30 Mar 2021


Ever get the feeling you’re being cheated?

We live in an exciting time where cannabis legislation is slowly changing for the better in many countries year by year. As research continues, the stigma attached to this plant is fading. It has been proved without a doubt that it does indeed have a medicinal benefit and can safely replace many pharmaceutical drugs with substantial side effects and addictive qualities.
 In terms of recreational use, the story is the same. People from all walks of life are already using or considering using cannabis, seeing it as a safer, less addictive way to relax than other stimulants such as alcohol and tobacco. Others are taking advantage of the non-psychoactive benefits to their general wellness by harnessing the power of cannabinoids such as CBD and CBG.  This is the case across much of North America and Europe; however, it is a different story in Britain, where there is still much resistance to significant policy changes. Whilst it is true that in 2017 Medical cannabis was legalised in the UK, a whole heap of government-related red tape stops the people who need it from gaining access. Doctors are scared to prescribe it due to personal ignorance, cautiousness and a fundamental lack of knowledge on the subject. It seems crazy that whilst virtually all UK patients struggle to get access to medical cannabis via the NHS, the UK continues to be the largest exporter of medical-grade cannabis in the world! A fact confirmed by a UN report in 2018.  Most of this cannabis comes from a secretive government-backed greenhouse operation tucked away discreetly in the picturesque English countryside, about 2 hours outside London in East Anglia. This Grow farm that is roughly the size of 23 football pitches produces 90 tonnes of medical-grade cannabis for export a year. Until 2016 this site was used to grow tomatoes with the “upgrade” to a new crop being kept so quiet that the first anyone knew about it was when residents in nearby Downham Market and other local villages nearby started complaining about potent cannabis smells in 2017.  The only public announcement that site owners “British Sugar” made was to update their website. In the update they announced that they would be using this site, the largest greenhouse in Britain, to produce what they called “a key ingredient” for a medicine called “epidiolex” a cannabidiol (CBD) based drug that can prevent seizures, sold by GW Pharmaceuticals. In what most would consider a purposely under publicised move it appears that in 2016 British Sugar was granted a home office licence to grow a non-psychoactive strain of cannabis. However, whether this is strictly still, the case is up for debate. It has since been disclosed that cannabis grown at the Norfolk site is also used to manufacture an anti-spasticity drug called Sativex, which has a ratio of 1:1 in terms of CBD and the psychoactive cannabinoid THC. It is no surprise that in light of this situation, the British government has come under fire for hypocritically profiting from this double standard. For so long they have claimed in law, that cannabis should be treated as a class B drug with no medicinal or scientific value whilst in complete contrast, producing half the worlds medical supply. The plot only thickens when you look at the close links that this business endeavour has with the ruling conservative party. Victoria Atkins was the backbench MP who announced that British Sugar had acquired a licence to grow medicinal cannabis at the Norfolk greenhouse to the Houses of Parliament in 2016. She currently holds a government post in the home office as “Minister for Safeguarding”. Ms Atkins husband is also the MD of British Sugar, Paul Kenward. Closer to home still is the fact that GW Pharmaceuticals leading investor is the US-based “Capital Group” where former Prime Minister Theresa May’s husband, Phillip May has been a relationship manager for over ten years! Theresa May was the serving Prime Minister between 2016-2019 when British Sugars’ growing licence was granted. There is no doubt that Britain is lagging behind many other countries when it comes to cannabis reform. The law to make Medicinal cannabis legal was brought in with much fanfare but turned out to be far from the revolution many thought it would be. The amount of cannabis products available in Britain is slim, and with access to prescriptions so challenging to obtain, It doesn’t feel like much has changed at all.  British patients miss out on the benefits of medicinal cannabis. Simultaneously, the government and private companies profit from exporting it worldwide, in enormous volumes for other countries to put to good use. This arrangement seems wholly unfair and unjust to the British people and shows that in some ways, we have a long way to go before we get the cannabis reform and acceptance that we want.