Last Week in Weed Issue 5

In this issue of Last Week in Weed, Brexit “medical cannabis” woes, UK Home Office finally issues a second license, and a cop caught selling grow equipment.

Last Week in Weed (Issue 5)

Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog from The Simpa Life

In issue 5 of Last Week In Weed, we look at how Brexit is affecting the importation of “medical cannabis” and CBMPs from Europe, the UK Home Office finally issuing a second commercial cannabis cultivation license after 22-years, and a Nottinghamshire Drug unit officer who was found to of made thousands from selling cannabis grow equipment online on eBay.

Brexit disruption for “Medical Cannabis” from Europe

Brexit disruption for “Medical Cannabis” from Europe

The new year brings with it a whole host of new problems. One of the first and most frustrating issues to emerge in 2021 is the effects of Brexit on the supply of “medical cannabis” in the UK. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has stated that since Britain has left the EU, fulfilling UK prescriptions for CBMPs (cannabis-based medicinal products) at Dutch dispensaries was “no longer an option”.

From Alfie Dingley – the first patient allowed to keep their internationally prescribed CBMP back in June 2018 to Sophie Gibson in Northern Ireland – who was the first patient to be granted a long-term license for “medical cannabis” there are an estimated 40 children with severe Epilepsy that are affected by the rule change.

The urgency of the situation is not being exaggerated, and one in two of these children “will die” if the medication is cut”- Neurologist Mike Barnes

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that the Dutch government was behind the decision to halt the product’s supply to the UK after Britain left the EU single market and customs union. In reality, it is the Brexit agreement negotiated by his party that means that EU countries can no longer fulfill British prescriptions for CBMPs.

This is actually a decision by the Dutch government. And therefore, we’re obviously working very closely with them to try to change the position. “It isn’t a decision that we can unilaterally change from the UK. And so we’re looking in the short term at an urgent legal fix and in the medium term, working with the Home Office and of course, the Dutch government to try to find a way through.” – Health Secretary Matt Handcock 

The DHSC has said that there are other CBMPs are available in the UK and parents should switch their children on to using them instead. This statement is emblematic of the ignorance that pervades the offices of influence. Cannabis isn’t ibuprofen – it is far more complex and nuanced than these institutions are aware and as such their failures have allowed this potentially lethal oversight to happen.

The parents affected by this change in policy were not notified directly that their current supply may be their last. The alarm was sounded by Hannah Deacon who only discovered the ruling after seeing a copy of a stakeholders letter just two weeks before it came into effect.

Every cannabis product has slight changes in it depending on the plant used to grow it. My son benefits from Bedrolite because of the quality of the product.“If we move him to another product there is no guarantee that he is going to be safe. That is very dangerous.”- Hannah Deacon

It is heartbreaking to think how helpless these parents must feel in the knowledge that when their CBMP runs out it really could be their child’s last dose. Unfortunately, I doubt that many of those affected by the impending changes had the opportunity to stock up on the products needed to help keep their children alive before the rule change came into effect on January 1st, 2021. 

All of this real life and death drama is being played out in the British press juxtaposed with the latest skunk scare stories and a few recent raids on local “illegal cannabis farms”. It pains me that they cannot see just how deeply interconnected they all are and how waging a war on one has such devastating consequences for the other. 

I feel that this incongruity in reporting perfectly illustrates just how much cannabis journalism in the UK is guided by a combination of the Dunning–Kruger effect and their own personal cognitive dissonance and individual biases.

Cannabis is Cannabis at the end of the day. Keeping it illegal for adult consumption here will only ever continue to greatly impede the future development of a robust, competitive, and equitable domestic cannabis industry capable of producing a variety of homegrown CBMPs to meet all needs.

Drug Cop caught selling cannabis grow equipment

Image: BBC News
Former Nottinghamshire PC Stewart Clarke

A former Nottinghamshire PC with 10 years on the force’s anti-drugs unit has been found guilty of misconduct by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC). The former PC resigned midst an investigation last year into the suspected theft of seized grow equipment.

