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APPG Medicinal Cannabis Initiative

“ Short Inquiry into the case for changing the categorisation of cannabis for medicinal purposes from Schedule 1 to a more appropriate ...

Friday, 18 November 2016

APPG Inquiry Report - UK Government Responds - BADLY








The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform along with United Patients Alliance and #EndOurPain submitted evidence and recommendations directly to the UK Government on September 13th 2016 from their recent initiative:


“Short Inquiry into the case for changing the categorisation of cannabis for medicinal purposes from Schedule 1 to a more appropriate Schedule”





Clark French and Jon Liebling from UPA join #EndOurPain and and APPG at Number 10!


We now have the Prime Minster Theresa May's response when Roger Godsiff, Labour MP for Birmingham, Hall Green, asked this parliamentary question:

“To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, if she will respond to the recommendations of the report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform Accessing Medicinal Cannabis: Meeting Patients’ Needs, published in September 2016.”



Sarah Newton MP, minister of state at the Home Office replied:

“The Prime Minister responded to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform’s report ‘Accessing Medicinal Cannabis: Meeting Patients’ Needs’ on the 27 October.
Cannabis is controlled as a Class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and, in its raw form, currently has no recognised medicinal benefits in the UK. It is therefore listed as a Schedule 1 drug under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001
It is important that all medicines containing controlled drugs are thoroughly trialled to ensure they meet rigorous standards so that doctors and patients are sure of their efficacy and safety. To do otherwise for cannabis would amount to a circumvention of the clearly established and necessary regime for approving medicines in the UK.”

Whilst disappointing, it is hardly a surprise that this is simply a copy/paste of the same tired position the UK government has held since 1971. Clearly, neither the PM nor any of her ministers have given any consideration whatsoever to the scientific evidence presented by top UK Neurologist, Professor Mike Barnes's bar setting paper nor the output from the 623 medicinal cannabis patients from United Patients Alliance's survey.

Frankly, this just isn't good enough when it is estimated that over 1 million UK citizens suffering from a range of conditions could have their health and lives improved immediately and whilst it is difficult to argue that "It is important that all medicines containing controlled drugs are thoroughly trialled to ensure they meet rigorous standards" this has to be set against the reality that we are literally years away from this process providing any sort of progress for patients who could be helped today with legal access to cannabis in various forms. 

It is worth noting that in a recent meeting I had with Chris Tovey, Chief Operating Officer for GW Pharmaceuticals, he estimated that even Epidiolex, which has completed successful phase 3 trials and is close to approval for treatment in the US, is between 2 and 3 years away from approval in the UK. Any further cannabis based medications are, perhaps, 5 to 10 years away. Our patients cannot wait that long as has become quite clear across the globe.

With the recent progress in the US, Canada, Australia, 11 European countries and many other parts of the world, it seems inevitable that the UK government will have to look more closely and address its current unsustainable position on cannabis. However, if we want to see change happen more quickly then we must continue to increase the pressure on them and make sure that this issue remains in the public and political eye.

Of course, United Patients Alliance nor the APPG will be letting this lie. We have to make maintaining the status quo LESS comfortable for them than addressing it and plans are already in place to respond to the government including legal challenges, parliamentary motions and questions, media focuses and of course #EndOurPain will continue to bring more MPs and grow public support. More details on these plans will be forthcoming soon - Watch this space.

What can you do?



Sign up to support #EndOurPain here: http://www.endourpain.org/




Please write to your your MP, giving them the report that the APPG presented to the PM and demanding they they read it and respond to the evidence AND NOT just give the standard government line as above. Ask them to demand that the government give full consideration and a detailed response to the evidence and to each of the recommendations rather that just regurgitating their indefensible current position: Click here for how to do this

All the documents can be accessed here:

APPG Report: Accessing Medicinal Cannabis: Meeting Patient’s Needs 
Professor Mike Barnes: Cannabis: The Evidence for Medical Use 
United Patients Alliance: Medicinal Cannabis Patient Survey

We need your help and support to be the most effective we can be, so please see what you can do to help: HELP - United Patients Alliance


NOW is the time YOU can make a difference. NOW is the time to make ourselves heard. NOW is the time to support Cannabis as a Medicine.

