Medical Cannabis Awareness Week kicked off on Monday, marking three years since cannabis was legalised for medical purposes.
On the 1st of November 2018 the Home Office amended cannabis as a schedule II under the Misuse Of Drug Act, allowing for specialist consultants to prescribe it for a wide range of conditions. However, since the change in law only a handful of patients have been prescribed cannabis by the NHS.
The barriers to access have created an environment where up to 1.4 million patients are having to fund their own prescriptions, risk criminalisation, or suffer without safe and legal access to this life changing, and in some cases life saving, medicine.
The Chair of PLEA, Abby Hughes, explains her thoughts on the ongoing problem:
“Having witnessed the transformation of quality of life for many patients like myself, it is hard to accept that the only access many have to medical cannabis treatment is through the private sector. Why is there enough evidence for a private pain consultant or psychiatrist to prescribe unlicensed cannabis medicines, yet the same treatment is not afforded to patients via the NHS, which was created to provide universal, comprehensive and free health care? With only three NHS prescriptions having been issued three years on from Sajid Javid’s promise to make medical cannabis treatment accessible, my plea for Medical Cannabis Awareness Week 2021 is that the real need for real world evidence is explored and accepted in evolving access to this new treatment.”
The aim of Medical Cannabis Awareness Week is to call for fairer access to medical cannabis on the NHS, and highlight the urgency for real-world evidence to improve patient access. Providing patients, doctors, sector organisations, supporters and advocates the opportunity to spotlight these ongoing issues.
Gillian Flood, member of PLEA’s Management Committee, shares her experience of medical cannabis:
“Life before and after cannabis medicine really is like night and day, before constant pain left me feeling hopeless and depressed, unable to function, trying all different medications, dealing with awful side effects. After, well, I feel like me again, I can enjoy a meal, go for a walk, sleep and manage my pain better while having a clear head. While all this is amazing the financial cost bring a whole new anxiety around how I afford my medicine, every month I struggle to pay for it, I don’t want to go back to my life before, not now I know I don’t have to suffer so much, there is a relief available, my plea is that this medication becomes available through the NHS so no patient has to endure the pressure of trying to fund a private prescription.”
Throughout this week Plea will be holding a variety of events, where patients will share their stories of how legal and safe access to medical cannabis changed their lives, as well as their experiences of the difficulties and challenges they faced accessing a prescription.
Jack Pierce, member of PLEA’s Patient Working Group added:
“Since becoming a medical cannabis patient, I have begun to feel like my life has a purpose again and is of value. Medical cannabis has begun to mitigate the highly complex and troublesome symptoms presented from my autism and ADHD, allowing me to return to what could be a conventional life. My PLEA for Medical Cannabis Awareness Week is for the continued access of Medical Cannabis for patients like me here in the UK. I hope to one day finally be able to be prescribed and access my medication over the NHS, rather than the current private system, which is only seeing patients like me struggle further with their conditions and finances to be able to live the life that we all deserve.”
How to get involved
During Medical Cannabis Awareness Week last year over 50 speakers,1500 attendees, and 60,000 supporters came together to raise awareness. This is a tremendous amount of support, for an incredibly important issue and this year Plea are once again inviting everyone to get involved.
1. Attend a #MCAW2021 Event
Check out the list of events below, and attend one of the online events taking place this week to show your support. The events are suitable for patients, doctors, advocates and anyone else with an interest in medical cannabis.
Tuesday 2nd of November: Condition Conversations (6pm – 7.30pm)
Wednesday 3rd of November: Research Roundtable (6pm-7.30pm)
Thursday 4th of November: Industry Insights (6pm-7.30pm)
Friday 5th of November: Access Analysis (6pm-7.30pm)
Saturday 6th of November: Diversity Discussions (6pm-7.30pm)
Sunday 7th of November: Summary Session (6pm-7.30pm)
2. Share your PLEA
Join the other patients, advocates and organisations sharing their PLEA’s on social media to raise awareness, address the stigma and call for change. You can head over to any social media platform, upload a picture, video, story, post or tweet using the hashtag #MCAW2021 to share your PLEA.
3. Have a conversation about medical cannabis.
Connect with medical cannabis supporters, patients, and allies via the #MCAW2021 hashtag on social media, to ask questions and start conversations.
4. Write to your Member of Parliament
Write to your local MP, via email or post, to help spread the word about the urgent need for fairer access to medical cannabis.
This piece was written by Content Officer Ella Walsh, Tweets @Snoop_ella.
Lead image credit: Plea Medical Cannabis Awareness Week Logo