It’s three years since medicinal cannabis was legalised in the UK. Yet only three prescriptions have been written on the NHS.
Gavin Wilkinson, 45, lives with his family in West Fife. He’s one of 20,000 UK patients who turned to a private clinic for prescribed cannabis.
He’s in no doubt about the impact it has made on his life.
And he says it’s time stigma around cannabis is removed so others can be helped too.
Here, Gavin, a property manager and accountant, tells us: how he got his prescription, how it helps and how much it costs him every month.
What led you to seek pain relief?
“I’ve been living with – and trying to manage – continuous lower back pain for 25 years.
“I have herniated discs in my lower back and tried a range of pain relief over the years, as well as physio and osteopathy.
“I’ve known about medicinal cannabis since before legalisation in November 2018.
“The press coverage of Billy Caldwell and his fight to have his prescribed oil returned to him from Customs for his epilepsy really brought the medicine to the fore.
Nothing else worked…I had nothing to lose
“I contacted Sapphire Medical Clinics this year after a flyer through my door. Nothing else worked, so I thought I’d try it. I’d nothing to lose.”
How do you take the cannabis?
“I have two types of oil, CBD and THC which goes under the tongue, and dried cannabis flower which must be vaped.
“The CBD is taken twice a day, the THC once at night and the flower when needed.
“CBD and THC take about 20 minutes to work for me. The flower is vaped as and when required to supplement the CBD oil.”
Does it get rid of your pain?
“The first feeling I get, especially when vaping the flower, is almost instant pain reduction, within a couple of minutes or so.
“I get a lessening of tension and stress and a feeling of positivity and calm.
“The pain is not gone entirely, and it never will because of the condition I have. But this medication manages it so much better than anything I’ve been prescribed before.”
Could others get this on the NHS?
“The NHS is only allowed to prescribe for a very small number of quite severe conditions.
“So for people like me in a moderate amount of pain, it is very unlikely. What is more important is education.
“Cannabis is a plant. We know it’s been used around the world without problems for 100 centuries.”
‘We need to get rid of the stigma’
Three years on, data from a YouGov poll of over 10,000 UK adults shows 46% of Scots do not know medical cannabis is legal.
“There’s still a stigma around cannabis and it’s demonised by some,” Gavin continues. “People don’t question enough to be able to make informed choices.
“I have a huge amount of respect for the NHS. They’ve helped me to the best of their abilities and resources for more than half my life.
“But with cannabis prescription, their hands are very firmly tied. As a Sapphire patient I’m part of the vital, and growing, evidence base for this treatment.”
How much does it cost you?
“Everyone’s prescription is different but mine costs between £150 and £200 per month.
“Once you’ve exhausted your options with your GP, you should mention cannabis to your doctor, then contact Sapphire.
“I did, thinking there’s no way I’d qualify. But if you don’t ask, you don’t get. It took six weeks from initial consultation to prescription for me.
“It is very refreshing to have medical professionals involve the patient in their approach to gathering real-world evidence of the efficacy and outcomes of medical cannabis.”