Jon Liebling – Political Director of United Patients Alliance


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Sunday, 23 October 2016

HELP - United Patients Alliance

United Patients Alliance need YOUR Help:


We are always looking for people who can spare any time at all to help us in our goal of legal access to cannabis therapeutics in the UK.
No matter what you can do, no matter how much time you have, no matter how anonymous you want to be - There is something YOU can do to help:



#EndOurPain

Sign up to #EndOurPain and join the 37 MPs, 13 Peers, 4 celebrities and 22k supporters that have already done so. Then tell all your friends and family to do the same.

Facebook Posts/Tweets/etc - ALWAYS and Every one!

  • Follow us on Twitter: @upallianceuk
  • Like us on Facebook
  • Like all our FB posts and tweets
  • Comment on posts/tweets - this spreads the word (much wider)
  • Share posts/Retweet - spreads the word (much much wider)
  • Share posts in other groups you think are appropriate
  • LIKES – Likes are the throwaway gesture of social media. When you like the Page Update. Facebook assigns very little weight to it in the Newsfeed algorithm.
  • COMMENTS – When you comment on a Page Update, Facebook’s Newsfeed gives more weight to comments than likes. 10 TIMES BETTER!
  • SHARES – A share is the brass ring on Facebook. This is huge in terms of exposure, word-of-mouth recommendation, and credibility. Facebook assigns the most weight to shares. 100 TIMES BETTER!

Letter/MP Writing <- Click link for detailed help



  • Write to your MP
    • Highlight your own condition/situation
    • Ask for their support
    • Highlight recent APPG launch and all its information/initiatives
    • Highlight the best Scientific Evidence
    • Request support for United Patients Alliance and #EndOurPain
    • Ask for Face to Face Meeting
  • Newspapers/Magazines
    • Patient Stories (Pref Public but can be anonymous)
    • Articles (individual or groups?) for publication about the APPG Launch and #EndOurPain 
      • Be supportive, but can suggest that it does not go far enough for you/your group...because.....(GYO, Extracts, Choice/Range, etc.....)
    • "Have your say" sections of newspapers like (Metro, Sun, Mail, Telegraph, etc)
  • Published Articles
    • Share
    • Comment
    • Share your comment

Other Activities


  • Help organise UPA UK Tour and Grassroots showings (2 separate events...probably?)
    • Brighton, London, Bristol, Cardiff, Belfast, Birmingham, Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow + any others you would like to suggest
    • Ideas for improving event nights
    • Finding + booking suitable venues
    • Event Admin/Advertising/Leafletting/Posters
    • Recruiting in local area
    • Hosting event in local area
    • Become Regional Admin and recruit local help?
  • Meme Making
    • Ideas for good memes
    • Graphic Design for branded memes 
  • Video Shorts
    • Short video clips (with branding and subtitles) say 30s on why you choose cannabis for your condition - The more the merrier!
  • Blogging (Need content for brand new website due for launch soon)
    • Writing blogs about almost anything in relation to Cannabis as a Medicine
    • Writing opinion pieces about #UPA #EndOurPain, APPG Launch, Mike Barnes' report, UPA Patient Survey
      • No opinion will be censored but would strongly prefer "supportive" Eg: Brilliant and a great step forward, thanks, blah BUT: Better if, needs that, should be like this because.....etc....
  • Other website content:
    • Guides
      • GYO
      • Care Giver/Community Sharing
      • Extracts
      • Harm Reduction
      • Dosage guide
      • General consumption advice
      • Legal Advice
      • Any other ideas
  • Research for Soundbites from UK based sources
    • Politicians/Celebrities etc
    • Search Hansard/TheyWorkForYou


