Some of the samples contained a petroleum derivative and household disinfectant. Graphic: Simon Rankin
EXCLUSIVE Christiane Barro
Seriously ill patients who are turning to medical cannabis for life-saving treatment are being sold fake, poisonous and intoxicating products manufactured in backyard laboratories across Australia.
The unlicensed suppliers are sending cannabis oil that contains dangerous chemicals that could lead to cancer, and then charging people $6000 for up to three months’ supply.
The unregulated products have put patients’ lives in serious danger with several reports of abuse and the leak of private patients’ details. During a six-month investigation, The New Daily was sent 14 different samples of cannabis extract from concerned customers of three different illegal suppliers.
A top Australian research facility, which did not want to be named, independently tested these products for the amount of cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the two most active ingredients in the cannabis plant.
When that data was analysed by Safe Work Laboratories, 13 products were found to have no medicinal value, contained hazardous solvents or were heavily intoxicating.
Alicia Wallace - The Denver Post
October 6, 2017
Cannabidiol is a non-psychoactive cannabis compound touted for its medicinal promise, but marijuana and hemp-derived extracts rich in CBD and low in intoxicating THC are facing a future yet to be determined.
This time next year, an investigational drug hailed as a breakthrough in the science of cannabidiol could be prescribed to children suffering from treatment-resistant epilepsy.
The prospect of its success, however, has caused some unease in the American hemp industry.
London-based GW Pharmaceuticals is steering its proprietary Epidiolex oral solution through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's approval pipeline.
Unlike other FDA-approved drugs that emulate the properties of THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, Epidiolex utilizes another of the plant's compounds: non-psychoactive cannabidiol. GW's pharmaceutical formulation of purified CBD is targeted for treating rare, early onset seizure disorders including Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndromes, as well as Tuberous Sclerosis Complex and Infantile Spasms.
Cannabis sold at Bay Area dispensaries is regularly referred to as "medicine," however a lack of regulation and testing around the product has led to significant supply of marijuana on dispensary shelves being tainted and/or toxic to the people who consume it.
Following the recent HempCon at the Cow Palace in August, an array of medical marijuana products underwent testing by Hunters Point-based Anresco Laboratories. As San Francisco Magazine reports, some 80 percent of those tested from California-based growers and dispensaries, were tainted with mold, fungus, bacteria, pesticides, or harmful solvents — and the popular concentrates and oils used in vape pens and dabs can, because they're concentrated, contain much higher amounts of these toxins.
"We sometimes see 20 or 30 percent of our samples coming through the lab significantly contaminated with molds," said Dr. Donald Land of Steep Hill Laboratories in Berkeley. But after sampling from 20 dispensaries across California and analyzing the cannabis down to its DNA, Land told CBS 5 at the time that he was shocked to find "ninety percent of those samples had something on them. Some DNA of some pathogen."
SF Mag goes further into Anresco's results, finding that pesticides and fungicides can appear in cannabis extracts at 1,000 times the level of concentration typically found in foods. These chemicals include things like myclobutanil, which sold under the brand name Eagle 20, and which can cause cancer and has reportedly sickened cannabis consumers in Canada.
The Bill and the report
The Cannabis for Medicinal Use Regulation Bill 2016 passed through the Dáil on 1 December when the government chose not to oppose it.
The bill would allow for the legalisation of cannabis for medicinal purposes. It proposes the establishment of a Cannabis Regulation Authority which would manage and licence the sale of cannabis for medicinal use.
The bill also contains provisions for cannabis to be prescribed by general registered doctors and for cannabis to be removed from the Misuse of Drugs Act.
The Joint Health Committee report is strongly critical of the bill on multiple grounds.
It states that the establishment of a Cannabis Regulation Authority would undermine the current framework for regulation for medicine in Ireland. As things stand, new medicines are regulated by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA).
The report also criticises the provision around removing cannabis from the Misuse of Drugs Act, saying that this could have “unintended policy consequences” like decriminalising cannabis in non-medicinal circumstances.
It also says access to cannabis would be too loose under the bill, meaning that it could be potentially harmful for patients.
Finally, the committee notes that an approach is already being considered by government over medicinal cannabis under existing laws. A HPRA report published in January found that there was insufficient evidence for its benefits to prescribe cannabis generally.
The approach whereby cannabis could be prescribed by a medical consultant in a controlled and monitored manner for a limited number of clearly defined medical conditions is already being pursued by government.
The Joint Health Committee recommends that this approach be continued and that. It states that due to the large number of issues, the Solidarity People Before Profit Bill should not progress any further.
None of WA’s 10,679 doctors have applied to prescribe medical cannabis since it was legalized in November.
According to the AMA WA, the lack of interest is because doctors do not believe there is evidence to prescribe medical cannabis for anything other than in paediatric epilepsy and MS.
AMA cautious about medicinal cannabis
But the Australian Medical Association of WA said it remained cautious about the use of medicinal cannabis.
AMA WA president Omar Khorshid said it was important rules around the use of medicinal cannabis remained strict, as its efficacy was still being tested.
"The AMA is certainly not supportive of shortcuts, and instead of avoiding all the regulatory steps, we should be investigating cannabis-based products, how good they are, how safe they are, and once that's been done, they should available just like any other drug," he said.
"The AMA is calling for more research on cannabis-based drugs so that we know what's in them, how well they work, and how safe they are, and once that's done, we'll be able to prescribe to prescribe better drugs for patients to manage these conditions."
Ms Neville said there was international research to show cannabinoid-based products were safe and efficient.
The Department of Health said an application was yet to be received from Ms Neville's doctor, and the department had contacted this doctor to provide information and regulatory assistance.