#45 PRIME TIME: Medical Cannabis in Europe

By: Marys Medicinal |
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The Cannabis Europa 2019 Conference was held in London, England, June 24-25th. It attracted 1,200 registrants from dozens of countries. Mary’s Prime Time Blog will explore the presentations from the conference.


The Cannabis Europa Conference, held recently in London, was a professional presentation in every way, deftly registering and feeding more than 1,000 participants in the Southbank Centre, a top-notch facility.  But the well organized presentation couldn’t hide the obvious fact that medical cannabis in Europe is a mess. This is not meant as a derogatory comment. In fact, it is a direct quote from several of the 80 speakers and there were others who used even less flattering descriptions  during the two day event.

With headlines last summer screaming “The United Kingdom Will Have Medical Cannabis Within a Month” and more recently “Church of England Blesses Medicinal Use of Marijuana,” we can all be forgiven for thinking that things were really moving fast in England. Sadly, in almost a year the National Health Service (NHS) has approved just 2 patients (or 4 — details are confused with this figure). This shouldn’t come as a surprise given the attitude of the NHS chief, Simon Stevens, who just before the Cannabis Europa conference addressed the Royal Society of Medicine telling 300 doctors that softening the cannabis laws in England was a “big mistake” that would lead to an outbreak of “psychosis” among the young.  Is it any wonder that U.K. physicians are not clamoring to become licensed cannabis prescribers?

The current situation in England reminds me of Australia. More than four years ago federal laws were loosened Down Under and headlines screamed that medical cannabis was legal in Australia. But the program has limped along and only recently has begun to enroll patients in some quantity. This situation has led to justifiable anger from those who fought hard and watched loved ones die painful deaths without access to legal medical cannabis. (See BBC News, Medicinal cannabis: The family that changed Australia’s debate.“)

All of this highlights the widening dichotomy— on a global scale — between public perceptions and the reality of medical cannabis.  As The Guardian wrote on the day before the Cannabis Europa began, “Missing from the gathering will be many of those who smoke the drug, take it as an oil for their ailments or have felt the force of the law over cannabis prohibition.”  The newspaper was spot on. There were a lot of suits at Cannabis Europa, a lot of folks wanting to find the best investment but patients were few and far between.

This dichotomy, this widening gulf between the public and those charged with effecting reform, is illustrated in the effort to standardize language when it comes to legal medical access. Patients and reformers speak of “medical cannabis” which, to them, means legal access to controlled quantities of cannabis. But bureaucrats and, increasingly, medical practitioners will refer to cannabis-based medicine which means drugs such as epidiolex or dronabinol. This subtle difference in language is actually a widening chasm of misunderstanding between the two groups. Bureaucrats and physicians are willing to wait for the cannabis-based medicine. But for patients and caregivers every day with legal access to medical cannabis is a torment.


Next up: Prime Time #46 looks at the Cannabis Europa keynote address from Aurora’s chief corporate officer.