Be a Patient

  • We are always looking for patients willing to speak out publicly and be available for media interviews/events
  • I hate saying this, but it is just TRUE - The more emotional your story, the better. The more debilitating your illness, the better. Wheelchairs/Walking sticks all welcome! The more eloquent you are the better. The more presentable you are, the better - We put patients forward, it is (ALWAYS) the media who select who they want!
  • Particularly looking for:
    • Veterans
    • Medical Professionals
    • Elderly
    • Child
    • Mothers
    • Anyone who can demonstrate "live" the "rapid" impacts of cannabis consumption 
  • Mental Illnesses - Unique Opportunity
    • For the very first time thanks in no small way to the support of Norman Lamb MP, we have significant focus on the benefits of cannabis to mental health conditions, especially: PTSD and Anxiety
    • We need willing patients with these or related conditions also with broader/other mental health conditions who get benefit from cannabis to step forwards
NOW is the time to make a difference. NOW is the time to be heard. NOW is the time to support Cannabis as a Medicine.

Jon Liebling – Political Director of United Patients Alliance


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Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Meeting Norman Lamb MP - CBD, Cannabis and Mental Health



Meeting Norman Lamb MP - 11th October 2016



I had the pleasure of meeting with Norman Lamb MP, who stands as both one of the most proactive supporters and campaigners for Mental Health Reform, and passionate advocate for cannabis law reform both as a medicine and recreationally. He commissioned the Expert Group, Chaired by Steve Rolles,Senior Policy Analyst, Transform Drug Policy Foundation who published the most recent proposal for legal regulation of cannabis, which was submitted to parliament and can be found here: 
A regulated cannabis market for the UK


The subject for our discussion was one particularly close to my heart and mind: The Benefits of Cannabis for Mental Health Conditions, but, resulting from the recent decision by the MHRA to classify all cannabidiol (CBD) containing products as a medicine, I thought this was worth adding to the agenda.

Over the last couple of years, I have had a number of experiences of meeting MPs and I have to say that meeting Norman is different in all the good ways. He is informal, welcoming and friendly, he also has really comfortable leather sofas and I could very quickly tell that he was actively listening and taking a personal interest in what I had come to ask him, challenging fairly, asking searching and informed questions so that he understood the whole issue properly. That said, as with all MPs you meet their time is short so I got to the point:

CBD and the MHRA

Whilst supporting the need to regulate and quality control the CBD product market for the benefit of all consumers, I explained our concerns regarding the impact on many 1000s of patients' well being if legal access was restricted or indeed removed for any period of time. He listened, he grilled me, he understood and he dictated a letter to the MHRA right there and then in front of me and asking for an urgent response:


Norman Lamb's Letter to MHRA - Page 1

Norman Lamb's Letter to MHRA - Page 2


Result! Wow - That worked well, I must say. Will update you as soon as I get the Chief Executive Officer of MHRA's response!

Cannabis and Mental Health

Mental Health Conditions Effectively Managed with Cannabis
as reported by patients
©United Patients Alliance/APPG
Patient Survey 2016
We then discussed the the benefits of cannabis for many mental health conditions evidenced from Professor Mike Barnes' recent study, citing Anxiety, Depression, Sleep Disorders and PTSD along with the results of UPA's patient survey, (which we will publish shortly) finding 36% of patients effectively managing a range of mental health conditions with cannabis in various strengths and forms. 
(Conditions as reported in free text field)

Norman found these data compelling and was fascinated by the range. He noted that he had heard of its potential benefits for Anxiety and PTSD and agreed that the subject needed focus and attention.

I explained, that we spend too much time defending cannabis against exaggerated claims about its risks and so neglected the exciting benefits and that I felt, with his record in Mental Health reform, he would be in the best position to help us change this narrative. He asked, in what ways I thought he could help, so I asked whether he would help open the door to national organisations and charities on the subject. He suggested and agreed to facilitate a parliamentary round table discussion with a number of the major Mental Health Charities with whom he has a very good and long standing relationship. Another Result! (Well, as long as I can put the whole proposal together for him!!  HELP? Seriously - Help!)


