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The Integration of Prescription Cannabis into Mainstream Society: How it Could Be


Medical Cannabis Prescription Holders Being Stopped By UK Police

Despite the legality of cannabis in the UK, on prescription for a number of years now (far longer still if you include NHS-prescribed products like Sativex), there remains widespread discrimination against patients, and ignorance to this legal status. This is in all walks of life and at this point, particularly ignorance amongst all sorts of authorities seems beyond baffling, but here we are. The mainstream media definitely hasn't been helpful in that discriminatory and downright incorrect pieces tend to be the bulk of coverage for our marvellous plant, and synthetic or synthetically produced cannabinoids are touted as the same thing, which they're certainly not.


What prompted me to write this is that I've suffered relatively little discrimination, where consumption of my script is concerned. I've had loads as a wheelchair user but that's a separate campaign. This means I get to see how it could be in a consistently supportive society. I'm blessed enough to live in a local community that not only supports me to safely consume my prescription but actively supports and helps me and tries to learn more. 


I virtually never leave my local area because my level of chronic fatigue and other issues make it too hard, and when I go to places, pubs being my choice, it's also  dependent on my knowing there's someone there to help me, getting up ramps and stairs, opening doors and so forth. I've lived in this area for decades, so one such place, I was known pre-illness and they've made plenty of effort to ensure I can still go, despite it being physically inaccessible. I have a neurological condition and sometimes I have fits, which are largely responsive to cannabis. I also have severe spasms, again, responsive but exhausting, incapacitating and if I am honest, deeply unpleasant. The last time I went out, a particularly bad day in that sense, I couldn't lift or hold a drink until I'd medicated at one point. This extreme is relevant for a couple of reasons. The first is that it's partly the invisible illness factor I think. I'm actually prescribed by a psychiatrist now, because I've suffered lifelong depression and oddly enough, becoming chronically ill and disabled didn't improve it any, but the fact is, people trust what they can see. Countless people have told me they didn't believe that cannabis is therapeutic, but seeing my response to it changed their mind. 


UK Medical Cannabis Prescription Holders Vaping Cannabis In Public

The other reason is that as I've said I require a lot of help when I'm very symptomatic. Staff members at the two places I usually go don't just help me in, but they will load my vaporizer (which I try to remember to pre-load now) when I can't and if necessary, hold it to my mouth when I can't. They proactively asked me to explain how it works and what they can do and in places I've gone less often, staff have taken the time to learn and understand the prescription system if they weren't aware of it. Other places I've been to less have often been unaware of cannabis on prescription but have consistently supported me and taken time to learn and let others know.


I'm someone who will always sit outside if they can anyway but the British weather has more than a say in it. The urgency of my medicinal need for certain symptoms (not all), coupled with my lack of functioning legs makes going out to medicate impossible sometimes. Usually in fact. I will if I can, not because I think I should, but because a) I like an easy life and b) I appreciate that we're still in new territory and people are still getting their heads round this. But if I can't drive my powerchair, the exit is a long way or I'm on a moving train for instance, I have neither been in a position to go outside nor to ask permission. Fortunately, I've not had a problem thus far in these scenarios (though I'm sufficiently superstitious that I probably shouldn't have said that). Again, the visibility issue must come into play in that if you see someone having a fit and then, after medicating, not having a fit, it's pretty apparent that they're not being frivolous. I do struggle with this in the sense that cannabis is prescribed for a significant number of issues that may well not be visible. You can't tell by looking at a person what they're experiencing. Their view of what's urgent and whether their medication should be consumed indoors or out is ultimately up to them. I've seen a lot of judgment of this ilk (why didn't you wait? etc), but as the saying goes, you do you and I'll do me. It's not my right to tell other people how to conduct themselves. In relation to the smell, which I know is a main concern for many, it's slightly noticeable if you're nearby to others (lower temperatures, less so I think), but it doesn't hang around. My mum, who I am around more than anyone when using my vaporizer, says she doesn't notice it. I realize those are extremely unscientific examples of potential passive vaporization, but medicalised or not, in its current guise, being scientific isn't really something that this system can be accused of I don't think. I will never change my view that private healthcare is a blatant conflict with patient interests. In 2018, an Australian study [1] published found no passive absorption of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for participants administering vaporized cannabis to their patients. This was significantly lower THC levels than you'd find in most strains. so that's a shortcoming, but interesting, nonetheless. And the smell of vaporizing cannabis is certainly no more overpowering than some people's body spray or perfume or personal odour. So again, society isn't saying it can't tolerate strong smells. It's saying it can't tolerate any (not even strong) smells of cannabis. But why? I can't see any other reason than conditioning that cannabis is a bad thing and something to be ashamed of.


