Dr David Potter is Director of Botanical Research and Cultivation at GW Pharmaceuticals. Yesterday, 1st May 2014, he delivered a lecture at the Society of Biology in central London.
Dr Potter was GW Pharma’s first ever employee. He is almost certainly the most experienced legitimate cannabis grower in the world. The overriding impression I took away from his talk was of his enthusiasm for the cannabis plant and its medicinal properties. It goes further than that though. It’s a reverence, almost a belief, certainly a passion and identical to the same messianic fervour that I have seen in so many other expert but illicit growers. Dr Potter loves cannabis: its smell, its structure, its growth, its appearance and yes, its biology and its benefits.
He brought a beautiful, flowering white rhino plant with him. He opened up a large suitcase and revealed it almost like a rabbit out of a hat. Immediately, its pungent aroma spread through the room and CLEAR member Dan and I exchanged appreciative glances. I had met Dan for the first time over coffee before the lecture started. It was pretty well attended by perhaps 50 people, mostly, I would guess, members of the Society. As far as I could tell, there was no one else there from any other campaign or reform organisation.
It was a fascinating talk. What was new to me was Dr Potter’s explanation of how trichomes work, how many different types there are, how cannabinoids are synthesised at the base and then stored in the tip, primarily as a defence against pests. There were many extraordinary photographs through both optical and electron microscopes. Other parts of the talk were very similar to the information I deliver in my talk: “The Truth About Cannabis“.
I managed to get a question at the end. I asked Dr Potter whether the evidence of the safety of Sativex from clinical trials could not be directly applied to any other form of cannabis. I posited the analogy that if I wanted tomatoes I could grow them in my greenhouse, buy them from a supermarket, a farm shop or, in a processed, refined and concentrated form as tomato puree.
As you might expect, it was deftly sidestepped. Within seconds Dr Potter was talking about how the absorption of Sativex through the mucus membranes produces wholly different effects than if absorbed through the lungs or the gut. The knowing smile said it all though, as he finished: “I know where you’re coming from”.
There is a moral question here. Dr Potter is a magistrate, an expert witness and police advisor on cannabis issues and, in recognition of this service, he received a commendation from The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) in 2007 and 2009. He knows full well the tremendous therapeutic benefits that cannabis provides. He told a very moving story of one woman he had met who said how Sativex had transformed her life. So I do question how a man who knows all this can be involved in the enforcement of such an irrational, unjust and deeply cruel law that denies hundreds of thousands of people access to the medicine they need.
It takes all sorts though and there can be no doubt that Dr Potter is working as he sees best to bring the benefits of cannabis as medicine to those who need it. He’s doing it through an entirely legitimate, scientific and business route and that can only be admired. Neither he, nor GW Pharma itself, can be blamed for the corrupt and dishonest regulatory regime that the Home Office imposes. It is our corrupt, dishonest, cowardly and cruel politicians that must be blamed for that.
At the end he invited the audience to step forward and get touchy and feely with the plant. He rubbed a flower between his fingers and held his fingers to his nose and the smile of appreciation was one that I recognise very well. Quickly I threw in a supplementary about the ridiculous police stories of the smell of cannabis being carcinogenic. He laughed out loud and explained how when he has shown police around GW growing facilities they always ask why he doesn’t use a mask and gloves. “No, the smell of cannabis is not carcinogenic and neither can you get high from it.”
I hope to enlist Dr Potter’s support in making sure that message gets through to the police. Of course, he won’t want to be involved in any political aspect but those of us who have the knowledge should work together simply and honestly to ensure that the facts and the truth about cannabis are clear.