By Roland Sebestyén
It seems as though more MPs are coming together to back patients who are still struggling to access more affordable medical cannabis products.
A number of MPs put forward the issue in parliament on Wednesday and called for the government to help with making medical cannabis more widely available for both prescriptions and for research.
While medical cannabis has been legal since 2018 in the UK, it is still almost impossible to get a prescription via the NHS – thus forcing the families of severely ill children, as well as other patients, to pay up to thousands of pounds every month.
In a debate in the House of Commons, SNP MP Ronnie Cowan said prescribing medical cannabis for all those in need of this life-changing medicine would “someday be the norm” in the UK.
Mr Cowan asked the Health Minister, Tory MP Maria Caulfield whether she would give medical cannabis-based medicine to a child suffering a seizure.
He said: “If a child was suffering from an epileptic seizure and the minister had the medicines in her hand, would she administer them? I am sure the answer to that is yes. So, will she please help to put that medicine into the hands of those who care for these children so that they can administer [it]?”
He urged the government to reclassify cannabis-derived products from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2, so the substance would be seen to possess a potential medical use and it would make it more researchable in the future.
Tory MP Crispin Blunt, who is one of the most influential cannabis advocates in the UK, said that not increasing research into cannabis was a missed opportunity for the country.
He reiterated that cannabis-based medicines could be better for pain relief than opiates.
Mr Blunt said: “The difference between opiate-based medicines … and cannabis-based medicines, the evidence is now all over the place about how much actually better it is because you then don’t have the addiction issues of the opiate-based medicines, you are not knocked out towards the end of your life, you retain much better control of your faculties and you can actually enjoy a much better quality of life if you are being managed in terminal care, let alone managing pain when you are not terminally ill.
“It is part of a huge missed opportunity here: there is a huge bioscience opportunity for the United Kingdom and we are missing that opportunity because we haven’t got these regulations right or the implementation of them has not enabled these medicines to begin to find a place that they deserve within the pharmacopoeia and the treatments available to doctors.”
Mr Blunt also added that drugs misuse should be treated as a public health issue, and not a criminal justice issue.
The debate was part of the so-called Medical Cannabis Awareness Week as this week represents the third anniversary of medical cannabis legalisation in the UK.
This week, parents of patients with a range of conditions took to Downing Street, once again campaigning for improved access for the thousands of patients around the country who could benefit from cannabis-based medicines.
One of the organisers of the petition and demonstration is Peter Carroll, director of the End Our Pain campaign
He said: “On the third-year anniversary of what should have been a landmark law change, rather than celebrate progress, we are here today to highlight a horrendous crisis. All the ‘powers that be’ continually express sympathy – but then simply explain why they can’t help.
“Surely it cannot be beyond the wit of one of the most sophisticated health establishments in the world to help these families.”