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Thousands apply for medical cannabis exemption card



Cancard founder Carly Barton. Credit: Sam Shaw

A new initiative which could protect over one million medical cannabis users from prosecution has launched this month with an “encouraging” response from police forces.

Cancard was founded earlier this year by Carly Barton, a former university lecturer who became the first patient in the UK to be prescribed cannabis after its rescheduling for medical use in November 2018.

Carly uses cannabis to ease the chronic pain she experiences from fibromyalgia, a condition she developed following a stroke in her early twenties.

The scheme seeks to protect patients who use cannabis-based supplements to treat a medical condition. As such treatments remain unavailable through the NHS, only private practices have been able to prescribe medical cannabis – which can come at a significant cost to the patient.

Although Carly was one of the first to access cannabis legally in the UK, the large monthly prescription bill meant she soon had to resort to growing her own and buying cannabis illicitly.

There are approximately 1.4 million people in the UK who regularly consume cannabis for health reasons, who according to Carly, are often “living in fear” of prosecution or arrest.

Since opening for applications on the 30 November, Cancard has received over 3,700 submissions with an average of 208 applications per hour on the day of its launch. The first applicants are expected to receive their card in the next few weeks.

The scheme has also received a “really positive” response from the UK police. Following a briefing from the National Police Chief Council, Carly says most of the training packages have been delivered by the police intranet.

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“It [training] has been delivered really well by the police,” she says.

“They’ve done a smashing job on communicating it all. Every officer in the UK should now know about Cancard and should know what to do if they encounter one.

“Patients are reporting to us that they’ve already spoken to PCSOs [Police Community Support Officers] and police in their areas, and found that they are aware of it, they know about it, and they are supportive.

“We’ve also had a lot of emails and calls from individual police authorities and they’ve been really encouraging. They’ve been getting in touch to say it’s a brilliant idea.”

Unfortunately, it hasn’t been this easy with every police authority. Some have been more reluctant, especially those that take a hard line on drug enforcement. And although the company has worked with the Home Office to roll out the scheme, according to Barton, it “can’t and won’t” make a statement unless there is an official change to the drugs act.

“What we can do is make changes operationally without making a change to the law,” Carly adds.

“That can be done in two ways; police discretion and national guidance.

“We were gradually seeing a shift in attitudes before Cancard but I think that there was still a lack of confidence amongst frontline police officers, particularly new staff, in how safe it felt to use their discretion.”

Cancard gives police officers and PCSOs the confidence to use their discretion, as cardholders have been checked to ensure their condition qualifies for a cannabis prescription.

There are two ways of being certified for a Cancard, either through a GP or through self-certification. People can self-certify by asking their GP receptionist for a copy of their summary of care, a one-page document containing details of previous diagnoses and prescriptions. An email is then sent to their GP to confirm that the individual has the condition which they claim to have on their application.

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The self-certification route was put in place to allow people to access the card without it affecting their medical records. Currently, individuals are unable to access NHS mental health services, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, if they have consumed cannabis in the previous three months.

Carly was surprised by the response from GP practices.

“We were anticipating that GPs would be reluctant,” she says.

“But we’ve had literally thousands of GPs confirm patients’ conditions and we haven’t had any that have refused.”

However, Cancard is remains a temporary solution and it is hoped that in the future there will not be a need for the scheme.

Carly says: “We need to understand that there are 1.4 million people in the UK who are successfully consuming [cannabis] for their conditions and they’re choosing a natural supplement over potentially harmful pharmaceutical drugs.

“In my case, I’ve been able to come off fentanyl, morphing and Benzodiazepines because of cannabis. We can’t ignore that people are getting real benefit from this and we can no longer ignore the evidence that’s coming out of countries with sophisticated medical science.”

She adds: “What Cancard does is answer the question: should these people be criminalised for taking this supplement? I have yet to find anybody who says yes to that question in the police or otherwise.”



