You think you know cannabis?

Many people are aware of the terms, Sativa, Indica and Ruderalis, however, the vast majority of people are mis-informed regarding their correct definitions.

It turns out that there is just one species of cannabis, with different subspecies.  What people generally consider to be cannabis Indica actually originated in Afghanistan so it is actually cannabis Afghanica,  cannabis Sativa? well that is actually Ruderalis and cannabis Indica is cannabis Sativa, confused?


For the past 40 years, the conventional view has been that there are 4 distinct varieties of cannabis plant, namely: cannabis Indica, cannabis Sativa and cannabis Ruderalis. The fourth classification is given to what is now referred to as Hemp, this is the name given to low producing THC cannabis plants which are grown commercially for their seeds, oil and fibre.

Cannabis Indica

This variety originated from the mountainous regions of Central Asia. Local strains were collected from Kashmir, Pakistan, Northern India and Nepal during the early 1960's and these native plants became the gene pool for many of today's varieties. They are characteristically stocky and hardy plants that produce broad, maple like leaves and rarely reach heights in excess of 2m (7ft) outdoors, producing dense, tight flowers.

Cannabis Sativa

Sativa varieties originate from equatorial regions and can reach heights in excess of 15 feet (4.5m)

They are easily identified by their thin, slender, spiky leaves.

Cannabis Sativa varieties are sort after for their high THC content and the associated profound and uplifting experience, a total contrast to the more sedative effects of Indica strains.

Cannabis Ruderalis

This is a debated third variety of cannabis found in Russia, Poland, and other eastern European countries, Ruderalis varieties do not require a photo-period to induce flowering.

Latest Findings

The above definitions are mainly due to the work of Richard Schultes, who categorised the varieties in his cannabis taxonomy in the 1970’s, however, it seems that he was in error.

From O’Shaughnessy’s:

“McPartland was the first researcher to look at the genetic markers on the three subspecies of cannabis using the plant’s genome to conclusively identify where it originated. He also proved conclusively that they are all the same species, just different subspecies.  As it turns out, cannabis Sativa should have been identified as cannabis Indica, because it originated in India (hence indica) and cannabis Indica should have been identified as cannabis Afghanica, because it actually originated in Afghanistan. Finally, it seems that cannabis Ruderalis is actually what people mean when they refer to cannabis Sativa”

It has been determined by using “DNA barcodes” that cannabis Indica and cannabis Sativa are not separate species, they are both subspecies, separate varieties of one cannabis species.

McPartland traced the confusion that prevails today among cannabis breeders to the 1970s, when botanist Richard Evans Schultes incorrectly identified cannabis Afghanica as cannabis Indica.

Cannabis oil treating Epilepsy, 173 years ago

Everyday I read articles about scientific breakthroughs concerning the medical properties of cannabis, this morning I read an article on how CBD is "a wonder medicine for pediatric epilepsy' and how Amylea Nunez, aged two months was the youngest patient to be prescribed cannabis oil. However, she is not the youngest and cannabis oil as a treatment in paediatric epilepsy is not a new discovery, it is merely a rediscovery.

You can read little Amylea's amazing story: Infant Overcomes Seizures After Becoming Youngest Patient to Take Cannabis Oil

Dr WB O'Shaughnessy

In 1840, Victorian Doctors were treating people with extracts of cannabis for many illnesses, including tinctures for treating children with epilepsy.

One of my favourite pioneers was Dr William Brooke O'Shaughnessy MD, an irish physician, surgeon, Professor of chemistry, scientist and innovator, he was a pioneer of 'intravenous therapy' and he is the man credited with introducing cannabis to Western medicine.

O'Shaughnessy graduated in 1829 with a Medical Doctorate from the University of Edinburgh. In 1831, at the young age of 22, he investigated cholera and his early work led to the development of intravenous fluid and electrolyte-replacement therapy.

In 1833, O'Shaughnessy moved to Calcutta, India to work for the British East India Company and during his time there he developed new cannabinoid extraction techniques which he used is preparations to treat patients suffering from, cholera, tetanus, analgesia, rheumatism and epilepsy in infants.

In India, he initially studied botanical pharmacology and chemistry, publishing his first paper on medical cannabis in 1839.

In his paper "On the preparations of the Indian hemp, or Gunjah" published in the Provincial Medical Journal, London on February 4th, 1843, O'Shaughnessey relates the case of a baby just over a month old who he administered  an ethanol (alcohol) cannabis based tincture.

Please remember this was written 173 years ago.

