Growing Cannabis plants is still an offense in Britain, liable to end you in prison. As the rest of the World moves rapidly towards the complete legalization of Marijuana and marijuana products, it appears that as with many other things these days, the United Kingdom is lagging a long way behind.
On the 4th January as we slipped excitedly into the new decade, a police raid on the home of a 55-year-old grandmother and her partner, also 55, resulted in her being thrown in a police cell. The woman who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis had been received prescription Sativex for years before it was suddenly withdrawn by her doctor.
Sativex is a spray of formulated extract of the cannabis Sativa plant that contains the cannabinoids. It is delivered in an alcohol-based normally with a peppermint flavor. It is administered as a spray under the tongue or on the insides of the mouth cheeks to relieve pain in multiple sclerosis sufferers. It has been approved for use in over 25 countries but was recently withdrawn in Britain.
Sativex also comes under the name of nabiximols. It was the first medical marijuana medicine to be licensed in Britain. The drug can be legally prescribed for the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis related spasticity if a sufferer has shown an inadequate response to other symptomatic treatments. This includes their use causing intolerable side effects. Sativex may be also used in addition to other current anti-spasticity medication.
The Police Raid
The grandmother, Lesley Gibson was at home at 4 pm when police arrived at her home in January last year. In what surely must be seen as something of an overkill, 6 police officers arrived as though attending a serious raid rather than checking on someone growing cannabis. Ms. Gibson explained, “They arrived at 4 pm on January 19 last year – six police officers with blue lights flashing on their vans. My six-year-old granddaughter was in the house and she was absolutely traumatized. She was asking why the police were taking away her grandma.”
Ms. Gibson spent eight hours in a police cell. She was later charged along with her husband Mark with possession and cultivation of a class-B drug. After a stressful six months worrying that they might be jailed, The two people arrived at Carlisle crown court, only to find the Crown Prosecution Service had dropped the case.
No Prosecution but No Way Forward
Brendan Burke, prosecuting, conceded that Mr. and Mrs. Gibsons had only been growing cannabis at their home in Morton, Carlisle after her, much needed, Sativex medication was withdrawn.
He still insisted that the couple had in fact broken the law and stressed that they would be prosecuted if they did so again. This seems to be a cruel way of dealing with a woman who had been legally obtaining pain relief for 10 years before it was withdrawn on what seems to be purely cost grounds. The United Kingdon seems way out of step with its European counterparts once more. As Portugal and Luxembourg move to full legalization and Holland and Germany fully get to grips with the medical advantages of weed, Britain is once more going in a different direction.
An Uncertain Future
It appears that Ms. Gibon’s only routes now are to either risk breaking the law again by growing cannabis, suffer intolerable pain or pay and incredible £700 ($900) per month to receive a drug that she used to get for about £100 ($130) per year.
After the court case, Lesley said: “We had 10 small plants. They were in our spare room and produced just enough cannabis for me to treat my symptoms. To find myself in that situation was frightening, I’m a law-abiding person, I’ve never done anything dishonest in my life. It was cruel, horrible, wicked and pointless to pursue me and Mark for all these months and it’s taken a massive toll on my health.”
She has been a long term sufferer, having contracted the disease when she was just 19 years old. She used to have her own hairdressing business and was fully active. Now she is facing bankruptcy because the British government is so far out of step with other countries’ developing drug policies.
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UK 420 Rally goes Online
The UK 420 Organisers decided to go fully online with this year’s event. Amid the world pandemic that is curtailing all mass gatherings in all countries. Something had to change. 50,000 people attended last year’s rally in Hyde Park, London and organizers were hopeful of even higher numbers this year. But with the country in full lockdown and all mass gatherings banned, a different approach had to be sought.
UK 420 Business Plans a Virtual Event
Three of the main businesses behind the event, The High Club (THC) London, Volteface (the drug reform advocacy organization), and London Canna Group, launched the first virtual version of the event. Lead organizer, Marwan Elgamal commented, “This year’s annual 420 Hyde Park rally in London is going online. We are broadcasting a digital version of this year’s program to the thousands who usually turn up to the live event. Our aim is to continue to give the cannabis movement a platform to campaign on and spark online activism.”
Speakers from the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and the Greens.
Members of the British parliament representing all main parties are taking part. Labour MP Jeff Smith is a co-founder of the Labour Campaign for Drug Policy Reform. He stated, “Our cannabis laws are not fit for purpose, and the cannabis using community has an important role to play in bringing about the kind of change we’re seeing in other countries and US states. It’s time to end the stigmatization and criminalization of people who consume cannabis and adopt a harm reduction-focused approach. I’m impressed by the dynamism of campaigners, who are continuing to work on this issue through online activism.”
It has become noticeable in recent years that the drive for more lenient and accepting laws on cannabis has not just come from the left-wing parties. More and more we are seeing Conservative MPs in Britain willing to speak out for decriminalization and legalization of marijuana.
Crispin Blunt is the Conservative MP for Reigate, and Co-Chair of the APPG for Drug Policy Reform. He also sits as Chairman of the Conservative Drug Policy Reform Group. He said, “We have known for a long time that prohibition has seriously bad outcomes for society including health, crime, child protection, and exploitation and a large business handed straight over to criminals. This approach has failed, wasting police time and taxpayers’ money. Our approach to cannabis, and indeed all drug policy, should be able to proceed on the basis of the evidence.
