BlogMedical Cannabis Awareness Week: The Patient Conference with Drug Science

Medical Cannabis Awareness Week: The Patient Conference with Drug Science

16 min read

Editorial Team

uk patient conference 2023
This November marks the third year of celebrating Medical Cannabis Awareness Week - a whole week dedicated to highlighting the successes of the medical cannabis industry but also provides an opportunity to bring together all sectors for reflection and discussions. Drug Science, leaders of the T21 medical cannabis patient study are hosting The Patient Conference with The Medcan Family Foundation on November 3rd at Conway Hall in London. Tickets are available here.


The UK Patient Conference

This November marks the third year of celebrating Medical Cannabis Awareness Week - a whole week dedicated to highlighting the successes of the medical cannabis industry but also provides an opportunity to bring together all sectors for reflection and discussions. Drug Science, leaders of the T21 medical cannabis patient study are hosting The Patient Conference with The Medcan Family Foundation on November 3rd at Conway Hall in London. Tickets are available here

Marking 5 years since the Home Office legalised medical cannabis, experts, business and patients are hosting a week of events to keep the cannabis conversation burning. 

Medical Cannabis Awareness Week started during COVID by PLEA when there was a need for online connectivity due to the social distancing and lockdown measures in place. It provided a really great space for people to connect, network and learn about what was taking place early on in the industry from all sides of the story. 

Drug Science loved the idea of bringing people together to talk about this for such an occasion taking the initiative to host an in-person conference in 2022 focussing all the attention on what the industry is here for - the patients. 

Bringing the industry together

Releaf are proud to be sponsoring The Patient Conference in 2023 and to learn more we spoke to Mags Houston who is Head of Projects and Communications for the innovative research organisation. Mags, who has a background in advertising and marketing brings over knowledge from both the alcohol and health food supplement world, something she says has much different rules and tactics to entice consumers “with medical cannabis it’s all about telling the truth”. 

Mags first became aware of the work Drug Science does when she wanted to help out a friend who was suffering with terrible mental health problems and Drug Science were talking about innovative therapy options with psychedelic and cannabis research. “I went to see Professor David Nutt speak a few times in London where Clark French once spoke and said he wouldn’t be able to be up there speaking if it wasn’t for cannabis and it made me realise, it was the first time I was seeing that cannabis could be used as an effective medicine and could even be life saving rather than how it has been known as a recreational drug with all of the stigma that comes with it.” 

After applying to work with Drug Science a number of times, Mags calling with the company finally came around when she was asked to join the T21 study team to build relationships with the newly emerging clinics. During her time in this position she has gained deep insights to the workings of the industry and ongoing needs of the patients. 

In the past 3 years the T21 study has recruited over 4000 patients and gathered eye opening data from real world cannabis patient experience. Drug Science argues that this is compelling evidence to confirm the safety and efficacy of cannabis-based medicinal products across a wide range of professionally diagnosed conditions. 

Mags is confident that the T21 study has been instrumental in helping create a better environment for patients to access their medication, increasing options and making them more affordable. 

“The papers we have put out show incredible reduction in pain, improvement in quality of life, anxiety and PTSD. There have been very, very few adverse effects. Nothing serious either, dry mouth and dizziness, which is incredibly important considering the high number of patients we have on the books.”

Whilst the MHRA and NICE are still requesting double-blind randomised controlled trials of cannabis products to prove they are safe enough to be prescribed on the NHS, Drug Science believe that real world evidence is just as valid. “Due to the nature of the plant and the number of conditions that cannabis treats, RCT isn't entirely suitable. We have managed to directly help many more people than would have been possible on a randomised trial.”

Another role that the T21 feels responsible for is helping to bring together the clinics for the greater good of the patients, whilst also providing a platform for the clinics to engage with patients in ways that wouldn’t otherwise be possible due to advertising regulations. “People involved with the study can talk about what is working for patients which creates new engagement from people who are interested in finding out more for their own medical conditions” Mags said, adding “It’s also an endorsement for the clinics working with us which is especially important for patients who are cannabis naive”.

Sharing inspiring stories 

The Patient Conference will take the form of a series of panel discussions, a film screening and a mini expo with a few companies making themselves available to talk to attendees. 

Last year's conference had a lot of passion. Mags informs us “There were lots of great questions in the Q&A and a really great buzz in the room. People liked the documentary screening at lunchtime called “Anything Can Happen” about a Canadian family's journey with medical cannabis and they came over for a Q&A. 

“This year we are screening Sisters Interrupted which is premiering at the Raindance Film Festival two days before! It’s about Chelsea Leyland who appears in Professor David Nutts book. The director will be with us giving a Q & A after the screening.”

