Earlier this month, the UK Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) announced that they would be adding cannabis oil, a natural plant medicine, to their list of “medicines.” Yet here in the U.S., the battle continues to rage over the rights of the states to regulate marijuana, hemp, and its extracts, with critics claiming that the issue is simply an excuse to bolster private prisons.
The decision in the UK comes as a result of unregulated sales of cannabis oil over the internet, with many manufacturing companies making what the MHRA called “overt medicinal claims.” So, to ensure that the product is safe for UK consumers, it will now be legally regulated. Customers could always buy hemp based CBD oil in-stores without a prescription, however, now manufacturers must comply with regulations and apply for a license if they wish to continue selling the product.
Gerald Heddel, the director of inspection and enforcement at the MHRA, told Sky News:
The change really came about with us offering an opinion that CBD is in fact a medicine, and that opinion was based on the fact that we noted that people were making some quite stark claims about serious diseases that could be treated with CBD.
Cannabis oil was never illegal in the UK, however, until this ruling it was unregulated. This reclassification allows the MHRA to regulate standards and quality so that the public doesn’t suffer!
Cannabis Oil’s Many Benefits
CBD is one of the numerous chemical compounds found in cannabis; it makes up around 40 percent of the cannabis resin extracted from the plant. This non-psychoactive, natural component has thoroughly researched medical properties. It can be used as an anticonvulsant, antipsychotic, anti-inflammatory, antiemetic, antioxidant, antidepressant, anti-tumoral, and has been known to help treat numerous medical conditions including epilepsy, ALS, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, and chronic pain. CBD oil can be extracted from cannabis or hemp, the hemp extracted CBD oil doesn’t contain much THC (less than 0.3%), and it is this hemp extract that is now legal in both the U.S. and UK.
In December 2016, researchers from Alabama University found that CBD oil could be used to effectively treat severe epilepsy – with two-thirds of participants in the study seeing a 50 percent drop in seizure severity. The human brain has its own cannabinoid receptors, and this naturally occurring chemical is associated with the calming/de-stressing effects that marijuana can have. CBD oil utilizes the same system without the psychoactive “high” component.
HoneyColony spoke to Barry Brown, the head of CISTA Northern Ireland, which stands for Citizens Independent Social Thought Alliance (formerly Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol). He is running for election in the upcoming Northern Irish election with one of his main priorities being the legalization of medicinal marijuana and non-hemp based Cannabis oil.
“As far as I know, a company called Medipen that was doing trials with the NHS (National Health Service) wrote a letter to the MHRA (Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) and pointed out that CBD was a medicine,” said Brown. “[NHS] agreed and said that it would be classified as a medicine and regulated from the first of this year.”
DEA Going Backwards
This decision comes as a stark contrast, not only to their own previous policy, but also to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) announcement that all extracts from a cannabis plant (this does not include hemp) were to be included on the Schedule 1 Controlled Substances list (placing cannabis oil on the same level as heroine). The DEA’s decision has been lambasted by figureheads in the cannabis industry, and a lawsuit is reportedly in the works to challenge the decision.
The DEA’s decision on CBD means that patients who live in states where medical marijuana is not permitted may again have to contemplate physically relocating to a state where CBD is legally available, such as California and Colorado, since it can no longer be shipped across state lines. That or they will have to switch to hemp CBD oil — which isn’t covered under the new DEA ruling as it falls below the 0.3 percent THC threshold set out under the 2014 Farm Bill.
While not commonly discussed, there are in fact many such “medical refugees” in the U.S., according to Dr. Joseph Michael Mercola, an alternative medicine proponent and osteopathic physician. Prior to the reclassification, CBD was freely available in all U.S. states, and could be easily obtained via mail order.
“Indeed,” says Mercola, “the decision is so beyond irrational, the only justification I can see is that the DEA is influenced or controlled by the pharmaceutical industry. Making CBD — a non-psychoactive, non-toxic component with medicinal value — a schedule 1 drug benefits no one except the drug companies that have to compete against it.”
Several months prior to the UK’s decision, the MHRA sent numerous cease and desist orders to Cannabis oil vendors demanding that it be “removed from sale in the UK.” So this reclassification comes as a notable turn in policy that has excited marijuana legalization advocates, although the MHRA was very keen to note that this was not giving legalization or approval to marijuana, and reaffirmed their disputable claim that marijuana is itself a dangerous drug.
What Comes Next?
The decision ultimately means that CBD manufacturers will need to meet product safety standards if they want to continue to sell the Cannabis oil in the UK – since the whole point of legalization was to regulate the market. However, UK law still does not recognize the therapeutic or medicinal values associated with cannabis, and there has been absolutely no indication that this is going to change in the near future.
Barry Brown of CISTA had this to say:
As you know, cannabis is a schedule 1 drug with no medical value and CBD is one of the main components of some cannabis. CBD now being legally available has led to a massive increase in people now acquiring it from ‘legitimate sources.’ This has led to a greater understanding in the general public of what cannabis is. When we first started, it was a case of keeping the message simple, whereas now proper information is widely known and the mindset has moved on from ‘drugs are bad.’
Brown also believes that this policy could eventually open the doors to further medical and maybe even recreational marijuana legislation being passed in the UK Parliament. In the U.S., state and federal government seem at odds with their attitude to cannabis, with more than half of the states legalizing the drug in some form, while the federal government continues to clamp down on it.
The Trump administration has yet to voice an opinion on medicinal marijuana. However, as we reported towards the end of last year, Trump is unlikely to challenge state decisions on marijuana, especially for medicinal purposes, so anyone who is using or wants to use cannabis oil can remain stress-free for the foreseeable future.
Josh Hamilton is an aspiring journalist from Belfast, Northern Ireland, living in London, Ontario. Lover of music, politics, tech, and life.
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