Case of Infantile Convulsions, 1843

"A very interesting case of this disease has recently occurred in my private practice, the particulars of which I have the permission of the family to insert in this paper. A female infant, forty days old, the child of Mr. and Mrs. J. L., of Calcutta, on the 10th of September had a slight attack of convulsions, which recurred chiefly at night for about a fortnight, and for which the usual purgatives-warm baths and a few doses of calomel and chalk-were given without effect. On that day the attacks were almost unceasing, and amounted to regular tetanic paroxysms. The child had, moreover, completely lost appetite and was emaciating rapidly"

"I had by this time exhausted all the usual methods of treatment, and the child was apparently in a binking state. Under these circumstances I stated to the parents the results of the experiments I had made with the hemp, and my conviction that it would relieve their infant if relief could possibly be obtained. They gladly consented to the trial, and a single drop of the spirituous tincture, equal to the one-twentieth part of a grain in weight, was placed on the child's tongue at 10pm."

1/20th of a grain is 3.24mgs

"No immediate effect was perceptible, and in an hour and a half two drops more were given. The infant fell asleep in a few minutes, and slept soundly till 4pm, when she awoke, screamed for food, took the breast free!y, and fell asleep again. At 9am, 1st of October, I found the child fast asleep, but easily roused; the pulse, countenance, and skin perfectly natural. In this drowsy state she continued for four days totally free from convulsive symptoms in any form"

"During this time the bowels were frequently spontaneously relieved, and the appetite returned to the natural degree. October 4th, At 1am, convulsions returned and continued at intervals during the day; 5 drop doses of the tincture were given hourly. Up to midnight there were 30 fits, and 44 drops of the tincture of hemp were ineffectually given."

"Paroxysms continued during the night. At 11am, it was found that the tincture in use during the preceding days had been kept by the servant in a small bottle with a paper stopper, the spirit had evaporated and the whole of the resin had settled on the sides of the phial. The infant had in fact becn taking drops of mere water during the preceding day."

*Always shake cannabis preparations before use and store in the fridge.

"A new preparation was given in 3 drop doses during the 5th and 6th, and increased to 8 drops with the effect of diminishing the violence, though not of preventing the return of the paroxysm. On the 7th I met Dr. Nicholson in consultation, and despairing of a cure from the hemp, it was agreed to intermit its use, to apply a mustard poultice to the epigastrium, and to give a dose of castor oil and turpentine."

"The child, however, rapidly became worse, and at 2pm, a tetanic spasm set in, which lasted without intermission till 6.30pm. A cold bath was tried without solution of the spasm; the hemp was, therefore, again resorted to, and a dose of 30 drops, equal to one and a-half grains of the resin, given at once."

Approx: 100mgs

"Immediately after this dose was given the limbs relaxed, the little patient fell fast asleep, and so continued for 13 hours. While asleep, she was evidently under the peculiar influence of the drug. On the 8th October, at 4am, there was a severe fit, and from this hour to 10pm, 25 fits occurred, and 130 drops of the tincture were given in 30 drop doses"

Dr O'Shaughnessy (quite correctly) increased the dose

"It was now manifestly a struggle between the disease and the remedy; but at 10pm, she was again narcotised, and from that hour no fit returned"

"The child is now 17/12/1842 in the enjoyment of robust health, and has regained her natural plump and happy appearance. In reviewing this case several very remarkable circumstances present themselves. At first we find 3 drops, causing profound narcotism, subsequently we find 130 drops daily required to produce the same effect"

He was learning about how tolerance builds, hence the requirement to increase the dose (slowly).

"Should the disease ever recur, it will be a matter of much interest to notice the quantity of the tincture requisite to afford relief. The reader will remember that this infant was but 60 days old when 130 drops were given in one day, of the same preparation of which ten drops had intoxicated the student Dinonath Dhur, who took the drug for experiment"

Dr O'Shaughnessy concludes:

"The preceding cases constitute an abstract of my experience on this subject, and constitute the grounds of my belief that in hemp the profession has gained an anti-convulsive remedy of the greatest value"

The Doctor explains how he prepares his preparations

"The resinous extract is prepared by boiling the rich, adhesive tops of the dried gunjah, in spirit, until all the resin is dissolved. The tincture thus obtained is evaporated to dryness by distillation, or in a vessel placed over a pot of boiling water. The extract softens at a gentle heat, and can be made into pills without any addition"

The alcohol he used was 84.5% ethanol, he was preparing what many people today would refer to as a FECO extraction (full extract cannabis oil).

