London is about to get its first private medical cannabis clinic.

The Medical Cannabis Clinics – London will be the second private clinic in the UK offering medical cannabis to its patients.

European Cannabis Holdings Medical (ECH) opened its first clinic in the UK in Manchester (The Beeches) in March this year, marking a new era for medical cannabis in the UK.

ECH’s backers claim that the clinic will offer a “lifeline” to patients who desperately need legal access to regulated medical cannabis products, but have been unable to get a prescription on the NHS due to heavy restrictions placed on medical professionals by current guidelines.

Cannabis was legalised for medicinal use in November last year, but only specialist practitioners, or GPs with permission from a specialist, can currently prescribe it. Due to these restrictions, there has not been a single prescription granted for THC on the NHS.

According to the British Government, evidence for the efficacy and cost-effectiveness for medical cannabis is “embryonic,” despite countless studies proving its success in treating a wide variety of medical conditions.

A review of Nice guidelines is expected to be published in the autumn and will determine whether medical cannabis should be allowed on the NHS.

ECH’s London clinic will have a GP who can assess patients and refer them to an on-site specialist with the power to approve a prescription. Cannabis treatments will only be offered where conventional, pharmaceutical, treatments have failed.

The clinic will offer “potentially life-changing” treatment for a variety of medical conditions, including multiple sclerosis (MS), epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, arthritis and Parkinson’s.

Professor Mike Barnes, ECH’s Clinical Director, commented:

“This clinic will represent a lifeline to the thousands of patients who have found other treatments ineffective.”

There is clearly a demand for medical cannabis amongst patients in the London area, as more than 150 people are believed to already have signed up for the clinic’s waiting list.

There is a devastating gap in the market for medical cannabis in the UK.

Patients urgently in need of medical cannabis either have to find £10,000s a year for a private prescription like those offered by private clinics like the ECH’s, or are forced into a life of crime, either as a grower or a customer of the Black Market.

Hopefully, Nice will issue guidelines which recommend medical cannabis should be on the NHS as a “first option” for any medical condition it has been proven to help.

There is a wealth of research proving the efficacy and safety of medical cannabis emanating from countries like Israel and the US. British researchers are decades behind these countries in terms of cannabis research. Instead of relying on studies conducted in the UK, which are few and far between due to years of restrictions placed on cannabis due to its Schedule I status, researchers in the UK could learn from their foreign counterparts.

Private prescriptions run the risk of bankrupting families desperate to find relief for their loved ones. Denying these patients access to a medication which has been proven to work offers no benefits to society.

For now, clinics like ECH – London have to plug this gap. Whether it will be sustainable for patients to pay £10,000s a year for their medication is another question altogether.