Behind The Petition

by Calum Armstrong


Over the past few months, there have been a series of petitions concerning drug reform in the UK.

One petition in particular, to make the production, use and sale of cannabis legal, rapidly reached over ten thousand online signatures.

The petition proved to be incredibly popular, attracting lots of attention from the media, and helped bring the issue of drug law reform to a wider audience among the UK public. Building on this success, young activist Jacob Barrow launched a petition proposing to reschedule cannabis. If successful, rescheduling would make it easier to conduct research into the medicinal qualities of cannabis, and may lead to cannabis products becoming available for medicinal use.

In a testament to the recent attention raised around drug law reform, the Government swiftly issued a response to Jacob’s petition, reiterating their policy that ‘Cannabis in its raw form… (does not have) any medicinal purposes…’ Dissatisfied with the Government’s reasoning, Jacob wrote to VolteFace, expanding upon his own reasons for starting the petition:

I launched the petition as the UK, Ireland and France are the only nations in Europe that fail to identify the therapeutic benefits of herbal cannabis.

I was diagnosed with Chronic and Neuropathic pain eight years ago, leaving me the challenge of finding the safest and most effective medicine.

After years of researching, testing and comparing my own experiences I have found that herbal cannabis in its floral form is by far the most effective option for me. Under specialist guidance I trialled Sativex, a cannabis oil spray, but had to stop soon after starting as it did little to relieve my discomfort.

The Government have allowed GW Pharmaceuticals to develop medicinal cannabis products, some of which are developed from high THC strains – ideal for treating of Chronic and Neuropathic pain conditions. However, none of these products have been made available thus far.

I was lucky enough to have the chance to visit the Netherlands to test the Jack Herer cannabis strains, upon which Bedrocan, a herbal cannabis strain developed for medicinal use, is based. I found these high-THC strains incredibly effective for pain relief, similar to the THC varieties I rely upon in the UK. Within minutes of use, the Jack Herer strains, cleared all my symptoms: no pain, no spasms, I felt happy and focused.

It disappointed me that the petition committee decided to consult the Home Office, rather than the Department of Health, as I believe that they would be far better suited to address this matter. In their response, the Home Office failed to cite any scientific evidence to support their claim that cannabis ‘is harmful and can damage human health’. If the Uk Government were to look to Israel, they would find that anecdotal evidence has developed into legitimate scientific findings in support of medicinal cannabis.

I want to ask the UK Government if they will allow me the opportunity to relieve my symptoms with clinically regulated herbal cannabis from Bedrocan. This is a medication that has been proven to be safe and effective, and is easily importable from mainland Europe.

I also wonder why the NHS, Home Office and Department of Health are comfortable with my having to use opiate based medicine, which makes me feel mentally and physically ill (and indeed exacerbates my symptoms), while herbal cannabis, which helps relive my symptoms, remains a Schedule One substance. Having to produce my own medication leads puts me in a difficult position, and puts me under considerable additional mental strain, not to mention the huge costs. If I were to be prescribed Bedrocan, then a large physical and mental weight would be lifted, and I would be able to keep the symptoms of my condition at bay, without fear of additional stress and illness.

I want to be able to rely upon my national healthcare system, to be able to collect my medication knowing that it has been rigorously tested during its development, to know that it will have a high enough THC content that will let me live my life comfortably without fear of my symptoms flaring up and putting me in hospital. The right strains of cannabis have kept me out of hospital, out of bed and away from sickness. To know that Bedrocan, which has successfully treated thousands upon thousands of patients in Europe with conditions similar to mine, is less than 400 miles away, is deeply saddening, and leaves lacking trust in the healthcare system of my home country.

If the UK Government will not reschedule cannabis then I must make a desperate plea that  they immediately allow the importation and prescription of the medical varieties available from Bedrocan so that I, and thousands of others like me (many of whom are forced to rely upon the black market for their medication), can have access to a medication that works without making me a criminal.

Jacob Lawrence Barrow

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