A recently launched campaign is calling for general practitioners in the UK to be allowed to prescribe medical cannabis to their patients.
Currently in the UK, patients cannot get cannabis-based medicine prescribed by their GP – it can only be prescribed by a specialist hospital doctor. The National Health Service notes:
“And it is only likely to be prescribed for a small number of patients.”
Nearly five years have passed since medical cannabis was legalised in the UK, and the number of legally prescribed patients remains low. Approximately 1,000 patients are receiving prescriptions on the NHS annually, along with 20,000 private patients. While the number of patients in the UK accessing medicinal cannabis legally is low, it’s estimated 1.8 million people* are acquiring it via illicit channels – partly due to GPs not prescribing.
The ‘Protect our Patients’ campaign is seeking to change this, wanting to see GPs having the same rights as consultants. Among the groups leading the campaign are the Cannabis Industry Council (CIC) and the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society (MCCS).
“The current model for medical cannabis where only consultants can prescribe is simply not working in the interests of the majority of patients,” said Professor Mike Barnes, founder of both the MCCS and CIC. “We are calling for a meaningful, yet uncontroversial change for GPs to be allowed to prescribe medical cannabis to their patients. This change can be made in a relatively straightforward manner, and we will be setting out details in due course.”
The other organisations spearheading the effort are Volteface and Maple Tree Consultants.
“Whilst there are a plethora of barriers to the UK’s medical cannabis system, one of the most pertinent blockers that could be solved through a simple policy change, is to allow GPs to initiate prescriptions,” said Volteface Head of Operations, Katya Kowalski. “Frustratingly, cannabis-based medicines continue to be seen as a ‘last resort’ medicine in the UK. In fact, cannabis should be viewed as a medicine that can treat a variety of general practice issues such as sleep, anxiety and pain.”
Organisations interested in supporting the campaign should make contact here.
* A 2019 poll indicated around 2.8% of the British adult population was sourcing “street cannabis” for medicinal purposes – up to 1.4 million people at that point.