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Public Freedom Of Information Inquiry Denied By Home Office For “Public Interest” Reasons

December 18, 2011

Clear – Cannabis Law Reform – are on a mission to make the truth about cannabis clear. To aid this task party leader, Peter Reynolds, submitted a Freedom of Information request on behalf of the British public to have published the licenses granted to GW Pharmaceuticals who have the unique lawful ability to grow cannabis for production of their MS treatment Sativex.

This information will allow us to see how we can help stop thousands of cannabis consumers being criminalized, and help hundreds of thousands, if not millions, who need to use cannabis in amounts that require them to grow it and gain the legal right to be able to do so. Between 2 and 6 million people in the UK consume cannabis on a regular basis and £16 billion a year is put on the tax payer enforcing prohibition of the scientifically proven non-toxic plant.

Reynolds original request reads;

Dear Home Office,

Under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, the Home Secretary is able to
issue licences covering production, possession and supply of any
controlled drug. GW Pharmaceuticals has been granted such licences
in relation to cannabis. I hereby request that a copy of all said
licences relating to GW Pharmaceuticals and cannabis, and all
secondary requirements such as fees, terms and conditions etc., be
provided.”

The reply to the request was not the desired one but has given those following the movement in the UK the feeling that there is something being covered up other than the reasons given by Mr Lee Smith of the Drugs Licensing and Compliance Unit. The most telling part of the reply;

I can confirm that the Home Office holds the information that you requested.
However, after careful consideration we have decided that the information is 
exempt from disclosure under sections 30 (1)(a), 41 and 43 of the Freedom of
Information Act. These provide that information can be withheld where
disclosure would be an actionable breach of confidence or would be likely to,
prejudice the prevention or detection of crime and the commercial interests of
any person, and the public interest falls in favour of applying these 
exemptions.  

In the official Clear reply – swiftly submitted – it points out the two main points of denial for the FOI request and then attacks them;

1. It may damage GW Pharma’s commercial interests.

This is an absurd excuse. GW has already been granted what is
almost certainly an unlawful monopoly. The relationship between the
Home Office and GW is self-evidently corrupt and improper. How does
this square with the anti-monopoly provisions of the Enterprise Act
2002? What opportunities exist for other businesses to grow
cannabis for medicine? This licence is issued by a public authority
and its terms and conditions (redacted in part if necessary) should
be freely available to public scrutiny.

We already know that pharmaceutical companies in both the UK and the US are trying to find a way to patent cannabis or cannabinoids; this is most likely going to happen in a way that patents cannabinoid combinations. So far this has been impossible to accomplish because cannabis and natural cannabinoids known as phytocannabinoids aren’t patentable, they grow naturally and that goes outside the rules. This has encouraged the US to bend the rules a little and soon we will see mass production from another pharma company out there legally distributing cannabis medicine to patients that if they were to grow their own would face federal imprisonment.

In the UK we have a situation where GW Pharmaceuticals have the monopoly on cannabis medicine creating a situation where they are able to completely control the market and the cost of the product – so much to the point that local health authorities are denying it from the Multiple Sclerosis patients that it is intended to be prescribed to. The cost of Sativex is around 1000 times greater than the cost to actually produce herbal cannabis which, according to medical users who have tried the spray, exceeds the spray in effects. If GW were able to be challenged in the market of providing cannabis medicines that can now be scientifically and categorically proven to provide a better quality of life and reduce the symptoms for a whole host of illnesses and disorders to patients, the chances are the price is going to have to come down. That’s just how the market works.

The denial to allow the public to see this information on the grounds that GW’s commercial interests would be damaged just means that it might allow others to use relevant information to start their own business and make money with cannabis legally for medical purposes, just like GW – and that would take away from their profits. What other industry has this kind of protection? Remember they can’t patent cannabis yet…

2. It may make GW potential targets of criminal activity.

Again, an absurd excuse. The location of GW’s facilities are

already public knowledge – at its headquarters in Porton Down,

Wiltshire and at the Kent Science Park, Sittingbourne,.This is nothing but an excuse to prevent public scrutiny and
amounts to an unlawful breach of the FOI Act 2000.

As the reply states, the location of GW is already known and it doesn’t take long to search on the internet to get a result. If there was that much of a concern about the secrecy of GW’s growing facilities would they really have showed it in all of its glory on the BBC Horizon episode The Evil Weed? Maybe we should be submitting a Freedom of Information request to find out how many times the UK’s only legal cannabis farm has been attacked or attempted to be broken into?