Quite coincidentally (serendipitously), I happened to meet Professor David Nutt, from DrugScience on the tube on the way in and we had a very interesting conversation. Firstly, he was off to meet with representatives of the MHRA to discuss directly what their objectives and reasoning was in making their recent statement, as he feels that they might not be properly informed on the science of cannabis and CBD and was going to help them get up to speed. He has assured me, that he will be feeding back on how that went. 
In addition, he added, that there might just be some rather good news internationally on cannabis being announced shortly - He did not go into any more detail on this, but strongly suggested to keep an eye on his twitter account on Friday afternoon! :)

I have to say - Today was a good day! 


Jon Liebling – Political Director of United Patients Alliance


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United Patients Alliance Website





Thursday, 22 September 2016

Write to Your MP - 2



Write To Your MP

Now is the time to contact your MP making it very clear that you expect them to read the APPG's report and recommendations and if you can, arrange to meet your MP at their constituency surgery to explain things in person. Saying “NO” by email is much easier than saying it to a medical cannabis patient sat right in front of them.


You must include your full postal address and postcode to show that you are a constituent.  Without this your email or letter will be ignored.

An email or a letter is fine, both is even better and a follow up phone call to their office can be very effective in getting a response.

Write in your own words. Parliamentary email systems can identify and delete “Template Emails” to address campaigns by petitioning groups that have inundated MPs with such correspondence.  

Keep your letter fairly brief. Limited to 3 or 4 paragraphs and a single page is best.

A good format for your correspondence is:

Paragraph 1: Why you are writing? What do you want from your MP?
  • I am/want to be a medical cannabis patient who has suffered from (condition) or I am a recreational consumer
  • What do you expect in return - I want you to read, consider and respond to the APPG report and Mike Barnes' report. I want you to tell me your position on this subject. I want to arrange an appointment to see you.
Paragraph 2: Details of condition/consumption/why you believe cannabis should be legalised? It does not have to be every angle or every reason. The ones that mean the most to you will do.

Paragraph 3: I appreciate you taking the time to read this. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you. Grovel (not really)


What do I Write About?

Use your own words; choose from these points if that helps:
  • Mike Barnes' report is a new standard for evidence of cannabis' efficacy for many conditions
  • Legal regulation of cannabis will move the £6bn per year market out of the hands of the criminals, reducing under age consumption and resulting in better quality and known strengths, less prevalence of Skunk and other high-THC strains which are a response to the illegal market. 
  • The potential benefits of taxation of cannabis would allow us to invest millions more in schools, hospitals, drug abuse treatment and re-education
  • Legalising would reduce police costs and time so they can concentrate on more serious and violent crime, whilst improving relationships with the public.
  • It removes the risks relating to dealing with the criminal market for patients in accessing their medicine
  • Provide patients with much needed medicine that is effective and safe
  • It would save the NHS millions of pounds as people would chose cannabis over other more expensive and less effective pharmaceutical medications. An average Multiple Sclerosis Patient costs £30k per year unless they choose cannabis. In US states where available there is 16%-25% take up. With 100k MS sufferers in the UK, that is a minimum of £480m per year, for just MS.
  • Opiate abuse and overdose has reduced by an average of 25% and Alcohol abuse and overdose by 15% in places where regulated cannabis is available as an alternative. 
  • Allows for more research in more places without the 2 year lead time and additional costs of around £160k per year for licences and materials and would encourage competition by breaking GW Pharmaceutical's UK monopoly
  • It would directly and immediately reduce the numbers of trafficked children forced to work on illegal cannabis grows in the UK
  • It's my Human Right
You can link to the following pieces of evidence in your email or letter or add your own but no more than 3 or 4 excellent links.
Lastly and most importantly; 
Please send ALL responses - no matter how good or bad to campaign@endourpain.org 
Do give United Patients Alliance a mention.
Do support End_Our_Pain for legal access to Cannabis as a Medicine




GOOD LUCK! Let us know how you get on.

