By Emily Ledger
Yesterday, the 1st of November, marked the start of Medical Cannabis Awareness Week, which will run till the 8th of November, as well as the two-year anniversary of the rescheduling of cannabis back in 2018. For many, this legislative landmark represented the start of a new age for medical cannabis in the UK, with doctors being technically able to prescribe the products for the first time since 1971.
The rescheduling of cannabis meant that the plant could be prescribed by specialist doctors, both within the NHS and private clinics. Technically, this change meant that any GMC-certified doctor can prescribe cannabis for any condition where there is reasonable evidence of its efficacy. In reality, however, things turned out quite differently.
Dr Mala Mawkin, Head of Market Development at Cellen Health and Advisory Board Member at PLEA said:
“Even though doctors have been able to prescribe Cannabis based Medicinal Products since 2018, healthcare professionals are still not equipped with the knowledge and tools to prescribe in the UK.”
Only a handful of patients in the UK have received an NHS prescription for cannabis-based medications.
Access to medical cannabis has remained largely restricted by guidelines from bodies such as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). According to the most recent NICE guidelines, medical cannabis products should only be considered for a small number of conditions, and even then, only when various other treatments have been ruled out.
For many patients, there has been no other option than to turn to private clinics which can mean a significant cost to themselves. Recently, however, EMMAC Life Sciences announced that it had acquired a complete supply chain – from cannabis cultivation to prescription – meaning a reduced cost to patients.
Medical Cannabis Awareness Week 2020
Medical Cannabis Awareness Week 2020, an initiative of PLEA, will be bringing together patients, doctors, organisations, and advocates to “pledge their commitment to education, awareness, and support for fair access to medical cannabis.”
Throughout the week, patients from across the UK will be sharing their experiences and the impact that medical cannabis has had on their lives and diagnoses.
In addition, a number of organisations and individuals will be holding online events from virtual tours of a cannabis growing facility to speeches and conversations from medical cannabis patients and doctors. PLEA is also calling on individuals to talk to their friends and family about the potential benefits of improved access to medical cannabis in addition to writing to their MPs.
Abby Hughes, Outreach Director from PLEA, said:
“It’s time to end the inequality and ensure everyone who needs it has the opportunity to benefit from medical cannabis treatment. During Medical Cannabis Awareness Week, we’re calling for fair access, we’re promoting medical cannabis education for all, and we’re directly addressing the stigma faced by patients.
“We want people to have conversations about cannabis, ask questions, and be open-minded.”
For more information about Medical Cannabis Awareness Week 2020 and to find out how you can get involved, visit the website!