A Medical Marijuana User in Notts

Illustrations: Zarina Teli
Monday 28 August 2023
reading time: min, words

Sativex, a cannabis based medicine, has been available on NHS prescription in the UK since 2010, and cannabis flower and oil have been available since the end of 2018. It helps me to manage my neurological condition and mental health problems better than pharmaceuticals, but there are massive problems with the prescription system.

Main Image (8)

I have been a prescription patient for a good proportion of the time that cannabis has been available on the NHS, though almost entirely privately, since this is basically the only way that it is available. I initially started taking cannabis oil as I had a tumour, which mercifully went away - but ironically, it's still not prescribed for this purpose. 

Private prescription is cheaper than illicit, but it is tiered, so the most exclusive strains cost around three times that of the cheapest. There are various schemes for those on low incomes that can help towards cost, but if you are provided a chemovar [loosely meaning a chemical variety or strain] that treats your symptoms and then you can’t obtain it for several months, and that’s not therapeutic - it’s stressful, harmful, and frustrating. 

Even though the UK is the world's biggest exporter of cannabis, the private prescription chemovars are inexplicably imported from various countries around the world, and stock shortages are constant. There was uproar when there were lengthy stock delays in Hormone Replacement Therapy, and rightly so, but nobody even knows when this happens with cannabis.

The reason given for cannabis only being available on private prescription is a lack of clinical evidence as to its efficacy. But we're also told that no one is commissioning any such research to find this evidence, despite America having outsourced its research to Israel (world leaders in all things cannabis) for fifty years. Looking to the past can provide such evidence; cannabis was historically used medicinally in Britain, very effectively, for many conditions. 

Across the pond, while serving as President of the United States of America, Richard Nixon admitted that drug laws were about social control, while Joe Biden has acknowledged that marijuana was banned for racist reasons and decreed that those held on cannabis charges should be released. As the UK followed Nixon’s lead with the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971), why is this not acknowledged?  

Denial of evidence creates systemic problems. We are learning about the therapeutic components like terpenes and cannabinoids, as well as how to mitigate potential risk. Some people don’t react well to high strains, or those too heavy on traditional sativa-associated properties, but certain pharmaceutical medications don’t agree with many of us, either. 

In British and American medicine, we follow the 'band-aid model' - we wait for something to go wrong, then we treat it with something that generally causes something else to go wrong. I’m not against pharmaceutical interventions, but the preference for synthetic equivalents that are often more harmful bewilders me. 

In British and American medicine, we follow the 'band-aid model' - we wait for something to go wrong, then we treat it with something that generally causes something else to go wrong

The fact is, the downsides of cannabis are relatively minor. Unless I’ve got my levels wrong or I’m on the wrong strain, dry mouth is the worst I have experienced. I don’t know anyone who has struggled hugely with cannabis withdrawal when it’s arisen - it is simply a return of what you experienced before you started consuming it - and nobody has ever overdosed, a risk that many other medications do carry.   

And yet, regular anti-cannabis articles are published by local and national media outlets which misrepresent the facts. Articles explaining how to ‘Grass Up Your Neighbour’ are fairly common, but they’re oversimplified, put cannabis consumers at risk of persecution, and rarely mention prescriptions. It’s nigh impossible to get a response from editors to discuss these issues, and so nothing changes.

I think that although cannabis needs to be legal for everyone, there does have to be a prescription system in place - too many people will simply not be able to afford their medicine otherwise. Many of us on private prescriptions have to make sacrifices in terms of quality of life, which are neither small nor sustainable. People need to be able to buy small amounts before committing to a chemovar, doctors need better education, and the lack of prescribing specialists in certain areas needs addressing.

I believe people can make a difference by making their views known to their constituency MP, as well as encouraging open discussion with others. Neither the Labour party nor the Conservative party support decriminalisation, but I think that the more constituents that are invested in a subject, the greater the likelihood of it being raised in Parliament.


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