Author Archives: Jeff Ditchfield

About Jeff Ditchfield

Author & Cannabis Consultant

Open letter to Paul Flynn MP

Dear Paul,

It was an honour to support your  Ten Minute Rule Motion presented to the House on the 10th October 2017:

“That leave be given to bring in a Bill to allow the production, supply, possession and use of cannabis and cannabis resin for medicinal purposes and for connected purposes”.

No sensible person can disagree with your principal aim of access for people (of all ages) to medicinal cannabis and cannabinoid preparations.

During our chat in Parliament square, I briefly mentioned my concerns regarding your call to:

“move cannabis from schedule one to schedule two” 

The Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 place Controlled Drugs into five schedules corresponding to their deemed therapeutic usefulness and misuse potential. “Raw” cannabis is currently in schedule one, deeming it to have “no recognised medicinal use”. Due to this classification Doctors and Pharmacists cannot lawfully prescribe or possess cannabis and patients have to risk up to 14 years in prison for cultivating cannabis or for producing cannabis oils and extracts for their own use.

If your bill is successful and cannabis is rescheduled to schedule two, it would be classified alongside controlled drugs such as  diamorphine (pure heroin) and therefore subject to the strictest of regulations, e.g. being stored in a locked secure safe and the keeping of a statutory register.

I applaud your call to make sensible drugs policies and I agree with you that policies should be based on science and not political or media dogma, however, I am afraid that it makes no sense (to me) to replace the current failed policy of the total prohibition of cannabis with a new unworkable policy of Prohibition Lite. 

You rightly stated in your motion that cannabis has been used medicinally for at least 5,000 years and during all this time no one has died from consuming cannabis, therefore:

How can the scheduling of cannabis and cannabinoid preparations be justified in schedule two alongside heroin?

NOTE~ Sativex, the cannabinoid preparation produced by GW Pharma containing half a gram of cannabis oil extracts (270mgs of CBD & 250mgs of THC) is in schedule four making it exempt from the safe custody requirements and the other restrictions placed on schedule two controlled drugs.

Parents are being criminalised

I beg you, Mr Flynn, to read the book Callie Blackwell presented to you, The Boy in 7 billion is the amazing story of a determined Mother whose only ‘crime’ was to do everything in her power to save the life of her dying child.

There is no statute of limitations here in the UK, the members of Bud Buddies who assisted Callie, myself included are still subject to the constant threat of arrest and prosecution. Yet, who is the victim of our crimes? Why do we face 14 years in prison for a crime where there is no identifiable victim?

Bud Buddies are currently assisting the parents of 100+ seriously ill children in the UK and not only do these parents fear losing their child to a terminal illness they also live with the constant fear of the involvement of social services. Being made a ward of court could be a death sentence for many of the children being administered cannabinoids by their parents.

One of these parents is a serving police officer, will you please meet with her to hear firsthand her fears, her hopes and how you and your fellow MP’s can help her and her family?

 

Views of the author: I personally believe that cannabis and cannabinoid preparations should be placed in schedule five alongside over the counter medications such as paracetamol and therefore no restrictions regarding their importation, possession or administration. I further believe that adults should have access to cannabis via membership of a Private Members Club and/or home cultivation.  

Further reading

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Police Sniffer Dogs in the UK

What do you say if a police officer stops you based on the actions of their dog?

Under Article 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971,

“the police have the power to search someone if they have “reasonable grounds” to suspect that they are in possession of illegal drugs.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) guidelines point out that, in their view, an indication by a passive drugs dog does indeed constitute “reasonable suspicion”

That’s their ‘authority’ and in a recent guide, the excellent organisation RELEASE points out that:

Release sniffer dogs

PD Max

Police generally deploy drugs dogs at public events or public locations like train stations or ports, so what happens when a police dog comes and says hello?

I have been stopped on a number of occasions, it generally starts with a lovely, happy Cocker Spaniel sitting next to me and then the conversation goes something like this:

 

 

Officer: excuse me Sir, my dog has indicated that you may be in the possession of controlled drugs, can you explain this?

Me: Maybe your dog has been poorly trained or her (drugs dogs are always female) handler is a moron, I really have no idea

Officer: I have reasonable grounds to suspect that you are in possession of controlled drugs and under the Misuse of Drugs Act, blah, blah

[There then follows a search and after finding nothing]

Officer: Can you tell me why my dog identified you as being in possession?

[most people at this stage say something like “I had a joint last night” but be aware, that if you do this the officer will record it and it will validate their stop & search, so don’t do it!]