"In hydrophobia I would recommend the resin in soft pills, to the extent of 10 to 20 grains to be chewed by the patient, and repeated according to the effect"

10 to 20 grains is 0.65 grams to 1.3 grams, and from Dr O'Shaughnessy's description of the pill making process it is actually cannabis oil as we now know it, 1.3 grams is a very significant dose. Hydrophobia is a common symptom of Rabies.

"With the alcoholic extract made from the tops in the way I recommend the practitioner has only to feel his way, and increase the dose until he produces intoxication as the test of the remedy having taken effect"

"Of all powerful narcotics it is the safest to use with boldness and decision"

I fully concur.

A legal defense in the UK to the possession, production and supply of cannabis oil?

Every 'criminal' should be a legal expert on every law they break. 

Here is my experience (and views) on the ‘defence of necessity, please note: this is not legal advice, merely the views and interpretations of someone who has been through the process on more than one occasion and it is very likely I will have to do it all again.

The defence of necessity is well established in English criminal law, in essence, it is available when a defendant is arguing that it was necessary for them to commit a crime.

In 1883, Sir James Stephen’s Digest of Law identified three requirements for the defence:
  • (i) the act is needed to avoid inevitable and irreparable evil.
  • (ii) no more should be done than is reasonably necessary for the purpose to be achieved.
  • (iii) the evil inflicted must not be disproportionate to the evil avoided. 

The above was cited in R v A (2001) Brooke LJ.  In R v Martin [1989] Simon Brown J. summarised the principles of “duress of circumstances”

“The principles may be summarised thus:

First, English law does, in extreme circumstances, recognise a defence of necessity.

Most commonly this defence arises as duress, that is pressure upon the accused's will from the wrongful threats or violence of another. Equally however it can arise from other objective dangers threatening the accused or others. Arising thus it is conveniently called "duress of circumstances".

Secondly, the defence is available only if, from an objective standpoint, the accused can be said to be acting reasonably and proportionately in order to avoid a threat of death or serious injury.

Third, assuming the defence to be open to the accused on his account of the facts, the issue should be left to the jury, who should be directed to determine these two questions: first, was the accused, or may he have been impelled to act as he did because as a result of what he reasonably believed to be the situation he had good cause to fear that otherwise death or serious physical injury would result? Second, if so, may a sober person of reasonable firmness, sharing the characteristics of the accused, have responded to that situation by acting as the accused acted, if the answer to both those questions was yes, then the jury would acquit: the defence of necessity would have been established.”

“Duress” most commonly arises when there is “pressure upon the accused's will from the wrongful threats or violence of another”.

This is not (generally) the case if I supply cannabis oil to a terminal cancer sufferer, however it could be applicable in Ellie’s (not her real name) case.

Ellie is a 13-year-old girl who suffers from Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN), which is described by the medical profession as "the most pain a human being can experience" it is also historically known as the "suicide disease" mainly due to the studies by Dr Harvey Cushing which demonstrated 0.6% mortality involving 123 cases of TN during 1896 and 1912.

Ellie’s mother contacted me a year ago regarding her daughter’s TN, describing how Ellie’s attacks could go on for days at a time it was obvious to me that this mother was at the ‘end of her tether’. Ellie had threatened suicide on a number of occasions and as the attacks were intensifying her mother was concerned over her daughter’s mental state.

Ellie was prescribed opiates for analgesia, in the main morphine, however her prescribed medications were ineffective in providing relief. I was asked to provide cannabis by Ellie’s mother as she had spoken to a mother in Colorado who had used cannabis with great success in treating her daughter’s TN. Ellie’s mother had attempted to obtain the cannabis spray Sativex in the UK, however Ellie’s pain consultant advised that he could not prescribe it to her as it was “only available for adults with MS”.

I arranged for a 1:1, 5% tincture of CBD and THC, (the same cannabinoid profile as Sativex) to be delivered and since Ellie has had access to this tincture she hasn't had a full attack, she reports that if she administers the tincture sublingually (i.e. under the tongue) at the first indications her pain subsides and does not develop into a full TN episode.

Ellie’s Mother reports: 

“Two drops every 20 minutes until the pain goes. Usually I only have to give her one dose, it’s amazing! Yesterday though it was a more serious attack and it took a few more doses until the pain was completely gone, then it came back in the evening, but again, one dose and it was gone. It's helping her so, so much, it's giving her a quality of life she didn't have before”

In my opinion, a case such as this is a case of "duress" as identified in R v Martin

BTW~ Now Ellie’s fear of a TN attack has been replaced by a fear that her mum will go to prison for administering it to her.

