The first week of November marks the fifth anniversary of Medical Cannabis Awareness Week (MCAW). The week-long event, which runs from 1-7 November every year to coincide with the 2018 rescheduling of cannabis in the UK, was launched in 2020 by the patient advocacy group PLEA (Patient-Led Engagement for Access).
MCAW 2023 will once again give patients, advocates, and prescribers from across the country the opportunity to share their experiences, reflect on the progress of the last few years, and plan for the future of medical cannabis in the UK.
UK Medical Cannabis Patient Conference
A number of events are scheduled for the week, including the UK Medical Cannabis Patient Conference – the UK’s first conference dedicated to medical cannabis patients. Returning for its second consecutive year, Drug Science and Medcan Family Foundation will host the event which will commence at 10 a.m. on Friday 3 November.
Panels are scheduled to take place throughout the day, featuring speakers made up of patients, clinicians, advocates, and other representatives of UK charities, including Parkinson’s UK, Ehler’s-Danlos Support UK, and Tourette’s Hero. Discussions will cover the future of medical cannabis in the UK, the latest innovations in the industry, and current challenges facing patients who may benefit from medical cannabis.
In addition, the event will also feature a screening of the new documentary, Sisters Interrupted, which recently premiered in the UK at the Raindance Film Festival. The film tells the story of sisters Chelsea and Tamsin Leyland, both of whom live with epilepsy, and follows the sisters’ fight to access medical cannabis in the UK. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with the film’s director, Caroline Sharp, and producer, Sophie Daniel, and will be hosted by Medcan Family Foundation co-founder, Matt Hughes. “Sisters Interrupted is a heartbreaking story and truly highlights the barriers Tasmin faces and the continued barriers many families here in the UK face. I look forward to opening up this conversation and the particular issues faced by those diagnosed with treatment-resistant epilepsy.”
The schedule for the event is as follows:
10:00 – Doors Open
10:30 – Welcome
10:45 – Panel Discussions
- (10:45) Innovation: New Formulations & Methods of Consumption
Industry experts and prescribers discuss the current lack of diversity of cannabis-based medicines in the UK. They ask the question: “By relying on flower and oils are we preventing some patients from accessing what could be a life-changing medicine and/or limiting its potential benefits?”
- (12:00) Making Cannabis Accessible to the Masses
Take a deep dive into the ongoing stigma of cannabis-based medicines and what can be done to reduce this and, ultimately, make medical cannabis more accessible to those who need it.
13:00 – Lunch Break
13:30 – Screening of ‘Sisters Interrupted’
14:30 – ‘Sisters Interrupted’ Q&A
15:00 – Panel Discussions
- (15:00) Your Legal Rights as a Patient
Despite medical cannabis being legalised five years ago, the law is still far from clear-cut. For many patients, understanding their rights in a climate where even the police are insufficiently informed can be extremely difficult. A panel discusses these issues and informs on some of the practical steps patients can take to protect themselves.
- (16:15) Medical Cannabis Five Years On
Since cannabis was rescheduled in 2018, fewer than five patients have been issued unlicensed cannabis-based medicines through the NHS. The final discussion of the day focuses on the developments of the past five years and discusses what needs to be done to widen accessibility in the future.
17:15 – Closing Remarks
The event will also feature a dedicated room for exhibitors from the medical cannabis space, including charities, industry partners, and organisations. There will be a medication zone where medical cannabis patients will be able to consume their cannabis-based medicines (all patients should bring with them a copy of their prescription and medication should be kept in its original packaging).
The event is being held at Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London. The venue is fully accessible and volunteers will be on hand should you need any assistance.
Livestream (£5) and in-person (£15) tickets can be purchased for the UK Medical Cannabis Patient Conference, here.
What else is happening during MCAW 2023?
Medical Cannabis Awareness Week brings together individuals from across the medical cannabis space, from patients and advocates to prescribers, researchers, and representatives of organisations, to take part in a range of events and join the call for fair access to medical cannabis treatment in the UK.
In addition to the Medical Cannabis Patient Conference, this year’s event will also feature a Professional Networking Event, hosted by the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society (MCCS) and the Cannabis Industry Council (CIC) (Thursday 2 November, 17:00 – 21:00).
The Medical Cannabis Roadshow will be heading to Brighton on Sunday 5 November; the roadshow will bring together patients and healthcare professionals and will feature informative talks, interactive workshops, and discussions with industry experts.
Who can attend Medical Cannabis Awareness Week?
MCAW was launched in 2020 to remind people from across the medical cannabis network what we should all be fighting for: quality, transparency, and NHS access to cannabis-based medicines. So, whether you’re a patient, prescriber, industry professional or simply a member of the general public interested in learning more about medical cannabis, this week-long event is for you.
If you’re unable to attend the event, you can still get involved by sharing your story or your support. Patients – whether you have a medical cannabis prescription or not – are encouraged to share their experiences to help raise awareness and reduce stigma. You can do this by recording a video clip or writing down your story and sharing it to your social media accounts using #MCAW.
Representatives for organisations such as licensed producers, clinics, pharmacies, and other relevant sectors are also invited to raise awareness around MCAW. This can be done by attending or hosting your own event!
For more information on how you can get involved, click here.
Cover image by XC Photography