Key takeaways as industry professionals and patients discuss all aspects of legally prescribing and consuming medicinal cannabis in the UK.
Earlier this month, the UK Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society (UKMCCS) hosted an insightful panel event exploring many aspects of medical cannabis in the UK.
The event was well attended by professionals, patients, and other interested parties. Jeremy Stull was there and summarised the key takeaways for Cannabis Health.
Taking place at The Midland Hotel in Manchester, the panel led by Professor Mike Barnes, chair of the UKMCCS and consultant neurologist, featured Katya Kowalski, head of operations at Volteface, Ryan McCreanor, founder of Sativa Learning and Emdad Khan, a medical cannabis patient in the UK.
The event covered topics including the history of medical cannabis use, controversial issues within the UK, the legality of prescribing medicinal cannabis, how cannabis affects the body, the evidence behind it, who can prescribe or be prescribed cannabis, the cost benefits to the patient, as well as a patient’s point of view.
History of cannabis
Professor Barnes briefly spoke to the fact that cannabis has a long history of medicinal use dating back to China, over 5,000 years ago.
Shen Nung, the father of Chinese medicine, wrote about cannabis for medical purposes, making it the oldest known medicine to man.
Also important to note was the propaganda campaign led by Harry Anslinger, head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBA) in 1930, while seeking to retain his budget after the US Prohibition.
Anslinger made false claims that caused public hysteria surrounding marijuana (cannabis), pushing a view that Mexicans who consumed the substance were violent and needed to be controlled.
The lasting effects of this campaign are still being felt today and remain prevalent amongst medical professionals, as well as the general public.
The endocannabinoid system
Professor Barnes went on to summarise the workings of the human endocannabinoid system (ECS), a system that covers a broad range of important roles within the body such as appetite, motor control, neurogenesis, neuroplasticity, memory, and analgesia to name a few.
He presented detailed neuroscientific information on how cannabis interacts with the ECS to help with these functions.
As cannabis is a “multi-chemical plant” it is difficult to run in a double-blind study, as opposed to a one to one compound test common in the pharmaceutical industry, Professor Barnes pointed out.
Some cite cost as a major concern when it comes to prescribing cannabis. However, Professor Barnes noted with cannabis prices currently sitting around £5 -£7 per gram and production costs around 40p per gram, it comes in much cheaper than other medications.
The NHS could negotiate the cost down further, making it a much more affordable solution than some of its counterparts.
Cost issues are being addressed through a scheme called Project Twenty21, a Drug Science-led observational study on the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis.
If enrolled in the project as a patient, you would receive subsidised medical cannabis prices in exchange for filling out a questionnaire every few months.
A patient on the panel, Emdad Khan, who is currently using prescribed medical cannabis shared how cannabis has significantly helped him with his depression and brought his creative side back.
Khan spoke of his experience of the process of joining a medical cannabis clinic and how he had found it fairly smooth and issue-free.
Katya Kowalski, head of operations at Volteface, an independent research and advocacy organisation that seeks to reduce the harm drugs pose to individuals and society, through evidence-based policy reform, talked about its recent work and the implications of its findings.
It seems that cannabis does not fit easily into the current healthcare system and that a lack of information about the practicalities of prescribing is affecting progress, as well as the long-term subconscious stigma not being addressed.
Volteface also found that early education is key to raising awareness amongst medical students. Training programmes and governance could be promoted and streamlined and appropriate prescribing must be a priority.
Ryan McCreanor, founder of Sativa Learning shared how the organisation is providing trusted education about cannabis and offering CPD accredited online courses in connection with industry experts.
The courses include CBD industry professional and medical cannabis. McCreanor played an important part in the rollout of the Canadian medical cannabis programme.
The UKMCCS, Volteface, Sativa Learning, and Drug Science are working to spread information and affect more positive policy change around prescribing medical cannabis in pursuit of helping patients improve their lives.
Barnes said the event was a “great day” with “a good turnout of a whole interested audience from many different backgrounds and specialties” and he “looks forward to doing it again in Belfast.”
If you are a professional or patient interested in more information about how to help move the industry forward or how to prescribe or receive a medical cannabis prescription, more information and support can be found through UKMCCS, Drug Science’s Project Twenty21, Volteface, and Sativa Learning.
The UKMCCS will also be hosting a similar event in Belfast in July 2022, tickets can be found here.