“I am really excited about this documentary. It's really beautiful. It clearly illustrates how unjust the situation is in the uk. About 2 sisters, one in the US who can access whole plant medication for their epilepsy and one in the UK is denied access to treatment and is getting really ill. It's really poignant.”

SistersInterruptedTrailer from Docsville on Vimeo.

I asked Mags what she hoped the outcome of the Patient Conference would be “I feel like it's a time at the moment where we can easily focus on the fractures of the industry and feel the silos. It can be easy to feel isolated but this is a unique moment for everyone to come together. My hope is that by doing that it creates an impetus and drive allowing us to collaborate and work together to push things forward in a way where everyone benefits.“

Let's take a look at the panel discussion topics and who will be contributing to them.

Understanding the legal rights of cannabis patients

It’s the topic that keeps coming up - patients need more clarity over a number of issues still slightly hazy but on the polar end to that the police, employers and housing authorities are still making mistakes that are causing harm to patients. 

Elizabetta Faenza is an author, regulatory expert and board member of the Cannabis Industry Council, leading the Standards Working Group for the CIC. She is currently a candidate at Edinburgh University researching trauma and altered consciousness. Elizabetta took a leading role in the down-scheduling of CBD in Australia and gave a compelling and moving testimony that led to the change of law allowing GPs prescribing medical cannabis in Australia. The Standards Working Group has produced several pivotal papers on 'Cannabis and Driving', 'The Use of Prescription Cannabis at Work', 'The A-Z of Cannabis', and has several other social policy papers currently in development.

Jason Reed from Law Enforcement Action Partnership UK (LEAP UK) has been an active voice contributing to the cannabis and drug policy reform conversation for over a decade. LEAP UK is made up of police, military and civilian voices and builds bridges between drug reform communities and organisations with law enforcement organisations in an attempt to further discussions and create pragmatic approaches. Jason is also the host of the award winning podcast Stop and Search, interviewing experts whilst delivering and discussing the intricacies and facts of drug policy reform around the world. Jason is and ME patient which led him into his career where he has used multiple forms of media and entertainment to open conversations and deliver his message. You may have seen his film The Culture High starring Joe Rogan or you may have read one of his articles including Huffington Post, British Medical Journal, The Independent, iNews, Vice, and many more. 

Richard Fitz-Robinson works in the civil service as a final year trainee lawyer in the Government Legal Department specialising in public and international law. He has a strong understanding of the criminal justice system having sat as a magistrate since 2019 and thus has experience applying the law in the misuse of cannabis. Richard also has experience as a prescribed medical cannabis patient in Canada and the UK giving him a broad perspective of medical cannabis patients rights. He is a keen advocate for greater access. 

How far we have come in 5 years and what the next 5 years might look like

Due to the multi agency bureaucracy involved with prescribing cannabis products, making progress is slow. But we have definitely come a long way in 5 years but what changes might we realistically expect to see in the next 5 years? “It's hard to see where the nation will be in 5 years so this could have an impact on the cannabis market too. We didn't expect the cost of living to be so high 5 years ago.” Mags told me that patients who are paying for private cannabis prescriptions are really feeling the increase of living costs. “Patients don't just get prescribed one medicine a month they need multiple medicines so I hope the cost of consultations and the cost of the medicine will come down. We really believe we have been instrumental in bringing the cost of cannabis down.”

“I know the CIC is drafting a new bill looking at specifically letting GPs prescribe, the effect of that would be huge for the industry.” “It’s really important to note that it would be more accepted among healthcare professionals once GPs can prescribe. There wouldn't be a taboo about prescribing and it would help increase the real world evidence at large.”

Adrian from Teesside Cannabis Club will be joining the panel to discuss the unique work the club has been doing in the North East. Teesside Cannabis Club has been open to private members since 2016. Located in Stockton the club acts as a safe consumption lounge and harm reduction centre. They signpost members to local services to get the help they need and which is available to the public as well as private medical cannabis prescriptions. 

Rowan Thompson a final year medical student at the University of Birmingham having previously worked for the cannabis cultivation nutrient company Hydrotops. and patient at Birmingham University. Rowan contributes to the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society helping to expand upon the cannabis education material and training syllabus for specialist doctors who want to learn more about prescribing cannabis-based medicinal products. 