Jon Liebling – Political Director of United Patients Alliance
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Thursday, 8 September 2016

PRESS RELEASE - APPG Campaign Launch

United Patients Alliance Press Release

Embargo: 00:01hrs Tuesday 13th September 2016

Patients Welcome MPs Call to Legalise Medical Cannabis

The United Patients Alliance (UPA) has welcomed the findings of a major Parliamentary report published today that access to medical cannabis should be legalised as a ‘landmark moment’ for the estimated 1 million people in Britain that take cannabis primarily for medical reasons.  The report was issued by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Drug Policy Reform following their seven month inquiry, along with the results of a worldwide review of evidence and patient survey, commissioned by them 

Jon Liebling, political director of UPA said, ‘The findings of this report, and the review of evidence from around the world published alongside it, together with our patient survey is a landmark moment in our campaign to advance access to medical cannabis. Working alongside the www.endourpain.org campaign we have long argued that people taking cannabis for medical reasons are patients, not criminals. We urge the UK government to take heed of this report and act.  Today’s news blows the government’s view that cannabis has ‘no medical value’ out of the water.  The government needs to follow the lead of the growing number of countries, including 13 in the EU along with 25 US States that are seeing this issue for what it is – a matter of compassion and social and medical justice with solid evidence to support it’.

The APPG’s members include over 100 Peers and MPs, co-chaired by Baroness Molly Meacher and Caroline Lucas MP
.

Their inquiry stretched over 7 months.  The APPG also commissioned the most in-depth review of the medical and scientific evidence of cannabis’ efficacy for many conditions and symptoms, including mental health, ever undertaken. This review of evidence was researched and produced by one of the UKs top Consultant Neurologists, Professor Mike Barnes. This report should be seen as the most authoritative and up-to-date document on this subject, removing any doubt about cannabis’ therapeutic benefits for many conditions:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6-snQ_RW74

United Patients Alliance along with some of our patients gave evidence at a number of the APPG hearings and were tasked with running, administering and analysing a 600+ cohort Medical Cannabis Patient Survey comparing their experiences of prescription medications versus cannabis, along with preferred methods of consumption, strengths, sourcing and many other fascinating statistics. The results support both Mike Barnes’ report and the APPG’s campaign and will be addressing question such as:

How do you source cannabis? (street/grow/etc...)
What type is best for you (High THC > Low CBD, choice, etc......)
What form of cannabis (Herbal, Edible, Tincture, Oil)
How do you ingest (Smoke, w/wo tobacco, vaping, eat, etc..)
What conditions do you consume it for?
How effective is cannabis vs prescrition drugs?
Description and Severity of side-effects
How long have you had your condition? How long have you been consuming cannabis?
Have you talked to your doctor about cannabis? How did they respond?

In addition there are a few interesting and significant gender differences in terms of conditions, effectiveness, side-effects, etc..


No10 Downing Street
The public campaign #EndOurPain, which has been active for only a few months and has over 19000 signatories, 29 MPs, 12 Peers, 4 celebrities (Richard Branson, Joanna Lumley, Russell Brand and Alistair Campbell) along with a practising UK GP and Consultant Neurologist will present its aims and progress to No10 Downing Street alongside this launch - http://www.endourpain.org/supporters/  Copies of both the APPG report and the review of evidence can be downloaded from the www.endourpain.org from 00:01 Tuesday 13th September 2016

ENDS


Editors notes:

Contact Details:
Jon Liebling | Political Director - United Patients Alliance
E: jon@liebling.co.uk M: 07921589237

Clark French | Founder and Director - United Patients Alliance
E: as.the.sun.sets@hotmail.co.uk M: 07773 690488

Please use our Website Page link in any publications: http://www.upalliance.org/
(New website launched on 13th Sept)

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Introducing United Patients Alliance
The United Patients Alliance are a support and campaigning community for 1000s or medical cannabis patients in the UK who suffer from a range of conditions including; Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Fibromyalgia, Crohn’s, Anxiety, Depression, AIDS, Rheumatoid Arthritis, ME, PTSD, Epilepsy, Chronic and Neuropathic Pain, all of whom have found that various types and strengths of cannabis consumed in a variety of ways has proven to be a more effective medicine than their legal and prescribed alternatives in improving their lives, reducing side effects and treating their symptoms. These patients are forced to either live in unnecessary discomfort and pain or risk dealing with criminals for their medicine and a criminal record for growing it or consuming it.


