Last September 13th United Patients Alliance along with Professor Mike Barnes and the APPG for Drug Policy Reform published the results of their Inquiry into Cannabis as Medicine which you can read all about here: APPG Medicinal Cannabis Inquiry

On September 13th 2017 the APPG kicked off the new Parliamentary session with some very special guests to talk about what's in their plans over the next 12 to 24 months.

I went along with Alex Fraser and Leo Cameron from UPA and Dr Henry Fisher from Hanway Associates/Volteface - and we were all sat right next to Paul Flynn MP too!

Nice to see you again!It wasn't immediately obvious why the particular guest speakers were chosen together, once the conversation got started, the mist started to clear....

 

First we heard from Owen Bowden-Jones who took over as Chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs from Les Iversen on Jan 1st. He talked about the recent letter that they had received from the Home Secretary setting out their priorities for the next two years.

The full letter can be read here: ACMD Work Programme 2017-2019 but the main points are:

  • Legitimate use of controlled drugs: research and healthcare
  • The Review of the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016
  • Vulnerability, drug misuse and imprisonment
  • Review Safe Custody Regulations and Consolidation of Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001
  • Fentanyl and its analogues
  • Licences for administration/supply of diamorphine, dipipanone and cocaine to treat addiction

Now at first glance. there doesn't look like there is too much positive news regarding cannabis! But one needs to look closer. In fact a couple of questions to this end were asked by Molly Meacher:

"Do you see the current regime for scheduling of controlled drugs to be within your remit for review?"

Owen Bowden-Jones -

"I feel that it is necessary to review the legitimate use of controlled drugs from end to end - So yes, absolutely we will be looking closely at the scheduling of drugs and how they effect both research and healthcare"

Owen was then asked about whether the ACMD take both the risks and the benefits of substances into account when looking at overall harms caused. His answer did not get the most supportive of responses from the room

"The ACMD's remit is limited to looking at the harms that come from the misuse of drugs and not to look at any benefits"

This is, of course, an issue all by itself, but the next insightful and key question from Molly received a much more hopeful answer: 

"Will you take into account relative harms, when there is evidence that the use of a more harmful substance is reduced or replaced with another - such in the case of US states who have a very serious Opiate problem seemingly being mitigated through access to cannabis?"

 

 

Owen responded

"Yes, we will be looking at and advising on that as part of our investigations especially whilst we look at the specific problems with Fentanyl and its analogues"

You may not think that is much, but from a government advice and future policy perspective, this is HUGE! The ACMD have never been asked to review these aspects in this way and whilst I would say that Owen comes across as a very cautious, pragmatic and careful Chair - He seems more motivated and driven by science than political correctness.

Of course, Owen holds some very firm views about our existing policies and processes around Medicines and their need for approval in the right way and as such is not currently very supportive of cannabis as medicine and pointed out that one cannabis based medicine had been given approval!

Enter - Columbia Care - A Patient Centred Healthcare Company setting the standard of care for medical marijuana in the US and around the world. To all intents and purposes, they are the biggest Cannabis Pharmaceutical Company in the world - and they are doing things rather differently than most existing Pharma Companies.

We heard from Mike Abbott (Exec Chairman), Nicholas Vita (CEO) and Rose Mazanet (Research Chief) who talked about how the US and other countries around the world had found a way to approve cannabis for medical treatments without compromising any existing processes, but creating a new one. They discusses their 40000 pain patients and how they had been helped.

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Then to wrap things up all nice and tidily both Owen and Columbia Care talked about how enlightening to all, was the meeting they had all had that morning with theMHRA - Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency - who we understand are happy to be looking at some of the suggestions from Columbia care and from around the world - They seem quite keen to work on some potential solutions.........assuming our Government request such a thing?

This time last year there was a very big problem identified with getting the relevant agencies working together to make sure that our government can be given advice which all ties together with no gaps - It's these gaps that our government can continue to use to avoid addressing the concerns raised.

This year - Those gaps are getting filled up with science and soon, there will be nowhere left for them to run!

Jon Liebling – Political Director of United Patients Alliance

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