As Political Director of United Patients Alliance, I spend a great deal of time talking to/educating/being ignored or fobbed off by/persuading politicians to support legal access to cannabis as medicine and I say, with confidence, that change is happening and in political terms it’s happening very quickly.
Ever since the recent media coverage of cases of severe childhood epilepsy, Alfie Dingley and Billy Caldwell, with increasingly more similar stories emerging, political support has exploded. Doors previously shut behind silence, rhetoric and standard government statements are now open, MPs listening and even Ministers having to take notice now that they have the answer to the very narrow question they asked of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). “Cannabis-derived Medicines should not be subject to Schedule 1 controls”
Now that the Home Office have accepted the ACMD’s advice, it paves the way for many patients in the UK being able to get a prescription for a cannabis-derived medicine by autumn this year. That is good reason to celebrate, however, there is still a great deal more to do before the fight for all patients is over and in many ways the really hard work starts here. One word: Education!
You probably think most MPs know very little about cannabis. Actually they know a great deal less than that! Talking to one MP just before he went to declare his supported for medical cannabis at a Hustings, recently, he said “Oh I am right up to speed with cannabis, but that synthetic skunk spice stuff that’s killing our children has got to be stopped!” Oh dear! Even those who do support it, don’t understand enough about it to be able to make good decisions and there is still a great deal of misinformation and stigma to address.
Of greater concern and in my opinion the biggest risk to a working medical cannabis policy is the lack of knowledge amongst the majority of UK medical professionals too.
Thanks to its legal status, knowledge, or dare I say, expertise exists in patients, patient centered organisations and compassion clubs that have been helping themselves for years in secret and learning from experience. Most UK MPs and Doctors know enough to say “cannabis oil saves children with epilepsy”, a few more know it helps with MS. Most do not know what the Endocannabinoid System is and are uninformed about the variety of strengths, types, ingestion methods and forms in which cannabis can be consumed by patients, nor are they aware of the breadth of symptoms that patients manage effectively with one or more forms of cannabis. Without bringing the experience of the patient to bear, we risk creating a policy that fails to address the needs of a significant proportion of patients who could benefit.
In 2016, our Survey of Medical Cannabis Patients was commissioned by the APPG for Drug Policy Reform in order to support their Short Inquiry into Cannabis and Medicine and can be downloaded in full by clicking here.
It was submitted to No 10 Downing Street along with our Trustee Professor Mike Barnes' review into the medical evidence for cannabis as medicine.
We had 623 UK Patients complete the survey which having been designed by patients, was asking unique and relevant questions about how cannabis is being consumed as a medicine, for what conditions and how effective it is versus prescription medications. The results helped to evidence a number of points that we were trying to make on behalf of patients and made the case for decriminalisation of personal possession and Grow Your Own to be included in the APPGs recommendations.
Now we have just launched our new 2018 Medical Cannabis Patient Survey, for people who consume cannabis, cannabis/CBD products or cannabis derivatives to treat or alleviate one or more physical or mental health conditions. It was designed in consultation with Dr Gary Potter from Lancaster University (Senior Lecturer in Criminology) and whilst openness is encouraged, anonymity is assured if desired.
Results from the survey will inform future policy. It is really important that we bring the Voice of the Patient to bear, showing the depth and breadth of how cannabis is being consumed as an effective medicine in the UK today. From THC to CBD, from flower to extracts, from pharmaceutically produced to growing your own; We want #NoPatientLeftBehind.
The more patients who fill this in, the more credibility the results, maximising the volume and impact of all patient voices. Tell everyone you know who consumes cannabis as medicine to fill this in and have their voice heard.
PLEASE - DO IT NOW!
United Patients Alliance