As many of you will probably have read, my new organisation - the United Patients Alliance (UPA) - has a rather important and vocal supporter in the shape of former drugs minister Norman Baker MP. Norman spoke at a UPA event on the 12th of December and has been influential in making sure that the issue of medical cannabis is taken seriously. In doing so, he has also raised the profile of both cannabis as a medicine and the United Patients Alliance.
As many of you will probably have read, my new organisation – the United Patients Alliance (UPA) – has a rather important and vocal supporter in the shape of former drugs minister Norman Baker MP. Norman spoke at a UPA event on the 12th of December and has been influential in making sure that the issue of medical cannabis is taken seriously. In doing so, he has also raised the profile of both cannabis as a medicine and the United Patients Alliance. With articles mentioning us in The Guardian, The Sun and a number of TV and radio interviews, as well as his report as drugs minister and his call for medical cannabis in the house of commons, no one could argue that Norman has not been supportive of patients.
I’ d like to rewind back to when Norman and I were both on BBC radio Sussex. Keiron Reeves and myself had gone in to talk about how cannabis helps us and Norman was brought on as the “other side”. He said how Sativex was available and a few other things that I was not in the slightest bit happy about. In fact, I was so unhappy that I wrote a blog for my website called “Norman baker and the home office are out of touch”. Of course, Norman didn’t know that Sativex was not being prescribed to me – something which he is now well aware of. Several meetings later, including one at the home office with officials from the department of health, Norman has had his mind changed and now recognises that medical cannabis is a viable alternative for many sick people with chronic conditions.
Baker resigned from his role as Minister for the Home Office on 3 November 2014, something for which he has faced opposition from some in the community, wondering if he should have stayed with the job and done more. This was a question which I personally thought was very relevant and I therefore put it to Norman during our meeting. Norman’s response was that it was in fact the other way round: he had planned on stepping down as a minister earlier but felt he had to stay with the job to make sure he was still Drugs Minister when he made his call for medical cannabis to the press. This has never happened before and we hope it will inspire more politicians to stand up for this issue.
I was one of Normans biggest critics at first but am now personally extremely happy with how Norman has listened to the United Patients Alliance and then altered his course drastically to take on what we have told him.
The United Patients Alliance would like to thank Norman personally for all of his help and for standing by the issue of medical cannabis. It has been very refreshing to meet with a politician who actually listens and is willing to change his mind when given the evidence. Given that Caroline Lucas has also been very helpful and even spoke at our launch night, I am more optimistic than ever that we are getting closer to being legal medical cannabis patients in the UK. There is still much work to be done but, for the first time in a long time, the campaign is moving fast. With more reform groups working to spread awareness of the pitfalls of prohibition, the future looks much brighter in the UK.
If you are reading this and are thinking that you want to get involved, then please do. Visit your MP and tell them why we need medical cannabis. The UPA is here to help and support along the way if you need it. “A rising tide lifts all ships” is a saying which comes to mine. Cannabis policy is a rising tide across the globe and the UK government cannot carry on ignoring it for much longer.
Let’s not get complacent. We must get this job done and we must allow patients a better quality of life! One of our founding fathers and most active members Mike Cutler tragically passed away recently when he could not access the medicine he needed. This is true for so many people in this country. Thousands more are diagnosed with cancer, thousands will die needlessly and in more suffering than if they were able to access medicinal cannabis. Will you sit by and do nothing? Or will you become part of this ever growing movement for truth and justice? We need you because when it comes to the fight for medicinal cannabis, it is our very lives we are fighting for.