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Medical Cannabis Under Prescription

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:59 pm on 20th May 2019.

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Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning Conservative, Hemel Hempstead 4:59 pm, 20th May 2019

I beg to move,

That this House
reaffirms its welcome for the change in the law that allows access to medical cannabis under prescription, but notes that only a handful of prescriptions for whole-plant-extract medical cannabis have been issued on the NHS, which has left a significant number of patients, many of whom are children with intractable epilepsy, with no access to medical cannabis and experiencing severe distress;
and calls on the Government immediately to act to ensure that medical cannabis is available to appropriate patients and in particular to children suffering severe intractable epilepsy, such as Alfie Dingley whose plight and campaign did so much to secure the change in the law.

It is a real privilege to stand here and represent families from across the country, alongside colleagues from across the House who I am sure will scamper into the Chamber in all haste when they realise how fast the previous business has been dealt with. This gives us a suitable amount of time—some five hours—in which to debate this really serious matter.

On 8 April, Mr Speaker granted me, with support from other colleagues across the House, an urgent question on the medical use of cannabis. This followed the removal of a young lady’s medical cannabis from her family’s possession as they came through customs at Southend airport in Essex. The young lady’s name was Teagan, and her family are ardent campaigners on this issue. They know, because they have been abroad to get medical cannabis oil for Teagan, that it has a really helpful effect on her.

What had an even more dramatic effect on Teagan’s family was that, perhaps not unexpectedly, Border Force confiscated the oil. I do not blame Border Force or the Home Office—we will go into the history of how we got to this position in a moment—who were doing their jobs However, after long conversations on the phone that evening and conversations with the Speaker, I was really pleased to be granted the urgent question.

The urgent question meant that the House could come together to ask why an oil that had been prescribed—admittedly it was prescribed abroad; nevertheless it was prescribed—should be taken from a young lady who desperately needed it because of the seizures that she suffered as a result of her epileptic condition.

The oil was taken away, and the family were promised, quite rightly, that it would be kept in a safe place and not damaged.

On the Saturday a week after the urgent question, the prescription was eventually accepted by the Department of Health and Social Care and the Home Office. I say “eventually” because there is such confusion surrounding this prescribed medical product. It is fascinating to me and even to those within the medical profession.

The first prescription was rejected, and Teagan was not allowed to have the oil back because the prescription did not mention the word “oil”. Even though the description of the product was completely accurate, it was rejected because it did not contain the word “oil”. A new prescription was issued that included the word “oil”, and the oil was released. Believe it or not, conversations then took place about who was going to pay for the transportation of that medical oil to Teagan.