Royal Society of Medicine and Integro Clinics announce pain and cannabis medicines event

The event takes place on October 11 from 8:30 to 17:30. It will explore the potential of cannabis medicines in the field of pain medicine in the UK



Event: The Royal Society of Medicine logo in green and red on a white background

The Royal Society of Medicine has announced a collaborative event, Pain and cannabis medicines: Everything you want to know (but were too afraid to ask) in association with Integro Medical Clinics.

The event takes place on October 11 from 8:30 to 17:30. It will explore the potential of cannabis medicines in the field of pain medicine in the UK

Since the legalisation of cannabis medicines on prescription in November 2018, patients and clinicians alike have been awaiting more data or information regarding these medicines. 

The event aims to provide those attending with a comprehensive understanding of the uses of cannabis medicines and the practicalities of using them in their own practice. It will consist of presentations on the history, regulatory environment and pharmacology of cannabis medicines including the use of different cannabis-based medical preparations in treating pain and related symptoms in a wide variety of clinical fields in the context of the current UK regulatory framework. 

Event presentations

The day will feature presentations from international leaders in cannabis medicines such as Professor Raphael Mechoulam, the chemist who discovered the endocannabinoid system and THC, Dr Anthony Ordman, Leading UK Consultant in Pain Medicine and previous President of the Pain Medicine Section of the Royal Society of Medicine and Dr Arno Hazekamp PhD, who worked as Head of Research and Education at Bedrocan, the first European company to produce EU GMP grade cannabis medicines.  

If you wish to sign up, please click here.

Event speakers
Dr Anthony Ordman, Consultant in Pain Medicine

Event: A black and white headshot of Dr Anthony Ordman Founder of the highly respected Chronic Pain Clinic at London’s Royal Free Hospital, he is one of the UK’s most experienced specialists in the treatment of pain. For his contributions to Pain Medicine, Dr Ordman was awarded a Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians in 2005, and he is the Immediate Past President of the Pain Medicine Section of the Royal Society of Medicine. Dr Ordman is also Senior Medical Consultant and Lead Clinician at Integro Medical Clinics and has a special interest in the potential benefits of cannabis medicines in pain medicine.

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Alex Fraser, Patient Access Lead at GrowPharma

Event: A black and white headshot of guest speaker Alex FraserAlex Fraser is a leading medical cannabis patient advocate. He is a patient himself having been diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease in 2010 at 19 years old. In 2014 he founded the United Patients Alliance and has since appeared on mainstream media multiple times, including on the BBC and ITV, to highlight the urgent need for access to cannabis medicines for the many patients who may benefit from them. He has taken delegations of patients to parliament to give testimony to politicians at the highest levels and organised educational events, rallies and protests calling for law change on medical cannabis. In February 2019 Alex joined Grow Pharma, one of the leading suppliers of cannabis medicines in the UK, as their patient access lead. He utilises his extensive knowledge of medical cannabis, his understanding of patient needs and his network in the industry to ensure patient voices are heard and represented. His work includes informing top-level policymakers, educating healthcare professionals and conceiving and running projects that increase general awareness and provide practical help for patients.

Professor Raphael Mechoulam, Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel

Event: A black and white headshot Most well-known for the total synthesis of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and the discovery of the Endocannabinoid System. Since the inception of his research in the 60s, Professor Mechoulam has been nominated for over 25 academic awards, including the Heinrich Wieland Prize (2004), an Honorary doctorate from Complutense University (2006), the Israel Prize in Exact Sciences – chemistry (2000), the Israel Chemical Society Prize for excellence in research (2009) and EMET Prize in Exact Sciences – Chemistry (2012

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Dr Sally Ghazaleh, Consultant Pain Specialist

Event: A black and white headshot of a guest speakerDr Sally Ghazaleh, is a Pain Management Consultant at the Whittington Hospital, and the National Hospital of Neurology and Neurosurgery, London. She qualified from the University of Szeged Medical School, Hungary in 2000, and then completed her specialist training in the Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine at Semmelweis University in 2007. She went on a fellowship at University College Hospital, London, to gain her higher degree in Pain Medicine

