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Philip Antony Bevington: “The law is unjust, inhumane and lacking in compassion”

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Philip Antony Bevington has been using cannabis to treat his chronic kidney disease since 2018.

An 81-year-old pensioner, who grew cannabis to treat his chronic kidney disease, has described UK law as “unjust” and “inhumane”.

When Cannabis Health first spoke to Philip Antony Bevington in September 2020, the then 80-year-old had just found out that charges were being brought against him for growing cannabis at his home in Cornwall.

Philip – who is better known to many as Tony – was anxiously awaiting a court date, uncertain of what the future held.

He said he was unable to eat properly, couldn’t stop shaking and had been prescribed antidepressants for the stress.

Tony, who had spent a decade working as a paramedic in London before moving to the Cornwall countryside to raise a family and becoming a fully self-sufficient agricultural farmer, was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (CKD) in 2018. 

With no other treatment options available Tony began researching cannabis.

“The state I was in the only options were dialysis and then a kidney transplant – but at my age I was never going to get a transplant. I was essentially facing death,” he said

“I started researching extensively and found a Canadian report that said there were suspected benefits from intake of cannabis for CKD.

“I learned about homeostasis and the endocannabinoid system and I thought if my body is out of balance and my kidneys are diseased, maybe I can balance my body out again.”

But unable to obtain a prescription legally and wanting to avoid the illicit market, Tony used his existing agricultural skills to grow his own medicine.

The cannabis improved his blood readings – something which his doctors said couldn’t be done – and he was able to lead a relatively pain-free and normal life.

Then in November 2019, Tony answered the door to two police officers who had information that he was growing cannabis there. Despite his immediate cooperation and explanation that it was his medicine he claims they “weren’t interested”.

“I took them to see it straight away – it was saving my life, I felt justified,” he recalled.

“I have to live with the fact that when I said it was my medicine the police officer didn’t care.”

After his crop was confiscated Tony felt he had no choice but to start growing again in order to maintain a consistent supply of medicine. But in January 2020 his home was raided again and six months later he was charged.

Tony pleaded guilty to cultivation and on 22 January, 2021 was handed a two-year suspended sentence.

Since October 2020 he has had a legal prescription for medical cannabis through the Drug Science’s Project Twenty21. His blood readings are now 40 (up from 26 when he was first diagnosed) and he has little to no pain.

But he claims the court failed to take this into account, with the prosecuting barrister admitting he had “never seen one of those before” when presented with Tony’s prescription. 

“The law doesn’t differentiate, I was treated like a criminal and I became aware of how unfair the courts are,” Tony said, speaking to Cannabis Health again from his Cornwall home last week.

“I pleaded guilty so I didn’t get a chance to explain my story. I felt silenced.

“I do feel that that the whole process is extraordinarily unjust, inhumane and lacking in compassion.”

Tony could have appealed his conviction or requested a jury trial, but he felt the added stress on top of his existing health issues wasn’t worth the risk.

“I did take the easy option, which the courts hoped I would, but I’m not much of a gambler and I thought it was the best option I had,” he continued.

“If I had chosen to fight it, I might have won eventually but it would have been another couple of years at least and I wasn’t sure I could survive that stress. 

“These people are far more powerful than we are.”

But the experience has encouraged Tony to find his voice in other ways.

A campaign was launched in September calling for the charges against him to be dropped, spearheaded by cannabis activist group We The Undersigned and backed by thousands of supporters – many of whom remain outraged by his conviction. 

“I’ve made hundreds of new friends and the support has been wonderful. In many ways I don’t feel that I deserve all the applause I’ve got,” said Tony.

“I’ve become much more vocal. Everybody knows about my cannabis consumption now, I’ve nothing to lose and if they are going to vilify an 81-year-old man then so be it. 

“I guess I’ve always been inclined to help the underdog. Even though there’s six million cannabis users in this country we’re still the underdog, we’re still demonised.”

He has even written to the Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland on several occasions to highlight the “injustice” and “lack of compassion” in UK law.

“The law is outdated,” Tony said.

“The science says that cannabis has medicinal properties, but the law is still working on the 2005 precedent that there is no case for the medical necessity for cannabis.