Stuart Clarke made more than £10,000 by selling 140 individual items for cannabis cultivation on his personal eBay account between January 2019 and September 2020. After his activity was discovered last October during a routine vetting check he was subsequently arrested the following month pending further inquires.

During the investigation, he claimed that he had acquired the equipment “legitimately at car boot sales”Ultimately, it was concluded that they could not find sufficient evidence of criminal conduct and he was released without charge. However, the subsequent investigation by the IOPC did find him guilty of gross misconduct stating that if he had of still been employed by the force that he would of be dismissed. 

The director of major investigations at the IPOC said “For a police officer to sell such quantities of hydroponic equipment, knowing its potential for criminal use, was clearly inappropriate and a breach of professional standards and even more so in Stuart Clarke’s case, given his specialist knowledge and the role he carried out in the anti-drugs unit. Such activities undermine public confidence in policing and he has paid a heavy price for that.”

The 19-year veteran’s final position within the force was “Drugs Expert in the Cannabis Dismantling Team” yet he claimed via his representation at the police federation that he did not think too much before selling the equipment as they also had legitimate use in the gardening industry. 

“I am deeply disappointed in not taking a more responsible and moral position, and I accept my actions were not compatible with what the public would expect of a police officer.” – Stewart Clarke

The once “well respected” officer claimed that there were issues in his private life that were causing him stress, grief, and worry at the time. Mr. Clarke has now been placed on a list barring him from working in the police service again.

The force has since said that they have implemented the recommendations of the investigation to improve administrative processes within the specialist cannabis dismantling unit to prevent potential future misconduct.

This hypocrisy is a bit much considering that British police forces directly benefit financially from the forfeiture of assets from unregulated cannabis cultivation under the Proceeds of Crime Act. The sooner we can end this failed war on drugs, the sooner we can start to repair and rebuild our fractured communities. 

UK Home Office finally grants a second commercial cultivation license

Image: Gov.UK
UK Home Office finally grants a second commercial license

This week also saw the announcement that the UK has finally issued another commercial “medical cannabis” cultivation license. A recently founded Jersey-based company called Northern Leaf has been granted the first commercial cultivation license in over two decades by the British Home Office.

The relatively unknown company received its license a few weeks ago in December 2020. You may remember that GW Pharmaceuticals, the producer of Epidiolex and Sativex was the first to be granted a home office cultivation license way back in 1998.

The license has been granted for the company to cultivate in a 75,000 square foot greenhouse on the largest and most southerly channel island. The newly formed company plans to start supplying CBMP producers in the UK, Germany, Spain, and Portugal by the end of 2021.

Perhaps this could help our now rather isolated island nation to become self-sufficient by domestically cultivating cannabis flowers to produce CBMP’s. It could also help stock the various private clinics with “pharmaceutical grade” flowers to prescribe to patients. 

They will face some rather big competition in the form of GWTilrayAurora, and Emmac who already have established grow-ops in Europe seeking to do the exact same thing. The company is expecting its first shipment to be around half a ton but would not be drawn into a discussion about potential profits. 

The European “medical cannabis” market is still very much in its infancy – currently only carrying a valuation of $403 million. This is set to grow exponentially in the coming years as the European Union (EU) begins to finally pull its finger out and implements a union-wide ruling to facilitate the roll-out of “medical cannabis” to all member nations. 

Northern Leaf, which was founded just two years ago has declined to publicly disclose who their owners are but we do know that Chrystal Capital helped them raise £3 million in capital in 2020, and are they’re currently seeking more. So watch this space.

They must have been rather confident that they would acquire a license as they applied to change the use of a site they own in Jersey in July 2020 – several months before they obtained their cultivation license from the Home Office. A feat few have managed to achieve, but certainly not from a lack of trying. 

So, is this a sign that the UK home office is finally relaxing its notoriously difficult licensing procedures and criteria, or are the unnamed owners of Northern Leaf actually just another well known and well-connected individual or group in disguise? Only time will tell. 

Thanks for reading this issue of Last Week in Weed. 

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

Simpa is a passionate drug law reform activist, mental health advocate, blogger, freelance writer, and host of The Simpa Life podcast.

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