The inaugural Medical Cannabis Masterclass, hosted by Families 4 Access and United Patients Alliance was attended by representatives from many important organisations and charities including the MSSociety, Young Epilepsy, The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) and The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) . It was an open format seminar with everyone present asking questions and getting involved. Relationships were made, actions were taken. Great seminar!
Steve Moore introduced the first of what we plan will be many Medical Cannabis Masterclasses where policy makers and medical professionals get to learn about the pros and cons of different policy implementations from around the world.
Steve reflected on the most amazing progress in the UK over the last couple of months since the story of Charlotte and Billy Caldwell hit the main stream media. There was a pivotal moment, he feels, when Charlotte was in a meeting with "a panel of Experts" including Home Office Minister, Nick Hurd trying to assure her that her issues would be addressed through normal licensing processes:
She merely asked 3 simple questions:
- How long with the process take?
- How much will the licenses cost?
- Has anyone been successful to date?
Since no-one on the "panel of experts" were able to answer any of them - the current systems were shown to be unfit for purpose and something radical and new would have to be proposed and created.
Thanks to Billy's suffering, the unstoppable and courageous force that is Charlotte, along with a perfect media storm driven by Steve Moore, Ian Birrell (Mail on Sunday), Andrew Ellson (The Times), Families4Access and United Patients Alliance, all medical cannabis patients can look forward to a working policy in the UK very soon, probably before April 2018. The question is no longer "If" but "How". What is a UK Policy going to look like?"
This dynamic, professional, public, media and political engagement mustn't stop. We must continue to drive forward, representing our ideas for medical cannabis policy in the UK, sharing stories, sharing knowledge and educating our medical professionals through "Masterclass" events like this and beyond.
Cannabis as medicine must be moved from the responsibility of the Home Office into the Department of Health where most of the medical profession believe it belongs, along, we understand, with Home Secretary, Sajid Javid.
In response to the ACMDs challenge back to the Home Office about defining what "Cannabis-Derived Medicines" actually means, we ask, who is qualified, knowledgeable and motivated enough to propose such a definition. The authorities won't do it, or even if they do, they won't do it well.
We need REAL experts to come together to work on this definition along with all the other aspects of a future UK medical cannabis policy which MUST be made to listen to and take on board the voices, knowledge and experience of patients.
There are some very exciting plans being formulated to address this. See the #UPASurvey below and Watch this Space for more news coming soon.
Dr. Rosemary Mazanet - Lessons from US and New York State
Rosemary, who is a board certified hematologist and oncologist, who, she added, is a doctor and not a campaigner, started with a general overview of some of the challenges they face in the US, not least that it is still a schedule 1 substance according to federal law, and how the various policies across the states differ such as; Physician training, dispensing pharmacist, qualifying conditions, Amount Dispensed in 30 days, Types, Doseability (mg/oz, tab, pump), Agricultural (flower), edibles (for doseablereasons), Only low dose THC, THC max per dose cap, Testing, manufacturing, Safety (contaminants), Accuracy of cannabinoid content are ALL variables state to state.
In Colorado, for instance, Cannabis Dispensaries have exploded onto the scene with over 1000 (Medical and Adult) now, but they only have about 400 Starbucks and only 200 or so McDonalds Restaurants. There is data showing that 25% of the products for sale are not accurately labelled and 60% of the flower products have traces of mould, heavy metals or other impurities. This suggests a need for more effective controls and regulations. Whereas in states such as Texas and Virginia the regulations are so tough that they have a 1% or 2% THC Cap on available products.
Another serious concern is that almost nowhere in the US records any Adverse Incidents/Indications. They are not reported or even captured in most places. Columbia Care, now in 12 US States, have 30000 regular patients and have completed over 700000 patient transactions, are doing precisely that in New York.
The New York policy has prioritised Quality along with the direct involvement of Doctors and Dispensing Pharmacists and there are restrictions on what conditions a doctor is authorised to prescribe for, along with limitations on types of cannabis that can be prescribed. There are no "flower" based and edible products authorised. Smoking of any nature is not supported by the policy.
There are significant risks and issues with "Agricultural" or flower products due to quality but also standardisation.
Here we can see a "Heatmap" where the cannabinoid content of full extracts taken from a series of 4 grows, from clones (using exactly the same genetics) at different stages using exactly same environment (Light/Temp/Humidity/Feed/etc..) and grown by the same grower:
There is a minimum 25% cannabinoid profile difference at each and every point with some cannabinoids being 100% different, including CBD and THC which may adequately explain why what is believed to be exactly the same product in two patients with the same demographics and symptoms can experience quite radically different results. This is not something you want when treating a serious, chronic condition and most especially if you are treating a sick child.
This is why, standardisation is important and why it is felt by many companies and policy makers that flower "should not be given the status of Medicine" (ACMD's Recent response)
There are opposing views on this from those who say they can "standardise" the contents of grown cannabis, which we expect to be sharing at a future "Masterclass".
In order to make sure the needs of all patients are addressed as we design policy for the UK, we have to make good arguments backed by evidence which is why United Patients Alliance are urging ALL those who consume cannabis in the UK therapeutically to take our new 2018 Medical Cannabis Survey whose results will feed directly into this process.
The results will bring the Voice of the Patient to bear, helping to ensure there is #nopatientleftbehind - Get your voice heard - Do the survey NOW! Please share the link with everyone you know.
Jon Liebling - Political Director - United Patients Alliance