From November 1st, doctors across England, Wales and Scotland will finally be able to prescribe medicinal cannabis following an announcement by the home secretary, Sajid Javid, which will allow cannabis-derived products for medicinal use for the first time.
Cannabis is thought to have a whole host of potential medical benefits and covers a long list of conditions it can possibly help with. Studies have shown that cannabis has the potential to treat conditions ranging from epilepsy to Multiple Sclerosis (MS), diabetes, inflammation, and even depression.
In line with the launch of new legislation in the UK, Endoca’s CEO Henry Vincenty headed to London to support the new law change, by speaking to various UK press outlets, including the BBC and Metro to help clarify the benefits of cannabis and cannabinoids and explain the effects it can potentially have on our bodies.
While speaking to the Metro he stated;
‘Phytocannabinoids, such as CBD, bind to the same receptors in the body that endocannabinoids do. When these bind to the receptors these cannabinoids help to regulate mood, anxiety, pain, depression, stress, sleeping patterns, and appetite, giving the body balance. When the body has balance, it begins healing itself.’
Before the decision to reclassify cannabis for medicinal use, most cannabis-based medicinal products were Schedule 1 under the 2001 Misuse of Drugs Regulations and therefore deemed illegal. Previously the law recognized cannabis as having no therapeutic value.
Cannabis based treatment like Sativex that contain the compounds THC and CBD, were only some of the very few that had actually been approved.
The legality of cannabis products meant that prescribing medicinal cannabis wasn’t legal and the only means of accessing treatments, was through a special license issued by the Home office, which was only given in rare and exceptional cases.
The new changes to the law now mean that treatments that meet the "appropriate standards" under the new guidelines will be available on prescription and medical cannabis has now been rescheduled to a Schedule 2 drug-- which will recognises it as having the potential for medical use.
What Sparked the Change?
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The rapid and long awaited development in UK law follows a series of high-profile landmark cases, like those of Billy Caldwell (12) whose cannabis oil was initially confiscated at Heathrow airport, and Alfie Dingley (6) who was initially denied access to his cannabis oil. Both brought huge press attention and public backing to the issue of cannabis for medical use.
These heart-wrenching stories, eventually lead the home office to grant both children access, and contributed heavily to the UK government's decision to make a change in the law on cannabis medicine.
*Both used cannabis oil containing THC to help control their severe epileptic seizures, which was previously deemed illegal.
The parents in both these cases had to obtain cannabis oil from outwith the UK (from the Netherlands and Canada) and whilst using the oil had seen dramatic improvements in their children's conditions.
The initial denial of permission to use the cannabis oil in both these cases sparked a national outcry. And a mirage of support from the public and MP’s alike. The confiscation of Billy’s cannabis oil led MPs to criticize UK cannabis laws, with one quoted as saying “can’t be right, sensible or humane”, as well as calling for urgent reform.
Billy was finally granted an emergency license to continue using the cannabis oil. The tone had been set and this case only further highlighted that long-term change was necessary.
Both of these stories captured the attention of MP’s and the UK public and in turn evoked a rapid alteration to the UK cannabis laws to allow it for medical use.
UK Home Secretary Mr. Javid decided to change the rules on cannabis for medicinal use, following a two-part review of the effects of the plant earlier this year.
The issue of reforming UK cannabis law had received backing from a number of MP’s including Conservative MP, Sir Mike Penning, who had called for fundamental cannabis reform as well as forming a new All Party Parliamentary Group with a specific focus on the use of medicinal cannabis.
The MP also successfully campaigned for the issue to be reviewed by the Department of Health and Social Care rather than that of the Home Office:
“Medical cannabis is a health issue, not a misuse of drug issue, it’s about patients and relieving suffering,”
Support for the issue was further bolstered by that of Labour MP Andy McDonald, whose son tragically lost his life to epilepsy, as well as shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, with both calling for the legalization of cannabis oil for medical purposes.
A Review into Cannabis for Medical Use
Following the announcement of the government review back in June, there had been reports of divisions within the cabinet over the approach that should be taken while Teresa May disagreed that the review should even take place.
However, Javid, who commissioned two reviews, told parliament that should experts identify significant medical and therapeutic benefits, he would likely follow their advice.
The first of the two part review was carried out by Chief Medical adviser Dame Sally Davies that concluded that there was evidence that pointed to medicinal and therapeutic benefits within cannabis.
The second recommendation was taken from The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), which advised that doctors should be able to prescribe provided that the products are in line with safety guidelines.
Javid’s decision to declare cannabis-derived medicinal products as a schedule 2 substance (as part of the 2001 Misuse of Drugs Regulations), will finally give clinicians the possibility to prescribe medical cannabis to patients who are in desperate need.
In a written statement to parliament, Javid confirmed the good news by stating:
“I have been clear that my intention was always to ensure that patients have access to the most appropriate course of medical treatment.
“I stressed the importance of acting swiftly to ensure that where medically appropriate, these products could be available to be prescribed to patients.”
This confirmation is a result that many have been waiting for. It was confirmed by the home secretary Javid in October that the regulations would come into full force on November 1st, 2018.
Even though cannabis-derived product will be available on prescription, the Home Secretary Javid has warned that the UK had no plans to follow in Canada's footsteps by legalizing recreational cannabis:
“I have been consistently clear that I have no intention of legalizing the recreational use of cannabis. To take account of the particular risk of misuse of cannabis by smoking and the operational impacts on enforcement agencies, the 2018 regulations continue to prohibit smoking of cannabis, including of cannabis-based products for medicinal use in humans.”
Home Office officials are still in discussions with the Department of Health in Northern Ireland over the upcoming changes.
What this Means Moving Forward
The UK has moved forwards enormously in recent months with respect to medical cannabis law and with their decision to legalize the use of these treatments, they have now stepped forward into a brave new era of cannabis medicine.
As a citizen of the UK for the first 30 years of my life, such a change seemed almost unthinkable a mere decade ago (or even a year ago), it really is a spectacular victory that has been achieved in the UK.
While the changes in the country may appear rapid, there have in fact been years of struggles and stigmas to overcome. It is thanks to the endless hard-work of campaigners, and cannabis revolutionaries that we have now evolved to a point where cannabis is finally a viable and legal medicinal treatment in Great Britain.
Disclaimer: Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Endoca and its staff. This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or cure. Endoca CBD products have not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).