The 40th ECDD was a specially convened session dedicated to carrying out pre-reviews of cannabis and cannabis-related substances:
The 40th ECDD was a specially convened session dedicated to carrying out pre-reviews of cannabis and cannabis-related substances:
An Absolutely huge announcement today from the Home Office as they confirm they will reschedule “Cannabis Derived Products” to schedule 2 as advised by the ACMD earlier this month.
“It means that senior clinicians will be able to prescribe the medicines to patients with an exceptional clinical need.”
We should be incredibly pleased with this outcome. There was always a chance the government would do as it has previously and ignore the ACMD’s recommendations. We must praise Sajid Javid’s decision, which flies in the face of advice from certain Conservative MP’s including Theresa May herself. Javid said:
“Recent cases involving sick children made it clear to me that our position on cannabis-related medicinal products was not satisfactory.
That is why we launched a review and set up an expert panel to advise on licence applications in exceptional circumstances.
Following advice from two sets of independent advisers, I have taken the decision to reschedule cannabis-derived medicinal products – meaning they will be available on prescription.
This will help patients with an exceptional clinical need, but is in no way a first step to the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use.”
Alongside this announcement the HO declared that “All licence fees for applications made to the panel [set up to deal with urgent cases in the interim] will be waived”. which is alos a huge plus!
But what defines a “Cannabis Derived product” and will it be up to clinicians to decide what constitutes as “exceptional clinical need”? These are two of the biggest concerns for the estimated 1 million chronically and mentally ill individuals who benefit from consuming cannabis in the UK every day. It will be up to the MHRA and DHSC to work out the aforementioned definition and the UK government could still impose further restrictions to prescriptions much like those in Australia that state that patients can only access cannabis “if all traditional therapies have been exhausted”.
Many will be looking to other countries and US states for the companies and products that might be available. The statement issued today states that prescriptions might be available as soon as Autumn this year, far too short a time-frame for any new products to be developed. Those we expect to receive licences to import products to the UK are Canadian giants Tilray, Israel’s Tikun Olam, Bedrocan from The Netherlands and Columbia Care from NY state.
Maybe we are getting ahead of ourselves but you could forgive patients for finding these companies products on line and “browsing” to see which they might request from their doctors…
There are, however, still battles yet to win. The most immediate hurdle is the complete lack of education of our health professionals when it comes to prescribing and dispensing cannabis medicines. You can help educate them by taking part in our patient survey and by informing your doctor of the relevant studies to your condition or symptoms. You could also do a lot worse than pointing them in the direction of the Medical Evidence on our website.
We also have as yet unannounced events specifically designed to educate health professionals much like our recent masterclass with Rosemary Mazanet of Columbia Care.
Further campaigning will be needed to ensure decriminalisation (to ensure chronically ill people are not caught up in the criminal justice system) and of course the right for patients to grow their own medicine. Many will also critique the ACMD’s advice to place cannabis based medicines in schedule 2. Particularly whilst Sativex, undoubtedly a Cannabis Derived medicine, licensed separately in 2001, is in schedule 4i… Although this makes little difference to patients access we will be continuing to push for a more appropriate scheduling, such as 5, which would enable over the counter transactions.
We also recently launched our #nopatientleftbehind initiative that promises a continuation of our efforts until access is granted for all who stand to medicinally benefit from cannabis.
We always knew progress would be incremental. Be assured The UPA is not finished fighting until we have won the war on all fronts. Nevertheless, we are hugely proud to have been a part of the movement that has enabled us to tick off our first of our aims set out at our launch in 2014 to reschedule cannabis.
Please stay tuned for further announcements as and when we receive them.
On behalf of the UPA team
So much can change in a week...
You may have been following the incredible story of young Billy Caldwell and his mother Charlotte's fight to access his life-saving cannabis medicine. Initially brought over from Canada and subsequently confiscated by The Home Office and then returned, now Billy can finally take his medicine home to Northern Ireland.
This was the UK's 'Charlotte's Web' moment. The game changer. Such a compelling and emotive story was always bound to get media attention but the level of pressure piled on the Conservatives was huge... and it paid off.
On the 27th June the Home Office announced a review of the scheduling of cannabis, stating it would take up to 6 months to assess the medical applications of the drug and whether or not these findings would warrant rescheduling. During this process the government set up an "expert panel”, to advise Ministers on any license applications to prescribe cannabis-related medicinal products in exceptional cases where there is an unmet clinical need.
The panel’s criteria seemed restrictive and for many, the idea of the Home Office continuing to insist on micro-managing the health needs of chronically ill individuals, seemed a continuation of their refusal to see sense on the issue and to simply allow doctors to prescribe cannabis medicines as they see fit.
