Medical Cannabis Awareness Week is taking place from 1 – 8 November 2020. It brings together patients, doctors, sector organisations, supporters, and advocates to call for fair access to medical cannabis on the NHS.
Two years ago, on 1 November 2018, the law changed to allow Medical Cannabis to be available on the NHS. Since then, only a handful of prescriptions have been issued by the NHS. Out of desperation, patients are funding private prescriptions – costing several hundreds of pounds a month – and up to 1.4 million patients are forced to turn to the illegal cannabis market to treat chronic health conditions.
Patients unable to afford and access treatment are suffering due to the fear, stigma, and financial barriers preventing them accessing this safe, life-changing, treatment.
During Medical Cannabis Awareness Week, Patient-Led Engagement for Access CIC (PLEA) – a community of medical cannabis patients and advocates – is calling for fair access to medical cannabis treatment on the NHS.
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. We have made huge progress to be able to have pharmaceutical-grade THC/CBD medicines for patients that are cheaper and safer than the illicit market. The next steps are to invest in research, medical education and address the stigma faced by patients.
“Events during MCAW are here to show patients and healthcare professionals it is essential to talk openly about medical cannabis to address the unmet clinical needs of people living with chronic conditions.”
Most patients prescribed medical cannabis live with chronic pain, neurological, or psychiatric conditions, such as fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, anxiety, and PTSD, yet many continue to face stigma in their day-to-day lives and from healthcare professionals when trying to access this treatment.
During Medical Cannabis Awareness Week, patients from across the UK will share their stories about the life-changing impact of medical cannabis and their difficulties in accessing a prescription. Individuals and organisations from across the sector are holding online events including a tour of a legal cannabis growing facility, and conversations with medical cannabis patients and doctors.
PLEA is calling on people to talk about medical cannabis to friends and family, record and share their own story, write to their MPs, and even play medical cannabis bingo. Supporters and participants can stay in touch and join the conversation using #MCAW2020 and follow on Twitter and Instagram @PLEA_community.
Medical Cannabis Awareness Week is an initiative of PLEA, which advocates for quality of life with medical cannabis, enabling patients to access their medicine free from the harms of stigmatisation, geographical inconsistencies, and financial barriers. PLEA supports research into the safety and efficacy of cannabis-based medicinal products, to enable evidence-based prescription for all.
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.
“Cannabis medicines are changing people’s lives around the world. In the UK, people are forced to pay privately, and it’s not right. Medical Cannabis is keeping children with severe forms of epilepsy alive, and it’s allowing people with chronic illnesses and conditions to live normal lives.”
Lucy Stafford, Advocacy Director from PLEA, said: “I took addictive opiate-based painkillers nearly every day of my teenage years to cope with the debilitating symptoms from a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. I had to drop out of school and live with the horrendous side effects. I was a shadow of myself.
“When I was prescribed medical cannabis, it changed everything. I’ve learnt to walk after years using a wheelchair and now attend university – I’ve got my life back. Cannabis relaxes my muscle spasms, reduces my pain, and helps almost every aspect of my condition unlike anything else.
“All patients in need should have the same chance to live a better quality of life – we need NHS access. During Medical Cannabis Awareness Week, we’re asking people to share their story, destigmatise and learn about medical cannabis, and support our plea for fair access.”
PLEA will host Medical Cannabis Awareness Week during the first week of November each year.