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UK to host first medical cannabis patient conference

The first event of its kind aims to “empower” and “celebrate” those who benefit from medical cannabis.



UK to host first medical cannabis patient conference

The UK’s first patient conference of its kind aims to “empower” and “celebrate” those who benefit from medical cannabis.

The UK’s first medical cannabis patient conference is scheduled to take place on Friday 4 November, as part of Medical Cannabis Awareness Week.

The event, hosted by Drug Science and Medcan Support at Oval Space in London, aims to bridge the gap between the professional cannabis industry and recreational-focused events, with an opportunity for patients and prescribers to come together and celebrate one another’s journeys.

Speakers will be made up of medical cannabis patients, prescribers and advocates with individual talks as well as panel discussions, where individuals will have the chance to share their stories. 

It will also host the European premiere of the documentary, Anything Can Happen, which documents the story of Dr Jen Anderson, a Canadian family doctor who fought for access to cannabis for her epileptic son – and the other patients she has since treated successfully.

Dr Anderson, now a leading expert and advocate for the paediatric prescribing of medical cannabis, will be at the event with producer, Chase Gouthro, for a live Q&A after the event.

Speaking to Cannabis Health, Dr Anderson said: “I never meant to be a doctor giving cannabis to kids. I just started owning my story, and helping other families. Physicians need to address the fact that no parent is trying to hurt their child by giving them an alternative medicine. “

She continued: “I have a unique role as a parent and a physician. Working within the traditional medical structure has helped me to bring cannabis in, rather than keeping it on the fringes. 

“Sharing my story has helped other families, but also means I have been able to connect with the medical community. They need to see and hear these stories and mine is a little bit more acceptable because I am a physician. I can say things that other people might not and address things head on.”

Empowering patients 

Open to the general public, it is hoped the conference will help raise awareness of the potential of cannabis-based medicines and reach anyone interested in learning more about the treatment. 

Medical cannabis patients in the UK who will take to the stage to share their own stories, hope the event will “empower” others to explore the medicine and “validate” their experience so far.

“I want patients to be more empowered,” says Becca Allen-Tapp, a cannabis patient who also works in the industry.

Becca Allen-Tapp

Becca has used cannabis medicinally since she was diagnosed with a rare neuroendocrine tumour which resulted in her having her left lung removed.

She continued: “Traditionally we rely on our healthcare team to take care of us, but I believe there needs to be a shared responsibility between the healthcare team and the patient who’s actually dealing with the diagnosis. I want to share how I have used integrative medicine, focusing on the whole person, not just on prescriptions.”

Becca believes that empowering patients to take responsibility over their own health will help advance the acceptance of cannabis as a medicine.

“Getting together as a community of patients and caregivers, will only help people to realise that they’re not alone and that they are not drug addicts – even I feel guilty sometimes choosing to use cannabis instead of using other traditional medicines,” she added.

“It has to be reinforced that we’re not alone, we’re amongst friends. There is a powerful message between patients gathering together.”

Challenging stigma

Rosie, who was initially prescribed cannabis for fibromyalgia – but who has found it to be transformative for her mental health and ADHD symptoms – will also share her story on the day.

“Since I came off of the mental health medication I have been the happiest I’ve ever felt, the most honest version of myself,” she said.

“There is such a bad stigma around cannabis. I’m living proof of why we need to listen to the research and the patients, including myself. I’m a successful person. I have a happy family. I have my own home. I am very much a part of the world. 

“It’s important for me to share what I’m going through to educate people that there is another side of the story. It’s something I want to advocate for. When you find a treatment [that works for you] that should be celebrated.”

Rosie added: “If you look back at history, people who fought for something that they believed in were all part of a community. I’m nervous to tell people that I know who could potentially have problems with it, but nothing anyone says will change what I do.”

Bridging a gap

It is hoped that the conference will become an annual event as part of Medical Cannabis Awareness Week. There will be an exhibition space, open to clinics, charities and pharmacies to engage with attendees on the day, as well as opportunities for socialising.

Mags Houston, head of Project Twenty21 at Drug Science, is organising the event along with Matt Hughes of Medcan Support.

Houston commented: “Since I joined the cannabis space less than two years ago, I’ve seen some fantastic educational medical cannabis webinars hosted by the likes of PLEA, the UK Medical Cannabis Clinicians’ Society and Medcan Support. They have been vital throughout the pandemic for ensuring patient and prescriber voices continue to be heard, and a way for the community to feel united during these somewhat disconnected times.

“Now, as we get back to meeting in-person again, we’re seeing corporate industry events spring up, as well as spaces for more recreational audiences and existing cannabis users. But in the middle there’s a huge gap: we’re lacking an opportunity for the general public, and – more specifically – medical cannabis patients, to come together as a community and tell their stories.”

Head of Project Twenty21, Mags Houston

She continued: “We hope to welcome the general public, prescription and non-prescription patients, healthcare professionals, charities, policy makers, licensed producers and indeed anyone who is interested in hearing what the patients have to say. This will be a unique opportunity to hear patients share their personal journeys.

“It’s very important to us that everyone feels included, so we welcome suggestions and support in order to make it the best event it possibly can be – hopefully an occasion that can continue for years to come.

“The event will be live-streamed and recorded for those unable to attend in person to watch from home. The venue has wheelchair access and there will be lots of stalls hosted by industry organisations wishing to engage with patients in-person on the day.”

Speaker applications are open until the end of August and can be found here 

Register for the free event here 

Main event sponsors include CHILAM, Maple Tree Consultants and the UK Medical Cannabis Clinicians’ Society. There are still opportunities for advertising and stall space at the event. For enquiries contact: [email protected]


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