Me: as I said earlier officer, your dog is poorly trained. I have no idea

On one occasion I had an officer threaten me with arrest for “obstruction” I pointed out that I wasn’t “obstructing” him, I was merely being uncooperative , which currently isn’t an offence under UK law,

In summary, obstructing a police officer is a criminal offence, so don’t do it, being non-cooperative or even being a “dick” isn’t a criminal offence, it is a fine line but one that every Cannabis Campaigner needs to tread imo.

BTW~ everytime I have been searched in the above situations I have been in possession and the police did not find anything, and NO nothing was inserted into my body, have some dignity for God’s sake.

ask@release.org.uk

www.release.org.uk

HELPLINE: 0845 4500 215

 

Cultivate cannabis for a dying 14 year old, why not?

My Favourite Cannabis Plant

I was asked recently, “of all the cannabis plants you’ve ever cultivated, which was your favourite?”. It turned out that the person asking the question was referring to the variety but their question can also be answered in another way.

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Jeff Ditchfield talking with Callie & Deryn Blackwell during the filming of Bud Buddies Project Storm

There is a specific purpose for every cannabis plant I cultivate, they are all special in their own way.

During the filming of Bud Buddies Project Storm, the story of six UK cancer sufferers and their journey to obtain cannabis oil extracts, I met Deryn, a 14 year old terminal cancer sufferer,

From the Boy in 7 Billion (available on Amazon)

Capture

That was three years ago, here is Deryn now

“After lunch Jeff helped Deryn plant his very own cannabis cutting. Once the14330915_105790343213553_1882113184_n plant was fully grown, Jeff told us he would make oil out of it for Deryn.

‘We need to label this plant H, Deryn,’ Jeff said.

‘Like H from the pop group Steps?’ I quipped.

‘I was actually thinking of Harry Pot-ter,’ Jeff chuckled mischievously.

Jeff wrote the letter ‘H’ on a marker and pushed it into the ground next to the small plant.”

Five months later

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Jeff Ditchfield and Deryn in Spain planting his first cannabis plant

Cannabinoid testing and labelling is essential for consumer protection

In a jurisdiction where cannabis is prohibited by law there is little if any protection for consumers of cannabis or cannabis extracts. To protect people from contaminated cannabis products, quality control and the laboratory testing of cannabis and cannabinoid preparations is essential.

In an uncontrolled, unregulated market it is very common to find cannabis contaminated with pesticides, heavy metals, toxins and microorganisms. It is also quite common to find products containing mould spores, bacteria and fungus, these contaminants can have a detrimental effect on health, which can be compounded if people are using cannabis for medicinal purposes and they have a compromised immune system.

Producers of pharmaceuticals, food and drink products are strictly regulated and they are required to submit to third-party testing to verify the safety of their products, unfortunately, there is no basic level of safety or quality control under a decriminalised or prohibitive (cannabis) system.

As well as testing for contaminants the potency of cannabis products is also important to cannabis consumers. To protect the consumer and the general public a testing and labelling scheme for cannabis and cannabinoid preparations is required, imagine the chaos if alcohol was not tested and labelled accordingly, the effects of drinking a glass of vodka are very different to drinking a glass of beer.

As the cannabis market develops and matures so will the demand for cannabis concentrates and cannabis extractions.

Cannabinoids are extracted from cannabis plant material by the use of a solvent, butane, hexane, isopropyl alcohol and ethanol are commonly used to produce cannabis concentrates, however, unless the products are tested for solvent residues some of the solvent used in the extraction process can remain in the final product and some of these residues can be detrimental to health.

Cannabis cultivators and processors should have access to the following tests:

  • Microbiological test – testing for moulds, bacteria and fungi
  • Potency testing of cannabis flowers (cannabinoid profile)
  • Solvent residue testing
  • And ideally, terpenoid testing

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In Spain Bud Buddies have access to testing facilities, they use HPLC testing for all their cannabinoid extracts

All preparations are labelled.

 

 

 

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This 1:1 extraction contains 39.5% THC and 37.8% CBD, total cannabinoid content 80.3%

The HPLC test shows that the extraction is fully decarboxylated and based on these results preparations with standardized doses can be produced.

Testing standards

There are two main types of testing, Gas Chromatography (GC) and High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC).

Gas chromatography (GC) is a common type of chromatography used in analytical chemistry for analysing compounds that can be vaporized without decomposition. Typically, GC analysis is used to determine the purity of a substance, samples are converted to a gas and the gas is then analysed.

