A career in the cannabis sector was not something Michael Walker would have considered growing up in a strict catholic family in Canada. But witnessing the effects of cannabis-based oils for himself, he set out to help more people access this “life-changing” product.
Several years ago, Michael Walker returned from the UK to his home country of Canada to care for his sister, Chris, who was suffering from cancer. She had been transferred to a palliative care hospice and along with other members of his family, Michael came to provide “around the clock” care for his sister.
Michael took the 2am to 4am shift with Marie, the “hippie of the family”, who gave Chris a selection of drops and oils. Within days, Chris experienced a resurgence in her health.
The doctors noticed a regeneration of cells and a suppression of the cancer, but the reason for this remained unclear. It was only when Marie admitted she was giving her sister a THC and a CBD oil that the improvements to her health made sense.
Sadly, Chris passed away two weeks later, however the improvements in the final stages of her life made a profound impression on Michael and his family.
“Palliative care is all about easing the patient through,” Michael says.
“Chris was able to come off of a lot of the pain meds.
“Sadly, we did lose her a couple of weeks later, but that extension of life and quality of life was really something that we witnessed as a family right in front of us.”
As he delved deeper into the science of medical cannabis, Michael became increasingly involved with what was, at the time, underground research.
Despite the calibre of the studies, he and his colleagues were not able to communicate the findings to the world due to fear of prosecution. At the time, the research they were doing was illegal.
“We knew that this was going to be phenomenally powerful and we wanted to help other people and certainly our own friends and family,” he says.
Michael is no stranger to the opioid crisis which has been having a detrimental impact on public health in North America for the last 30 years.
He lost his mother – who was originally prescribed synthetic opioids to treat back pain but later became reliant on the drug – and one of his closest friends to opioid addiction.
Witnessing the rapid deterioration in both the physical and mental health of his loved ones, as a direct result of legally prescribed pharmaceutical drugs, Michael says that over the last decade his frustration and anger continues to fester.
“It really comes down to ‘big pharma’ pushing these pills and the regulations and the amount of money that goes into opioids,” he says
“If you have a number of different ailments, the only thing that traditional western medicine will give you is an opioid and there’s not an alternative.
“I think it’s tragic that we have demonised research into the cannabis plant to allow synthetic medications to be prioritised. The opportunities were and still are there, within the natural benefits of what cannabinoids can do to help in these scenarios.”
Eventually, medical cannabis was legalised in Canada and from there, Michael embarked on his ongoing mission to give more people access to high-quality CBD. But the journey was by no means a simple one.
Michael started out producing and selling Arabica coffee infused with hemp seed oil, which although is derived from the same plant, does not contain cannabinoids like CBD.
The coffee products sold well across Canada and the UK, but Michael’s true passion was in the health benefits of CBD and medical cannabis.
“I decided that what I really wanted to do was create a business that could open up the potential of CBD and recreational medical cannabis,” Michael says.
“If we can help people optimise their health and wellness as Mother Nature intended, why wouldn’t we do it? We have a responsibility.”
Michael registered Purity Hemp Co. as a company only to find that he was unable to open a business bank account or receive a VAT number. His business was filed under the same category as the likes of cryptocurrencies, ammunitions and online gambling.
He returned to the drawing board and launched a new company, Purity Wellness Group, in an effort to open a bank account and start trading. He remained transparent with the banking managers he met with and spoke honestly about his plans for the company.
“I was still getting no answers from mainstream banking,” Michael says.
“But one of the core principles of what I wanted to do with Purity Hemp Company was to create a brand that was completely transparent and had complete traceability, so we could really build trust for the customers. I couldn’t do any of that if I couldn’t even get a simple bank account.”
While he was struggling to get his business off the ground, Michael saw other companies in the market selling poor quality products, mislabelling and spreading misinformation about CBD.
“The existing market was just rife with criminality,” he continues.
“I was really getting frustrated with the fact that no one was being open and honest with the consumer.”
Michael met with a bank manager who was dealing with several health issues himself and gave him some of his product. Seeing the potential of what he was doing, the banking manager set up a bank account for Purity Wellness Group and Michael was finally able to start trading under the original name, Purity Hemp Company.
