Medical Marijuana – What can it do for patients and why has it taken so long to legalise?

Cannabis. Pot. Dope.

Whatever you call it, Marijuana is a hotbed of controversy here and around the world. A survey conducted by ‘The Independent’ said 59% of the general public (or in other words a majority) were for the complete legalisation of marijuana in 2018 and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has promised a full enquiry into its legalisation (as well as the setting up of an independent drug commission).

In the medical world, prescriptions of Cannabis became legal in 2018 and it is estimated that 2.5% of the adult population could qualify. Officially, Cannabis has had little testing in the UK to its effectiveness however many patients who have used the treatment speak highly.

Scott Redgrave, from Essex, described his long-time battle with Crohn’s disease:

“My Crohn’s symptoms first started when I was around 14, after 3 months of being misdiagnosed my condition and symptoms became so severe I had been hospitalised. Once they figured out I had Crohn’s disease and had suffered a near fatal complication, due to being misdiagnosed and not being treated for so long, I had to have key hole surgery and had to have my digestive system restarted.”

After years of struggle, on cocktails of amino salicylates and appetite steroids, Scott decided to look into alternative therapies and discovered the potential Cannabis had as a treatment. He began to experiment with the drug and after 3 months of trial and error, he was virtually symptom free.

On speaking to his NHS gastroenterologist about the, then illegal, experimental treatment he had undertaken at a check-up appointment:  

“he was in shock but still didn’t want to admit it was the cannabis that was helping me even though that’s all I’d been taking for 3 months.”

So, he discharged himself from the hospital and has been in “remarkable health” for the last 10 years, saying he’s been able to focus more on his future and family:

“I was in a dark place but it’s really helped me get a hold of my health issues and to look forward to my future again”.

Scott also now considers himself an advocate for the use of Cannabis as a medicine, saying:

“Medical cannabis changed my life, undoubtedly, ever since I discovered the medical benefits of cannabis I often recommend people with my conditions to try it. I’ve found it to have much more noticeable impact on my quality of life than any of the numerous cocktail of drugs I was given by the NHS … I think it can create a real change for the better it can have on people’s lives, especially in a time when we’re becoming more aware and conscious of mental health.

especially in a time when we’re becoming more aware and conscious of mental health.”

The history of Cannabis and it’s societal, political and social influence has a significant hand in the modern perception of the drug. Native to Asia, Cannabis was first farmed and cultivated by the Chinese empire as early as 3000BC and used in its hemp form to create paper, cloth and bags. The first official recorded use of cannabis as a medicine is from 2737 BC by Emperor Shen Neng, in which it was prescribed to treat gout, malaria and rather strangely poor memory. In the UK, the hemp form of Cannabis was highly sought during the 16th century due to the need to build and maintain ships for the empire, so much so that by 1533 Henry the 8th made it a legal requirement for British farmers to grow hemp. By the 18th Century, Cannabis was becoming popular in the medical world, even to the point that Queen Victoria was given it to relieve pain however, the forbidding of the sale of cannabis was brought into law in 1936 after the International drug conference. The reasoning behind the restrictions is likely to be the influence of the United States, who themselves had had a perfectly positive relationship with Cannabis until anti-immigration sentiment began to rise resulting in the demonization of Cannabis (in films such as 1936’s ‘Reefer Madness’) due to its close association with Mexico, where the plant was commonly ground and used. Cannabis then became a symbol of rebellion, especially among Hollywood and music’s elite such as Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley, against ‘oppressive’ government. Society’s attitudes towards cannabis have shifted somewhat since then, to the point that three of the last four presidents of the USA have admitted to smoking marijuana in the past and celebrity sports people such as Michael Phelps and Conor McGregor advocate it’s use. 

RJ Plissken is also an advocate of Medical Cannabis, having suffered a serious car crash in 2015 and “sciatic pain and other aches and pains” for over three years, he was led to try cannabis by a friend who had broken their back in another serious accident and a neighbour who used it to treat their MS. After a short while, Mr Plissken became virtually symptom free saying:

“I’m not on any medication anymore and have never felt better. I only use cannabis now and have had zero side effects and no issues. I feel great”

Members of Medical Marijuana awareness group ‘Medical Cannabis Forum UK’ were quick and keen to criticise the government in their inaction in the legalisation of medical marijuana in 2018, saying:

“It’s very possible that a great number of people have suffered unnecessarily because of outdated ideas and prejudices. Then Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: 

Having been moved by heart-breaking cases involving sick children, it was important to me that we took swift action to help those who can benefit from medicinal cannabis.

We have now delivered on our promise and specialist doctors will have the option to prescribe these products where there is a real need.”

The legalisation of Cannabis in the medical sector, alongside the opening of distribution centres across the country, marks a deeply significant moment in the history of Western medicine, could we see the complete legalisation of Marijuana in the future?