The cannabis (f)law: by Rocky van de Benderskum

Picture: ‘It’s all just quantum theory innit’ by Rocky van de Benderskum

Rocky in 2005 as part of the Legalise Cannabis Alliance

I’ve been a cannabis activist for a minute or two, including standing for Parliament in 2005 in Canterbury, my home town, for the Legalise Cannabis Alliance, and I’ve made numerous visits to Whitehall to lobby for the freedom of my use of the plant for any reason.

My health isn’t great: I have leukaemia, but had chemotherapy and a bone-marrow transplant in 2014.

Since then I’ve been also diagnosed with COPD, emphysema, hyperthyroidism and osteopenia. Previously I had also been diagnosed with osteoarthritis and, after an operation, told I have no cartilage in my knees and will need a replacement — but this is on permanent hold due to my other conditions. I also suffer migraines after a car crash in 1975. My skull was fractured in two places after I was launched through a windscreen headfirst into a lamppost.

Having been prescribed painkillers, mostly morphine-based, I decided to not take them but to use cannabis oil and cannabis herb (marijuana, weed, ganja etc: whatever name you like.) It works mostly as the prescribed painkillers did — but without the addiction to morphine. Unfortunately, its use is illegal, so to ease my pain I had to be a criminal.

Then, on November 1 2018, the government announced cannabis would be available on prescription for certain conditions. Great, I thought, so I can now be prescribed by a doctor.

However, it wasn’t that simple. The doctors that can prescribe are all specialist consultants on a special list of about 52,000.

I regularly had appointments with haematology at King’s College Hospital in London and three of my consultants were on the list, so I asked each one of them if they would prescribe as it is clear in my medical records that I use cannabis. They each told me that although they would like to prescribe, government guidelines to NHS hospitals state that unlicensed medicines should not be prescribed.

This year, after becoming homeless, I needed some pain relief and applied to a private clinic listed by health-services watchdog the Care Quality Commission as a cannabis clinic. I now have a prescription, but I’m not sure how long I can keep paying for it at £230 a month plus consultation fees, the first of which was £100, with follow-ups at £50.

Schedule One

Lobbying

Cannabis remains a “schedule one” substance: according to the schedule, it has no medicinal value, which of course is nonsense, especially considering the government’s announcement back in 2018.

So does it or doesn’t it have medicinal value? I can vouch that it is at least as effective as the legal drugs such as morphine, etc; not more, but without the debilitating side effects.

As I have a legal prescription, I am no longer a criminal in the eyes of the law, yet I do exactly what I did before with my marijuana: vaporise it or eat it in food, or take oil sublingually.

So paying money to a government-approved outlet (in this case, Sapphire Clinic, Harley Street, London) makes a criminal act disappear.

Incidentally, cannabis itself is not illegal. It couldn’t be, it’s a plant. What is illegal is cultivation, distribution and possession — unless, as previously stated, you have a legal prescription, a licence to grow or a licence to distribute.

The prescription means I can’t be busted for having cannabis, of which I’m prescribed 0.2ml CBD oil twice daily; 0.3ml THC oil thrice daily; and 1gm of high-grade (20 per cent THC) cannabis flower per day for vaping.

It works out fine, but I run out of all the prescription before the month is up, as 20gm only lasts 20 days. So I need to address this at my next consultation, which won’t be a problem, except that I doubt I can afford another 10gm.

As you can see, it’s not really about anything but the money — if I can pay their prices, cannabis is legal: if I can’t pay, I’m a criminal.

Licence

A hemp field in Côtes-d’Armor, Brittany, France (Europe‘s largest hemp producer)

To grow hemp or low-grade marijuana/cannabis though, a licence is required, even though it is non-psychoactive, which is strange, as it is such a valuable crop. But licences are few and far between, whereas wheat, corn, rape etc can be grown without a licence.

To get a licence to grow a high-grade crop is virtually impossible — unless you know the right people. Managing director of British Sugar Paul Kenward was given a licence to grow 45 acres of high-grade marijuana/cannabis, to be converted into medicine by GW Pharmaceuticals among others. Here is how that transpired.

A few years ago, as sugar became less popular and people looked for other sweeteners, British Sugar needed to diversify. It tried tomatoes, but it was a flop, so it then decided to grow marijuana/cannabis, and a licence was applied for from the Home Office. The Drugs Minister at that point was Victoria Atkins MP, the wife of Paul Kenward. No surprise there. After an exposé in the national press, she was moved from that post.

About 70 per cent of the world’s legally grown so-called medical cannabis is grown under government licence here in England. But lobbying MPs gets the same standard answer: it is a dangerous drug with no medicinal value, they say. But hang on: remember the 2018 legislation making it legal for certain medical conditions? It’s a bit of a contradiction.

Distribution is now via a few chosen pharmacies and apparently secure.

But my first delivery was by a well-known direct parcel-delivery service, then just handed to someone in another flat — not signed for or anything. The recipient was female, yet on the package my name, Rocky van de Benderskum, was very clearly printed and it’s unlikely to be a female name. I was lucky to get the package. I knew the delivery time, so caught the driver’s attention as he was driving off and he retrieved it — otherwise, in the worst eventuality, I would have had to prove, somehow, that I had not received it.

So not a very secure method of delivery.

At present, some MPs are looking at the Misuse of Drugs Act and how it is no longer a workable law, with inconsistencies from the start — in fact from years before it became law.

But that’s another story completely.


Rocky van de Benderskum is an anarchist, a geriactivist and a scribbler. See https://www.benderskum.rocks/ for more information.

Leave Nothing but Footprints
Take Nothing but Pictures
Kill Nothing but Time

One Love 

The Benderskum

You can buy Rocky’s new book on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09BCB92WW


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