Bill to legalise medicinal cannabis clears first hurdle, but will it go further?

Campaigners for the legalisation of medicinal cannabis are this week celebrating a small victory. Legalisation could help people with multiple sclerosis and other diseases but, realistically, there’s little chance it will become law


Paul Flynn MP.

Paul Flynn, Labour MP for Newport West and patron of the United Patients Alliance (UPA) presented a 10-Minute Rule Motion in the UK parliament’s House of Commons. Its purpose is to legalise the use of cannabis as a medicine.

UPA supporters, who gathered outside, took delighted when the bill gained its first reading. This is the first step on a long journey of any bill to pass into law.

The UPA aims to make sure everyone who might benefit from cannabis, to improve their quality of life, have access to it without the risk of criminalisation or stigmatisation.

Its website says: “We would see a legal, regulated supply of cannabis for patients so that they can use it safely, with knowledge of strain and dosage and with the best knowledge on healthy modes of intake and ways of medicating with cannabis.”uld see a legal, regulated supply of cannabis for patients so that they can use it safely, with knowledge of strain and dosage and with the best knowledge on healthy modes of intake and ways of medicating with cannabis.

In pursuit of this, the UPA organised a peaceful demonstration outside parliament, in the form of a ‘cannabis tea party’. It highlighted how the drug acts as pain relief for those with chronic and fatal illnesses.

The UK currently bans the use of cannabis for medical purposes. Sativex spray is the only exception.

Across the world, medicinal cannabis, or marijuana, is legal in many places including Canada and Uruguay. It is also legal in a number of states in America as it in some European countries.

Legalising cannabis – intelligent and compassionate

Flynn joined the tea party, and said: “We have to say to the government, for goodness sake, catch up with the rest of the world and allow a responsible legal market to operate to replace a market that’s illegal and dangerous.

cannabis“It’s political cowardice, they’re afraid of being mocked on this, but I’m afraid politicians don’t get credit for acting intelligently. This is the intelligent and compassionate thing to do. The law is an ass.”

Flynn has named his proposal The Elizabeth Brice Bill, named after a multiple sclerosis patient who died in 2011. She has been a long-time campaigner for legalising cannabis for medical purposes and started the UK branch of the Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics. She and Flynn are said to have drunk cannabis tea together, in parliament, many years ago.

The next stage of the lawmaking process is the Second Reading. This has been set for Friday, February 23.

Bills introduced by MPs under the Ten-Minute Rule don’t often progress much further. Most stimulate publicity for, or seek the house’s opinion about, an issue which may later feature in another bill.

However, not all Ten-Minute Rule bills fail. Some do become law. Indeed, since 1945, more than 60 of them have become Acts of Parliament.

Perhaps, one day, UK drug laws may change but don’t expect Paul Flynn’s bill to achieve that. Sadly, there are too many MPs prepared to oppose it.

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* * * * * is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.


MS cannabis spray not available from NHS in England – and recognising EDS as a chronic painful illness

satifex use

A word of explanation about the cannabis spray that was the cause of the unfortunate script in ITV’s Coronation Street last Friday.

The spray goes by the name of Sativex and is licensed for use in the UK to treat muscle spasms and stiffness in people with MS. It is important to note that it is not, yet, licensed for the treatment of any other condition.

Furthermore, despite the license, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) decided that the spray was not cost effective and that its costs outweighed its advantages. Therefore, Sativex is not available on the National Health Service in England, Scotland or Northern Ireland – not even for people with MS. And, as Coronation Street is set in the English city of Manchester, it would not be available there even if Izzy did have MS instead of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS).

In Wales, it is technically available because the recommendation of the All Wales Medical Strategy Group (AWMSG) to approve access to the treatment has been ratified at ministerial level in the Welsh Government. However, many Welsh people with MS are reporting difficulties in getting the treatment. “Having MS is not a golden pass,” one such person commented.

While Sativex is currently approved solely for the treatment of MS-related muscle spasticity, the drug is also being trialled for a number of other conditions. Besides cancer pain trials in the US, Sativex is being studied in the UK as an add-on treatment for brain cancer. Previous studies have also suggested benefits in treating arthritis and neuropathic pain.

My brief description of EDS Hypermobility type in the last blog caused some upset among people with EDS. For that, I am sorry. I did not intend to diminish the illness but did over simplify it; double-jointedness is involved but at the least serious end of the spectrum.

So, I’ll now try to put the situation right. EDS is a group of inherited connective tissue disorders, caused by various defects in the synthesis of collagen. It is known to affect men and women of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.

There are six distinct types of the illness currently identified. All share joint laxity, soft skin, easy bruising, and some systemic manifestations. Each type is thought to involve a unique defect in connective tissue, although not all of the genes responsible for causing EDS have been found. These types are: Hypermobility; Classical; Vascular; Kyphoscoliosis; Arthrochalasia and Dermatosparaxis.

Joint hypermobility is the dominant clinical manifestation. Generalized joint hypermobility that affects large (elbows, knees) and small (fingers, toes) joints is evident in the Hypermobility Type. Recurring joint subluxations and dislocations are common occurrences. Certain joints, such as the shoulder, patella and temporomandibular joint dislocate frequently. The skin involvement (smooth velvety skin with or without hyperextensibility) as well as bruising tendencies in the Hypermobility Type are present but quite variable in severity.

Chronic pain is a well-established and cardinal manifestation of Hypermobility EDS and it is common for pain to be out of proportion to physical and radiological findings. The origin of the pain is not clearly understood, but some of the likely causes include muscle spasm (tender points are sometimes present) and degenerative arthritis; neuropathic pain is also common.

‘Corrie’ insensitivity enrages social media users

corrie title Izzy_Armstrong corrie Coronation Street’s Izzy Armstrong as played by Cherylee Houston.

There is a follow-up to this article, here


Scripted words of a character in the long-running British television soap Coronation Street have shocked and horrified people with multiple sclerosis – and with good reason.

During Friday night’s episode, the character Izzy Armstrong reacted angrily to her doctor saying that she could not have a cannabis spray for pain relief. In a temper, she said: “It’s not every day I wish I had MS”.

Her words were criticised on the social media with one woman writing on the Multiple Sclerosis Trust’s Facebook page said: “I realise there are many conditions other than MS that cause severe pain but to script that she wishes she had MS seems quite unreal and insensitive to me.”

Actress Cherylee Houston has her own disability.

Actress Cherylee Houston has her own disability.

Other social media users were equally annoyed and upset about the words uttered by wheelchair-user Izzy who, when she first appeared on the show in April 2010, was much heralded as the soap’s first disabled regular character in 50 years.

What I find even more peculiar than some insensitive scriptwriting is that Izzy actress Cherylee Houston agreed to say the line – after all, she has a disability herself.

Cherylee has Hypermobility-type Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and Izzy is supposed to have the same disability.

Hypermobility describes joints that stretch further than normal. For example, some hypermobile people can bend their thumbs backwards to their wrists, bend their knee joints backwards, put their leg behind the head or perform other contortionist ‘tricks’. It can affect one or more joints throughout the body. When present in the hands, it is colloquially referred to as being ‘double-jointed’.

Anyone aggrieved by Izzy’s dialogue is being urged to complain to ITV at