During her time at the pain management Centre at University College Hospital, she gained extensive experience in dealing with and managing patients with complex multiple pain problems. She is accomplished at a variety of interventional and non-interventional treatments for this specific patient group. Sally specializes in managing patients with lower back pain, neck pain, neuropathic pain, abdominal pain, cancer pain, complex regional pain syndrome, post-stroke pain and Fibromyalgia. She has a particular interest in bladder and abdominal pain in women, and women’s health in general.

Sponsored post about British Cannabis Group

Read more: How Medical cannabis can help relieve the symptoms of migraine

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Emigration: I’m prescribed cannabis for ADHD but can’t travel home to Ireland

In the final part of our series Cannabis Health editor, Caroline Barry shares her own story.



ADHD: An Irish passport lies on top of a blue European document. Both passports are ontop of a map where a pen is marking the route

In the final part of our series Cannabis Health editor, Caroline Barry shares her own story. As an Irish person using cannabis for ADHD in the UK, Caroline can’t travel home with her medication.

For weeks I have been covering the stories of Irish people who are emigrating or who have emigrated for better access to cannabis. This has covered multiple different experiences from those tired of living with prohibition, patients unable to afford their medication to those unable to travel home with cannabis without breaking the law. It also touched on lost business and taxes for Ireland.

I never thought I would be part of the story but here we are.

ADHD: A woman with neon green hair looks away from the camera. She is wearing a white shirt with a black tie.

My name is Caroline and I’m the editor of Cannabis Health. I’m also a medical cannabis patient currently being treated for ADHD.

I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of ten after it became very apparent I had an excessive amount of energy. Not only that but I was incredibly difficult in school as I would either concentrate intently to the point of forgetting to move or not at all. A common misconception is that ADHD people can’t concentrate when it’s actually that we can’t balance it.

My schoolwork was a mess of inattentive mistakes if I even did it at all. I was too busy getting my energy out by singing, running, chatting or distracting the other children in the class. I also had oppositional defiant disorder so telling me what to do was a sure way to start a fight. ADHD people often have comorbidity with other conditions such as autism or anxiety.

ADHD and growing up in rural Ireland

I grew up in rural Ireland where there was a lot of fields or coastline to go running or walking on, but not a lot of support in terms of healthcare. I got very used to being described as trouble, a handful or the naughty child because my brain worked differently. Experts estimated that ADHD children hear on average 20,000 more pieces criticism before they reach the age of 10.

This was my reason for not seeking healthcare. While I took a cocktail of medications as a child, I stopped as a teenager because they didn’t appear to do anything. I shut down by not telling anyone I had the condition for fear of being treated differently. I struggled through my degree, my masters then through half of my PhD studies before I left as I wasn’t able to handle it.

I compensated by filling my days with events or fun activities. If there was a night out, cinema trip or dinner out to be had then I was there. ADHD people have lower levels of dopamine than neurotypical people do so we spend a lot of time looking for short bursts of it. Anything we find fun or new can help us to top that up.

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I eventually emigrated from Ireland in 2012 for economical reasons. The country was on its knees after a recession, a housing crash and series of financial scandals. Jobs were scarce, the money was dismal and it became increasingly apparent that there wasn’t going to be a job at the end of my MA degree. So I left along with 54,000 other Irish people that year. The worst year of emigration on record for Ireland.

ADHD: A woman with blue shoulder length hair faces the camera wearing a black t-shirt with lettering on it. She is sitting in a corn field

Neurodiversity and COVID times

There are studies to be done yet on how the pandemic affected those of us who are neurodiverse. In my case, it heightened my hyper-focus causing me to break down with stress and exhaustion at Christmas. My hyper-focus overrides my ability to switch off at the end of the day. While someone may recognise 5 pm as clocking-off time, I can’t and will often work until midnight if I can.

