Medical Cannabis Awareness Week is taking place from 1 – 8 November 2020, bringing 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 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.
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 – a community of medical cannabis patients and advocates – is calling for fair access to medical cannabis treatment on the NHS.
Most patients prescribed medical cannabis live with chronic pain, neurological or psychiatric conditions, such as fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, anxiety & PTSD – yet many continue to face stigma in their day-to-day lives and from healthcare professionals when trying to access this treatment.
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.”
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.
Medical Cannabis Awareness Week is an initiative of PLEA, who advocate 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.
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 in the UK during the first week of November each year.