Specialist doctors in the UK will be able to legally provide medicinal cannabis by autumn, in one of the biggest changes to drugs laws in years
“Recent cases involving sick children made it clear to me that our position on cannabis-related medicinal products was not satisfactory,” Home Secretary Sajid Javid said of the decision. The decision to change the position on medicinal cannabis will help patients with “an exceptional clinical need.”
Cannabis was previously classed as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it was thought to have no therapeutic value but can be used for the purposes of research with a Home Office licence. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) said that cannabis-derived medicinal products and should now be placed in Schedule 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001.
The Home Secretary said this was “in no way a first step to the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use.” Possession of the class B drug will still carry an unlimited fine and up to five years in jail, while dealers face 14 years in prison.
Danielle Davis, whose 7-year-old daughter Sophia Gibson has a severe form of epilepsy, has concerns about how restricted the access to medical cannabis will be. Danielle told BBC Radio 4, “I hope it’s not very restricted. Is it going to be for certain conditions… I mean is there maybe only going to be half a dozen conditions [that are eligible for medical cannabis]?”
Sophia had to be put in a coma earlier this month while awaiting a licence for treatment with cannabis oil, which Danielle says relieves her daughter’s condition. Sophia had the cannabis oil medication when her family took her to the Netherlands.
“After we came back from Holland, we gave our reports to Sophia’s clinicians and there were two UK clinicians that were like, okay, we will apply for this. So all that information and all that paperwork has to go to a panel and, within that panel, they say 'exceptional circumstances' - and that’s why I’m concerned that it is going to be very restrictive. Even at that, our doctors had to prove that this was like a last resort, and it shouldn’t have been like that,” Danielle said in the radio interview on Friday.
“I very much welcome the Home Secretary’s announcement. He’s responded to the needs of families; behind the rescheduling, there’s a real human story of families trying to do the best for their loved ones,” Dr. Adrian James, College Registrar for Royal College of Psychiatrists told BBC Radio 4.
Currently, there are no plans to open up the use of medicinal cannabis for mental health conditions. “There’s no current evidence that cannabis is of any help really in any mental health condition,” Dr. Adrian said.
'There's a real story here about families trying to do the best for their loved ones.' says @DrAdrianJames .However, there is no evidence that cannabis, medicinal or otherwise, works for those with mental health conditions, 'but that doesn't mean we shouldn't look into it',— RC of Psychiatrists (@rcpsych) July 27, 2018
“That doesn’t mean we couldn’t actually look at that, but there’s no evidence at the current time and that’s certainly not something that we are asking for.”
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) will now develop a clear definition of what constitutes a cannabis-derived medicinal product, the Home Office said. It will then be rescheduled and made available on prescription.