In another sign of the rapidly changing attitudes towards the drug, it has been revealed that 2,000 cannabis prescriptions have so far been issued in the Island.
Meanwhile, Dr Charlotte Cocks, who recently joined local clinic Medicann Jersey, said that law changes last year which allow the prescription of medicinal cannabis by GPs had effectively created a ‘trial situation’ in the Island. ‘In Jersey and Guernsey we are leading the way in Europe, and are certainly ahead of the UK as GPs are following a model from across many ponds in Canada, USA and Australia, who have been able to prescribe medical cannabis for many years,’ she said.
Currently, GPs in the UK are not able to prescribe medicinal cannabis through the NHS.
Separately, Nicholas Morland, chief executive of Tenacious Labs, told the Jersey Farming Conference that the growing of cannabis could one day rival the finance industry and that the Island quickly needed to make the drug the ‘Jersey Royal 2.0’ before the rest of the world caught up (Full story: page 5 of this weekend's JEP).
The NHS website advises that ‘very few people in England are likely to get a prescription for medical cannabis’, noting that it is only likely to be prescribed for severe forms of epilepsy, sickness associated with chemotherapy and muscle stiffness of spasms caused by multiple sclerosis.
In most European countries where it is available on prescription, its use is similarly limited.
In Jersey, however, patients now have access to such treatments on prescription and clinics such as Medicann are providing consultations direct with patients or by referral from a GP or specialist.
Dr Cocks said that the treatments were effective not only for those suffering from chronic pain or with sleep issues, anxiety and mood disorders, but also those in end-of-life-care.
She added that attention is also focusing on neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinsons. Jersey provided what she described as a ‘trial situation’, akin to more traditional medical drugs trials in which the voices of patients in the real world could make themselves heard.
A GP for more than 30 years, she said that she had to educate herself – having initially been sceptical about claims made for medical cannabis – following interest shown by patients themselves.
She stressed the importance of working ethically within the restrictions imposed by the special licence required to prescribe such medicine and being consistent with prescribing.
‘We are being scrutinised on this new medicine and that’s right and proper, so let’s look at it and celebrate the fact that we can now prescribe. If a GP wants to learn about it – great, join the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society. You don’t need to be a prescriber, it’s there as an education forum and there are a huge number of webinars with prescribers who will answer questions. We are trying to inspire people and help doctors to help patients who have got into a corner where they are not sure where to go,’ she said.
Dr Cocks is the subject of the Saturday Interview on pages 10 and 11 of Saturday's (13 November) JEP.