Medical Cannabis Awareness Week returns next week to mark the fourth anniversary of the rescheduling of medicinal cannabis in the UK. Take a look at what’s happening.
Medical Cannabis Awareness Week (MCAW) will see seven days of events exploring the many existing barriers to access in the UK, alongside discussions which aim to raise general awareness and improve the public’s understanding of cannabis as a medicine.
One week today will mark exactly four years since medical cannabis was legalised in the UK, 1 November 2018. But it’s fair to say we are still some way off the access many hoped for.
Despite growing patient numbers, a recent survey by UK cannabis clinic Mamedica found that over 80% of the British public was unaware that cannabis flower was available on prescription, with over 60% not knowing any form of cannabis was legal.
Elsewhere, data collected by Sapphire Medical Clinics showed that more than 80% of UK cannabis patients had experienced stigma from society.
Organised by patient advocacy group PLEA (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) the third annual awareness week will take place from Tuesday 1- Monday 7 November, with a different themed event taking place each day.
Alongside barriers to access, topics set to be explored include paediatric epilepsy, women’s health, industry insights, the future of cannabis cultivation and conversations around the many different physical and mental health conditions for which cannabis is now prescribed.
Addressing the barriers
Zach Thompson, chair of PLEA, told Cannabis Health that the organisation remains committed to ensuring patients have a voice as the medical cannabis sector grows and continues to advocate for fair access to cannabis for all.
“While the medical cannabis industry in the UK has come a long way since November 2018, it is still some way off from meeting the needs of patients,” he said.
“Medical cannabis has been transformative for so many people, but as patients we are paying hundreds of pounds a month for a treatment which allows us to have a reasonable quality of life. This was already a financial burden for many who are unable to work due to their conditions, but now we have the added pressure of the rising cost-of-living, which will likely mean cannabis is no longer an affordable option for many.”
Zach added: “MCAW is an opportunity for patients and prescribers to come together and share their experiences, but it is also a chance to reflect on what needs to change and remember what we are all ultimately fighting for; quality, transparency and NHS access to prescription cannabis.
“In previous years we have seen thousands of people tune into watch the events and we encourage all of those in the industry, as well as regulators and governing bodies to join us during MCAW to hear from those at the very heart of this issue.”
The UK’s first patient conference
Friday 4 November will see the first ever in-person UK Medical Cannabis Patient Conference take place at ISH Venues in London.
Hosted by Drug Science and Medcan Support, patients and prescribers from across the country will meet to share their stories and discuss experiences.
The event will also host the European premiere of the documentary, Anything Can Happen, which follows the journey of Canadian family doctor, Dr Jen Anderson and the patients she has helped, since becoming an advocate for medical cannabis after her own son’s illness.
Dr Anderson will be flying over from Canada for a Q&A with director Chase after the screening.
The event has now sold out of in-person tickets, however the organisers have asked that anyone who is no longer able to attend in-person, or who made a donation, return additional tickets through Eventbrite so that those on the waiting list have the opportunity to attend.
Mags Houston, head of projects and communications at Drug Science, commented: “At Drug Science this is the biggest event we’ve ever run and we are really excited about being able to bring the medical cannabis community together to have some honest frank discussions, but also show compassion and empathy to one another. That is what really matters to us about this event.”
Matt Hughes, co-founder of Medcan Support, echoed this.
“We’re really looking forward to bringing the community together and hearing from patients and clinicians, about their experiences, both good and bad,” he said.
“The panel discussions throughout the day will be covering various topics which we hope will move the conversation forward and enable patients to have a voice in shaping the medical cannabis sector in the UK.”
Here’s an overview of what’s on during MCAW:
Tuesday 1 November
6pm – 7.30pm: Medical Cannabis Research on Paediatric Epilepsy Panel
A panel bringing together patient carers and researchers to explore the challenges to expanding access to medical cannabis for those with paediatric epilepsy. Panellists include representatives from MedCan Support, MCCS, Drug Science and Sana Healthcare.
Sign up here.
Wednesday 2 November
6pm – 7.30pm: Women’s Health Panel
Journalist and author Mary Biles will explore how cannabis can be utilised to treat conditions such as endometriosis and symptoms of menopause. She will be joined by a patient who will speak about her experience of endometriosis, alongside prescribers and industry representatives.
Thursday 3 November
6pm – 7.30pm: Barriers to Access
A conversation around the myriad of barriers currently facing patients in the UK when it comes to accessing prescription cannabis. The panel will discuss three current research and access schemes operating in the UK: Project Twenty21, Sapphire Access Scheme and Grow Access Project. Speakers are still TBC.
Friday 4 November
10.30am – 6.30pm: UK Patient Conference
Location: ISH Venues, Great Portland Street, London, W1W 5PN
The first UK cannabis patient conference, hosted by Drug Science and Medcan Support. The event is free to attend and is open to the general public, including existing cannabis patients or anyone interested in learning more about cannabis-based medicines. The line-up includes a number of speakers, panel discussions and opportunities to connect with others.
Sign up here
Saturday 5 November
12pm – 1.30pm: Future of Cannabis Cultivation
Experts from around the world will discuss the science of the cannabis plant and explore what the future of cannabis cultivation looks like. The host and panel are still TBC.
Sunday 6 November
6pm – 7.30pm: Industry insights
This panel will see patients and industry representatives come together to explore current trends, challenges and what needs change to ensure the sector is meeting the needs of patients. Speakers include representatives from Knowde Group, Aqualabs, Cancard and Glass Pharms.
Monday 7 November
6pm – 7.30pm: Condition Conversations
Hosted by Cannabis Health’s managing editor, Sarah Sinclair, the last webinar of the week will explore the potential of medical cannabis treatment for a range of physical and mental health conditions. A number of patients will share how cannabis has helped them.
All of the panels are free to attend, but you will need to register in advance. For more info visit pleacommunity.org.uk
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