of alcohol, cigarettes, and non-prescribed opioids.

“The findings indicate that the most critical public health concerns surrounding cannabis legalisation and the evolution of legalised cannabis markets may be specific to cannabis use and related consequences.”

Commenting on the study’s findings, NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “Real-world data from legalisation states disputes longstanding claims that cannabis is some sort of ‘gateway’ substance. In fact, in many instances, cannabis regulation is associated with the decreased use of other substances, including many prescription medications.”

Cannabis legalisation in the UK

Cannabis legalisation is a hot topic in the UK at the moment, following London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s fact-finding trip to LA last week. He subsequently announced that he would be launching a review panel to explore the possibility of decriminalisation in the UK. 

This has sparked debate among politicians, media personalities and the general public alike. 

While Home Secretary Priti Patel shared her thoughts that cannabis can “ruin communities, tear apart families and destroy lives”, Policing Minister Kit Malthouse described it as an “entry level drug”. 

And even Labour refused to get behind Khan, saying the party “does not support changing the law on drugs.”

But recent polling suggests the politicians may be out of touch with the public. YouGov polls show that more than half of Londoners support the mayor’s proposals. 

Meanwhile a poll last year revealed that 52 per cent of the population either ‘strongly supported’ or  ‘tended to support’ legalisation. 


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Medical cannabis in the mainstream – the top headlines this week

Get up to date on the week’s headlines.



Medical cannabis in the mainstream - the top headlines this week

This week the media has been dominated with responses to Sadiq Khan’s controversial fact-finding mission to LA and plans for cannabis decriminalisation.

Although stories of police raids and cannabis farm busts continue to make up the majority of major cannabis headlines, the mainstream media is increasingly covering new developments in the cannabis space, from policy to patient stories.

Over the past few days, MPs have been responding to Sadiq Khan’s controversial trip to LA cultivators and dispensaries, while the Daily Express reported on a new study about a cannabis-based product aiming to treat chronic pain. Here are the week’s five top cannabis headlines not to miss.

The medical cannabis clinic banner

New study into cannabis for chronic pain

Daily Express spoke to the managing director of LVL Health, Tony Samios, about the company’s feasibility study which explores the effects of a cannabis-based product for chronic pain. The study will use cannabis flower in pre-filled cartridges and aims to build the data and evidence needed to improve patient access on the NHS.

Samios told the Express that the study is set to be a “game-changer in bridging the gap between evidence and making change using a rigorous scientific approach” providing “reliable data that is essentially missing”.

Sadiq Khan’s time would be “better spent focusing on knife and drug crime”, says Patel

Priti Patel made her thoughts on Sadiq Khan’s plan to consider cannabis legalisation in London clear in a Twitter post last week.

“Sadiq Khan’s time would be better spent focusing on knife and drug crime in London. The Mayor has no powers to legalise drugs. They ruin communities, tear apart families and destroy lives,” Patel said in the Tweet.

Her rebuke comes after Sadiq Khan’s recent trip to the US which included a fact-finding mission to LA to understand more about an international evidence-based approach to reducing drug-related harm in the capital. The London mayor also announced the launch of a new London Drugs Commission.

Policing Minister Kit Malthouse expressed a similar view to Patel. Last week he told The Sun: “I find it baffling that just last week, the Mayor of London thought it appropriate to stage a photoshoot in a cannabis farm in LA, to reiterate his support for the legalisation of this entry level drug. I profoundly wish he would focus on knife crime and violence taking place in the capital instead.”

Khan initially made his plans clear last year prior to his re-election, saying that he would consider decriminalising cannabis in the capital if he were to be voted in as mayor for a second term.

The Labour party’s response to Khan’s cannabis plan

The likes of Huffington Post, Daily Mail and iNews reported on the Labour party’s response to Sadiq Khan’s plans for cannabis law reform last week.

The party’s stance was made clear in a statement that stated: “Labour does not support changing the law on drugs. Drugs policy is not devolved to mayors and under Labour would continue to be set by national Government.”

HuffPost UK reported that a number of shadow cabinet members were “furious” at Khan’s comments, including Yvette Cooper. “Yvette is furious about it,” a Labour source told HuffPost UK. “People are just rolling their eyes because it definitely is not the official party line.”

Although it goes against his party’s official stance, Khan’s plan reflects data gathered by YouGov which has found that the majority of UK citizens are in support of cannabis legalisation.

Another source told the online outlet: “Sadiq has positioned himself as a progressive mayor on the side of the public prepared to take on the tough questions to genuinely tackle crime rather than pointless posturing that isn’t even popular anyway.”

Meanwhile, iNews reported that Labour MPs “let rip” in a private WhatsApp group. “This is going to go down like a bucket of cold sick in my bit of the suburbs just now… Crime up, police numbers still way below where people think they should be, so Labour is going to have a chat about drugs… Inspired,” said Gareth Thomas, the Shadow International Trade minister.

Not all Labour MPs have responded negatively, however. The Daily Mail reported on Shadow Cabinet minister Ed Miliband’s response to Khan’s plans. Although he highlighted that Khan did not reflect the Party’s position, he said Labour “welcome[s] Sadiq looking at these issues because this debate should carry on”.