On Tuesday 3rd July everything changed... again. The government has asked the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs directly to consider the appropriate scheduling of cannabis-related products. They have been given three weeks to review cannabis and to suggest an appropriate scheduling.
Everything we have come to learn about the Conservatives and reform on illicit substances leads us to believe that schedule 2 is the most likely outcome. However there are arguments to be made for a less restrictive schedule. In truth the difference between schedule 2 and schedule 4i is minimal and 4ii is extremely unlikely to be allowed as it enables access without a prescription. Sativex, the only cannabis based medicine available in the UK is Schedule 4i. You can read the finer ins and outs of scheduling here.
Regardless, any rescheduling will mean doctors are able to begin prescribing cannabis medications to UK patients. It's a HUGE success for medical cannabis in the UK. Rescheduling was the UPA's first and foremost goal in this campaign and we're incredibly proud to have played a part in realising this break-though.
There are, as always, a few caveats... Numerous governments have implemented legislation on medical cannabis that prevents those that stand to benefit from accessing it. Here's a rundown of our three biggest fears for medical cannabis legislation and why the UPA will be fighting to avoid these (hopefully obvious) pitfalls.
1. A limiting list of conditions
A government imposed list of conditions for which cannabis can be prescribed would be unprecedented. NICE are the body who regulate prescriptions and they rarely put such restrictions on medications. Instead there are lists of approved medications for different symptoms & conditions. However, a medication as safe to consume as cannabis with so many applications simply cannot be restricted by any such lists.
Those who are in pain or suffering nausea or spasms should be given access immediately prior to diagnosis. Some conditions can take months or even years to properly diagnose. We cannot let patients suffer due to a lack of pre-defined need for cannabis. If their doctor believes it will help their symptoms then they should be allowed to prescribe. It really is that simple.
2. "After all traditional therapies have been exhausted"
This clause, which has been implemented in parts of Australia, is absurd. Cannabis is a pain reliever; it helps regulate the immune system and is a powerful anti-inflammatory. What this clause suggests is that patients would have to try opiates for pain, powerful immune-suppressants for immune-regulation or steroids to control inflammation, all dangerous drugs with severe side-effects that could be avoided if cannabis is used first. Of course there are conditions that are simply too severe for cannabis to control and it won't be the first port-of-call for doctors in all circumstances. But it certainly shouldn't be limited to only being utilised when patients have already tried a plethora of potentially much more harmful pharmaceuticals.
If a patient can avoid addictive and damaging painkillers such as tramadol, fentanyl and oxycontin by consuming cannabis instead, they should be free to do so. We only have to look at the opioid crisis in the USA, and the deaths caused by prescribed painkillers, to see why this is so important.
3. Continued criminalisation.
No one in possession of or consuming cannabis should be criminalised. These are completely victimless crimes and to continue to arrest people for possession and consumption will inevitably lead to chronically ill people being caught up in a criminal system they simply should not have to deal with.
Patients who are prescribed cannabis medicines should not have to carry around a prescription with them at all times. They should not be stopped and questioned by police and they should not have to prove themselves sick in order to be allowed to continue living their lives.
Implementing a system wherein patients are required to carry around proof of their prescription 24/7 is impractical to the extreme. Chronically ill people have enough to worry about. They have enough to think about when leaving the house without adding paperwork proof of their legal right to consume their medication in public. They also have enough stress in their lives. The idea that forgetting their "proof" might lead to a night in the cells is unthinkable.
We MUST urge the government to act with compassion now and fully decriminalise possession and consumption of cannabis for all to ensure patients are not caught up in the criminal system. With PCC's across the country calling for similar moves this really isn't asking for anything extreme. This would simultaneously allow our police forces to focus on violent or more serious crimes.
UPA are doing everything we can to make sure that these points are raised and that the voice of patients is heard, starting with our hugely successful Patients IN Parliament event last Friday July 6th where many medical cannabis patients gave emotional and powerful testimony and where we launched our new Patient Survey so that there is #nopatientleftbehind! Please do fill it out to help us make the most powerful argument for what YOU want to see in medical cannabis legislation. More on #nopatientleftbehind very soon...
If you look around the world you will find many systems for the regulation of medical cannabis. Few have got it completely right. The UK government must listen to patients and doctors when making these changes to legislation so that they ensure the safety and ease-of-access for all who stand to benefit.
With so much forward momentum you could be forgiven for thinking the fight for medical cannabis in the UK is over but it has never been more crucial to get involved.
Please write to your MP now. Explain to them what medical cannabis should look like, why they need to listen to patients and organisation like the UPA who represent them. The UK may not be the first country to legalise medical cannabis (far from it!) but together we can ensure the UK is the first country to get it right and develop a system that works for all patients.