UK Support for Legalization Grows as the World Shuts Down
The UK 420 movement is growing year on year and there is a general acceptance now that huge changes will be coming in the future. The world Covid-19 pandemic has slowed many legislative changes in countries from around the globe. The organizers of this event hope to keep the pressure on the government of the Uk whilst at the same time respecting the important social distancing and self-isolation rules that have been put in place.
The UK looks like having the worst Covid-19 figures in Europe and it is important that the cannabis industry respects the now strict measures that the government has enforced.
Liz McCulloch of Volteface, said: “4/20 is a celebration of the cannabis movement and a coming together of a community that has been plagued by stigma. We wanted to bring politicians together with this movement to rally, campaign and inspire a wave of activism, all through a virtual platform. This virtual event is the biggest political endorsement cannabis activism has ever received, and signals that cannabis is fast moving out of the margins and into the mainstream.”
The biggest polling company in the Uk is YouGov. Their polling data suggests that more than half of the UK population now agree with the full legalization of marijuana. Only 32% are opposed.
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Sheffield UK, No 1 for Illegal Cannabis Production?
In the UK, two police raids within 6 months of each other have uncovered two illegal cannabis production operations, within a few miles of each other. First, last summer, cannabis plants valued at £11,000 were discovered when police raided a house on a Sheffield estate.
South Yorkshire Police said at the time, “Criminal groups involved in the growing of cannabis are often involved in other serious organized crime and don’t care about the harm their activity can cause to the most vulnerable people in our society and this can often include the persons who are forced into their respective activities.
Massive Cannabis Production Operation inside a Supermarket
Then last week, cannabis plants valued at a staggering £1million were found in a supermarket. Following a tip-off, South Yorkshire Police officers found a huge cannabis farm in the store on Petre Street, also in Sheffield. They recovered around 1000 plants, each worth up to £1000.
A 47-year-old man was arrested on suspicion and has been released under investigation.
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2019 UK Cannabis Report: the Future
The UK Cannabis Report
New Data from the Prohibition Partner’s UK Cannabis Report show that global sales of cannabis are expected to grow by an immense 853% by the year 2024. It is hardly surprising in many ways. Wall Street has considered cannabis to be one of the hottest investments of the last generation.
The black market has, of course, developed into a multi-billion dollar industry over the last half a century. It is not a huge leap to envisage that this can be turned into a massive legal business. As many States in America legalize medical marijuana, other countries are starting to legalize the drug.
Canada legalized cannabis in October 2018 and since the United States started moving in the right direction, global sales have developed from $3.4 billion in 2014 to $10.8 billion by last year.
A huge increase in Global cannabis sales is expected. The UK Cannabis Report is forecasting an 8 fold increase which would see legal world cannabis sales reaches a staggering $103.9 Billion. Canada, as always ahead of the curve, will see companies like Canopy Growth, Aurora Cannabis, Aphria, and Tilray up among the leaders.
However, the big surprise comes in the fact that it is Europe, not North America that is expected to top the cannabis sales. Countries like Portugal and Luxembourg are leading the way in legalization. Whilst, of course, Holland has already got an enormous weed market. The huge populations across Europe will see monumental growth in legal weed sales.
Medical versus recreational
In the Uk, The law was changed on 1 November 2018 allowing clinicians on the Specialist Register of the General Medical Council to prescribe unlicensed cannabis-based products for medicinal use. They further ruled that no licenses would be required to prescribe CBPMs.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is an executive non-departmental public body of the Department of Health in the UK. They recommended that the National Institute of Health Research should support research in five priority research areas:
- Cannabidiol (CBD) as an add on treatment for adult patients with fibromyalgia or persistent treatment-resistant neuropathic pain
- CBPMs in chronic pain in children and young people
- CBPMs for people with spasticity 9
- CBD for severe treatment-resistant epilepsy in children, young people, and adults;
- The effect of adding Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in combination with CBD on seizure frequency, brain structure, and neurophysiological performance when compared with both CBD alone and placebo.
This gives up a clue as to the extent that medical uses for marijuana are very much moving into the mainstream. It is expected that medical use of marijuana will outpace recreational use significantly. Us growers are thus targeting Europe in a big way.
It is worth noting that the U.S. National Library of Medicine and Prohibition Partners states that some 564 clinical trials involving cannabis are currently ongoing worldwide. There are 343 located in the United States, 106 in Europe, 49 in Canada, and 35 in the Middle East.
Sometimes America sometimes appears to have to be kicked dragging and screaming into the future of drug use. The report predicts that it will legalize the recreational use of marijuana by 2024. Imagine the size of the business when pot is legal on a federal level. However, for every move against the legal marijuana trade, there is often another move fighting back. Recently two members of congress submitted a bill to help veterans regarding legal pot use.
The sheer volume of worldwide clinical trials and medical interest will dominate the argument for many years to come. It is inconceivable that as marijuana is proven to have beneficial uses, it will not become more widespread.
The black market will, of course, always be there. But as countries legalize it will diminish. It will never disappear but its share of the market value will decrease. It will though remain a problem that will have to be addressed. As governments realize the potential tax revenues that are to be had, the problems will continue. In California, users face a 45% tax. It does not take a genius to figure out why the black market continues to thrive there.
If the UK Cannabis Report is, as expected, accurate, the future looks very good indeed.