Medical Cannabis Isn’t Reaching NHS Patients. And I’m In Too Much Pain To Wait

UK Home Secretary, Sajid Javid Photo: Shutterstock

The government has broken its promise to make products that help with my MS available on prescription

I was delighted when the home secretary, Sajid Javid, announced that medical cannabis would be made available on prescription from November, including the two main active ingredients cannabidiol (CBD) and the psychoactive component of the plant, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Having used the drug for years to alleviate the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS), I and thousands of others would benefit from the change, or so I thought.

I’d hoped that acquiring cannabis oil legally would be a formality by now, but the door still remains firmly closed. Having recently moved house, I registered with a new doctor and enquired about getting the oil for my pain management. The request for oil containing THC was met with incredulity and a lecture on the dangers it could have on my mental health. I had to bite my tongue as I was offered ibuprofen or OxyContin instead: the former can rot your guts and the latter can leave you addicted to opiates. To say the least, it was a disappointing appointment.

However, I had my suspicions this may happen. The use of “specialist doctors” and wording such as “special clinical need that cannot be met by licensed products”, had set my alarm bells ringing. What was Javid proposing? To resurrect Howard Marks to head up the specialists? And why all the smoke and mirrors about cannabis being a drug of last resort? The growing evidence around the world suggested it was the opposite of that. Medical marijuana was seen to help many ailments, and had supported 40% of users to give up other prescription drugs.

To me, Javid was spouting weasel words last summer, and, surprise, surprise, virtually no one in the UK, including myself, has been able to access medical cannabis on the NHS.

The opening of a “specialist centre” in Manchester last month allows private patients to use it for pain management. But the costs involved mean that, for many seeking treatment, it’s just a pipe dream. It leaves you to question whether the huge profits involved, and keeping the genie in the bottle, are more important than truly helping those in pain.

It is estimated that the legal cannabis market in Europe will be worth £106bn by 2028 and many investors see it as a new gold rush. AB InBev, owners of Budweiser, are looking at cannabis-infused drinks and the scope of investment keeps rising. Since being granted a government licence in 1998 to produce Sativex to treat MS, GW Pharma has sold the drug around the world, yet few in the UK have received it because of its high cost, due to GW Pharma’s monopoly on the legal cannabis market. Capital Group, the investment fund that employs Philip May, the prime minister’s husband, is the largest investor in GW.

The UK is the world’s largest supplier of legal cannabis, producing 95m tons of it a year, but we somehow face a shortage of the drug and are reliant on imports from Holland and Canada.

More than 300,000 Britons now use a cannabis “food supplement” on a regular basis. They can be purchased on the high street or by mail order and usually sold in an oil format. Extracted from the cannabis plant, it’s been touted as a natural antibiotic, helping to alleviate the symptoms of arthritis and insomnia. But, importantly, it does not contain THC seen by many experts as the effective ingredient in the cannabis oil that remains unobtainable to virtually everyone in the UK.

The confusion about legality, and high-profile cases like that of the teenager Billy Caldwell with severe epilepsy, whose mother flew to Canada last year to get a new supply of cannabis oil, which was then seized at customs on her return, has helped fuel the growing CBD market.

However, all is not lost for people in pain, and desperate for THC oil, like myself. It didn’t take long for me to order it on the darkweb. The cannabis dealers sell their products like fine wines, offering flowery descriptions of their benefits, with transactions completed by Bitcoin. I soon found the cannabis oil with THC that I required and ordered accordingly. I’ve been happily medicating since, and getting on with my life pretty much pain and spasm free. I know what I’m doing is illegal, but I don’t care! The government has failed to keep its promise to me and sadly I haven’t got the time to waltz around waiting for it to do the right thing.