Over the last few months, thanks to a little help from Norman Lamb MP, whom I engaged a while back - Read about that here and Baroness "Medical Molly" Meacher and one or two others (you know who you are - thank-you!), I have been embroiling myself in all things Hemp and CBD. I will write about the progress being made with the authorities in another article, along with my personal interpretation of their current guidance, which boils down to a broad holding pattern until they can get around to actually doing something about it - which will, in all likelihood take 18-24 months with their current priorities and resources:
- Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)
- Food Standards Agency (FSA)
- European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA)
- Home Office
Today, however, I wanted to talk about having met and communicated with a dozen or so CBD-Rich Hemp product vendors and producers on behalf United Patients Alliance, our patients and supporters. Hundreds to go......
I have seen the great and the good along with the worst. It is a bit of a minefield out there. There are huge business opportunities in this nascent and legally ambiguous industry and this has attracted unscrupulous people and organisations whose only priority is profit along with well meaning people with lots to learn about product quality. There are also great people doing great things in the right way. We only want to talk about and work with those who put patients, customers and integrity first:
Whilst non-inclusion does NOT mean there is anything wrong, as this is an ongoing process, United Patients Alliance are building our own list of Preferred Suppliers based on product quality, information accuracy, values, integrity, compassion, openness and investment in the future of the whole industry:
I am happy to say that, so far, we can fully approve of and indeed, recommend to our supporters:
I would also add that whilst we have yet to talk directly with the following vendors, we are happy that they demonstrate the values we are looking for and we believe their products can be trusted:
There are many other great vendors selling these products and we welcome recommendations on our forums or via email/message. If you are a vendor and would like to be added to our list of preferred and approved companies then please get in touch too: firstname.lastname@example.org
Some people might question what United Patients Alliance are gaining by approving companies and products and whether this is right, given that we do and must remain neutral. This is a fair question, which I would like to answer:
Firstly, we are, always have been and always will be, not-for-profit. Any funds we gain from anything we ever do is to allow us to better support patients and fight for legal access to cannabis therapeutics. We have resisted doing this as an organisation for a long time, but the reality is, that if we are to become more effective and carry even more weight to those people who can make change happen, we need to raise funds.
Secondly, we were receiving an alarming increase in questions from patients and supporters about CBD products and could see that the market is unregulated and confusing, not to mention expensive. We felt that if we could speak to vendors directly then we would be in a position to provide good information to those who were concerned.
Lastly - Since patients are going to be buying these products anyway (because they work!) we can get our supporters a compassionate discount, whilst directing some of the profits of the rapidly growing CBD industry into the campaign for legal access to cannabis. We hope that makes sense?
Meeting CBD Brothers
I wanted to focus this blog on my meeting with the CBD Brothers whom we had heard so much about and not all of it good! I was about to spend half a day at their farm in Suffolk and really had no idea what to expect:
It was a long and windy drive for which I was grateful for the specific and detailed directions - you wouldn't find this place by accident. No signs anywhere! Pulling into the small driveway, thanks to a tall fence, I still couldn't see much, so I approached the gate and rang the bell. Then through the sound of dogs barking; "Hey Jon, just a minute..." and a few moments later, I finally met Ben - and their dogs :)
My eyes scanned the farm now that I could see it properly: New, rather large prefab building flanked with a couple of portaloos overlooking a few farm animals and some impressive vegetables growing in boxes. Ben showed me around talking about their goal of running the whole business using sustainable farming, zero emissions and producing their own power. Ok - So these peeps really are something rather different from all the CBD companies I had seen so far: They have a philosophy - their intent is to do good - lots of it, sustainably and without damaging our planet in the process.
The other thing that was immediately apparent was the welcoming and friendly spirit of everybody I saw busying about and getting things done. They seemed more like a family than a bunch of employees. I was already very comfortable here......and now I had a nice mug of tea too!
