19 Mar Asking Politicians to Order Doctors to Prescribe Cannabis is a Futile Quest
Last year, when Sajid Javid introduced the new regulations permitting prescribing of cannabis-based products for medicinal use (CBPMs) he went much further than anyone could have expected.
For 50 years doctors had been told that cannabis was a highly toxic, dangerous drug with no therapeutic value. Then, in the space of few weeks they were suddenly told by the Chief Medical Officer that there was “conclusive evidence” of therapeutic benefit. The truth is successive governments and the Home Office had been engaged in systematic disinformation and lies about cannabis. Suddenly they expected doctors to believe exactly the opposite of what they had been told before.
In fact, what Sajid Javid really did was to pass the buck, so while I have some sympathy for the predicament of doctors and total contempt for our pathetic political class, the buck is now in the right place. However, we have a medical establishment that is so risk averse and so crushed by bureaucracy that it is transfixed by the challenge of getting to grips with cannabis and there is a total lack of leadership from the Royal Colleges or any of the professional bodies. The ultimate demonstration of this is that the British Paediatric Neurology Association wants doctors to consider brain surgery for epilepsy before prescribing cannabis. This is a profession that has lost touch with reality and common sense.
The result is that doctors will not prescribe cannabis but the idea that they can be ordered to do so by politicians is a non-starter. It is difficult to understand what campaigners hope to achieve by marching on Westminster and lobbying MPs.
Eventually, the efforts that are being made in medical education will bear fruit and doctors will start to prescribe but this will take time and many will suffer while they wait for doctors to catch up with what is already well understood in many parts of the world.
So what can be done?
Government can take action on two fronts which will accelerate progress. First of all, improve supply. By its own admission, in response to an FOI Request, the Home Office has done nothing to facilitate production of CBPMs. This could be changed immediately. There is a queue of well qualified and financed companies ready to develop production facilities. While Sajid Javid cannot order doctors to prescribe, he can order his reluctant and backwards officials to issue licences. Within a year we can have a domestic supply of CBPMs and the doctors will have something to prescribe and products they can become familiar with.
The second way government can act is on regulation. Doctors are terrified of cannabis and need reassurance. Everything they have been taught goes against prescribing cannabis.
However, cannabis is safe for 99% of people. We know this from 10,000 years of experience. The hysterical scaremongering from places such as the Institute of Psychiatry are actually aboput a tiny proportion of people using high strength cannabis as a recreational drug, a totally different circumstance to a high quality medicinal product used under close supervision. As a plant-based medicine, cannabis contains 400 – 500 molecules unlike pharmaceutical medicines which are usually a single molecule. It is impossible therefore to regulate cannabis in the same way as pharmaceuticals and given millennia of experience it is unnecessary.
In every other jurisdiction in the world where cannabis has been made legally available for medical use a separate system of regulation for it has been established. Until UK follows this path, the pharmaceutical-funded medical establishment will never accept cannabis as a legitimate medicine.
So what politicans can do is free up the supply chain for CBPMs and regulate them in an appropriate and rational way. This is where we need to be focused in order to make progress and bring relief and a healthier life to millions.