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Sapphire Medical Foundation Awarded Charity Status in the UK

By Alexander Beadle

Published: Dec 18, 2020   
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Britain’s first fund providing support for medical cannabis patients has been awarded official registered charity status, following a landmark decision from the UK’s Charity Commission.

Trustees of the Sapphire Medical Foundation say that its registration as a charity will open the door to new fundraising opportunities and support. In light of this news and a successful period of fundraising over the past year, the foundation announced that its next round of grant applications will be opening imminently.

Increasing support for patients

Established in 2019, the Sapphire Medical Foundation was founded to reduce the financial barriers stopping British patients from accessing medical cannabis treatment. Much of the foundation’s current support has come through individual donations and small fundraising events such as sponsored runs. But with the new charity status, the foundation is confident that it will be able to offer increased amounts of support to patients.

“We have worked closely with the Charity Commission to ensure that Sapphire Medical Foundation has a robust governance process,” Dr Simon Erridge, co-founder and trustee of Sapphire Medical Foundation, said in a statement. “This approval will open up fundraising opportunities and allow us to support many more patients.”

“We want to help as many people as we can in a sustainable and affordable way,” Erridge told the Times. “The only limit on how many we can help is how much we can raise. We are entirely reliant on donations so getting charitable status will really help with that, because it will benefit our fundraising and allows us to apply for various grants ourselves.”

The foundation is also partnered with the London-based Sapphire Medical Clinics, a private medical cannabis clinic, which under the terms of the partnership also provides financial support to the Foundation’s running costs and subsidizes the cost of clinic appointments for foundation-funded patients.

Medical cannabis access in the UK

Despite medical cannabis treatment being legal in the UK for over two years, the current system in place has made cannabis medicine notoriously inaccessible to most patients in the country.

Appointment fees and the cost of cannabis medicines at private healthcare clinics often prove too steep a barrier for many prospective medical cannabis patients. But a cocktail of restrictive prescription guidelines and a perceived lack of data supporting medical cannabis use has also made it extremely difficult to access the medicines cheaply through the National Health Service (NHS).

“The Sapphire Medical Foundation aims to enable patients with limited funds to gain access to cannabis medicines when they need them,” said Baroness Molly Meacher, chair of trustees for Sapphire Medical Foundation, in a statement following the charity status announcement.

“At present only about 10 prescriptions for cannabis medicines have been written within the NHS. As a result, patients need funds – hundreds of pounds per month or more in some cases, to access these legally recognized medicines. This is morally wrong.”

Providing grants to patients in need

Earlier this year, the Sapphire Medical Foundation was able to award its first grant to a prospective medical cannabis patient, Kirran Gill, a 38-year-old former teacher who lives with debilitating chronic pain from fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis, worsened by a car accident six years ago.

“My pain stops me doing the career I love,” Gill said in a statement at the time. “I love teaching and being in the classroom, for me there is nothing more rewarding and satisfying. The foundation grant is a beacon of hope for me in amidst the darkness.”

Thanks to the support of its donors, the foundation was able to commit to paying for Gill’s medical cannabis treatment for an entire year. But this may be just the tip of the iceberg.

Speaking at the time of Gill’s grant announcement, Erridge commented, “We are delighted to be supporting Kirran. She has gone through all conventional therapy to try to ease her pain with no success. It is a real pleasure to help give this opportunity to any individual so severely affected by their health condition.”

“However, the real shame is that we can’t help more individuals. With the volume of applications in our first grant round, we know we need to continue fundraising to support these patients in need.”


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