Whatever the issue in society that requires further interrogation, lobby groups are there to review, critique and hold to account the views and actions of officials. These groups provide a voice for those who feel unheard or ignored by those in power, and ensure the practices of legislators and regulators are not left unchecked simply because the policies in place have become the norm.
This is no different when approaching and advocating for the use of medical cannabis. In the UK, there are a number of groups working hard to highlight patients’ and the general public’s ever-increasing calls for the country’s current drug policy to be reviewed and amended to better serve them and reflect the mounting evidence suggesting medical cannabis’ efficacy.
In this article, we take a look at three key U.K lobby groups and their aims.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Medical Cannabis Under Prescription
This group, founded in 2011, states simply on its website that its purpose is ‘to discuss drug policy reform based on available evidence and with a health focus’. The group’s position is also laid out on the website, which states that the APPG believes that as ‘the global war on drugs has failed’, the mission of the group should be to work for drug policy reform that is based upon the available evidence that informs the group’s recommendations.
A report on the medical efficacy of cannabis published by the group in 2016, which reviewed evidence from around the world, including evidence from more than 600 patients, was conducted by The Academy’s Director of Education Professor Mike Barnes. In this report, the APPG crucially recommended that patients suffering from chronic and severe conditions should not risk arrest if they seek and obtain cannabis based medicines as treatment when other treatments have failed. They also, amongst other recommendations, suggested that the U.K should adopt legislation much like that in place in Germany so that medical cannabis treatment could be made far more readily available for patients.
United Patients Alliance
This group, established with support from Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and Professor David Nutt, describes itself as: ‘The UK’s first medical cannabis support group, led by patients, for patients’. The group focuses on advocating for patients who seek to use medical cannabis to treat their chronic conditions and also consistently lobbies the government for the legalisation of medical cannabis and general drug policy reform.
The Not For Profit group, funded by donations and led by patient volunteers, continues to proactively advocate for the best interests of patients in a variety of ways, for instance through leading Patient Access for ProjectTwenty21 and acting as stakeholders for the NICE guidance on cannabis-based medicinal products.
Conservative Drug Policy Reform Group
This group is primarily arguing for an evidence-based review of the UK’s present drug policy as it deems the country’s current approach to drugs to be ‘ineffective and … overwhelming the resources assigned to the police, criminal justice and the NHS, while causing untold misery for the most vulnerable in our society’.
As noted in Prohibition Partners’ UK Cannabis Report, the aims of the group include: ‘the achievement of the earliest possible safe access to medicinal cannabis, the examination of the evidence for a licensed and regulated cannabis market and the establishment of a Royal Commission to evaluate current drugs policy in the UK’.
These groups form only part of the growing number of advocacy groups and individual influencers who have effected change in U.K drug policy in recent years. And while these groups have undoubtedly been instrumental in the fight for medical cannabis access, there remains a lot more to be done if patients are to achieve the recognition and care they deserve in the UK. Let’s hope that in 2020 the good work of these groups continues and the government makes the changes required for patients in need across the country.
For more in depth information on medical cannabis, UK policy and the conditions medical cannabis can treat, we recommend accessing our in depth modules available on our website. Here, you can find up to date information on cannabis based medicinal products and how best to prescribe them. You can also explore our news section and evidence base for the latest information on this ever-changing area of research.
We urge anyone considering the use of medical cannabis products to consult with a trained medical professional prior to beginning use.