Or would it inspire anger in the public that are thrust into the realms of criminality if they try to carry out the same practices. Is cannabis dangerous, or are their concerns about licensing and the financial loss to GW Pharmaceuticals that would follow if ordinary members of the public were able to obtain growing licenses? As the first response from the original request states, the information which shows you the fees for the licensing of producing THC cannabis in the UK are available on the Home office Website:

New application for a licence to:

  • possess controlled drugs = £3,133
  • supply, or offer to supply, controlled drugs = £3,655
  • produce preparations containing controlled drugs = £4,178
  • produce controlled drugs = £4,700
  • cultivate cannabis= £4,700
  • cultivate cannabis with a THC content not exceeding 0.2 per cent = £580

So if you want to grow your own cannabis for your own personal use it is going to cost you £17,291 just for the paperwork cost and then every year you would have to pay a renewal of between £300 and £11,400 depending on the status of inspection for the license but, seeing as we can’t get access to the only one that exists in the country, that information remains a mystery. £17k isn’t something your normal, regular, everyday person who just wants to use cannabis can afford, let alone people who are desperate to grow their own to treat their serious medical needs or for someone to grow it for them. A basic grow set up starts around £500 with some people spending £10,000 on a up to date with the latest technology indoor garden, just as GW have been able to do so. In Colorado and other such states that have regulated medicinal cannabis use for qualifying conditions patients only have to pay around $200 for be legally posess and grow canabis with a plant limit and usable amount of medicine in weight as a requirement. It is so important to the state it has created 8000 jobs, 125,000 patients and has been written into the states constitution meaning the state will intervene with any federal action that is taken against Colorado Medical Marijuana Clinics.

Why should someone have to pay such a large amount in bureaucratic fees for something which they are not going to be supplying, distributing or making any money back on…AND of which a year’s supply would not even cost as much to produce as the licensing fees imposed?

So, as a conclusion, when the Drugs Licensing and Compliance Unit say that it is in “the public interest” to keep this information in the shadows, what they really mean is that it is in GW Pharma’s interest to keep this information redacted in its entirety so that they can continue to charge prices higher than the black market to patients sicker than the kind of people the government are trying to protect from using it – everyone else.

To follow this Freedom of Information request bookmark this page.

For more information about the political campaign in the UK visit http//clear-uk.org.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Pete permalink
    December 18, 2011 7:42 pm

    Good work but a very reactionary almost whining type response from Clear. I understand your frustrations entirely but a modicum of decorum goes a long way in these circles.

  2. December 18, 2011 7:55 pm

    Can I just tell you that you are doing a fantastic job. It is down right disgraceful that the government interferes in the market and creates a monopoly by doing so. Another fine example of how government, rather than looking out for the interests of the people, seek only to line their pockets with cash from special interest groups like the lobbyists from the Pharmaceutical companies. I am not a Cannabis smoker but I support you and your cause 100%. The government has no right to tell you what you can and cannot do to your body, in the same way they have no right to create monopolies for the only interest which concerns them: becoming wealthy. I have tweeted to my followers on Twitter, I wish you the best of luck in your pursuit to legalise this wonderful, helpful medicine. What I would recommend is phoning up the news desk of all the national newspapers, then some local ones. It’s a long shot, but this is a very newsworthy story.

  3. December 18, 2011 8:15 pm

    For a little more reading on this subject follow this link;

    http://www.hydroponica.co.uk/ekmps/shops/applewoods/resources/Other/dear-baroness-browning.doc

  4. December 18, 2011 9:00 pm

    http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/1419

    “Responsible department: Home Office

    Cannabis is remarkably safe and non-toxic and is an effective therapeutic medication for many people on the autistic spectrum. We demand that it be removed from schedule one and we ask the Home Office to make priority ‘cannabis based medicines for autism’ research to be a condition of the license given to GW Pharmaceuticals Ltd, the license that gives them permission to grow high grade skunk for the purposes of researching and manufacturing Sativex and other cannabis based medicines.”

    Please sign and share. Thank you.

  5. December 18, 2011 9:25 pm

    complete bollocks fuck the goverment i shall smoke weed till my heart’s content

  6. stevester8308 permalink
    December 19, 2011 12:05 pm

    Pete can you post the web address from your site id love to read the letters you send to the HO pressuring them on the unfairness of an unjust law if you describe Peter Reynolds letters as whining than you must have sent some amazing letters to the HO . Please do let us see them .

  7. Steve SImpson permalink
    December 19, 2011 2:43 pm

    @stevester8308: http://clear-uk.org/

  8. December 19, 2011 3:42 pm

    Pete when everything you try is just denied and your just told no an there is nothing else you can do about it (when you know what they are doin is unjust and wrong) all there is left is to as you put it “whine”, VERY soon this will lead to riots if our stupid government keep denying the voice of its people.

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