High-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) is another process used in analytical chemistry to separate, identify, and quantify the individual components in a mixture of compound, HPLC analysis is more suited to the testing of cannabis extractions and preparations than the plant material itself.

Cannabinoid Testing

Cannabinoids produced by the plant are in their natural acid state and to be bioavailable they require transforming from their acid form to a neutral form, this is achieved by the application of heat (or UV light), this process is called decarboxylation. For example, to make THC-acid effective it has to be converted from THC-a to THC, when you inhale cannabis via smoking or vaporisation THC-a is converted (by heat) from THC-a to THC.

However, if THC-a is orally ingested the acidic cannabinoids will remain in their original state and bioavailability will be greatly reduced s THC-a has a low affinity for CB1 receptors.

HPLC analysis allows us to identify the major cannabinoids present in both their acid and neutral forms, GC testing converts cannabinoid acids into cannabinoids so therefore is unsuitable for the testing of orally administered cannabinoid preparations. As HPLC testing does not use heat it can be used to identify and quantify both the acidic and neutral cannabinoids in a sample and this is our preferred testing method. We would require HPLC analysis for cannabinoid extractions, preparations and other products such as medibles, edibles and topicals.

The decision to use GC or HPLC testing will depend on the type or form of the sample and its end purpose.

 Terpene Testing

Terpenes are the chemical substances responsible for the aroma of cannabis and many express their own medicinal properties, e.g. anxiolytic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and neuroprotective effects.

Common terpenes present in cannabis varieties are α-Pinene, β-Pinene, limonene, myrcene, linalool, and β-caryophyllene.

Microbiological Testing

Mould and bacteria exist everywhere and while not all forms are harmful, some microorganisms such as E. coli can be very dangerous.

High levels of microorganisms can be avoided by following good hygiene practises during the cultivation, processing and storage stages.

In Spain in 2014 our colleagues at Fundación CANNA at Valencia University carried out a study in cooperation with 31 Cannabis Social Clubs (CSC’s), over 50 individual samples of cannabis were analysed. The aim of the study was to identify and determine the microorganisms present and they were present in 80% of the samples analysed.

Some of the potentially pathogenic microorganisms that can be found in Cannabis:

Aspergillus genus, spores occur naturally in the environment and they develop rapidly in environments with high humidity levels, they can lead to the production of mycotoxins (aflatoxins) which are highly carcinogenic substances.

Their presence can lead to Aspergillosis, ill people with a compromised immune system can struggle with this fungus and its presence is especially dangerous to people with immunosuppressive disorders.

Penicillium genus, many people are allergic to penicillin.

Enterobacteriaceae, are normally found in soil and faeces and their presence is generally indicative of poor hygiene measures, cultivating with poorly formulated organic fertilisers can also result in contamination. Two enterobacteriaceaes which can be present in cannabis are E.coli and salmonella.

The spores of fungi are often inhaled during smoking and although some of the spores are destroyed (via incineration) the ones not subject to the source of combustion can easily reach the lungs. Cannabis that has not been correctly dried, cured or stored provides an ideal medium for the development of fungi.

Labelling

Cannabis bud (flowers) should be labelled with the following (minimum) information:

bud-labelStrain, name of producer, batch number, THC, CBD and CBN content, net weight.

With access to such information a cannabis consumer can estimate their cannabinoid intake, e.g. if a consumer uses half a gram (500 mgs) of this Blueberry haze in a joint then they can calculate that their joint will contain 83.5 mgs of THC (16.7% x 500 mgs)

canna-choc-labelled

In addition to the information required for labelling bud (flowers), there will also be a requirement to inform on dose per serving for edibles and medibles.

This chocolate bar contains 80 mgs of THC and comprises of 8 squares of chocolate, therefore the amount of THC per serving (or square) is 10 mgs.

 

Cannamol is a sublingually applied preparation containing both THC & CBD produced in Spain.

cananmol-labelLabels inform on the total amount per vial of active ingredients (THC & CBD) and per drop.

 

cannamol-label1All products have a batch number, 1ml = 20 drops.

 

Labelling is redundant if the consumer does not understand the information

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There is also a need for a public education campaign to inform the public and cannabis consumers on how the information provided on the packaging should be interpreted.

In addition to educating the public on ‘safe practise’, labels should also carry prominent warnings regarding “Keep out of reach of children”

 

gummies

 

One of these Gummy Bears contains THC, but which one?

The one on the left contains 100 mgs of THC

 

 

imageCannabinoid testing kits are available:

Combining the straightforward diagnostic technique of thin-layer chromatography with specific thin-layers and developing fluid, the alpha-CAT test kit can identify six cannabinoids present in your plant material and their levels of concentration.

