The Problem with Cannabis in the UK at the Moment (it isn’t the cannabis)
Society is getting to the point – gradually – where we cannot ignore the evidence for much longer about the real benefits of the cannabis plant. Since the 1990s, research has been slowly ramped up to give us more and more evidence about cannabis and the substances which make it up, so much so that the time is coming where it can no longer be overlooked.
We are being sent mixed messages from the authorities about cannabis, THC and CBD and this is simply not fair. That is not to say that it is done on purpose, just that there seems to a lot of confusion about cannabis and that, frankly, the authorities are unable to keep up with it.
Those with an astute interest in the cannabis and CBD industry will be aware that a vegan restaurant in Brighton who was one of the first people to start selling CBD infused food has been shut down and raided. Of course, there are always two sides to every story, but it would appear that they were being accused of selling Class B drugs, there is seemingly little evidence to suggest that they were selling anything other than CBD products.
CBD and THC – what’s the deal?
Within the cannabis plant, there are a number of compounds. Two of the main ones are known as cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). These are known as cannabinoids and have only relatively been discovered by scientists who were looking into the effects of cannabis.
Technology has meant that we are now able to separate out these compounds and look at them – and their effect on us – individually. From this research, scientists have discovered a whole new system in the body – the endocannabinoid system – which helps to regulate a number of biological factors including the immune system, the central nervous system, body temperature and some aspects of the digestive system.
Whilst we are able to see that these cannabinoids can have a (sometimes) significant effect on the body, we are still waiting for more research to be carried out before we can start to make medicinal claims.
CBD and THC are very similar in molecular structure but actually can have very different effects on the body due to their relationships with different parts of the endocannabinoid system. For example, THC can bind to the CB1 receptors, offering many health benefits, but also sending a message to the brain that gives you that famous marijuana ‘high’. CBD, on the other hand, interacts with (but does not bind to) the CB2 receptor affecting the way that it works, and therefore offering different health benefits and absolutely not making you feel high.
As a result of this research, we have seen in the UK:
- a) A legalisation of CBD
- b) THC in levels above 0.2% being illegal and therefore getting a reputation of being a ‘recreational drug’ and therefore bad
- c) A strange limbo where CBD producers can advertise it as a food supplement to make you feel healthier, but being unable to make any medicinal claims
- d) A rising number of high street shops and restaurants selling CBD products or food
- e) Massive British pharmaceutical companies being legally allowed to produce ‘medical marijuana’ products – which are mostly exported – with high THC and CBD levels, available on prescription for a very low number of people
- f) The inability of patients – or their parents (as these are often used to treat children) to get hold of these medications due to the lack of training and reluctance of the medical profession to prescribe these legal medications
And, as you can imagine, this is creating quite a confusion amongst the general public.
The closure of Canna Kitchen
It appears that Canna Kitchen, a vegan restaurant in Brighton seems to have fallen victim of this immense confusion. The restaurant was launched when the law changed in November 2018 to become one of the first of its kind in the UK to serve CBD infused food to the general public.
According to its director, the police and the UK Trading Standards Agency had both been approached and confirmed that they were ok to open. Only to find themselves a few months later being accused
of dealing Class B drugs.
The restaurant maintains that there has been a confusion between the CBD rich products that they have – with legal THC levels – and illegal marijuana – which is high in THC.
Regardless of the legalities of the substance that the restaurant was using this highlights the whole situation which is facing those who want to produce, sell, buy or use cannabis-derived products.
Cannabis oil Mums
Only today (7th June) we have seen another mother who is having to take life-changing decisions to get their child the medication that they need. The case of Julie Galloway  highlights just how difficult it is for parents of very sick children to get hold of medication which can change the quality of life for their children many times over.
She has found it impossible to find a doctor who will prescribe the cannabis oil (which is legal in the UK) and now feels that she has no other option than to move to live in the Netherlands. These mixed signs from the authorities are at best frustrating, infuriating and heartbreaking for parents – as well as pushing many to break the law.
Lack of Long Term Research
One of the main arguments that come from the authorities with regards to cannabis and its derived products is that there just isn’t enough research to back up the medicinal claims. The fact that it is only recently that cannabis has begun to be properly investigated means we are lacking evidence, especially on its long term effects on people.
However, what is difficult to accept is the lack of clarity and apparent mixed messages that are being sent out.
Why did the authorities give a CBD kitchen the right to open, and then shut them down before checking THC levels in their cannabis (or hemp as claimed by them) stock?
Why are medicinal marijuana products legal to prescribe while doctors don’t have the knowledge and training for them to be comfortable prescribing it?
The two cases above are typical cases, but they are not the only ones. Regardless of the specific circumstances around each one, the issue still remains – there is a noticeable lack of clarity, and indeed a perceived double standard around the legal cannabis industry.
A plant with (apparently) so much potential, of course, must be thoroughly investigated before making it available across the market, however, for many of these (often) children who could potentially benefit from CBD, THC or a mixture of the two, the problem is now. With the lure of the knowledge that they are available now but hitting a brick wall in actually getting a prescription this almost seems to be mocking.
It is understandable that we must endeavour to get the legal authorities working alongside advances in the CBD and cannabis industry. However, this doesn’t seem to be happening properly, and it appears that this is where we are seeing so much confusion for producers and those who are wanting to sell it, those who can prescribe it, people who want to consume it and even those who are meant to be policing it.
For us to be able to move forward it is important that we get some sort of clarity of what we can and can’t do and say with cannabis, CBD and THC. Only then will we feel that we are able to take advantage of the benefits that the cannabis plant has to offer us.