A group of campaigners marched through Westminster this week to plead with the British government to make medical cannabis more widely available.
The UK legalized medical marijuana towards the end of 2018, but extremely stringent NHS guidelines prevent doctors from actually prescribing it. There have been a few exceptions, such as the case of Alfie Dingley, but the vast majority of parents have to pay through the nose for their sick children to receive the medication they need.
Karen Gray, a 44-year-old mother from Edinburgh, has spent £8,000 ($10,000) on importing medical cannabis from the Netherlands to ease the symptoms of her son’s myoclonic astatic epilepsy.
She headed to London to join a group of parents that have collectively spent £231,000 ($288,000) on cannabis for their children. They presented an invoice to the Department of Health, demand a reimbursement, and then marched to Downing Street to demand immediate action from the government regarding the availability of medical cannabis.
British parliament has been prorogued right now and it does not resume until Oct. 14. Proroguing is normally a formality and lasts just a short period of time, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson has opted for a five-week break, with opponents arguing it is a tactic to push through a no-deal Brexit. The Supreme Court is currently examining the legality of the decision.
It meant that Westminster was pretty quiet during the march, but the idea was for a symbolic protest and it secured a fair bit of media coverage.
The families met with Health Secretary Matt Hancock six months ago to express their concerns, but they claim he has done nothing to help them since that meeting. Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine called on Hancock to deliver upon the promises he made the families and improve access to medical cannabis.
Last month the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) sparked outrage among British campaigners by ruling that cannabis should not be used to treat multiple sclerosis and chronic pain. Patient groups and MPs continue to pile pressure on the NHS, but so far it is yet to budge.