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How Much Do You Know About Medical Cannabis?

A Red box that has writing on it saying How much do you know about medical Cannabis

In November we brought over 200 patients together in London (and many more online) for the second UK Patient Conference, hosted by Drug Science and Medcan Family Foundation, with support from the Cannabis Industry Council.

The event took place as part of Medical Cannabis Awareness Week, which marked five years since the landmark law change that saw cannabis legalised on prescription in 2018. As expected, much of the day focused on the progress (or lack of) over the last five years and what needs to change to improve the patient experience, as we look to the next five.

Although there are now around 32,000 patients with legal prescriptions for cannabis in the UK, this number pales in comparison to the estimated 1.8 million who are still thought to be self-medicating with illegally-accessed – and the many millions more who are still unaware of its potential benefits or not willing to risk breaking the law.

In a new milestone for the sector, it was great to have representatives from national charities, Parkinson’s UK and Ehlers Danlos Support UK taking part in a panel exploring how we can make these treatments more accessible and improve awareness among those ‘cannabis naive’ patients.

Both Sarah Hamilton, advice and information manager, EDS Support UK, and Laura Cockram, Head of Campaigns, Parkinsons UK, said there is an appetite among their community members to explore cannabis-based medicines but there are still some concerns around the lack of evidence for its use in certain conditions and lack of prescribing guidelines.

“We hear on a regular basis from our community members that they are desperate for new treatments,” said Laura.

“They are desperate for that hope… That’s what has pushed us to say we need to be in this space, we need to be having this conversation and we need to be funding research.”

Other issues that were raised throughout the day were the lack of standardised treatment models, inconsistency in product manufacturing standards, and the need for more accessible modes of administration, in order for cannabis to be taken more seriously as a medicine that can be prescribed on the NHS.

The event also presented an opportunity to address some of the major issues facing patients in their daily lives and the significant stigma and discrimination they continue to experience, from police but also many other parts of society.

Being in the room and seeing so many patients connecting and sharing their stories reaffirms what already we know – that cannabis can change lives and offer hope where all else has failed.

But it’s also important that the industry has the chance to hear and acknowledge the challenges that they continue to face in order to help overcome them. This is why events such as the UK Patient Conference are so crucial as we navigate this emerging field of medicine.

As Professor Mike Barnes, opening the conference, said: “All medicine should be patient-focused, but cannabis of all medicines needs to be focused on the individual because it’s a very personalised medicine.“

“Meetings like this really help the patients have a voice in the industry and it’s so important, now there are 32,000 in the country – it’s a lot of people and we need to make more difference than we have done so far.”


Sarah Sinclair is a freelance journalist, copywriter and content creator specialising in health and emerging medicines. She has over a decade of experience in publishing and communications and as the former editor of Cannabis Health, for the last three years she has been at the forefront of the UK medical cannabis sector. She has spoken at leading industry events such as Cannabis Europa, Product Earth and the UK Patient Conference and is currently available for journalism and writing commissions, brand content creation, communications consulting and event curation.

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