32-year-old Carly Barton has been prescribed cannabis to treat her fibromyalgia. This is a chronic pain condition she has experienced since suffering a stroke when she was in her early twenties. She will receive Bedrocan, which is 22 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the stuff in cannabis that makes you stoned) and Bedica, which is 14 percent THC. The medicines will make her high. She had found that strong opiods made her feel “zombied”.

Carly Barton, the first person prescribed cannabis in the United Kingdom. Photo: Facebook

Carly Barton, the first person prescribed cannabis in the United Kingdom. Photo: Facebook

Just not yet

After being prescribed cannabis, Barton has received nothing so far. She is waiting for the establishment of a special importing licence so she can get her medicine from the Netherlands. This will take weeks and raise the cost. Worse still, there is an import fee for every pot, and the pots are so very small.

The outcry over little Billy Caldwell

It was possible for Barton, who once lectured about fine art at university, to get her dope legally after the rescheduling of cannabis on 1 November 2018. This followed an outcry over the seizure of cannabis oil from the mother of 13-year-old Billy Caldwell, a boy who is severely epileptic, in June 2018. As a result, cannabis was put under Schedule 2 rather than Schedule 1 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations of 2001. This puts it on a par with ketamine. Schedule 1 means it is not recognised as having medicinal value. Only specialist doctors, not GPs, can make prescriptions. Little Billy’s ma, Charlotte, declared that medicinal cannabis “gave me back my right as a mummy to hope” and had “given Billy back his right to life.”

Eek! An unfair two-tier system!

The NHS is not covering costs, so Barton, who lives in Brighton, will have to shell out £2,500 (“everything I have”) for her three-month prescription. The actual medicines are cheap, with import fees costing money. She hopes she will have “opened the floodgates”. If not, there will be “an unfair two-tier system” where only those who can fork out £10,000 a year can stay legal. So “[T]he rich will have access and the poor will still have their doors kicked in by police.” She called this “prohibition under a different name”. Before being prescribed cannabis, she found herself obliged to satisfy her needs by “meeting people in parks … in the middle of the night in the dead of winter” while in pain. She could cope with this but fears for those who are more vulnerable.

Cannabis: “the reason why I can stand up”

Barton’s pain specialist, Dr David McDowell, commented that her medication takes effect within 15 minutes. Now she has been prescribed cannabis, she is “no longer bed-bound for days on end” and can hold down a job. As she remarked, cannabis is “the reason why I can stand up.” Dr McDowell does not believe cannabis is “a magic wonder-drug” but is convinced that it’s beneficial.

There’s still some way to go, as Dr. Saoirse O’Sullivan, an associate professor at the University of Nottingham, pointed out. People often take cannabis for anxiety and depression and see only a GP who is unable to prescribe cannabis. She concluded, “So I think there’s going to be a lot of disappointed people.”

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