It's awfully sad to me that there's still so far to go even to achieve a decent prescription system, yet alone legal for everyone to consume, buy and grow, but the thing about challenges is that solutions can be found sometimes. For one, it's taken a while, not least because chronically ill people tend not to be built for speed, and probably thought they wouldn't be needing such places, but there's an increase in the number of patient-led events, clubs and lounges, specifically for patients and those wanting to learn about the prescription system. There aren't many, but there are some. I think these are great in creating a safe space for patients but I must confess that it worries me immensely that they might inadvertently be creating a de facto segregation system. Where public spaces and the people within them are already unclear or totally ignorant to current cannabis laws in the UK, I fear that the emergence of these events and clubs will lead mainstream venues wrongly concluding that prescription holders must only consume in these areas, rather than their own. A final thought though is that where cannabis is concerned in Britain right now, discrimination from mainstream society isn't the only barrier to progress, at least in my view. We touched earlier on the indoors or out dilemma. For two more examples, there's the medicinal, prescribed consumer who thinks that those without an identified medical need should not have access. Of course it's as valid an opinion as any but I personally would argue that just because you haven't identified a need doesn't mean there isn't one.


Vaping UK Medical Cannabis In Public

Balancing your endocannabinoid system to prevent or reduce illness seems as good a reason as any, surely, and I don't think a greater need for something is remotely the same as a greater right to it. I think it's indulging the rhetoric that it's something that's widely abused, part of the rhetoric that contributed to it being illegal on all levels for so long. There's also the grower or illicit market consumer who is more likely to view not just the prescription system with disdain, but view those of us who arguably collude with it by ‘going legal’ as sell outs. This is one my own conscious struggles with, because I can see their point. The legacy market has much to commend it, including quality (though granted, not consistent) that the prescription system doesn't. And if people didn't sign up for prescriptions, the private prescription system would of course have gone bust, but what would that have achieved, really? I've outlined some of the advantages the prescription system conversely holds over legacy, and I for one am not selfless enough to overlook them, nor would it be cost effective for me to, no small consideration. And in the absence of the prescription system, messed up as it is, we'd have a lot of people who were not treating symptoms that are now. Not everyone started from the legacy market and some would never have learned about it without the prescription system. There's so much to do, but I do think we need to realise that more of us are on the same side than we think and that maybe we need to work on getting to understand one another's perspectives better and identify that common ground. If, like me, you hold a legal prescription, just remember, you have the campaigners who grew and bought illegally to thank. You wouldn't have it without them.


It's extraordinary how divorced from the rest of the world we seem to be in terms of accepting and acknowledging research, as well as the moral drive behind prohibition and the mistruths woven into it. Germany recently took action, even for so-called recreational users [2] and even in America, cannabis is being rescheduled [3] to reflect its medicinal contribution, after Joe Biden already publicly acknowledged the racist origins to prohibition’s introduction [4] It's clearly a very effective divisive tool, even amongst cannabis consumers themselves but really, where does that get us? It's so wrong that sick people (and the parents of sick children) are forced to use their precious energy fighting for something that should be theirs, yet alone paying handsomely for it, but whoever said life was fair?


For those interested in learning what prescription-friendly spaces are out there, take a look at this web page I created: https://alipinkandgreen.com/Prescription_friendly_spaces.html




References


  1. Solowij, N., Galettis, P., Broyd, S.J. et al. Second-Hand Exposure of Staff Administering Vaporised Cannabinoid Products to Patients in a Hospital Setting. Drugs R D 18, 41–44 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40268-017-0225-5


  1. Connolly, K. (2024) 'Germany legalises possession of cannabis for personal use,' The Guardian, 23 February. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/feb/23/germany-on-track-to-partly-legalise-cannabis-for-personal-use-after-heated-debate.


  1. Ovalle, D. et al. (2024) 'Attorney general moves to reclassify marijuana as lower-risk drug,' Washington Post, 30 April. https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2024/04/30/marijuana-restrictions-loosen/.




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May 10
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Interesting and thought provoking piece. Many patients feel a similar way I know I certainly do. I'm also lucky to have found people are more than happy to find out more about the prescription service for CBM's. The medical professionals I've seen thus far have also been supportive and expressed an interest in how it helps me. A fabulous partner whose my full time carer is a bonus. He supports me with good humour compassion considering he's disabled too and has his own needs too.. Well done Ali so glad you get positive support and can relate with the difficulties of being well enjoy (going out and the difficulties of being able to keep appointments,plans and social events 🙏🏽🍀❤️

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I'm really glad you enjoyed the article and even more glad that you too have supportive people around you. That's not something I hear often enough so it's heartening that it's the experience of others too. Let's hope that increases. It's long past time 🙏💜

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