“It’s as if they are blinkered and can’t see that their actions are actually supporting the illegal activities and the criminals.

“I’m an advocate for freedom of choice. I’d like to see cannabis legalised, available as a medicine on the NHS and for people be allowed to grow up to 12 plants for personal consumption.”

Tony is now hopeful that when lockdown restrictions are eased he can begin to travel the UK as an activist and share his story with sceptics to “dispel” the “lies and untruths” peddled about cannabis.

“I’m pretty fit and healthy now, but without the cannabis I’d be either severely disabled and reliant on dialysis or I’d be dead,” he added.

“You have to come out and be counted, it’s the only way we’re ever going to win.”

 

Cannabis Health has approached the Crown Prosecution Service for comment.

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Six big cannabis sector stories you might have missed this week

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It’s been another week of big news in the cannabis world.

At Cannabis Health, our in depth coverage of the ongoing growth of cannabis as a medical and wellness product continues

Meanwhile, over at Cannabis Wealth, we’ve been following all the big industry and policy news in a week which has seen some important developments..

Been busy and want to get caught up in a hurry?

Here are the six things you need to read to stay in the loop this week.

1. Reprieve for medical cannabis patients

The Department of Health has reached an agreement with Dutch officials to extend the supply of medical cannabis oils to existing patients in the UK until 2022.

Medical cannabis patients, living with severe, life-threatening epilepsy were left without access to medication when the UK left the EU at the end of last year.

Medical cannabis

Families, whose children are prescribed Bedrocan oils in the UK but must obtain their prescription through the Transvaal pharmacy in the Netherlands, were given two weeks notice that their medication could no longer be dispensed following the end of the Brexit transition period on 31, December 2020.

Read the full story.

2. UK largest’s medical cannabis trial reports back

The first findings from the UK’s largest medical cannabis patient study show quality of life improved by more than 50 percent.

Preliminary results from Drug Science’s Project Twenty21 study, have found medical cannabis significantly improves quality of life for people with life-limiting conditions such as chronic pain, multiple sclerosis (MS) Tourette’s syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Published on Tuesday 11 May, the report is the first real-world data to be collected on medical cannabis in the UK.

Read more here.

3. Harrowing first-hand account of medical cannabis user
Diagnosed with a personality disorder and experiencing debilitating anxiety which left him housebound, Craig – whose name has been changed – had exhausted all treatment options and was losing all hope.
He speaks about how medical cannabis helped save his life here.

4. CBD market set to shrink

The UK’s CBD sector looks set to shrink significantly as the roll out of new regulations continues to batter the industry.

The FSA has confirmed to Cannabis Wealth it received applications for 803 different CBD products – but only 42 have been advanced to the next stage of the process so far.

More than half of all applications (445) were ‘incomplete’ and a further 41 have been withdrawn altogether.

Read the full story here.

5. CBD not linked to single doping case

CBD has not been linked to a single failed drugs test in UK sport despite fears about the undeclared levels of THC in some products.

The World Anti-Doping Agency removed the cannabinoid from its banned substances list in 2017 and since then several high profile athletes have publicly endorsed CBD products.

Even though CBD – which has no psychoactive properties – is not banned, the UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) still warns athletes to be cautious with treatments.

Read our exclusive report here.

6. School’s out for cannabis class

The first class on a pioneering university medical cannabis course have concluded their first year of studies.

The research programme at the Humboldt-Universitat zu Berlin examines the medical and nutritional uses of cannabis, production and the legal and economic frameworks of the business.

It’s the latest sign that medical cannabis is becoming a part of the mainstream education offering and a positive indication that new industry leaders will emerge in the coming years.

Full story here.

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Science finds a way for medical cannabis to relieve pain without side effects

Researchers have developed a molecule that allows THC to fight pain without the side effects.

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Medical cannabis
Many people living with chronic pain have found that cannabis can provide relief. 

Scientists may have developed a molecule which could allow medical cannabis to provide pain relief without any side effects.

Many people live with chronic pain, and in some cases, cannabis can provide relief. 

But the drug also can significantly impact memory and other cognitive functions. 

Now, researchers have developed a peptide that, in mice, allowed THC to fight pain without the side effects.

