Cannabidiol (CBD) is a derivative of cannabis that doesn’t make you stoned but is used medicinally. The official line of the UK government is that it is not true that cannabis is medicine, despite 25 of these United States considering it so. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which is overseen by the Department of Health, has written to vendors of cannabidiol to instruct them to cease selling it within 28 days because it has been designated a medicine. More than 30 companies in the United Kingdom purvey CBD. Tony Calamita, director of one, CBD Oils UK, complained, “We’ve been given 28 days to cease trading, which is disgusting.”
Medicines must undergo clinical trials before they can be sold. But the Home Office regards cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 and absent therapeutic value. Medical research into cannabis is permitted only with special dispensation, making it considerably harder.
CBD is one of the 113 cannabinoids present in cannabis. Trials have suggested that CBD from cannabis is medicine that it is effective against arthritis, cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder and psychosis. It is believed to also help with period pains, depression and anxiety (read about it all here).
How to get approval
If cannabis is medicine and gained MHRA approval, it would have to be subject to comprehensive, double-blind, randomised clinical trials involving hundreds of people, taking years. Applying for a licence costs pounds in their tens of thousands – one estimate put the figure at £103,000 – while managing trials can cost millions.
Cannabis is medicine several times over. Big Pharma, in the shape of GW Pharmaceuticals, is conducting a trial into the treatment of Dravet syndrome, an uncommon kind of childhood epilepsy, using CBD. The MediPen, a CBD vaporiser that has benefited thousands of people suffering from diverse conditions, has been on sale for a year and is now being tested by the NHS. Sativex, again by GW Pharmaceuticals, is a peppermint-flavoured mouth spray employed in the treatment of multiple sclerosis and cancer pain that contains equal amounts of CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol, which does make you stoned; it is also being trialled with other conditions.
Smaller vendors, however, will be unable to afford the rigmarole of approval. As a spokesperson for the drug policy campaign group, VolteFace, put it, “Smaller companies will be shut down, leaving the whole field to Big Pharma.”
What this means
Craig Swiftson, a social media marketing consultant, spelt out the implications: “This is terrible. I need to know if it is going to be legal to access. It is currently the only thing keeping my mother off of amyltryptaline for her fibromyalgia, a condition that affects around 30,000 people in the UK. Amyltriptaline has a number of unpleasant and unwanted side effects that CBD just doesn’t have.”
There is just possibly no cause for alarm. Chris Mackenzie, who runs CBD Tardis in Glasgow, contacted local police to enquire whether he would be arrested for selling CBD products once the 28 days is up and was told he wouldn’t. He asked, “Will they arrest me and make me the first #CBDCriminal? We will have to see.”