I needed medication to help ease this.

I also needed help getting to sleep. In non-covid times, I would head to the gym to burn off the excess energy I had stored up from sitting down at a desk all day. When everything closed, I had nowhere to go so I just stayed at home. This led to a lack of sleep where I would go days without proper rest.

I was exhausted and burned out.

NHS help

I eventually tried to access more pharmaceutical methods of treating my ADHD in desperation. My GP referred me to the ADHD support services in Nottingham and I had my first assessment call with them.

It’s extremely nerve-racking going to a new doctor when you have a condition that isn’t immediately visible. I worry that I’m not going to be taken seriously and you are at the mercy of someone’s interpretation of your condition. I cried down the phone asking for help because I couldn’t deal with it anymore. I have lost jobs, partners, friends and my life has been shaped by having ADHD. So when the doctor said he didn’t feel my ADHD was bad enough for medication, I felt mortified and was close to giving up. I’ve gone years managing it myself so why bother to look now?

I appealed but it’s now over six months later and I am still waiting to hear anything back from them about treatment.

Cannabis was a huge part of my life already. I had been writing about it for so many years that I was amazed I hadn’t thought about it before now. In researching a story, I noticed that clinics offered medical cannabis for ADHD.

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The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Cannabis helps to quieten the racing thoughts and excessive energy that fuels my hyper-focus and keeps me awake at night. There hasn’t been a lot of studies of cannabis on ADHD and those that exist tend to be recent.

A study from 2020 on CBN showed potentially promising results. It took adults with ADHD and a medical cannabis prescription. They were asked to record their symptoms, sleep and anxiety pattern using questionnaires. One group of the 59 participants were given a higher dose and recorded less medication use. Those on the lower doses reported less anxiety.

Life-changing medication

The assessment from a private medical cannabis clinic was life-changing. Not only did the doctor listen to everything I had to say but there was no judgement. I felt able to talk about some of the darker parts of my ADHD that I hadn’t felt comfortable speaking to the NHS doctor about.

To get to this stage, I had to get every last bit of information from various GPs that had treated me over the years. This may sound easy but I had moved country three times living in Ireland, Italy and the UK. Not only that but the psychiatrist who diagnosed me had passed away in 2020, as well as my childhood doctor retiring.

The relief of being told I could have medical cannabis was immense. I had been sourcing it where I could prior to that which meant I had no idea what I had or when I would have it. I rationed the small amounts I could get and never knew what was working or not working.

ADHD: A white woman with short pastel pink hair wears blue headphones around her neck with a leopard print scarf


My cannabis arrived at my front door in a small white tub from Rokshaw. For someone who had never held a prescription for it before, it felt surreal to hold a white tub with a pharmaceutical label on it that was filled with cannabis.

I’m still learning to use it properly by getting the perfect vape and a routine that works. I have only had it for a few weeks so there is time to learn all of this yet. Also, ADHD people can be forgetful about their medication so I have to be mindful that I have something in the house that can help me to relax and sleep.

I no longer worry about rationing and can have as much as I actually need. I also know what is in my medicine, instead of trusting strangers to be upfront about it.

I started to write the series on emigration after realising that I knew a lot of Irish people who had left or were in the process of leaving to get access. A lot of them were in pain and really needed better access to their medication which Ireland wasn’t providing for them.

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Writing about emigration as an emigrated person, made me realise that I have another issue now. I always wanted to move home after a while but to do so means I lose out in two ways.

Firstly, my job as a cannabis writer does not exist in Ireland. I’ve spent ages accumulating this information, researching and understanding how this industry works. The media industry in Ireland is incredibly difficult to get into as not only a woman but a queer female who is not from Dublin but from West Cork. There are no cannabis publications in existence over there or regular reporting on the industry in the broadsheets.

