Last Week in Weed Issue 44

In this week’s Last Week in Weed, UK study claims cannabis consumers are more likely to be depressed, European use up 27%, and Ireland set to fund CannEpil.

Last Week in Weed


Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog written by Simpa

In this week’s issue of Last Week in Weed, We’ll be looking at a new UK study that claims cannabis consumers are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, Research shows European cannabis use up 27% since 2010, and finally, Ireland set to receive its first fully-funded ‘medical cannabis’ product under the ‘Medical Cannabis Access Program’


UK study claims cannabis consumers are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.

First, up this week, let’s look at a new retrospective study released last week in the ‘Psychological Medicine Journal’ published by Cambridge University Press. In this new study researchers from the University of Birmingham’s ‘Institute for Mental Health’ and ‘The Institute for Applied Health Research’ explored the ‘Associations between primary care recorded cannabis use and mental ill health in the UK’ 

Cannabis is often considered to be one of the ‘safer’ drugs and has also shown promise in medical therapies, leading to calls for it be legalised globally. Although we are unable to establish a direct causal relationship, our findings suggest we should continue to exercise caution since the notion of cannabis being a safe drug may well be mistaken.” – Senior author Dr. Clara Humpston

For the study, the team used primary care data taken over 23 years between 1995 – 2018 from 787 English and Welsh GP Practices from the IQVIA Medical Research Database (IMRD-UK). The researchers then selected 28,218 patients that consumed cannabis and compared them to 56,208 non-consuming patients.

After adjusting the data for sex, age, ethnicity, and other control variables the team concluded that after a patient’s ‘first recorded cannabis use’ they were three times more likely to report experiencing a mental health issue like anxiety or depression. They also claim that the same metadata analysis showed a seven-fold increase in the likelihood of being diagnosed with a serious mental health condition such as psychosis or schizophrenia.

The research reaffirms the need to ensure a public health approach to recreational drug use continues to be adopted across the UK. We must continue to progress measures to improve the prevention and detection of drug use as well as implement the appropriate supportive measures in an equitable manner to prevent the secondary negative health consequences.” – Dr Joht Singh Chandan

It is clear from the above statement and this paper as a whole that the team has approached this with a certain intrinsic bias towards the idea that cannabis is bad. They have not taken into consideration a multitude of other factors and fluctuating variables here. Firstly, they fail to consider the detrimental impact on the consumer’s mental health by being shunned, demonised, and ultimately risking serious criminalisation for their personal choice. 

Secondly, the negative impact of being vilified and ostracised for acting in accordance with one’s own morals and ethics can, and too often does lead to a lifelong struggle with anxiety and depression. It is also worth noting here that individuals who score higher on cognitive aptitude tests are more likely to experience depression. In other words the more aware of your reality you are, the more likely you are to feel saddened by it. 

They have not considered the effect on the consumer’s mindset, mental state, and worldview after consuming cannabis. A substance that increases cognitive functionality promotes neural plasticity, meta-cognition, neurogenesis, and allows new, novel, and unique thoughts to flourish. 

The impact of ‘conscious cannabis consumption on the consumer’s default mode network and their installed and learned behaviour cycles should not be underestimated or discounted during research. The consumption of cannabis helps to erode the standardised and homogenised educational indoctrination inflicted on all of us under our current neo-liberalistic society. 

Ultimately, I feel that this study isn’t of much use in understanding the impact of cannabis on its consumer’s mental health. It finds a correlation between two events in its metadata and presents it in such a way as to lead the reader to believe the link is causal. 

In their conclusion, the researchers state that “these findings point to the potential need for a public health approach to the management of people misusing cannabis.” A sentence I am somewhat happy to see included, usually it is simply termed ‘cannabis use.’ This at least shows some acceptance that there is a such a thing as ‘correct’ consumption of cannabis. Albeit more than likely ‘medical cannabis’ and not the ‘dangerous’ ‘street weed’ that millions of us, myself included consume everyday.


Research shows European cannabis use up 27% since 2010

A new study titled “Public health monitoring of cannabis use in Europe: prevalence of use, cannabis potency, and treatment rates” was published in The Lancet last week. It found an increase in European past-month cannabis consumption of 27% since 2010

To reach their conclusions the researchers used data from the ‘United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,’ ‘The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction’, and ‘The Global Burden of Disease study.’ The team focused on four key cannabis data points, the potency of various cannabis products, the prevalence of consumption, prevalence of so-called ‘cannabis use disorder,’ and treatment/intervention rates.

