LibLink: Nick Clegg: Give doctors the right to prescribe Cannabis for those in real pain

Nick Clegg’s Standard column this week tackled the issue of Cannabis prescription:

He tells some real-life stories of people whose lives have been transformed by being able to use Cannabis:

Faye, a corporate PA for a big company who was diagnosed four years ago with rheumatoid arthritis, is about as far away from the cliché of the layabout pothead as you can possibly imagine. An ambitious, outgoing and highly able young woman, the pain threatened to derail the career she had been building since the age of 16. She tried a number of prescription medicines but they came with a range of nasty side effects, from hair loss to constant nausea, that often left her too ill to work.

Four years later, her career is back on track. She makes her own cannabis-based skin cream that she can use at work, which has no psychoactive qualities and can easily be disguised so that no one knows she is using cannabis. To her colleagues, it looks like she simply keeps a small jar of normal hand cream on her desk. As a result, she told me that she can “live my life as I used to four years ago”. But she does so at great expense and at the risk of a criminal record. She is also forced to put herself into potentially difficult situations in order to obtain the cannabis she needs.

Nick makes the point that not one of these people wants to be criminals:

None of them want to break the law. None of them want to rely on drug dealers or fund organised crime. All want to work and live healthy, productive lives.

Again, he makes the point, as he often has done, that we need to do what the evidence tells us works when it comes to drugs:

Above all, we need to base drugs policy on the evidence of what works — and what the evidence shows is that a less draconian approach can have real health benefits. In Portugal, where those who are caught in possession of drugs are directed into health or education services rather than the courts, there have been dramatic reductions in addiction, HIV infections and drug-related deaths. In other words, you don’t need criminal penalties in order to intervene and change people’s drug habits.

You can read the whole article here.

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12 Comments

  • John Roffey 24th Jan '16 - 9:18am

    NC makes some very important points with regard to the use of Cannabis. However, according to Graham Hancock this is not limited to just this natural and unrefined drug – in this video he makes a very strong case for other natural drugs to be legalised – not just for pain relief but to cure some even more distressing maladies [Perhaps I should add that I have always steered clear of any illegal drug – and many legal ones too!] :

  • Clegg talks about “evidence based policy” without seeming to understand what “evidence based” actually means.

    One important principle is: anecdotes do not make science. The only “evidence” Clegg offers in his article is that he has met half a dozen people and they’ve told him cannabis has been a miracle cure for them. This is emphatically NOT how medical research works. I know people who wear copper bracelets because they are convinced it alleviates chronic pain. It doesn’t.

    Whether something works or not should be determined by medical scientists using long established protocols, not by a politician sitting around chatting with a few people from a campaign group. As Nick mentions in passing – after spending most of the article giving the impression that cannabis is not used legally as medicine in the UK – there is already a legal, licensed cannabis-based drug available, and doctors have been able to give patients stuff like heroin for years. If there is genuinely a greater role for cannabis to play in medicine, let doctors prove it in the normal way, and there’s no reason to believe it wouldn’t happen.

  • Charles Rothwell 24th Jan '16 - 11:23am

    I thought the real news in this posting was that NC still has “a column in the Standard”! Who on earth reads it?

    In terms of the actual issue itself, Stuart says it all. If a few anecdotes constitute “evidence-based policy”, I will eat my hat.

  • Less time in the Standard, more time in the House, methinks.

  • @ Stuart You are absolutely right that evidence-based research is what we should use to make medical treatment decisions and that, despite some concerns about opioids use because of the risk of addiction, these drugs are rightly prescribed where no other substances will work to relieve the pain.

  • Cllr Steve Radford 24th Jan '16 - 2:07pm

    agree with Clegg over medical use but do worry that the long term mental health problems so often ignored by legalise lobby

  • Alisdair McGregor 24th Jan '16 - 4:25pm

    @Cllr Steve Radford: Perhaps if we do so in a rigorously evidence-based fashion then those against will have to admit the difference between correlation & causation?

    Those with poor mental health have a tendency to self-medicate (largely as a result of the poor standard of care in the UK). This, among other factors, tends to result in a high correlation between Cannabis use and mental health problems without significant evidence of causation.

  • Peter Reynolds 24th Jan '16 - 4:31pm

    Stuart, Charles, Judy and Cllr Radford,

    There is a vast quantity of published, peer-reviewed, scientific evidence of the safety and efficacy of cannabis for a wide range of conditions. If you do some very basic research you will discover that the endocannabinoid system, only discovered in 1988, is now known to be vital to all aspects of physical and mental health.