Secondly, my cannabis prescription is not valid in Ireland. I would need a prescription from an Irish GP which is going to be impossible to get. If someone with chronic pain from cancer cannot get an affordable prescription or a person with fibromyalgia can’t get one at all, then I don’t fancy my chances. This is why people are leaving.

I cannot travel home to my country without risking arrest or having my medication taken off me. One choice is to leave my medication at home which I can do, but my symptoms will come back. Another is to take the risk and see what happens. The final choice is access once I land which means going back to the flourishing black market in Ireland and taking my chances.

I’ve reached out to Frank Feighan and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly. I’ve sent them my articles on emigration to no response. I outlined my problem on returning home. Mr Feighan is the Minister of State for Public Health, Well Being and National Drugs Strategy. He responded with a cut and paste response that I could have found on the internet with a quick Google that basically said nothing in relation to my case. Since that response, I’ve had nothing back. Stephen Donnelly has never replied.

I won’t risk it. My family are too important for me to never visit Ireland again and it’s my home. There is a deep sadness in knowing you won’t be able to move home until this is fixed but an even bigger one in knowing, it’s not likely to be any time soon.

I would like to say thank you to Aoife, Adrienne, Alicia and Joe who all spoke to me as part of the series. 

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One in five autism caregivers give their child CBD products

A new report by reveals that the majority of parents started using oils during the pandemic for older children.



Autism: A collection of clear glass and brown tincture bottles together on a wooden surface next to a balm that has a cannabis leaf on it.

A study by Autism Parenting Magazine revealed that almost 20 percent of people caring for an autistic child give them CBD products.

The autism parenting survey was sent to 160,000 subscribers around the world revealing the extent of CBD use by parents caring for an autistic child. 18.6 percent of respondents confirmed they use CBD for a child on the spectrum to relieve a variety of their symptoms. This was further broken down to 22.16 percent of US parents compared to 14.29 percent of UK families.

It is estimated that there are 700,000 people in the UK with a diagnosis of autism. This is equal to one in 100 children in the UK.

The new survey also revealed that 31.3 percent of those using CBD products started during the Covid-19 pandemic. A further 16.6 percent revealed they have increased the amount since the pandemic began. The reason for this was thought to be down to increased anxiety and panic.

The data showed 76.3 percent CBD only use while the remaining 10 percent used other forms such as hemp, CD/THC and Epidiolex or CBD with terpenes.

The majority of those who responded were parents at 72.4 percent but there were also grandparents, careers, teachers, therapists, doctors or individuals on the spectrum.

Autism symptom relief

The survey revealed that the primary use for CBD was anxiety relief at 42.9 percent or challenging behaviour at 36.9 percent. The rest stated pain relief, inflammation, sleep or relaxation. A small number of parents, 4.3 percent, said seizures. Other reasons were given as speech or supporting potty training.

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The survey also asked how much support the parents felt their child needed with 42.9 percent stating ‘requires substantial support.’ A small number at 17.9 percent said very substantial support. CBD use tended to be daily in the form of oils.

Oils were a favourite amongst parents with 60.8 percent opting to use this method. Other popular methods included 21.5 percent using gummies, 7.5 percent consuming capsules or tablets. A few used lotions or balms while 1.9 percent used vapes.

A large number of participants used CBD for their teenagers with 21.39 percent confirming their child was aged 13 to 18.

Autism therapies

Only a small number of parents were combining the CBD with therapies at 7.4 percent. The therapy was listed as Applied Behaviour Analysis Therapy (ABA Therapy). ABA therapy considers a person’s understanding of how behaviour works in real situations. The aim of therapy is to increase helpful and decrease unhelpful behaviours that could be harmful or affect learning. ABA is being used increasingly in the UK.

Read more: We are asking for quality of life for our children – new report reveals issues with medical cannabis system

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Cannabis Health is a journalist-led news site. Any views expressed by interviewees or commentators do not reflect our own. All content on this site is intended for educational purposes, please seek professional medical advice if you are concerned about any of the issues raised.

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