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  • Cefyn Jones

Who controls the plant?

An opinion piece from The Hemp Hound Agency


Sigmund Freud once said, "sometimes a cigar, is just a cigar". It's something I find floating about in my head quite often lately, as I watch the dissemination of cannabis vs cannabinoids in a way that raises a few questions.


Don't get me wrong, there should be more education that focuses of the plant, appreciating the impacts and potentials of the component parts is certainly up there with understanding the perceived differences between Indica, Sativa and Ruderalis. Sometimes though, there's intent which comes with education or information, and if like me you love cannabis in all its formats, guises and uses, understanding why information is presented in a certain given format is a must!


See, every canna-focused industry has its agenda, and objectives that work towards its realisation. The language that's used will normally reflect that agenda, and that will come with a heavy focus on what would be detrimental, or incompatible with that industry's end goal.


Take Novel Foods for example, where for the best part, most companies in the CBD (Cannabidiol) food supplemental industry have embraced both plant and its parts, but that doesn't seem to be compatible with the mindset of the powers that be. Cannabis isn't Novel, but cannabinoids are, and dependant on how you want to sell your products means the difference between requiring expensive GW Pharmaceuticals (GW) influenced lab testing requirements or not.



The problem is supposedly safety, specifically the lack of proof over time to show that cannabinoids from cannabis are OK to ingest. As a result, you can sell a cold-pressed hemp oil that's rich in cannabinoids and conforms to domestic requirements, but selling that same product as a CBD (Extract) oil is a whole different kettle of fish, and it means that you're going to be out of pocket for the pleasure.



Yes, you read that right. Cannabis, which has never killed anyone in it's entire recorded history, is safe to eat. Cannabinoids from cannabis whoever, well someone has decided that they 'might' have a detrimental effect on your health over time, which is true, if a study GW supposedly undertook that subjected rats to a quarter of their body weight in CBD isolate is anything to go by...


Willie Nelson - ingesting phyto-cannabinoids since 1954

For those who're unaware of Novel Foods - if you're looking to sell a 'new food' with no history of consumption pre 1996, or if you're looking to sell an 'old food in a new format', you will be required in the UK and EU to register that food with the relevant Foods Standards Agency (FSA/EFSA), and provide the appropriate lab tests deemed necessary with your application to show the safety of the product you wish to bring to market. The application process can take over 18 months, and you wouldn't ordinarily be able to sell that product until you had received authorisation.


So why is an old food, a new food, if it's described differently?


Ok, it's a little bit of a different story with Broad spectrum, Narrow Spectrum or Isolate Based products which obviously weren't available in ingestible products before 1996, but whole plant products were, and phyto-cannabinoids have been known about and studied since the 1940's.


That being said, Broad Spectrum products (everything minus THC) from my understanding has been about since before 2017, as has Narrow Spectrum products (A small pick'n'mix of cannabinoid isolates) and Isolate (single cannabinoid) Based products. As far as I'm aware, there's been no ill effects from consumption, either.


One thing that is for certain, regardless of Spectrum, was that it's plant derived, and in the plant we trust.


Phytocannabinoids are cannabinoids derived from the cannabis plant. The phytocannabinoids are most concentrated in the glandular trichomes of the flowering heads of the female plant.
Phytocannabinoids - The University of Sydney

So, let's now look at the world of medicinal cannabis in the UK, which has already influenced the direction of the supplemental industry, but that influence only really comes from one domestic player, two if you include British Sugar.


British Sugar - Supplying GW Pharmaceuticals since 2015

You can't patent a natural plant, but the last time I looked, GW had eight pages of patents for cannabinoid based medicines, with all but one page having twenty preparations, delivery systems and extraction methods listed. There's 142 in total, and a fair few of the 48 that list CBD as an active ingredient were filed and awarded before the emergence of the CBD food supplemental industry.


On the strength of it, one industry is trying to embrace the plant and its component parts, whilst the other is strictly about the component parts, and not so much the plant.


I believe this is causing a bit of an issue, especially as one industry has far more money involved in it than the other, and the global market leader of that industry is effectively naming the tune that the other industry as a whole has to dance to, at least in the U.K , anyway.


Let me explain - If you were the head of GW, you probably wouldn't want anyone selling CBD or any food supplemental products if 33.8% of your patent list was for CBD based preparations, would you?



What I'm getting at here is that it's in GW's interests to have a hand in Novel Foods. After all, they pretty much are singlehandedly responsible for the UK being the worlds largest export of cannabis based medicinal products, and the supplemental sector is effectively a direct competitor. They do have an extensive list of cannabinoid based preparations to protect, and if the CBD supplemental industry was 'hampered' or 'wasn't there', profits would certainly look healthier.



