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Industry Body Calls on UK Government to Review Medical Cannabis Policies

Jan 13, 2020

Industry Body Calls on UK Government to Review Medical Cannabis Policies

The Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC) has today called on the UK government to urgently review its policies around medical cannabis access.

The appeal is accompanied by the CMC’s breakdown of its cannabis use survey, which found that around 1.4 million Britons use illicit cannabis to treat diagnosed medical problems.


Unlawful and ubiquitous

Commissioned by the CMC and conducted by the polling giant YouGov, the recent poll found that 2.8 percent of the 10,602 participants reported using cannabis to help manage their symptoms.

After extrapolating the survey’s results, the industry body has now estimated that 653,456 people in the UK are using cannabis for depression, 586,188 for anxiety, 326,728 for chronic pain, 230,631 for arthritis, 182,583 for insomnia, and 177,778 for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“These findings quantify what we long suspected, almost 3 percent of the UK adult population are choosing to use cannabis rather than traditional pharmaceutical products to treat their chronic medical conditions,” Steve Moore, founder of the CMC, said in a statement.

Previous estimations had put the number of people in the UK using illegal cannabis to treat a medical condition anywhere between 50,000 and 1.1 million people. But due to concerns over reporting biases, the figures never entered the national conversation around drug policy.

“We urgently need to know why and can only do so by extending access to cannabis based medicine and accelerating clinical learning regarding its efficacy,” Moore continued. “Other countries such as Denmark and France faced with these same challenges have established national medicinal cannabis pilots, we urge the UK government to do likewise.”


Crunching the numbers

In his breakdown of the survey, Dr Daniel Couch, the CMC’s medical lead, found that British people use cannabis therapeutically across all age groups, social classes, family groups, genders, and locations. Almost half of respondents spent over £100 per month on their symptomatic relief.

“The data in our report demonstrates the ‘hidden’ personal, moral, and societal costs of using ‘street’ cannabis,” he said in a statement.

The survey’s breakdown, titled Left Behind - The Scale of Illegal Cannabis Use for Medicinal Intent, found that the bulk of people treating themselves (71.4 percent) were aged 18-44, but a significant number (14.6 percent) were aged over 55. Consumers with Parkinson’s disease were likely to spend the most (£357 in some cases) on their monthly cannabis treatment.

“The tried and tested drug evaluation process does not take these non-clinical and wider-societal risks into account so therefore may not be suitable for the assessment of medicinal cannabis,” Couch continued. “We must debate an adaptive onward approach for the UK.”

After months of regulatory stasis, the cannabis-based medicine Epidiolex was recently fast-tracked into the UK’s National Health Service to be available to patients from January 6. It’s currently unclear if prescription rates have increased. 

Multiple efforts are also underway to boost medical cannabis’ credibility among UK doctors. Up to 20,000 UK patients are to enrolled in a two-year-long medical cannabis experiment that will trial medical marijuana’s efficacy as a treatment for chronic pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and several mental health disorders. And for those patients too desperate to wait, aid could soon come from the UK’s first medical cannabis charity, which will soon provide financial support to those on modest means who wish to access medical cannabis in the UK. 


Leo Bear-McGuinness

Science Writer

@LeoMcBear

Leo joined Analytical Cannabis in 2019. From research to regulations and analysis to agriculture, his writing covers all the need-to-know news for the cannabis industry. He holds a bachelor's degree in biology from Newcastle University and a master's degree in science communication from the University of Edinburgh.

 

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