In the past decade, cannabis use, treatment rates, and potency levels have increased in Europe highlighting major concerns about the public health impact of cannabis use. Continued monitoring and efforts to improve data quality and reporting, including indicators of high-risk use and cannabis-attributable harm, will be necessary to evaluate the health impact of international changes in cannabis regulation” – The reports conclusion 

Analysis revealed that in half of the 26 countries surveyed, one in five consumers reported consumption that was classified as ‘high-risk patterns of cannabis use.’ Which is classified as daily or near-daily consumption of cannabis for more than 20 days out of the last month. It also showed that the prevalence of past month consumption has increased in 92% (24 of 26) of the surveyed countries.

The table below breaks down the country’s individual rates of daily or near-daily consumers.

Their data also revealed that over the same observed period the average potency of ‘herbal’ cannabis increased from 6.9% to 10.6% THC. While the median rate, the value separating the higher half from the lower half of a data sample, showed a tripling of THC in cannabis resin from 7.6% to 24.1% In light of their findings, the authors are calling for greater regulation of the international cannabis trade. 

Notice the subtle change in the language used by the authors, they say regulation instead of restriction. A progressive move that will greatly help further an honest and open debate about cannabis and its place within our global society. 

In my opinion, the statistical increases observed in this study are simply further evidence of the safety and efficacy of cannabis. For example, a 50% increase in the prevalence of use was observed among 35 – 64-year-olds, yet there has been no spike in any singular physical or mental illness or condition amongst this group. 

Ireland approves MGC Pharma’s CannEpil under Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS)

Ireland set to receive its first fully funded product under ‘Medical Cannabis Access Program’

Last Wednesday (Sept 29th) saw the announcement of the first phytocannabinoid-derived therapeutic drug to be fully covered by the Republic of Ireland’s Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS). The drug was one of, if not the first cannabis-based medication to be approved by the ‘Medical Cannabis Access Program’ (MCAP) in Ireland back in 2019.

CannEpil, produced by MGC Pharmacuticals it is the first EU-GMP certified ‘medical cannabis’ drug to get fully funded in Ireland under the PCRS scheme and available under the MCAP. This makes it free to all qualifying Irish patients, however, in order to obtain a prescription a patient must have one of only three qualifying conditions; Spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, Intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, and Severe refractory (treatment-resistant) epilepsy.

There are currently four cannabis products on the schedule and two more to be added to schedule one of the regulations in the coming weeks. I understand that one of the products in the schedule namely CannEpil is expected to be available in October, subsequent to the introduction of the necessary legislation” – Morris O’Connor, assistant national director of primary care reimbursement

CannEpil is an oral solution comprised of carrier oil and a cannabinoid ratio of 20/1 CBD to THC. It is already being prescribed in the UK and Australia to treat epilepsy with some success. The drug’s producer hopes to make it available on prescription for a host of other conditions including Anxiety, Chronic Pain, and PTSD soon.

Assistant director at the PCRS, Morris O’Connor confirmed that there has been a total of 192 ‘ministerial licenses’ issued for 67 to access ‘medical cannabis’ products from the Netherlands. We also learned that 34 applications have been made for cannabis-based medical products since the introduction of the ‘Medical Cannabis Access Program’ (MCAP) in June 2019. These include two herbal products and four oil products that have been placed in schedule one of the regulations pending ministerial approval. 

Movement around this issue has been made possible thanks to the tireless efforts of campaigners and activists across the Emerald isle. They have spent the past several years struggling and fighting to keep their heads above water as their government buried its head in the sand. The great work of activists like this week’s Podcast guest Vera Twomey has highlighted the urgent need for reform in Ireland.

In the latest episode of The Simpa Life Podcast Vera talks about the fact that Ava’s Bedrolite oil isn’t included in MCAP and tells us about her battle earlier this year to get her daughter’s and other medications paid for upfront and fully covered under the PCRS program.

It is no coincidence that while there has been some small progress around the subject of prescribed ‘medical cannabis’ in Ireland, there have been several large backward steps in the CBD wellness, lifestyle, and supplement markets. 

The ramping up of raids on shops like Little Collins CBD and others selling CBD-rich cannabis flowers has even allegedly resulted in some customers having their homes raided by the Gardai. This intensifying crackdown could be interpreted as the authorities clearing the ‘riff-raff’ ready for the big boys to come out and play. After all, we are seeing the same pattern play out time and time again across Europe as ‘the medical cannabis industrial complex’ tightens its stranglehold on cannabis.

Written by Simpa for


Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

Simpa is a passionate lived experience drug consumer and human rights activist, public speaker, published writer, and host of The Simpa Life Podcast.

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