Take the 2018 Medical Cannabis Patient Survey. Have your patient voice heard:
A bunch of tips for writing and communicating effectively with your MP
Tonight ITV will air the premiere of their new programme “gone to pot” the show features some well known faces to the British public and is an interesting look into how cannabis can effect different people.
Re-newed thanks for your support on my 10 minute rule bill. I tend to be over optimistic but having had my last proposed bill adopted by Government I am hopeful that a change in Government attitudes is taking place.
We are proud and honoured to announce that joining former UK Government Drugs Minister Norman Baker as Patrons, are 2 serving MPs; Paul Flynn MP (Newport West - Lab) and Tonia Antoniazzi MP (Gower - Lab)
United Patients Alliance - Annual general meeting - 30th September, Birmingham.
On August 17, 2017, the German cannabis expert Franjo Grotenhermen entered an indefinite hunger strike. The objective of refusing to accept any food is to decriminalize all citizens who need cannabis to treat their serious diseases.
On March 10, 2017, a much-debated law on cannabis as a medicine went
into effect in Germany. It was the declared aim of the legislature to
allow all patients who need a therapy with cannabis medicines to do
UPA medical Cannabis patients meet with Lloyd Russell Moyle Labour MP for Brighton Kemptown.
Over the last few months, thanks to a little help from Norman Lamb MP, whom I engaged a while back - Read about that here, I have been embroiling myself in all things Hemp and CBD. I will write about the progress being made with the authorities in another article, along with my personal interpretation of their current guidance, which boils down to a broad holding pattern until they can get around to actually doing something about it - which will, in all likelihood take 18-24 months with their current priorities and resources:
Medical cannabis patients, such as Sarah Martin who was diagnosed with MS in 2003 and has since been medicating with cannabis, explained why support from MS Society is important to MS patients:“It means the whole world to an awful lot of people. Now that we have the MS Society behind the argument the law will change sooner rather than later.
Today BBC Radio 5 Live aired a piece in which the father of a young man, who had stabbed his mother and cut his penis off, spoke about why we need to upgrade “Skunk” to Class A. What is strange is that this incident, which occurred in 2013, was originally covered in 2014 with absolutely no mention of skunk or cannabis. In fact the initial article specified that the young man in question was actually intoxicated with alcohol and Mephedrone (often known as Miaow Miaow).
Evidence supports reform to allow the legitimate study, regulation, and prescription of therapeutic cannabinoids
From its first recorded uses in China through to the early 20th century, cannabis has had a place in the pharmacopoeia. Queen Victoria’s personal physician, Russel Reynolds, opined in the Lancet in 1890, “Indian hemp, when pure and administered carefully, is one of the most valuable medicines we possess.”1 This opinion was based on current best evidence: the careful and documented observation of its effects in medical conditions.
Since being launched in 2014 with the help of Caroline Lucas MP, United Patients Alliance have always been a charitable organisation and have worked hard to make allies and supporters within political spheres. Now on our journey to becoming a registered charity we are proud and honoured to announce former UK Government Drugs Minister and LibDem MP for Lewes, Norman Baker as our first Patron:
“I have gladly accepted the offer to become patron of the UPA. They are a well organised and sensible group. I am very clear from my time as drugs minister in the coalition government that for some people, access to cannabis is essential for their health and it is disgraceful that not only are they denied access to vital medicine but prosecuted if they access it themselves. The UPA makes a strong case for a more humane approach and I am delighted to do what I can to support them."
LibDem Parliamentary Candidate for Lewes, Kelly-Marie Blundell is very supportive:
"As a long time campaigner for access to cannabis for medicinal purposes, I'm pleased to see the United Patients Alliance go from strength to strength, and I hope with Norman Baker on board as well, we can see more action."
Clark French, Founder and Director of United Patients Alliance
“United Patients Alliance is delighted to welcome Norman as our first Patron. After our meetings with Norman at his constituency office he took Keiron Reeves and I to the home office to talk about how medical cannabis helps us. Having a former drugs Minister as a part of of the UPA is going to strengthen our organisation which in turn will help us to play a bigger part in the inevitable changes to future cannabis laws.”
Jon Liebling, Political Director of United Patients Alliance
“We look forward to continuing our work with the support of such an influential political figure such as Norman on board and look forward to making more exciting announcements and collaborations over the coming months.”
The news that medicinal cannabis is set to become legal in Ireland has been welcomed by the UPA. During September last year, some of our main admin team watched eagerly at the Trinity summit in Dublin, as Irish politicians and activists spoke about their work to get the healing properties of cannabis recognised by the Irish state. Now some months later the HPRA's Report has come to light, and there will be legal access to medical cannabis in the Republic of Ireland.
The UK Home Office respond to the APPG Inquiry Report - Badly