Campaigners have reacted in anger, despair and frustration to the second reading of a bill in parliament designed to increase access to medical cannabis.
Politicians from different parties shared in parliament their concerns and the stories of medical cannabis patients in their constituencies. Some of the issues raised included the cost of medical cannabis, the lack of doctors who can prescribe, no support for patients and families. The politicians shared the health benefits experienced by the patients themselves.
Response to parliamentary reading
Speaking with Cannabis Health News, campaigner and mother of Alfie Dingley, Hannah Deacon commented:
“It is terribly depressing that even though the government is aware of all the issues that are deeply affecting patients, where they have no choice but be faced with large bills for cannabis medication which keeps them or their children well, they still do not give the time or thought to how they could help improve things for these very chronically ill patients.
“This bill went some way to try to improve access to medical cannabis in the U.K. and we thank Jeff Smith MP for bud continued support. Why does the government blatantly continue to prolong the suffering of so many.”
Medical cannabis campaign group, End Our Pain highlighted that ‘it seems that the government is refusing to support and will instead ‘talk out’ the bill.”
Peter Carroll, director of End Our Pain said: “This Bill may not have been perfect. But it is a genuine attempt to unlock a problem that is causing unbearable anxiety and stress to some of the most vulnerable families in the country. After the law change of 1 November 2018, which saw access under prescriptions legalised, the hopes of these families have been raised and subsequently dashed. They have been passed from pillar to post and systematically let down.
“A succession of Ministers have expressed their interest and concern. There have been reviews, debates and motions. But these families continue to suffer. They need help right now. Our question to the Government and Ministers is this – if this Bill is not the answer, what is?
“To simply talk this Bill out without offering an alternative solution is cynical and cruel. This is a solvable problem. At the very least, these families need some sort of emergency compassionate fund to help pay for the private prescriptions until the underlying problems with NHS prescribing can be addressed.”
Moving heaven and earth on continued medical cannabis access because they acknowledge it is dangerous to stop it, but still no financial help or NHS access after years of safe effective use of cannabis oils. Private access only is a two tier unfair system. @End_Our_Pain https://t.co/sRpcfIi11C
— Boisterous Ben (@BenBoisterous) December 9, 2021
Joanne Griffiths, whose story was shared in parliament by MP Katherine Fletcher, said: “This is simply unforgivable. What a smack in the face this is for our families and at Christmas too. So once again, we get warm words, but no solution.
“Every month is hard to bear for us as we fight to find the money to pay for this medicine. The sums of money to solve this are tiny. All that is needed is the political will to solve it.”
Katherine Fletcher raised in parliament how Joanne’s son Ben is still denied an NHS prescription leaving the family to fundraise to meet the costs of his private medication. She highlighted that they were ‘on the verge of being broken’ due to the financial stress along with COVID and trying to run a business at the same time.
Speaking with Cannabis Health News, Joanne explained her disappointment at the lack of contact she has had with the MP despite what was said in parliament.
“I feel that my seriously disabled son and myself were used to talk out a Bill that may help him and others like him.
Our local MP Katherine Fletcher was asked by Seema Kennedy her conservative predecessor to help our son and to date since 2019 we have had a 15-minute conversation in a pub and one letter regarding Brexit, she has ignored us constantly until this Bill. I really thought she wanted to help us when she said she would attend, but she has completely let us down again and followed the party line.
If Katherine has admiration for me as she stated, then she would fight for a compassionate fund for children that have been deemed as being exceptional by specialists and now receive the cannabis medications keeping them well and who have had an exceptional response and need where all else has failed.”
The bill, proposed by Jeff Smith, Labour MP for Manchester Withington in June 2021, aims to remove some of the barriers by allowing the expansion of GPs ability to prescribe unlicensed cannabis medical products.
The GPs would be on a register maintained by the General Medical Council. GPs in the UK can prescribe as part of a shared care arrangement, under the direction of a specialist consultant.
It would also aim to establish a Commission for the assessment of cannabis-based medicinal products.
Speaking in Parliament today, Jeff Smith highlighted that there are many patients who would benefit from the bill. He also raised the issue of forcing parents to fundraise for their medication. He raised the issues faced by different patients with epilepsy and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.
“Ministers appreciate the problem and want to try and find a way around it. The problem is that medical cannabis based medical products are a very helpful and effective treatment for a number of medical conditions. But significant numbers of people who would benefit from being prescribed medical cannabis on the NHS aren’t able to get the prescriptions that they need.
So when I was drawn for the private member’s bill, I wanted to try and find a legislative way to address this problem,” he said.
He added: “My modest proposals today try to find a way to help overcome the barriers. It’s not a magic bullet and it won’t resolve all problems, but it might in due course help to help some patients get the medicine that they need.”
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