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Home » Stuck in the Middle: Patients, Policymakers and the Battle for Medical Cannabis Reform

Stuck in the Middle: Patients, Policymakers and the Battle for Medical Cannabis Reform

For a long time, people in the UK have had strong feelings about the use of cannabis for medical reasons. Cannabis is still banned because it is on Schedule 1, but patients, doctors, and activists are pushing for it to be legalised for medical use. Some changes have been made to UK law about medical cannabis in the last few years, but the situation is still complicated. This article will give you a quick look at the current medical cannabis rules in the UK.

How to Classify Cannabis – The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 says that cannabis is a Class B drug. This group of drugs is made up of those that may help with medical problems but are also thought to pose some risk of harm or dependence. Because of this, it is usually against the law in the UK to have or sell weed. Some people have asked for cannabis to be renamed or made legal, but the UK government has refused to change the law since 1971.

The first campaigns for legalisation From the 1990s on, campaign groups in the UK have pushed for medical cannabis to be legalised. They said that cannabis can help treat some diseases, such as chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy. Also, these groups said that cannabis doesn’t have as many side effects as opioid medicines. At the time, though, there wasn’t a lot of solid proof that cannabis could help with health problems. Before changing the law, governments said they needed to do more study.

Changes in the Government’s Position – Because of the case of Billy Caldwell in June 2018, medical cannabis got a lot of attention. Caldwell is a young boy who has serious epilepsy that could kill him. He has up to 100 seizures every day. His mother had been giving him cannabis oil from Canada, which had been very effective at stopping his seizures. When they got back to the UK, though, customs took away the medicine. After a long, well-known battle, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said that some medicines based on cannabis would be rescheduled and made available on the NHS with a prescription. This was a big change in what the government was doing.

Current State of the Law – The UK’s newest rules and laws make it legal for doctors to prescribe some medical products made from cannabis. To be eligible, the medicines must meet strict requirements about what they contain, how much to give, how they are labelled, and how often they are supplied. Only Epidyolex, a drug used to treat some types of epilepsy, has been cleared to meet these requirements. It went through a lot of clinical studies and was approved by regulators across the EU. But approval for this one product does not mean that all medical cannabis is now allowed. It also doesn’t force doctors to recommend it if they don’t think it’s clinically necessary. According to the British Paediatric Neurology Association, Epidyolex should only be given to people who have not responded to other treatments. Aside from this one exception, medical cannabis is still banned in the UK. Protesters say the rules are still too strict for the many people who could benefit.

Problems that stop more people from adopting It’s hard to get medical cannabis products approved in the UK because many of them haven’t been through the strict scientific testing that is needed. Concerns have been raised about doses that are not controlled, as well as about side effects and their dependability and stability. The medical community in the UK is still not sure if they should prescribe cannabis goods that are not licenced. Another problem is that the government Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which gives government advice on health care, has not approved medical cannabis. The NHS is also concerned about cost, as providing medical weed to a lot of people could cost billions of pounds every year. There are also complicated issues to think about when it comes to entry for everyone and the possibility of too much use or diversion of cannabis products. Even though there have been high-profile cases and a lot of support for medical cannabis, it still has a long way to go before it is widely used and recommended in the UK.

Most recent events – In 2019, the government said that some specialist NHS doctors would be able to officially prescribe medical cannabis. Consultants, not general practitioners, were given the power to prescribe cannabis if there is clear proof that it will help the patient. But so far, these NHS scripts have been very rare—only a few hundred are thought to have been issued. A lot of people still go to private clinics that charge fees or keep using illegal sources. In 2021, the Health and Social Care Committee put out a study that was critical of the slow progress in making medical cannabis more accessible. There was a call for better advice, lower costs, more study, and an analysis of how policies have worked in other countries. Even though there is some political will for change, the government is likely to be cautious around medical cannabis UK law because cannabis has a lot of complicated legal, moral, and social problems.

In conclusion – The UK’s laws on medical cannabis have changed a little, but they are still very strict. It is now possible to get one drug made from cannabis, but this only scratches the surface of what people might want. Patients who want to use cannabis for medical reasons still face big problems, and most of them have to get it illegally. There are good reasons for both sides of this argument, as well as strong moral concerns. Laws in the UK are likely to stay the same or slowly change over time. A lot more medical study is needed to show policymakers that the benefits are greater than the risks. Then medical cannabis might get a lot closer to being accepted by most people and legalised.