Picky protests & rigorous rebuttals on medical cannabis
Before these brilliant minds shared their work, the one and only Prof Mike Barnes, Medical cannabis expert and neurologist and Chair of The Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society talked us through the history of cannabis, its properties, and how it arrived in the modern day with some colourful protests.
To set the scene, if you had to take a guess, how many people in the UK do you think know that weed is legal on prescription under The Misuse of Drugs Act of 2018? Turns out, just 40%. And based on the questions from doctors in the room on how to even go about prescribing it, I'd hazard a guess the number who know how to access it is in the single figures.
Prescribing medical cannabis in the UK is pretty high(!) maintenance. There are only around 10,000 private prescriptions given to an audience Volteface predicts as a potential of 1.4 million patients. And there are just 3 active prescriptions on the NHS.
Doctors must undergo specialist training, apply for a controlled drug prescribing pad, have cannabis prescriptions reviewed by a peer panel, and finally convince the pharmacy to even stock it. I'm tired just thinking about it.
Katya Kowalski from Voleface talked us through her experience talking to clinicians. Noting the Dunning-Kruger like effect professionals experienced when faced with that damned devil's lettuce and its 'too good to be true' claims.
Prof Mike Barnes quoted the four main protests he heard against decriminalisation and legalisation, which were echoed by Katya's report findings. And if you've ever had the pleasure of hearing Prof Barnes speak, you'll know he gave us watertight rebuttals for each one:
- Evidence: Fitting a Botanical into a pharmaceutical shaped hole isn't a good idea when it comes to drug testing. But the undeniable studies are stacking up, and reforms to testing the flower a Botanical could be on the way.
- Cost: It turns out cannabis saves the NHS money. Its plethora of symptom stoppers allows patients to drastically reduce their cocktail of treatments and therapies. In the case of seizure-stricken patients like Alfie Dingley, it stops them from needing multiple hospital stays a year.
- Liability: Who's responsible for the new drug? New governing societies, specialist insurance and legal bodies, regulated growers, and training platforms like Sativa Learning legitimise and take responsibility for said liability. No curb kickers here.
- Diversion to street sellers: Medical marijuana is a low THC strain. It's nowhere near as potent as the street stuff; therefore, pretty pointless in the recreational scene. And anyway, claiming street sellers have a need to intercept legal supply chains is burying your head in the sand to the current climate.
It was invigorating to see a jumble of clinicians, medical students, scientists, researchers, professionals and patients all curious about medical cannabis.
My favourite term from the day was the 'Entourage Effect' of cannabis in flower form. Referring to the compounding benefit of consuming all components together instead of separating and sterilising individual cannabinoids.
So, what did we take away from the seminar? Honestly, access is the least of our worries on the UK scene. Appropriate research techniques & working to change perceptions are where we need to shift the conversation to propel cannabis into its next chapter.
We've barely scratched the surface on what Professor Mike Barnes, Katya Kowalski, and Ryan McCreanor shared.
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All images from The Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society - https://www.ukmccs.org/