In a debate in the House of Commons on ‘Medicinal Cannabis under Prescription’ on Monday 20th May, Michael Fabricant pleaded with ministers to allow patients to have access to medicinal cannabis and has contacted the Chief Constable of Staffordshire.
Although the law was changed in 2018 to permit the prescription of cannabis, a shortage of specialist clinicians has meant that just two patients have had legal access to medicinal cannabis in the UK.
Michael told the health minister in the House of Commons Chamber: “I have a constituent who is suffering from very advanced multiple sclerosis. She has been unable to obtain the medication she needs, and her husband wishes to grow small amounts of cannabis to relieve her pain. However, it is not just she who is suffering. Staffordshire police do not want to act, although technically the family is breaking the law. That is an impossible position, is it not? It really is up to the Department of Health and Social Care to find ways in which cannabis can be prescribed more widely and more quickly.
“Is it not the case—cruel as it may seem to say this in the Chamber—that for those who are is suffering from advanced multiple sclerosis, there can be only one end to it? Is it not therefore cruel in the extreme that when something could mitigate the pain and the discomfort and is not going to do any more harm to the patient because there is no cure for advanced multiple sclerosis, that palliative care cannot be administered?”
Michael was referring to the case of Vicky Clarke who lives in Burntwood. Like thousands of others, she has been unable to obtain a prescription for medicinal cannabis.
Earlier this month, Michael Fabricant wrote to the Chief Constable of Staffordshire, Gareth Morgan, asking what help the police can give in allowing Andy Clarke, Vicky’s husband, to grow small amounts of cannabis for her to take to relive the pain.
In a reply to Michael Fabricant written on 13th May, and passed on to Andy Clarke, Mr Morgan says: “The 2018 Regulations have imposed special measures of control for the use, order and supply of these Schedule 2 products for the purposes of administration. Specifically, such order and supply must be: for use in accordance with the prescription or direction of a specialist medical practitioner; an investigational medicinal product for use in a clinical trial in humans; or, a medicinal product with a marketing authorisation. The Regulations continue to prohibit smoking of cannabis and cannabis-based products for medicinal use.
“For these reasons I cannot provide permission for Mr Clarke to grow cannabis for medicinal use. Mr Clarke’s wife would need to consult with a medical practitioner in relation to treatments. I appreciate this is not the outcome Mr Clarke desired. However, I would wish to point out that this decision is not a matter for police forces but for Parliament to decide.”
Michael Fabricant says “I completely understand the Chief Constable’s position. So far the police have been very understanding in this difficult situation. I am pleased that the law was changed to enable the prescribing of medicinal cannabis in the UK, but without trained clinicians able to prescribe these drugs, I understand why Mr Clarke might take the law into his own hands. I will continue to press either for more clinicians or for a further change in the law.”
A year ago, Andy Clarke, Vicky’s husband, wrote movingly about his experience trying to look after his wife:
We are a regular family who has been virtually decimated by MS.
My wife (Vicky) was a very respected primary teacher, teaching in a challenging school in Walsall when she was diagnosed with Primary Progressive MS in her mid-30s, a little over 10yrs ago.
We have two daughters: Sophie is studying for a nursing degree in children’s nursing, and Megan is studying on a BTEC course with a view to a career in the police force.
Within 3-4 years of diagnosis, Vicky was forced to give up the career she loved despite every effort made by all parties, measures which included Vicky being lifted from a taxi (access to work scheme) onto her mobility scooter to continue her work.
Since the early days of diagnosis, Vicky has suffered daily with severe stabbing nerve pain in her left shoulder. She has tried every drug there is acupuncture, electro-acupuncture, nerve injections, chili patches and so on and so on; literally, everything the NHS and private clinics have to offer.
Fast forward to where cannabis comes in. Vicky has very little function, is doubly incontinent and has carers come in whilst I work Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. I take over at all other times.
It is important to bring the carers into the story because this is where our first brush with the law comes in regarding cannabis.
I had been trying to grow some cannabis in a spare upstairs bedroom, not very successfully I might add.
One of the carers or care agency reported a smell of cannabis coming from upstairs. This was frustrating on two points: one because upstairs is out of bounds, as we live on the ground floor adapted for Vicky. The second is there would have been very little smell due to very little growth and was more than likely found by snooping around. I said two points, in actual fact, it’s three: the carers see Vicky cry in pain on a daily basis.
The resulting action was a visit from the local police and a stern warning with the instruction not to do it again. The WPC was quite understanding and could see what it was being used for, but said the police had to act as the call had come in from an agency with the additional fact of a minor living in the house.
So that was our first brush with being labelled criminals and our chances of experimenting with cannabis as a pain reliever gone for a while.
The second time (about 7 months after the first) was also as a result of the care agency reporting cannabis to the police, again to the backdrop of Vicky crying in pain.
I had managed to find a more reliable source of cannabis than trying to grow my own. I made the cannabis into butter and was putting this into a healthy smoothie on a daily basis; having been in a precision engineering role since leaving school this process was also carried out to precision.
Absolute success, I would come home from work to find a smiling Vicky who had been pain-free. Sadly she would still have the same stabbing pain at night and this is something we were unable to get on top of as our experimenting was cut short by the involvement of the police once again.
The second reporting also resulted in another reluctant visit from the police but had the extra worry of a safeguarding visit from Social Services for Vicky, followed by an even more worrying visit regarding the safeguarding of Megan.
As the law stands, if I get caught again I run the risk of further action being taken and risk either Vicky or Megan being taken into care. This would also jeopardise Megan’s chances of joining the police and could ruin my daughter’s dream.
So after 10 years of daily pain, it was being relieved a by a small amount of cannabis in a smoothie. Not enough to be stoned, nor in my opinion enough to suspect, other than what must have been a slight smell in the smoothie. Vicky is now back to crying in pain on a daily basis.
Vicky is now PEG fed, nil-by-mouth and is confined to bed suffering from a severe pressure sore and awaiting a bed at the local hospice to try again to address pain.
At a little over 5 stone and suffering severe pain and many other complications due to PPMS, I ask anyone why they would want to deny a responsible adult access to a plant that was clearly helping?