Medical cannabis activists and patient advocacy groups were instrumental in bringing about the legalisation of medical cannabis in the UK.
However, it would appear that their work is not yet done. Since medical cannabis was legalised in 2018, the NHS only allows prescriptions for a very limited number of conditions – namely chemotherapy-induced nausea, and rare forms of childhood epilepsy such as Dravet syndrome.
These restrictions have forced many people seek private help – a route which can cost patients and families thousands of pounds. Many patients have even resorted to buying black market cannabis and risking prosecution.
That’s where the United Patients Alliance comes in. Founded in 2014, the United Patients Alliance is the UK’s first cannabis patient support group. The alliance is run by patients, for patients to increase access to medical cannabis treatment through education, campaigning and advocacy.
We spoke with UPA founder and director Clark French of the United Patients Alliance about the importance of elevating patient’s voices.
“What is at the heart of UPA is patients, and ensuring that we have a voice. There’s a lot of change coming, slowly but surely coming, and we’re here to ensure that patients are heard.”
French and the UPA team exist to make sure that when an industry does grow, that there is a framework in place to benefit patients first and foremost.
“We don’t want a two-tier system where some people are criminalised and some people, because of a certain tick box on a paper, are no longer criminalised. However, that is probably the system that the government wants to put in place, so this is why it’s so important that we’re there.”