On 26th July 2018 news broke that the government was approving the use of medical cannabis in the UK when prescribed by a doctor. This covers medicine derived from marijuana and could come into effect as soon as this autumn.

A result of high profile sickness cases?

The announcement by the Home Office follows a number of high profile cases involving two young and sick boys Billy Caldwell and Alfie Dingley who were denied access to cannabis oil for their conditions. Both have since been granted licenses for their treatments.

Sajid Javid, the home secretary, commented on these cases stating, “Recent cases involving sick children made it clear to me that our position on cannabis-related medical products was not satisfactory.

“Following advice from two sets of independent advisors, I have taken the decision to reschedule cannabis-derived medicinal products – meaning they will be available on prescription.

“This will help patients with an exceptional clinical need.”

So, in real terms, what does this all mean?

What will change in law?

Medicinal cannabis products will be placed and categorised in Schedule 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001. This is a change from their current categorisation in Schedule 1. A Schedule 1 drug is thought to have no therapeutic value.

What do the experts say?

During a two-part review commissioned by the Home Secretary, the chief medical officer for England and the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs summarised that certain medical conditions in patients should make them eligible for access to certain cannabis-derived treatments.

Elsewhere Dr. Tom Freeman, a senior academic at The Royal College of Nursing said the decision would have a “substantial impact on research by facilitating the development of safer and more effective medicines”.

What cannabis does this change apply to?

The Department for Health and Social Care and the Medicine and Health products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) still needs to create a clear definition of what counts as a cannabis-derived medicinal product. These will sit within the Schedule 2 category, whereas cannabis (non-therapeutic) will stay as Schedule 1.

It will likely refer to medicinal cannabis in the form of THC oils - unlike the CBD oils we stock - for extreme cases of sickness. It’s also likely that the products will be very specific, tested and certified with minimum safety standards, then issued to licensed doctors to complete appropriate prescriptions for patients of varying ages.

Who will be eligible to get a medicinal cannabis prescription? The comments from Mr Javid points to it being used for ‘exceptional cases’ of sickness. The young children from recent high profiles cases were suffering from extreme and rare forms of epilepsy, resulting in seizures. A person would need to visit a licensed doctor and be given a prescription based on their individual needs.

Will non-medicinal cannabis be legalised?

No. However it may go some way to improve the public perception of marijuana. Sajid Javid clarified that this change in legislation wasn’t a step towards legalising cannabis for recreational use.

Possession of cannabis is illegal in the UK and can result in unlimited fines, 5 years in prison, and for dealers, 14 years in prison. It is officially recognised as a class B drug.

What next?

At this stage, we’re waiting for more information to be released and for the Home Office to detail exactly what constitutes a cannabis-derived medicinal product. As the legislation is likely to be altered this autumn, these products could be available for prescription in 3-4 months time.

While we do not stock THC oils, we will keep you updated on this incredibly important news story which once again puts cannabis in the spotlight.

Disclaimer: Please note that we do not claim cannabis has medicinal effects. References here refer to reports on the legislation change and quotes from those involved or commenting on the news and process.

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