“Duress of circumstances” as clarified by Simon Brown J. (above) “can arise from other objective dangers threatening the accused or others” which (imo) is applicable in supplying cannabis oil to a terminal cancer sufferer.

In such a case, are the legal standards met for the use of this defence? 

(i) the act is needed to avoid inevitable and irreparable evil

(ii) no more should be done than is reasonably necessary for the purpose to be achieved

(iii) the evil inflicted must not be disproportionate to the evil avoided. 

In (i), by supplying cannabis oil to a terminal cancer sufferer the supplier is doing so in an effort to avoid the “death” of the person. In (ii), in treating cancer there is a ‘requirement’ for cannabis oil for life, it could be argued that it is ‘reasonable’ to supply cannabis oil on an ongoing, continuing basis

In (iii), by avoiding death, the cultivation of cannabis plants, the oil making process and the supply are all ‘lesser evils’ than the death of the cancer sufferer. 

The defences of “necessity” and “duress” have some factors in common and they also seem to have been used interchangeably by the judiciary: ref– (M.V Clarkson, H.M.Keating and S.R.Cunningham , Clarkson and Keating Criminal Law , Chapter V ( 7th edn,Sweet & Maxwell, 2010) pg 357).

Why my interest in the defence of necessity? In 2004, I successfully used the defense of necessity when I was tried at Chester Crown court on charges of ‘intent to supply’ cannabis to a sufferer of Multiple Sclerosis.

Video of my arrest Here

My first Crown Court trial resulted from my arrest on 6th September, 2003.

Details of my arrest:

ii) On 6th September 2003 Mr Ditchfield's car was searched by police, and a spectacles case was recovered from its glove compartment, which was found to contain two plastic bags, one of which contained 6.8 gms of cannabis, the other of which contained 6.88 gms of cannabis resin. In interview Mr Ditchfield said that he was a campaigner who thought that sick people should have the right to use cannabis medicinally, and that, if a sick person with a genuine medical need (such as a sufferer from MS) asked him for cannabis, he would give it to him free.

The cannabis in his spectacles case was, he said, of medicinal quality, and was not for his personal use but for supply to anyone with a medical requirement who might need it to relieve their suffering. He said that most of the sick people he knew suffered from terrible diseases, and, although they were prescribed medication, it was cannabis that gave them relief. 

Mr Ditchfield was charged with two counts of possession of a controlled drug of Class B with intent to supply contrary to s.5(3) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, and two corresponding alternative counts of simple possession of such drug contrary to s.5(2)"

At Chester Crown court I successfully argued that I should be permitted to use the defense of “necessity”. The judge left the defence to the jury, directing them that mental injury can be as serious as physical injury, and leaving them to consider "whether serious injury included the alleviation of symptoms of a dreadful illness like MS".

The jury entered verdicts of not guilty on all counts.

Video Here

Subsequently, the Attorney General referred my case to the Court of Appeal on a question of law.

vi) The Attorney General now seeks the opinion of this Court on the following question of law:

"May the defence of necessity be available to a defendant in respect of an offence of possession of cannabis or cannabis resin with intent to supply, contrary to section 5(3) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, if his case is that he was in possession of the controlled drug intending to supply it to another for the purpose of alleviating pain arising from a pre-existing illness such as multiple sclerosis?"

The appeal process took over two years and during this time I was on bail yet again for further cannabis offences, it was obvious that the CPS did not want to proceed against me until they had removed the defense of necessity for cannabis cases.

In their ruling the learned Judges came to this conclusion:

"The judges in Wales and in the Attorney General's Reference in Ditchfield were wrong to leave the defence of necessity to the jury. In the case of Wales, the jury anyway convicted, but in the case of Ditchfield the jury acquitted."

It follows that all the appeals will be dismissed, and the question of law on which this court's opinion is sought by the Attorney General in the reference will be answered in the negative."

The Judges explained how they reached their conclusion in their ruling, they clarified that the defense of necessity can, in effect only be used to: “Avoid serious injury or death” 

The Judges went on to rule that severe pain could not be equated with “the with the avoidance of serious injury” and they dismissed the danger of a person committing suicide due to pain as “too remote”.

So why do I think I have the defense of “necessity” back?

The Judges clarified the use of the “necessity” defense:

Here are the detailed requirements of any defence of necessity

72. Extraneous circumstances. Lord Bingham spoke in Hasan of the need for "a just and well-founded fear", while accepting that threats of death or serious injury will suffice.