He began building Purity Hemp Company’s supply chain, working with cultivators in Colorado and building a relationship with a genetics company in the Netherlands that was developing industrial hemp with “phenomenal” cannabinoid profiles.
Michael says he wants Purity Hemp Company to position itself as a “lighthouse” for people seeking to address their health issues with CBD.
He explains: “Over the last five years the UK has been cowboy crazy with people selling low-quality products and people are holding onto hope that these products are going to get them through the day – whether that’s for cancer treatment, arthritis, joint pain or anxiety.
“What really makes us angry is that people are taking advantage of that hope.”
As many companies seek to capitalise on the booming CBD industry, Purity Hemp Company has taken a more deliberate approach, investing heavily in the development, testing and accreditation of its products.
“We very much come from a culture that wants to help, not just jump on a wave,” Michael adds.
“I didn’t need to be the first in the market, I wanted to be one of the best in the market.”
“People can come to us, they trust us, the product is affordable, and it’s making such a difference to them.
“Purity Hemp is a safe haven; We’re there for people to come and find us to get the help that they need.”
Grow Pharma launches new low-priced flower range for UK patients
The new range will introduce ratio-related pricing and includes four strains not before seen in the UK
Grow Pharma, has launched a new range of low-priced flower products, with the hopes of broadening access to prescriptions for patients.
Grow Pharma has today [Friday 27 May] announced the launch of a new range of flowers for patients in the UK and Channel Islands, cultivated by licensed producer PHCANN in North Macedonia.
In recent years, Grow Pharma, alongside pharmacy partner IPS, have developed a reputation as a reliable and responsible supplier of prescribed cannabis medicines in the UK.
The company now imports and distributes all premium and quality brands available in the UK including those from Aurora, Tilray, Spectrum and Columbia Care.
With this new range of medical cannabis flowers from PHCANN it hopes to further broaden access to prescription cannabis flower medication for patients who need and would benefit from it.
The new range will see the introduction of ratio-related pricing, at £6.50 per gram for flowers under 18 per cent THC, £7.50 per gram for 18 to 22:1 ratios and £8.50 for any higher THC flowers.
The flowers are non-irradiated and non-GMO and will include high THC indica, sativa and hybrid cultivars.
Grow Pharma is well known for its outstanding service to patients and prescribers, says Pierre van Weperen, Grow Pharma CEO.
He commented: “We have long recognised that patients and prescribers would benefit from a lower priced quality flower to complement our range, it has just taken us a while to find a GMP licensed range that
lives up to our standards, including supply integrity.”
The PHCANN range, cultivated in North Macedonia, will initially include four strains not before seen in the UK including Gelato, LA S.A.G.E, Herijuana and Strawberry Glue and will be expanded to include more cultivars later this year.
A new range of GROW oils, also from PHCANN, is in the pipeline to be launched soon.
A reliable source
Last October, Grow Pharma launched a range of flowers under the same brand, but the range was discontinued.
Clare Holliday, head of medical cannabis at IPS Pharma, explained: “At Grow Pharma and IPS, we prioritise quality, consistency and reliability in the supply of cannabis medicines. This means working with only the best “premium” brands, which are often higher priced. After a long search, we believe PHCANN can provide a great range of quality flower medicines at our lowest price to date.
She added: “The flowers we launched in October weren’t from PHCANN, they were being grown elsewhere and it turned out that the supply just wasn’t reliable. Rather than strive on with those medicines going in and out of stock, we discontinued the range until we could source a supply that both we as a pharmacy and, more importantly, patients can rely on.”
Low prices for patients
Patients often ask which clinic to go to in order to access certain medicines or brands.
The truth is that, whilst some clinics have a preferred pharmacy (often owned by the same parent company as the clinic), any medicine from any pharmacy can be prescribed by any doctor at any clinic.
This is really important for patients to understand as many report being offered limited options and having to be quite assertive in order to use their pharmacy of choice.
“UK patients aren’t used to paying for medicines and understandably look for the lowest-priced option that works for them,” said Alex Fraser, patient access lead at Grow Pharma.
“I think what we’ve seen historically is that, when cheaper ranges are imported into the UK there are often issues around stock levels and inconsistent quality.
“We’re hopeful that, with this new range from PHCANN, we can ensure consistent, reliable supply of quality medicines at a lower price. That doesn’t take anything away from the high-quality portfolio that we already have for patients. It might enable patients to mix and match, something that we have been seeing quite a lot recently.”
