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“Out of touch” Prime Minister “lacks empathy” for medical cannabis patients, say campaigners

The Prime Minister appeared to be “out of touch” when asked by MPs about medical cannabis prescriptions this week



Boris Johnson, prime minister, medical cannabis patients
Boris Johnson looked confused when asked about prescriptions during Prime Minister's Questions

The Prime Minister appeared to be “out of touch” when asked by MPs about medical cannabis prescriptions for children with epilepsy, despite promising to help ease the burden.

Boris Johnson was quizzed this week on the action his Government was planning to take to ease the burden on families forking out thousands a month for medical cannabis prescriptions.

He appeared to look baffled when Labour MP Tonia Antoniazzi asked what he would do to help these children on Tuesday 7 September.

Ms Antoniazzi, who has been a prominent advocate for medical cannabis, asked whether he would deliver on a Government promise to immediately set up a fund to pay for the prescriptions for medical cannabis for children with intractable epilepsy.

But in response, Mr Johnson claimed that the prescriptions are “already provided for on the basis of clinical advice”, sparking outrage among campaigners.

Since the law changed to legalise medical cannabis in 2018 only three prescriptions have been issued on the NHS.

The system has left families funding up to £2,000 a month for the medicines which in many cases have transformed their children’s lives.

The probe from Ms Antoniazzi came after Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West, Christine Jardine, secured a debate in the House of Commons on Monday 6 September, to press the Government on how they plan to ease this burden.

Ms Jardine, whose constituent 10-year-old Murray Gray has been seizure free for two years thanks medical cannabis, said: “Medicinal Cannabis has transformed his life. When his mum Karen first came to see me, he was a very, very unwell wee boy who was… constantly in and out of hospital with dozens of seizures a day and his family were worried they could lose him.

“Now since being prescribed cannabis oil, he is seizure free and a happy youngster who plays football with his dad.

“This medication has given him a life he may not otherwise have had.”

She added: “I believe it’s time that the Health Secretary and his team intervene to make that case that the medical profession should get the shoulder behind the veil. It’s time to close the huge gulf between what the government promised, and I believe wanted and what has actually been delivered.”

After watching the Prime Minister’s response on Wednesday, campaigners have described him as “out of touch” and “lacking in empathy”, accusing him of not understanding the current situation in the UK.

Campaigner Hannah Deacon, whose son Alfie Dingley is one of the few children in the UK to have access to medical cannabis on the NHS, visited Number 10 earlier this year to personally ask the Prime Minister to “stop the suffering” of patients and their families.  

More than 100 cross-party Parliamentarians and peers also wrote to Mr Johnson asking him to intervene.

Watching his reaction yesterday, Deacon told Cannabis Health: “It makes me so angry. 

“Only three prescriptions have been issued in the three years since the law changed. I don’t understand how the Prime Minister can be so out of touch and not care about some of our most vulnerable people.”

Ruby Deevoy, a UK cannabis journalist and advocate for wider access for patients, called his “dismissive response” a “disgrace”.

“It’s evident that Boris Johnson either does not understand the current situation surrounding medical cannabis access in the UK (which I think we all know not to be the case), or he has something else at stake,” she said. 

“Whatever that may be, it is evidently far more important to him than the lives of extremely sick children, who could not just be surviving, but thriving, if only he granted them access to the life-saving cannabis medications they need and we know works for them, on the NHS.

“His dismissive response is a disgrace, completely lacking in empathy and demonstrates yet another reason he’s not fit to run our country. Whoever he’s protecting, it’s not the people.”

Posting on her social media channels following Prime Minister’s Questions, Ms Antoniazzi added: “The PM doesn’t even know what his own government is doing and the families of sick children are paying the price.”

Sarah Sinclair is a respected cannabis journalist writing on subjects related to science, medicine, research, health and wellness. She is managing editor of Cannabis Health, the UK’s leading title covering medical cannabis and CBD, and sister titles, Cannabis Wealth and Psychedelic Health. Sarah has an NCTJ journalism qualification and an MA in Journalism from the University of Sunderland. Sarah has over six years experience working on newspapers, magazines and digital-first titles, the last two of which have been in the cannabis sector. She has also completed training through the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society securing a certificate in Medical Cannabis Explained. She is a member of PLEA’s (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) advisory board, has hosted several webinars on cannabis and women's health and has moderated at industry events such as Cannabis Europa. Sarah Sinclair is the editor of Cannabis Health. Got a story? Email / Follow us on Twitter: @CannabisHNews / Instagram: @cannabishealthmag


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