By the Judge’s ruling, pain cannot create a well-founded fear that it will lead to serious injury or death.

78. In the case of Wales, the judge is criticised for failing to explain that serious pain could amount to serious injury because of its psychological consequences, but there does not appear to have been any evidence which could have justified such a case. Mr Wales did describe the pain he suffered as "life-threatening" and the judge reminded the jury of this, although it does not appear to have been Mr Wales's case that there was an actual risk of suicide.

Therefore “necessity” cannot be used as a defence in court against charges of cultivation, production or supplying cannabis to alleviate a person's pain or suffering.

If I cultivate, produce cannabis oil and supply it to an MS sufferer then I cannot use the defense of necessity, however, as explained above, I believe it can be used as a defense if I commit the same offences in regard to a terminal cancer sufferer.

79. Imminence and immediacy. We consider that these requirements represent another reason why, even at the detailed level, it is difficult to accept that there could be any successful defence of necessity in the cases of Quayle, Wales and Kenny. Their defences amount to saying that it is open to defendants on a continuous basis to plan for and justify breaches of the law. However, we need not express a view whether that would have alone justified a judge in refusing to leave their defences to a jury. The requirements of imminence and immediacy mean, in any event, in our view that the judge was right to refuse to leave any defence of necessity to the jury in Taylor and Lee, and that the defence should not have been left to the jury in Ditchfield. In each of these three cases, the defendant was taking a deliberately considered course of conduct over a substantial period of time, involving continuous or regular breaches of the law. In each case, the defendant was not the immediate sufferer and had every opportunity to reflect and to desist. The compassionate grounds which may well have motivated Mr Taylor and Ms Lee and which the jury evidently accepted did motivate Mr Ditchfield cannot avoid the fact that they deliberately chose to act contrary to the law on a continuous basis.

This is where it gets interesting: Another test of the defense is ‘imminence and immediacy’ I would argue that in the case of a terminal cancer sufferer who has been informed that there is no further treatment available and that they they only have 6 to 12 months to live passes this test.

81. The point made in paragraphs 79-80 may also be viewed in another way. Where there is no imminent or immediate threat or peril, but only a general assertion of an internal motivation to engage in prohibited activities in order to prevent or alleviate pain, it is also difficult to identify any extraneous or objective factors by reference to which a jury could be expected to measure whether the motivation was such as to override the defendant's will or to force him to act as he did.

A Jury will understand me being motivated by a request from a parent of a dying or a seriously ill child, I can guarantee they will understand, if I cannot make them understand then that will be my failing, not theirs.

I also take issue with this point:

“they deliberately chose to act contrary to the law on a continuous basis”

Deliberate? all my decisions to break the law have been forced upon me by the law itself, the Home Office is responsible for cannabis being in schedule 1 of the MDA 1971, and this denies clinicians in the UK the power to prescribe cannabis oil even to terminal cancer patients. If Doctors could prescribe preparations of 1:1 THC:CBD oil I would not be compelled to commit the acts I do.

In June this year I seriously considered walking into a UK police station with 1 gram of cannabis oil and informing the police that it was my intention to give the oil to a terminal cancer sufferer, this act would have certainly have answered my question.

However, if I had taken that course of action, many of my current plans and important projects would have gone by the wayside.

My duress? that comes from the law, and in the words of Thomas Jefferson:

"If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so".

How can I respect a law that has cannabis in schedule 1 deeming it to have no medicinal value when the contrary is obviously true?

If Doctors and Oncologists could prescribe cannabis oil then I would not have to break the law.

We have seen above that many learned Judges over hundreds of years have given great thought to the meaning of “duress”, my definition of duress? It is a desperate parent begging me to supply cannabis oil to treat their dying child, how can I refuse?

"The compassionate grounds which may well have motivated Mr Taylor and Ms Lee and which the jury evidently accepted did motivate Mr Ditchfield cannot avoid the fact that they deliberately chose to act contrary to the law on a continuous basis"

And the fact that I still continue to break the law is not a “choice” it is a “necessity”

 NOTE: Court of Appeal rulings are binding on lower courts, i.e. Magistrates and Crown Courts.

 Every UK cannabis activist should be aware of this important fact of UK law.

The Court of Appeal Judges, Lord Justice Mance, Mr Justice Newman and Mr Justice Fulford confirmed in the ruling:

"The jury has a well-established power to return a verdict of not guilty, whatever the law and however clear it may be"