Grow Pharma understands that some patients wish to avoid radiation, so are adding a non-irradiated range to their extensive formulary that now boasts 27 flower cultivars alongside a range of capsules, cartridge vapes and the ability to formulate sublingual oils with bespoke THC and CBD ratios.
Information for doctors
Pierre Van Weperen, Grow Pharma CEO, commented: “One of the things that makes us the supplier of choice for doctors prescribing cannabis medicines is that we provide the widest range from multiple leading producers.
“This means the doctors we support can make the best decisions for their patients and we can ensure consistency in the supply of patient’s medicines. We make sure that all doctors at the cannabis-prescribing clinics are aware of our formulary and any additions that are made as they happen.
“At Grow Pharma we knew from the start that no single brand could possibly cater for the wide array of symptoms and conditions that can be treated with cannabis medicines, which is why we have worked hard to develop the most comprehensive formulary of cannabis medicines in the UK.
“We set up the Doctor Portal so healthcare professionals can access the information for all our medicines at the touch of a button.”
Doctors can find information on the medicines GROW supplies by contacting them directly or by signing up to their Doctor Portal where they can also speak privately to other doctors in the field, find out about the latest educational events on medical cannabis and speak directly to Grow’s medical cannabis expert MSLs.
Why patients in Europe are accessing medical cannabis
New data gives an insight into the demographics of medical cannabis patients across Europe.
New data gives an insight into the demographics of medical cannabis patients across Europe – and the conditions they are being prescribed for.
Cannabis industry experts at Prohibition Partners, have assembled one of the most comprehensive breakdowns of demographics in the European medical cannabis space.
The data analytics company has compiled multiple sources to determine insights such as the age and gender of patients across Europe, and what health issues they are using medical cannabis for.
While the UK‘s medical cannabis patients are more similar to those in developed markets like the US and Israel, patients in Germany, Italy and Denmark tend to be older and more predominantly women, the report found.
“The medicalised nature of cannabis distribution in Europe means the balance of patients who are using for purely medical purposes rather than mixed medical/adult-use is lower,” the authors of the report said.
“More familiar product formats such as oils and capsules are more common in Europe than most other medical cannabis markets. [This] is one of the most comprehensive views on the characteristics of medical cannabis patients and products available anywhere.”
How old are medical cannabis patients in Europe?
The report showed that Europe’s medical cannabis patients are slightly older than those in more developed markets such as the US or Canada, where many patients also use cannabis recreationally.
Data sourced from Project Twenty21 revealed that the average age of patients in the UK is 40.
In Germany, the continent’s largest medical cannabis market, the average age of patients stands at around 56.
However, Prohibition Partners anticipate that the true average age is lower due to the underreporting of patients using cannabis flower rather than oils or capsules.
Meanwhile, in Denmark, Czechia and Italy where medical cannabis regulation is more restrictive, the average age of patients is between 55 and 60.
More women are taking medical cannabis than men
Contrary to other developed markets, medical cannabis patients in Europe are predominantly female. In Denmark, Czechia and Italy more than 60 per cent of patients are women, while Germany has an almost even split with 51 per cent of patients being men.
The UK follows similar patterns to advanced markets like Australia, Israel and the US where the majority of medical cannabis patients are male.
What are patients taking cannabis-based medicines for?
As in other markets, European patients are mostly prescribed medical cannabis for severe and chronic pain. This is to be expected given the prevalence of pain conditions. It is estimated that up to one in three people suffer from pain in some form.
Spasticity, which is often associated with multiple sclerosis is another common condition highlighted by Prohibition Partners. Although it is far less common than pain conditions, MS is notoriously difficult to treat which could explain why so many people turn to medical cannabis for relief.
Thanks to high profile media coverage for patients such as Alfie Dingley, medical cannabis is strongly associated with severe forms of epilepsy. The data shows, however, that the proportion of the population using THC and CBD for epilepsy is relatively low due to the rarity of these conditions.
Experts on everything you need to know about medical cannabis in the UK
Key takeaways from The Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society event earlier this month.
Key takeaways as industry professionals and patients discuss all aspects of legally prescribing and consuming medicinal cannabis in the UK.
