Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Meeting Norman Lamb MP - CBD, Cannabis and Mental Health

Meeting Norman Lamb MP - 11th October 2016

I had the pleasure of meeting with Norman Lamb MP, who stands as both one of the most proactive supporters and campaigners for Mental Health Reform, and passionate advocate for cannabis law reform both as a medicine and recreationally. He commissioned the Expert Group, Chaired by Steve Rolles,Senior Policy Analyst, Transform Drug Policy Foundation who published the most recent proposal for legal regulation of cannabis, which was submitted to parliament and can be found here: 
A regulated cannabis market for the UK

The subject for our discussion was one particularly close to my heart and mind: The Benefits of Cannabis for Mental Health Conditions, but, resulting from the recent decision by the MHRA to classify all cannabidiol (CBD) containing products as a medicine, I thought this was worth adding to the agenda.

Over the last couple of years, I have had a number of experiences of meeting MPs and I have to say that meeting Norman is different in all the good ways. He is informal, welcoming and friendly, he also has really comfortable leather sofas and I could very quickly tell that he was actively listening and taking a personal interest in what I had come to ask him, challenging fairly, asking searching and informed questions so that he understood the whole issue properly. That said, as with all MPs you meet their time is short so I got to the point:

CBD and the MHRA

Whilst supporting the need to regulate and quality control the CBD product market for the benefit of all consumers, I explained our concerns regarding the impact on many 1000s of patients' well being if legal access was restricted or indeed removed for any period of time. He listened, he grilled me, he understood and he dictated a letter to the MHRA right there and then in front of me and asking for an urgent response:

Norman Lamb's Letter to MHRA - Page 1

Norman Lamb's Letter to MHRA - Page 2

Result! Wow - That worked well, I must say. Will update you as soon as I get the Chief Executive Officer of MHRA's response!

Cannabis and Mental Health

Mental Health Conditions Effectively Managed with Cannabis
as reported by patients
©United Patients Alliance/APPG
Patient Survey 2016
We then discussed the the benefits of cannabis for many mental health conditions evidenced from Professor Mike Barnes' recent study, citing Anxiety, Depression, Sleep Disorders and PTSD along with the results of UPA's patient survey, (which we will publish shortly) finding 36% of patients effectively managing a range of mental health conditions with cannabis in various strengths and forms. 
(Conditions as reported in free text field)

Norman found these data compelling and was fascinated by the range. He noted that he had heard of its potential benefits for Anxiety and PTSD and agreed that the subject needed focus and attention.

I explained, that we spend too much time defending cannabis against exaggerated claims about its risks and so neglected the exciting benefits and that I felt, with his record in Mental Health reform, he would be in the best position to help us change this narrative. He asked, in what ways I thought he could help, so I asked whether he would help open the door to national organisations and charities on the subject. He suggested and agreed to facilitate a parliamentary round table discussion with a number of the major Mental Health Charities with whom he has a very good and long standing relationship. Another Result! (Well, as long as I can put the whole proposal together for him!!  HELP? Seriously - Help!)

Quite coincidentally (serendipitously), I happened to meet Professor David Nutt, from DrugScience on the tube on the way in and we had a very interesting conversation. Firstly, he was off to meet with representatives of the MHRA to discuss directly what their objectives and reasoning was in making their recent statement, as he feels that they might not be properly informed on the science of cannabis and CBD and was going to help them get up to speed. He has assured me, that he will be feeding back on how that went. 
In addition, he added, that there might just be some rather good news internationally on cannabis being announced shortly - He did not go into any more detail on this, but strongly suggested to keep an eye on his twitter account on Friday afternoon! :)

I have to say - Today was a good day! 

Jon Liebling – Political Director of United Patients Alliance

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