We launched in June 2014 with the support of Caroline Lucas MP and Professor David Nutt and have since gained the direct support of a number of other ministers and politicians. We run Patient Perspective and Cannabis College events around the UK to give patients a forum for telling their stories and to help inform the public of the proven medical benefits whilst dispelling the myths and half-truths about its harms. We estimate that there are about 1m active and current medical cannabis consumers who would immediately benefit from a change in this dreadful situation. In terms of genuine information on medical cannabis and how best to consume it, we are the UK’s experts on cannabis as a medicine.

Political Director of United Patients Alliance, Jon Liebling asks "What compassionate society would allow the criminalisation of patients for consuming something with their doctors blessing that helps them manage and treat their illnesses and improves their lives?"

Founder and Director of United Patients Alliance and Multiple Sclerosis patient Clark French says:
"Cannabis is medicine for thousands of UK patients suffering from chronic conditions, it is both cruel and callous to seek to arrest someone for consuming something which makes them feel better, we demand the government listens and changes the law to reflect the science and allow legal access to cannabis for all UK citizens who wish to benefit from cannabis' therapeutic potential"


Quotes from United Patients Alliance Patients:

Alex Fraser – Crohn’s Patient
"I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease at 19. I cannot be prescribed any traditional painkillers for my chronic pain. Cannabis is my only medicine, it's the only thing that's ever worked. It eases my pain, gives me an appetite, helps me sleep and reduces my nausea. Regular use reduces all of my symptoms to the point where it enables me to work. Without cannabis, my life would barely be worth living"

Faye Jones - Rheumatoid Arthritis Patient
"I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis at the age of 27 and rely on cannabis for pain relief, and to combat the side effects of prescribed treatments for my condition, that would otherwise prevent me from staying in full time employment."

Jake Barrow - Chronic and Neuropathic Pain Patient

"Patients in the UK need access to medical cannabis immediately. To expect anyone to cope or even survive on heavy opiate based medications for their entire lives shows how both cruel and inhumane political ideology can be. We need to remove the stigma from Medical Cannabis use"

APPG Medicinal Cannabis Initiative


Short Inquiry into the case for changing the categorisation of cannabis for medicinal purposes from Schedule 1 to a more appropriate Schedule”

On September 13th, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Drug Policy Reform published its report and recommendations following its inquiry and presented all the evidence to No 10 Downing Street along with United Patients Alliance and #EndOurPain

From the left: Frank Warburton (APPG), Jon Liebling, Clark French (UPA), Prof Mike Barnes, Peter Carroll (#EndOurPain), Baroness Molly Meacher

The APPG has over 100 MPs and Peers as its members and is Co-Chaired by Caroline Lucas MP and crossbench peer Baroness Molly Meacher.
To find out more visit the APPG Website






Molly attended our Patient Perspective event in London last year and was “deeply moved” by what she heard. She told us on the night, “I had no idea it had such a broad range of benefits. We have to do something about this!”


In the first of many meetings with Molly and her team we successfully argued that “a more appropriate schedule” would be better than “to Schedule 2” reflecting the fact that GW Pharmaceuticals full plant extract medicine Sativex is in Schedule 4 and as such, this should be considered more carefully.
In addition we were overjoyed to have successfully made the case for the inclusion of a recommendation to decriminalise "Grow Your Own" for patients witin the report.
The APPG’s report included evidence from many written submissions and oral hearings in which UPA and a number of our patients took part, along with many other interested groups from both sides of the fence. Most significantly, one of the UK’s top consultant neurologists, Professor Mike Barnes, published his comprehensive and qualitative review of the scientific evidence for cannabis’ efficacy for many conditions which was supported by the publication of the results from APPG and United Patients Alliance recent survey of over 600 medical cannabis patients.