Luisa Searle is a member of the Royal College of Psychiatry and the Associate Medical Director at the Jorja Emerson Clinic. Luisa's work has equipped her in the challenges of modern Psychiatry, including; General Adult Psychiatry, Substance misuse and patients with multiple psychiatric diagnoses. She has worked with multiple authorities in London to support young people with substance misuse disorders and developed outreach pathways for homeless people. She has a particular interest in novel treatments for psychiatric disorders such as medical cannabis, nutritional based psychiatry whilst exploring the potential for psychedelics. Luisa has vast experience navigating compliance with CQC regulators in regards to medical cannabis clinics contributing to raising Lyphes rating by two levels. 

Dr Helen Becket Wilson is a social scientist and senior lecturer and researcher at Liverpool John Moores University in the School of Justice Studies. Her work looks into the operation of power in society looking to promote equality and justice. She has co-authored a paper with Dr Lindsey Metcalf McGrat on patient voices looking into their experiences with prescribed medical cannabis. Her research plays particular attention to drug policy analysis and national criminal justice.

Innovation in the industry

Who is doing interesting stuff in the industry? Cannabis has always been linked to creativity so it’s fun to find out what new technology is being developed to improve the lives of patients. COVID living conditions fast tracked clinics’ ability to offer video consultations opening the door to a stream of different software services that have allowed patients to connect to the services they need more readily. When it comes to the products available at the moment you can see that they are quite basic preparations and in terms of cost effectiveness and efficacy compared to other pharmaceutical preparations so new devices that improve these issues are increasingly welcome the greater the patient numbers.

David Martiniez of Blackpoint Biotech will be introducing a new cannabis inhaler and cannabis spray that will be available on the market by the start of 2024. Blackpoints new technology aims to deliver a high bioavailability with rapid onset of accurate cannabinoid doses to fill a gap in the market that will benefit patients. 

Tim Keane from 113 botanicals has 30 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry all over the world. 113 Botanicals are experts in botanical extractions using ground breaking new research looking to introduce products that fill the gap of currently unmet clinical needs. They are a partnership with the School of Life Sciences and The University of Sussex working to develop new cannabis-based pharmaceuticals medicines with a focus on safety, efficacy and affordability. 

Jessica Edwards is mother of James Edwards, (previously a cancer patient) who for several years thrived on cannabis oil, enjoying a very good quality of life. She is also a gardener and writer of the Substack Newsletter Love Your Loss. She lives in Cornwall with James's Dad, Simon. 

How do we make cannabis available to the masses - scale 

The big question that is on the lips of everyone in the industry is how does the industry grow so that everyone that needs access is able to. There are obvious barriers to access and headway has been made to some degree thanks to big thinkers and plenty of cooperative teamwork. But what can players in the industry do to help maximise its potential?

Sarah Hamilton is the Advice and Information Manager at Ehlers Danlos Support UK providing support, advice and signposting to services for EDS and hypermobility patients. Pain is a major symptom for people with these often debilitating conditions which many medications often fail to effectively treat without unwanted side effects - which is where medical cannabis comes in. Ehlers Danlos Support Uk is contacted by around 4000 people a year looking for advice and help with a growing interest in medical cannabis as a suitable option.

Laura Cockram has been with Parkinsons UK for over 10 years leading the policy and campaigns team. Her work has led her to successfully lobbying for treatments to be approved for people suffering with Parkinsons allowing them to control their symptoms. Previously Laura has worked bringing people together for their greater good such as at the Public and Commercial Services Union - a trade union for civil and public servants. 

Alice Salsbury is a founding member of the MedCan Family Foundation who focus on highlighting the need for cannabis medicines in the treatment of childhood epilepsy. She is a mother to a son with epilepsy who has exhausted all other options including surgical implants to stop the seizures. Alice has appeared on the BCC to tell her family's story revealing that the cost of private cannabis prescriptions are taking a huge financial toll. 

Josephine McFarlane is the Digital Marketing Lead at The Grow Group. Josephine took a deep and early interest in the cannabis industry with a particular eye for marketing during studies at King's College London also gaining first hand industry experience working with start-up company Dragonfly Biosciences. Josephine's dissertation looked at rebranding newly legalised products that have a negative stigma around them making cannabis a perfect candidate.  

Come along or watch online

With such a variation of delegates from all areas of the industry whilst keeping a keen focus on patient perspective the 2023 Patient Conference is looking like it will be a highly informative and educational networking opportunity. There will be many take homes from the discussions but also an opportunity to contribute in the Q and A’s.

Don't let the stigma surrounding medical cannabis prevent you from getting a suitable treatment. Releaf provides tailored monthly packages, specialist consultations for medical cannabis, and a unique medical cannabis card for protection, all based on your medical cannabis prescription.

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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Editorial Team

Article written by the Releaf Editorial Team, a group of seasoned experts in cannabis healthcare, dedicated to enhancing awareness and accessibility in the field through their wealth of knowledge and experience.

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