Now hold up a second, you know, because I don't want to get sued. I'm only suggesting that there's questions that could be asked to determine if GW are influencing the CBD industry to protect it's interests, and not that they're 'definitely' doing it. I'm in no way saying that they could have approached the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in 2016 to try and get CBD listed as a purely medicinal compound, I'm not suggesting that they may have influenced the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) through the Home Office (HO) to outlaw CBD pet products, and I'm certainly not suggesting that they tried to get the FSA, through the HO, to deem all cannabinoids as Novel as early as 2017... I've no proof for any of that, but you can understand why GW might do these things, 'if' they were caught doing them, that is.


It's the 'if' that intrigues me, roll with this for a second.


'What if' GW HAS had influence on the creation of government guidance for legal cannabinoid based products, would it stop there? I mean, if people started to grow at home, that could have a bearing on profits, and the same could be said if an established recreational market was to come about.



GW don't want any of that, it stands to reason, and proof of their intentions comes from their interactions with the U.S authorities:


“In opening the door for consumer-market CBD products, FDA risks further diminishing the likelihood that more cannabis-derived products will be developed into proven medicines for these patients.”
The Canna-Consultants & DevelRX Ltd paper which questions the use of GW data by the FSA/CoT to insist on animal studies is available here and refers to interaction between GW and the FDA

That, to me, is a sentence from a company that I'm concerned has too much power over cannabis, but GW still had to make their position clear to the FDA, nonetheless. Here in the U.K, in their backyard, it's more than likely that they could be a little more civil when letting those in power understand their needs, where the costs will likely include a quiet cup of tea and a packet of Hobnobs, amongst other things. What's more, it could also bring about a conversation that helps towards keeping a recreational market out of the publics grasp, you know, to keep those profits coming in as more cannabinoid based medicines get released onto the markets.


So on the strength of these thoughts, and they are just that, is it possible that GW are steering CBD Novel Foods to it's final destination, and delaying the emergence of a UK recreational market?


Consider this, if you will - we've heard a lot of medical cannabis experts come out recently, stating that 'medicinal cannabis needs to be sorted out first before we start talking about a recreation market', but their voices seem to have become louder since recent government data showed a 52% public approval rating for the legalisation of cannabis.


For the best part, most are sincere in their comments, and are talking about NHS access, improved product quality, and a recognition of all the medical issues where cannabis can help, from depression through to cancer. Others though, I'm not too sure that this is what they mean. Some of these people give an impression that profits outweigh lives, and if I was in that mindset, I can tell you that NO-ONE should have access to recreational cannabis! The simple reason for this is that I cannot patent a plant, and if it's known that I use 'Strain X' for my product line, what's to stop someone growing that at home, or buying it from a dispensary where the quality is better and in some cases costs less? Further to that, what's to stop someone from engaging in home extractions and creating their own version of Sativex or Epidiolex, with the exact ratio of cannabinoids as specified in GW's patents, and for a fraction of the cost?


That, ladies and gentlemen (and other genders), is why recreational cannabis in the UK won't be legal, until the interests of companies like GW are protected. The only way they can protect their intellectual property is to ensure that cannabis outside of a medicinal context is restricted in some capacity (Novel Foods, Controlled Cannabinoids, Toxicology testing) , or out right prohibited (Recreational).


A canna-wolf in sheep's clothing, perhaps?

GW can't exactly eliminate the food supplemental industry, either in Blighty or abroad, but they 'could' have got their pharmaceutical based lab report to govern the requirements of the food supplemental industry in an attempt to have influence over what is it's competitor for market share. And if they have that level of power or influence, it's reasonable to assume that the very same power or influence could be used to demonise thoughts of a recreational market.


How do you do that? you separate the plant from its parts, and get the HO to tell the public how bad THC (Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is by telling them about the dangers of 'high strength Skunk' (which coincidentally is a strain GW is associated with), whilst knowing full well that you have 23 patents that list that very cannabinoid as an active ingredient.


23 out of 142 patents - that's 16.2% of their portfolio which focuses on THC, the very same chemical compound that we were told causes 'Reefer Madness' and the reason why cannabis as we know it is prohibited. You can bet that they're still licking their wounds due to lost profits from the emergence of the CBD supplemental industry, so if GW do have more influence over the good 'erb than they should do, 16.2% is 100% worth fighting for... If you know what I mean.


All we're missing now is having some direct suggestion of political influence for both GW, and their 'trusted friends' British Sugar. If that existed, maybe we should ask the HO if we can see how many packs of Hobnobs they've gone through since 2016 😉






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