House of Lords
From Left: Clark French, Founder and Director UPA, Caroline Lucas MP, Baroness Molly Meacher and UPA Political Director, Jonathan Liebling

All the documents can be accessed here:

APPG Report: Accessing Medicinal Cannabis: Meeting Patient’s Needs 
Professor Mike Barnes: Cannabis: The Evidence for Medical Use 
United Patients Alliance: Medicinal Cannabis Patient Survey

Alongside this launch, #EndOurPain presented their petition:

Sign up to support #EndOurPain here: http://www.endourpain.org/


Whilst we await an official response from the UK Government which we expect will be forthcoming in the next few weeks, it has never been a better time to get involved with United Patients Alliance and help us drive the forward.
We need all the help we can muster - CLICK here if you would like to!

Jon Liebling – Political Director of United Patients Alliance


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Saturday, 27 August 2016

Thinking about #EndOurPain?


Why we support #EndOurPain and why we think #CannabisisMedicine will help the wider cause too.

United Patients Alliance are never going to apologise for putting patients first. Medical Cannabis Patients are, in fact, the reason we exist. Whilst it is true that strain choice might be different for those seeking cannabis' medical benefits than for those consuming recreationally, the substance is pretty much the same thing and whilst we may and do argue that all cannabis consumption is therapeutic, not least, thanks to its neuroprotective properties and that many who consume recreationally do so for medical reasons as well; the difference that counts for us and our patients is the primary reason for consumption: Medical or Recreational?

For our patients, there is little doubt which (if any) must come first, but in any case, does this matter in practical terms when the ultimate goal is Legal Cannabis for Adults and Cannabis as a Medicine for all?

The (final) goal remains the same - but how do we get there most efficiently?

The battle for Drug Law Reform including a legal and regulated cannabis market has never had more support, focus and more motivation - All United Patients Alliance and #EndOurPain are saying is; 

"Can we clear the sick from the battle field first please?"

The biggest criticism of a "medical-first" approach is that this will, in some way, delay or harm the full legalisation lobby and set the campaign back years. 
So I have had a little look at exactly that in the context of our current political reality.


Which is the fastest path to full legalisation of cannabis?

How likely do you think a government who debated the legalisation of cannabis and firmly rejected it last year is going to engage on the subject again this year or perhaps for many?

There is a chance that it could be made an election issue should our unmandated new PM, Theresa May decide to call one soon. Jeremy Corbyn has just publicly stated that if he retains the Labour Leadership that he would address the issues of Cannabis as a Medicine and Drug Law Reform as a matter of urgency, but realistically it doesn't really matter, as the Conservatives would win an early GE no matter what they said about cannabis so unlikely to be a risk she would think was worth taking as she aims for a election victory.

Opinion Polls 

There have been a number of opinion polls both public and private over the last couple of years and the political picture is pretty clear, today;
58% of current MPs support cannabis as a medicine, however, only 18% currently support full legalisation.

Whilst the significant majority of the UK public support cannabis as a medicine, it is still only 32% who support full legalisation. So there is quite a way to go before getting there.

Support amongst the public might not be as high as you think? 

Just for this - 24 months/2 years as a minimum - PLUS:

How long will it take to actually pass a bill to legalise cannabis if such a decision was made?

Taking a Bill Through Parliament

It takes about a year, on average; I would estimate at least 18 months for something as complex as this and then a further 6 months (at least) to implement it.

So realistically there is little likelihood that it will happen, from a standing start, within the next 5 years? I honestly doubt it.......from a standing start. Add that to the minimum 2 years it would take to pass and implement and you have:

7 years: Earliest Date for legalisation of cannabis in the UK: September 2023


HOWEVER

In every single US State (excl: California; an exception on many levels) that has introduced a medical access policy, public opinion on full legalisation has swung to positive from any start in between 20 and 30 months. Whilst their politicians have been slow to act on this, I think our political system is more "public opinion" driven and as such could work faster, or at least at the low end; Let's say 2 years?