Earlier this month, the UK Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society (UKMCCS) hosted an insightful panel event exploring many aspects of medical cannabis in the UK.
The event was well attended by professionals, patients, and other interested parties. Jeremy Stull was there and summarised the key takeaways for Cannabis Health.
Taking place at The Midland Hotel in Manchester, the panel led by Professor Mike Barnes, chair of the UKMCCS and consultant neurologist, featured Katya Kowalski, head of operations at Volteface, Ryan McCreanor, founder of Sativa Learning and Emdad Khan, a medical cannabis patient in the UK.
The event covered topics including the history of medical cannabis use, controversial issues within the UK, the legality of prescribing medicinal cannabis, how cannabis affects the body, the evidence behind it, who can prescribe or be prescribed cannabis, the cost benefits to the patient, as well as a patient’s point of view.
History of cannabis
Professor Barnes briefly spoke to the fact that cannabis has a long history of medicinal use dating back to China, over 5,000 years ago.
Shen Nung, the father of Chinese medicine, wrote about cannabis for medical purposes, making it the oldest known medicine to man.
Also important to note was the propaganda campaign led by Harry Anslinger, head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBA) in 1930, while seeking to retain his budget after the US Prohibition.
Anslinger made false claims that caused public hysteria surrounding marijuana (cannabis), pushing a view that Mexicans who consumed the substance were violent and needed to be controlled.
The lasting effects of this campaign are still being felt today and remain prevalent amongst medical professionals, as well as the general public.
The endocannabinoid system
Professor Barnes went on to summarise the workings of the human endocannabinoid system (ECS), a system that covers a broad range of important roles within the body such as appetite, motor control, neurogenesis, neuroplasticity, memory, and analgesia to name a few.
He presented detailed neuroscientific information on how cannabis interacts with the ECS to help with these functions.
As cannabis is a “multi-chemical plant” it is difficult to run in a double-blind study, as opposed to a one to one compound test common in the pharmaceutical industry, Professor Barnes pointed out.
Some cite cost as a major concern when it comes to prescribing cannabis. However, Professor Barnes noted with cannabis prices currently sitting around £5 -£7 per gram and production costs around 40p per gram, it comes in much cheaper than other medications.
The NHS could negotiate the cost down further, making it a much more affordable solution than some of its counterparts.
Cost issues are being addressed through a scheme called Project Twenty21, a Drug Science-led observational study on the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis.
If enrolled in the project as a patient, you would receive subsidised medical cannabis prices in exchange for filling out a questionnaire every few months.
A patient on the panel, Emdad Khan, who is currently using prescribed medical cannabis shared how cannabis has significantly helped him with his depression and brought his creative side back.
Khan spoke of his experience of the process of joining a medical cannabis clinic and how he had found it fairly smooth and issue-free.
Katya Kowalski, head of operations at Volteface, an independent research and advocacy organisation that seeks to reduce the harm drugs pose to individuals and society, through evidence-based policy reform, talked about its recent work and the implications of its findings.
It seems that cannabis does not fit easily into the current healthcare system and that a lack of information about the practicalities of prescribing is affecting progress, as well as the long-term subconscious stigma not being addressed.
Volteface also found that early education is key to raising awareness amongst medical students. Training programmes and governance could be promoted and streamlined and appropriate prescribing must be a priority.
Ryan McCreanor, founder of Sativa Learning shared how the organisation is providing trusted education about cannabis and offering CPD accredited online courses in connection with industry experts.
The courses include CBD industry professional and medical cannabis. McCreanor played an important part in the rollout of the Canadian medical cannabis programme.
The UKMCCS, Volteface, Sativa Learning, and Drug Science are working to spread information and affect more positive policy change around prescribing medical cannabis in pursuit of helping patients improve their lives.
Barnes said the event was a “great day” with “a good turnout of a whole interested audience from many different backgrounds and specialties” and he “looks forward to doing it again in Belfast.”
If you are a professional or patient interested in more information about how to help move the industry forward or how to prescribe or receive a medical cannabis prescription, more information and support can be found through UKMCCS, Drug Science’s Project Twenty21, Volteface, and Sativa Learning.
The UKMCCS will also be hosting a similar event in Belfast in July 2022, tickets can be found here.
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