Unfortunately I was unable to meet both brothers as Andrew was busy in Spain building what will be a Cannabis retreat/ laboratory and social club where people will be able to research and treat any condition they may have using Cannabis, with licensing complete they hope to be up and running by the end of the summer. Not to worry though as Ben and I, along with 4 or 5 others from time to time talked about attitudes, histories, values and goals whilst intermittently playing musical cars in their small driveway ;) We also discussed some of the challenges being faced and was delighted to hear that of primary concern to Ben and CBDBrothers was patients. Everything else, starts from there - just like United Patients Alliance. Everything else was product quality, effectiveness, research and business integrity - all things that are seriously lacking in the nascent CBD-Rich Hemp Oil industry. I also saw how much product they actually give away both as free samples and as gifts to deserving local and national patients who could otherwise not afford to buy their own.
Before I go and see any company on behalf of UPA, I do my research and many questions and challenges had been raised about CBDBrothers which I wanted to get answers for. It really didn't take long to be utterly reassured that pretty much every stone thrown at them was complete and utter unsubstantiated, inaccurate garbage - that's my professional opinion - but even my opinion doesn't really matter when you have just seen all the collaborative direct communications between CBDBrothers and the authorities, such as the MHRA. They are following the guidelines given to them directly. Not ones interpreted by others.
There are organisations making all sorts of claims about influence and authority with regulatory bodies and making legality claims about some vendors products. All I will say about that in this article is that you should be VERY sceptical of any organisation making such claims - the MHRA have stated in writing that they have not and never will abdicate any of their regulatory responsibilities to any trade organisation and would take a dim view should any organisation make such a claim.
Ben and Andrew recognise that there have been some issues that have needed to be addressed. They had a serious website issue, where customer data was briefly exposed, but there have been no reports of any consequences and the issue was reported and stopped immediately and fixed. There have been questions about the clarity of their product labelling, some questions over responsiveness to emails; and again they have taken the feedback on board and are making improvements to their systems and processes all of the time. I have no doubt they are committed to their customer and patient satisfaction - and in reality, the overwhelming customer feedback is very positive. They accept feedback, take ownership of any issues and fix them. As a former IT Manager, I was suitably impressed at their response to an issue.
So, all challenges dismissed and addressed, Ben showed me the rest of their operation including their brand new, state of the art and fully equipped lab - unfortunately the professional chemist who runs the lab was not there but again, I was not in any doubt about CBDBrother's commitment to product quality and accuracy and furthering product research.
We started to talk about how we might collaborate and Ben told me about the two local schools who CBDBrothers had bought a load of new sports equipment for who were planning an educational visit to their farm and the local Women's Institute who came over to find out "What this local cannabis business was all about" along with the attitude you might have expected who are now helping to promote their products because they work so well. Then I learnt about their sponsorship and support for Junior CBD Ambassador and Olympic hopeful, Geordie:
"Geordie is a classified para archer and is working towards inclusion in a GB Para Squad. Geordie is dedicated to his sport and finds both the physical and mental aspects of competing to be fabulously therapeutic for his myriad of life changing medical conditions."
You can read more here about Geordie's Olympic Bid here.
What a fantastic day, getting to know the CBDBrothers family; making friends and restoring some faith in humanity with the very best values that the future cannabis industry can offer.
As far as I and United Patients Alliance are concerned, on attitudes, friendliness, product quality, integrity, goals and intentions - CBD Brothers are an excellent and unique example of Patient/Customer First
We are really happy to be planning some fab collaborations to be announced shortly - and if you like, come along to UPAs AGM in Birmingham on September 30th and meet them?
Details about compassionate discounts can be found here: Cannabinoid Rich Hemp Food Supplements
If you are looking for unbiased, experienced guidance on CBD-Rich Hemp Oil Products from other consumers, we recommend you start here on Facebook: CBD CONSUMER GROUP UK/EU
Jon Liebling – Political Director of United Patients Alliance
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