“Cannabis ruins lives and legalising it won’t help”

In response to Sadiq Khan’s US visit, journalist and campaigner Louise Perry offered her opinion in an article for the London Evening Standard. While she said she would be “happy” to see possession of small amounts of cannabis made legal, but added that legalising the cannabis industry is “another matter entirely”.

The article is unlikely to sit well with cannabis campaigners and advocates thanks to its comparison between cannabis and tobacco, a focus on the dangers of psychosis and the lack of attention given to studies showing the positive effects of cannabis on health and wellbeing.

“Industries employ lobbyists to disguise the harmful effects of the products they sell,” Perry writes. “This has happened many times before.

“By the early 50s, the scientific evidence was clear: tobacco was killing people. And yet it would be 20 years until warning signs appeared on the side of cigarette packets sold in the UK. This tardiness was the result of lobbying by the tobacco industry, which opposed health authorities every step of the way.”

Patient faces dispute with council over housing

A man living in Norwich who holds a private cannabis prescription says he is facing difficulties finding a new place to live after being told by the city council to disclose his indoor cannabis use to landlords.

As reported by Norwich Evening News, Danny Wilson is prescribed legal cannabis by TMCC Medical Clinic for chronic pain, ADHD and anxiety. Wilson – who is currently on universal credit and personal independence payments due to his condition – pays between £700 and £1,000 per month for his medication.

Mr Wilson said: “I’ve repeatedly told them forcing me to go around approaching landlords and agents this way is causing me trauma but they ignored me.”

Despite never having being in prison, the city council offered him a place at House of Genesis, a rehoming initiative for ex-offenders.

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Medical cannabis in the mainstream – the UK’s top stories

All your cannabis news in one place



There has been a mix of cannabis-related stories in the media over the past week. In case you missed them, we’ve compiled some of the headlines.

This week, news outlets such as The Guardian and The Telegraph have reported on UK medical cannabis labs, cannabis use for fibromyalgia and a rise in drug-driving cases amongst medical consumers.

Inside one of the UK’s first medical cannabis labs

The Guardian’s Julia Kollewe visited a growing lab owned by Celadon Pharmaceuticals, one of the first cultivation sites to be granted a home office licence to grow high-THC medical cannabis in the UK. The site is based in the West Midlands and grows cannabis predominantly for chronic pain. It is one of the only cannabis cultivators in the country to use an indoor lab rather than greenhouses.

According to The Guardian, Celadon is planning to ramp up production, aiming to grow 10 to 15 tonnes a year and supply up to 50,000 patients. At full capacity, the lab could generate £90m in annual revenues.

Founder James Short said: “I speak to patients on a regular basis who can’t work and are in terrible pain each day, that don’t want to be on opioids. Some are having to pay hundreds of pounds each month for medicinal cannabis. It really does work.”

US research programme studies cannabinoids in ovarian cancer

“Massive injustice” – medical cannabis patients facing driving offences

In a less positive story, The Telegraph reported that medicinal cannabis patients are increasingly being prosecuted for drug driving with arrests reportedly doubling in the last four years.

Those taking cannabis may face a positive result in police roadside testing up to 72 hours after taking the drug. Although studies have shown driving capabilities are not impaired after this length of time, patients still face prosecution.

Since 2016, arrests linked with drug driving have increased by 140 per cent, according to police figures obtained by The Telegraph.

But while medical cannabis patients are at risk of arrest, those taking opiate-based prescription drugs are permitted to drive even if they are over the lawful limit, provided they follow their doctor’s advice.

The Telegraph spoke to one patient, David Dancy, who was being prosecuted for drug driving despite the fact he had taken his prescription 12 hours prior to getting in his car. The 33-year-old said the prosecution is “a massive injustice”.

Fibromyalgia and arthritis patient on how cannabis changed her life

Andrea Wright, a medical cannabis patient from Bristol, spoke to The Guardian about her ongoing battle with psoriatic arthritis and fibromyalgia. The 39-year-old was diagnosed in 2016, suffering from constant pain and severe lack of sleep. She eventually was forced to leave her job due to her ill health.

“I had to stop work because the pain was too much. It’s been very depressing; I really enjoyed my job. I tried so many different therapies and managed to get my arthritis under control but for fibromyalgia, there isn’t anything, no magical pill,” Wright told The Guardian.

After trying medical cannabis as part of a study run by LVL Health, she found she was able to get her first “proper night’s sleep” since 2012. She is now back at work and now aiming to reduce her reliance on opioid painkillers.

300 campaigners march through streets of Cardiff

Campaigners calling for the legalisation of cannabis in the UK marched through Cardiff city centre this weekend, WalesOnline reported on Saturday (7 May).  This was the first protest to take place in Wales since before the pandemic.

The march was organised by Terry Wakefield, who has been involved in cannabis campaigning since 1999. She told WalesOnline that the stigma surrounding cannabis was pushing the trade further underground.

“Cannabis is my medicine. I suffer complex PTSD and this march might sometimes be the only time I’m outside,” she said. “If I was in a position where I could go to my GP and ask for a prescription I would do.

“If we are able to consume cannabis in the UK then we should have a right to grow our own. The more this stays illegal the more it will be pushed underground and the more gangs and slaves in Britain.”

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