    Endocannabinboids, which our body produces internally, are closely related to phytocannabinoids from the cannabis plant which is what gives it extraordinary therapeutic value. I personally briefed Nick Clegg on all of this back in February 2015 while he was still Deputy PM. Unfortunately, as with so many politicians, they don’t act when they have power, they wait until they have lost it!

    The paper linked to below ‘Medicinal Cannabis: The Evidence’ was requested by George Freeman MP, life sciences minister, also in February 2015 and has been in the hands of all cabinet ministers since April 2015 including all then Liberal Democrat ministers including Clegg, Lynne Featherstone and Norman Lamb.

    If you read this paper you will realise that the UK is now virtually isolated amongst first world countries in its prejudice-based, evidence-free attitude to this most remarkable and safe medicine.

    http://clear-uk.org/static/media/PDFs/medicinal_cannabis_the_evidence.pdf

  • Unfortunately Nicks comment are to little to late.

    Nick’s chance to change our absurd drug laws was in 2010 and the lib dems did nothing, there was nothing in the coalition agreement about changing the status quo on drugs, zero, not a thing.

    But Cannabis will become legalised across the western world regardless with countries with real liberal governments like the one in Canada leading the way, or through people power using the ballot process in the USA and such like.

    But this is one boat the lib dems have already missed. Coming out in favour of cannabis legalisation now is like coming out in favour of gay rights in 2006. The ship has sailed, and anyway, Nick still hasn’t had the courage to come out in favour of legalisation, this is prescription only, for people in extreme pain. And drugs legalisation is an issue the lib dems are bitterly divided on. Tomorrow they could be introducing private members bills and urging Teresa May to close loop holes and get though again. They have done this before.

  • Jonathan Liebling 25th Jan '16 - 9:36am

    This meeting between United Patients Alliance and Nick was to highlight the human story in this debate and not the science. Frankly, the science argument has already been won but few politicians will engage with it. Today 52% of US and Canadian Citizens and 11 EU countries have legal access to herbal cannabis therapeutics. As Peter stated above – the evidence is there and patients all over the world are already benefiting.
    UPA support and advise 1000s of patients who are currently self-medicating with cannabis (many with their doctor’s full support – HO Estimate: 30000) because it has less unwanted side effects and is better at relieving symptoms and treating their condition than existing alternatives.
    Eg: In US states where cannabis is available, between 16% and 25% of all MS sufferers have turned away from their prescribed medications and now solely consume cannabis for their condition.
    Bedrocan produces 5 strains of pharmaceutical grade herbal cannabis which is unavailable in the UK, even with the EU reciprocity agreement because the UK will not allow Herbal (or full extract) medicines to be approved whilst sativex is a full plant extract but was submitted to MHRA as a combination of two cannabinoids (THC and CBD) with other inactive impurities. The other impurities being ALL the other cannabinoids and terpenes found in the herbal plant. If this is the “current system” for approval of medicines working, I suggest it needs a review? In addition, Sativex is too pricey for NICE and as such patients have to pay for private prescriptions. In addition, our patients report it as being far too weak and ineffective.
    We could make a real difference for these 1000s of patients immediately by Rescheduling Cannabis and allowing doctors to recommend it and allowing UK dispensaries to import pharmaceutical grade products, such as Bedrocan.
    Oh, and STOP criminalising those who choose cannabis in the meanwhile?

  • Peter Reynolds 26th Jan '16 - 9:16am

    You’re absolutely correct @fairdamidin, yet you only have to look at the knee jerk reactions early in this thread – the contemptuous dismissal of cannabis as medicine, even the astonishing comparison with highly toxic, life threatening opioids and the unquestioning acceptance of the tabloid scare story about mental health which has been comprehensively debunked, time and time again. (For those who don’t yet know, even the Institute of Psychiatry, which feeds the cannabis psychosis hysteria, is now publishing that correlation with mental health issue is far higher with tobacco than cannabis.)

    Yet these people are ‘liberals’ so it’s easy to understand why those of a conservative (Tory) or backwards (Labour) persuasion are even more of an obstacle.

    Soon we will look back at cannabis prohibition with the same incredulity as we now look back at criminalising gay sex, it really is that absurd.

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