According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) around 20 percent of adults in the states experienced chronic pain in 2019. 

In some studies, medical cannabis has been helpful in relieving pain from migraines, neuropathy, cancer and other conditions, but the side effects can present hurdles for widespread therapeutic use.

Previously, researchers identified two peptides [molecules which are made up of amino acids] that disrupt an interaction between a receptor that is the target of THC and another that binds serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates learning, memory and other cognitive functions. 

When the researchers injected the peptides into the brains of mice, the mice had fewer memory problems caused by THC. 

Now, this team, led by Rafael Maldonado, David Andreu and colleagues, has gone one step further to improve these peptides to make them smaller, more stable, orally active and able to cross the blood-brain barrier.

Based on data from molecular dynamic simulations, the researchers designed two peptides that were less than half the length of the original ones but preserved their receptor binding and other functions. 

They also optimised the peptide sequences for improved cell entry, stability and ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. 

Then, the researchers gave the most promising peptide to mice orally, along with a THC injection, and tested the mice’s pain threshold and memory. 

Mice treated with both THC and the optimised peptide reaped the pain-relieving benefits of THC and also showed improved memory compared with mice treated with THC alone. 

Importantly, multiple treatments with the peptide did not evoke an immune response. 

Reporting in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, researchers say that these findings suggest the optimised peptide is an ideal drug candidate for reducing cognitive side effects from cannabis-based pain management.

The abstract that accompanies this paper can be viewed here.

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Dutch Government to supply medical cannabis for UK patients until 2022

The Department of Health has reached an agreement to continue the supply of Bedrocan oils

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The Dutch Government will supply medical cannabis to UK patients until 2022

The Department of Health has reached an agreement with Dutch officials to extend the supply of medical cannabis oils to existing patients in the UK until 2022.

Medical cannabis patients, living with severe, life-threatening epilepsy were left without access to medication when the UK left the EU at the end of last year. 

Families, whose children are prescribed Bedrocan oils in the UK but must obtain their prescription through the Transvaal pharmacy in the Netherlands, were given two weeks notice that their medication could no longer be dispensed following the end of the Brexit transition period on 31, December 2020. 

After outrage from campaigners, the Dutch government agreed to continue supplying the life-saving products until 1 July, 2021 while a more permanent solution was reached.

This waiver period has now been extended until 1 January, 2022.

Health ministers promised to work with officials in the Netherlands to find a “long-term” solution, but according to those at the forefront of the campaign, there is still “some way to go”.

Hannah Deacon and son Alfie Dingley

Hannah Deacon’s son Alfie Dingley, who is prescribed Bedrocan products for a rare form of epilepsy, recently celebrated one year seizure-free.

In a letter to Deacon on Thursday 13 May, the DofH said it was working with the Dutch government, Bedrocan and the Transvaal pharmacy to proceed as “quickly as possible” with the UK production of these medicines.

It added that domestic production is “complex” and that manufacturing “unlicensed herbal medicines” comes with “significant challenges”. 

Deacon said that the UK production of Bedrocan products was the “only solution”.

While other cannabis-based medicines are available in the UK, experts have warned that there is ‘significant variation’ from one product to the next and switching an epilepsy patient’s treatment could be ‘life-threatening’.

“With the 1 July deadline for Bedrolite supply to cease from the Netherlands looming ever closer, we made it clear we wanted an extension to the agreement to stop the situation becoming dangerous for Alfie and the other patients receiving this vital medicine,” commented Deacon.

“The long term solution of Bedrocan products being made in the UK still has some way to go, but it can be the only solution and we thank everyone who is working very hard to achieve this. 

“This is still a long way off from being okay, but for now we have the pressure taken off on the supply issue.”

With limited access to medical cannabis on the NHS, families are still calling for the Government to help fund their children’s prescriptions, which can cost thousands of pounds each month.

Deacon added: “The ever-pressing issue of financial burden on the many families and patients wishing to use medical cannabis in the UK remains and this is a huge issue which needs dealing with.

“There are many ways in which the Government could step in and help access for very vulnerable people and we will continue working as hard as we can to make things better for all.”

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