Scottish health care advocates are furious with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson after he made a swift reversal regarding a pre-election promise to review the use of medical cannabis for treating children who suffer from epilepsy.
Back in October, Johnson pledged to personally examine the issue with Scottish National Party MP and medical cannabis supporter Ronnie Cowan after questions emerged in the House of Commons regarding access to medical CBD.
But just weeks later, Johnson has reneged on his promise to discuss the issue, and Cowan has been informed that he will only be given a meeting with junior health minister Baroness Nicola Blackwood.
Although the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommended last year that medical cannabis and cannabis-based drugs should be available via the National Health Service (NHS), advocates have complained that the medicine is inaccessible and often unaffordable, that they are forced to pay out-of-pocket to obtain the treatments, and that parents of children with epilepsy have had no other option but to break the law to obtain access to cannabinoid-based therapies for their ill children.
Cowan, who is vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on medical cannabis under prescription, had scathing words for Johnson following the snub.
“Following on from my question to the Prime Minister on Oct. 23 regarding the provision of medical cannabis on prescription, I have now been offered a meeting with Baroness Blackwood in her capacity as the parliamentary under-secretary of state for life science,” Cowan stated.
“Maybe most disturbing is not that I have been pushed down the pecking order, but that it will have taken 78 days to get this far.”
“Obviously, as my question was addressed to the Prime Minister and he indicated at the time that he ‘will take it up personally with him…’. I would have preferred a conversation with him directly, but these are the hoops that opposition backbenchers like me have to jump through,” he said.
“Maybe most disturbing is not that I have been pushed down the pecking order, but that it will have taken 78 days to get this far. Those who are currently sourcing medical cannabis either illegally or legally, but at great expense, face up to their conditions every day and every night. Any and all delays hit them hardest and yet they are the very people who are being ignored.”
Earlier this year, Cowan asked the PM why medical cannabis was so difficult to access despite the government’s declarations that the drug would be made legally available and covered by the NHS.
Cowan asked the PM why medical cannabis was so difficult to access despite the government’s declarations that the drug would be made legally available and covered by the NHS. / Photo: iStock / Getty Images Plus iStock / Getty Images Plus
“I think it is right we have changed the way we do things. The chief medical officer and NHS England have made it clear that cannabis- based products can be prescribed for medicinal use,” Johnson responded. “It must be up to doctors to decide when it is in the best interests of their patients to do so.”
Johnson then invited Cowan to sit down and discuss the matter face-to-face.
“Can I invite him since I can tell that my answer is not satisfying him, can I invite him, I will take it up personally with him and also with the secretary of state for health so that he gets the satisfaction he needs and more importantly so his constituent gets the reassurance that they need,” Johnson said at the time.