Each Regular Kit allows the user to conduct between 10 and 40 tests. This simple method enables anyone to expose the active cannabinoid profile in medicinal materials, regardless of your scientific understanding.   Order: Here

 

Cannabis laws driving people mad

Since 2nd March 2015 in the UK it has been an offence for a driver to have in excess of 2µg of Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) per 100ml of blood. THC levels above this limit are considered to be a positive test and will very likely lead to prosecution.

cannabis-swab-test4UK Police have the power to conduct a roadside swab test for cannabis on any driver they suspect of having THC in their system. Either saliva or sweat can be tested and a positive test will result in the driver being arrested on “suspicion”.

A blood sample for evidential purposes will be taken at the police station.

In court, the prosecution does not have to prove that a person’s driving was impaired, the presence of THC in excess of the prescribed limit is sufficient evidence. The minimum penalty upon conviction is to be disqualified from driving for one year and a fine up to £5,000.

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Drivers who are prescribed Sativex have a medical defense. However, how the plant derived THC in Sativex is any different from THC in a joint escapes me.

A recent study demonstrating that cannabidiol (CBD) can be converted by the gastric system into tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) could be a potential defense in court.

 “It is still not clear whether the human stomach can convert CBD into THC, but this study provides important confirmatory evidence that this may be the case,” says Editor-in-Chief Daniele Piomelli, PhD,University of California-Irvine, School of Medicine.

The findings of this study are from conclusive, however the possibility that CBD can be converted to THC in the body could be used as a defence as it raises “reasonable doubt”

“Beyond reasonable doubt (BRD) is the standard of proof used to convict defendants charged with crimes in the English criminal justice system.”

NOTE: If you admit to smoking a cannabis joint then there is no “reasonable doubt”, and if you don’t feel confident in answering a police officer’s questions, remember you have a right to silence.

You think you know cannabis?

Many people are aware of the terms, Sativa, Indica and Ruderalis, however, the vast majority of people are mis-informed regarding their correct definitions.

It turns out that there is just one species of cannabis, with different subspecies.  What people generally consider to be cannabis Indica actually originated in Afghanistan so it is actually cannabis Afghanica,  cannabis Sativa? well that is actually Ruderalis and cannabis Indica is cannabis Sativa, confused?

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Traditionally

For the past 40 years, the conventional view has been that there are 4 distinct varieties of cannabis plant, namely: cannabis Indica, cannabis Sativa and cannabis Ruderalis. The fourth classification is given to what is now referred to as Hemp, this is the name given to low producing THC cannabis plants which are grown commercially for their seeds, oil and fibre.

Cannabis Indica

This variety originated from the mountainous regions of Central Asia. Local strains were collected from Kashmir, Pakistan, Northern India and Nepal during the early 1960’s and these native plants became the gene pool for many of today’s varieties. They are characteristically stocky and hardy plants that produce broad, maple like leaves and rarely reach heights in excess of 2m (7ft) outdoors, producing dense, tight flowers.

Cannabis Sativa

Sativa varieties originate from equatorial regions and can reach heights in excess of 15 feet (4.5m)

They are easily identified by their thin, slender, spiky leaves.

Cannabis Sativa varieties are sort after for their high THC content and the associated profound and uplifting experience, a total contrast to the more sedative effects of Indica strains.

 Cannabis Ruderalis

This is a debated third variety of cannabis found in Russia, Poland, and other eastern European countries, Ruderalis varieties do not require a photo-period to induce flowering.

Latest Findings

The above definitions are mainly due to the work of Richard Schultes, who categorised the varieties in his cannabis taxonomy in the 1970’s, however, it seems that he was in error.

From O’Shaughnessy’s:

“McPartland was the first researcher to look at the genetic markers on the three subspecies of cannabis using the plant’s genome to conclusively identify where it originated. He also proved conclusively that they are all the same species, just different subspecies.  As it turns out, cannabis Sativa should have been identified as cannabis Indica, because it originated in India (hence indica) and cannabis Indica should have been identified as cannabis Afghanica, because it actually originated in Afghanistan. Finally, it seems that cannabis Ruderalis is actually what people mean when they refer to cannabis Sativa”

It has been determined by using “DNA barcodes” that cannabis Indica and cannabis Sativa are not separate species, they are both subspecies, separate varieties of one cannabis species.

McPartland traced the confusion that prevails today among cannabis breeders to the 1970s, when botanist Richard Evans Schultes incorrectly identified cannabis Afghanica as cannabis Indica.

Mr C farm3