AND

There is a way, one way, to get this process on the go early, perhaps very early!? Introduce cannabis as a medicine to the UK without actually having to change any laws:

If cannabis were to be moved from its current Schedule 1 status and some policy changes could be made by the MHRA to permit the approval of herbal based medicines, this would allow doctors to prescribe cannabis and for a pharmacy to fulfil the prescription from existing and future pharmaceutical grade products from around the world.

(Specialist Licensed Dispensaries would need a law change and licenses/policies defined - it can't happen immediately but probably will at some point in the future)
(Schedule 2 would suffice but would make importing much more complex and with Sativex already in Schedule 4, that seems more reasonable. De-Scheduling is simply highly unlikely for now)

Sources for the pharmacy could be any "pharmaceutical grade" formulation of cannabis currently approved for use across Europe as we already have a trade agreement in place. (Not withstanding #Brexit) There are a growing number of these formulations being researched and produced across Europe with a broadening range of strains, extracts, edibles and tinctures that can be introduced, as they become available. The door will have been well and truly been opened.

So what about Grow Your Own?

Amongst #EndOurPain, #UPA, #VolteFace or #APPG or #Transform or....oh well, you get the picture, I am not aware of a single voice that does not agree that people should be left alone to grow their own (within regulations that need to be debated). However to address this in law takes us back to square 1 again; Law change! 
There are things that can be done more quickly and without changing the law though and logic dictates most of it:

Once you have introduced herbal cannabis into the UK for medical reasons, the first check that will need to be made by the police, if you are caught in possession is whether you have a prescription. This will drive 2 unwanted impacts; Many, many people going to their doctor to get prescriptions and an immediate increase in prescription fraud. Arrests would become harder to justify, mistakes will be made and successful prosecutions would become very expensive and far more difficult. The only logical thing to do to prevent this would be to decriminalise personal grows; This only requires some policy changes. The argument is being prepared. it will be being made at some point along the way. You can help by helping to make the case.

So what about Mental Health?

For politicians this is dodgy ground. Many of them and most of the public are convinced that there is a negative causal relationship between cannabis and mental health because that is how they have been led by the Red Top press.
Not for long, though. The most authoritative and up to date review of the medical efficacy for many conditions by a qualitative study of the research is about to be published by a top UK Consultant Neurologist. Within this report are a number of mental health benefits which will get significant focus during the APPG's campaign supported by #EndOurPain and by the results of #UPAs cannabis patient survey showing how high a priority and benefit it actually is, whilst recognising that there is a small minority of the population who are under 18 and with a predisposition to mental illness who may experience negative consequences and should be cautious.

Cannabis Clubs/Collectives?

It's all there in the Expert Panel Report? Perhaps some of the suggested regulations need a bit of work, but setting them from a "cautious" starting point was a wise move in order to get the report passed. If and once it gets debated all the regulations and many other aspects can be explored and agreed.

Right now there is a slim, but real chance that #EndOurPain's goals are achievable in 2017 and will set us firmly on the road to full reform. It will depend on a number of things; this is politics, love it or loathe it and how your cards are played is important. For those who feel that it does not go far enough; How early would you show your whole hand, if you wanted to win?
It's not secrecy, it's strategy.

Once cannabis becomes more widely accepted and normalised due to its medical uses, the benefits understood and the risks in perspective, once there is a set of results, medically, criminally, financially the rest will surely follow much more quickly, than from a standing start?

That sets the realistic earliest date for full regulation and legalisation of cannabis in the UK:
April 2019 - April 2020 (with many/most patients and personal growers sorted in 2017)

That beats the Full Legalisation Only, by a full 3 years and probably more.

Support Change and Support #EndOurPain now

With financial backing, professional campaigners, structure and a strategic plan, along with 44 MPs, 13 Peers, 4 Celebrities and over 22500 supporters in 6 months it is not going to stop and it is going to be successful; it is not about whether you like #EndOurPain's wording or what you think about those who are helping to drive it and/or pay for it; The UK is in the process of changing. This is how it is going to change; the only way you can effect the outcome is by getting on board; Lets build the future together.

Do it now, here: End Our Pain



Jon Liebling – Political Director of United Patients Alliance


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