Remarkable UK Government U-Turn
Following a remarkable U-turn from the British Conservative government, medical cannabis is to be legalized in the United Kingdom and will be available on prescription from the Fall onwards.
As is the case currently in the US, cannabis is classified as a schedule 1 drug in the UK but following the decision of the home secretary Sajid Javid, it will be reclassified in the coming months.
The stunning and rapid change in the mindsets of both the government and the general public in the UK was significantly aided by a series of cases involving epileptic children, and in particular, the story of Billy Caldwell, a 13 year old boy who found himself in hospital because his medicinal cannabis oil had been confiscated by customs officials at Heathrow airport.
Billy’s case touched the hearts of many, and with the British public learning more and more about the incredible potential benefits of cannabis in recent months, the government was left with little choice but to address the harsh classification that has, up until now, dismissed cannabis in all its forms.
As a result of the ensuing national outcry, home secretary Javid commissioned a review of the cannabis laws last month and following the recommendation of the Chief Medical Officer, Prof Dame Sally Davies, and the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, has decided that a change in the law is urgently required.
Thankfully, with this decision, medical cannabis will now be legalized in the UK, giving access to patients on prescription who have an “exceptional clinical need” to use the drug.
Mr. Javid said: "Recent cases involving sick children made it clear to me that our position on cannabis-related medicinal products was not satisfactory.
“That is why we launched a review and set up an expert panel to advise on license applications in exceptional circumstances.”
“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.”
Billy’s mother, Charlotte Caldwell, was one of the first to express her delight at the decision;
"For the first time in months, I'm almost lost for words, other than 'thank you, Sajid Javid'.
"That the Home Secretary has announced that medicinal cannabis can now be prescribed by GPs on Billy's 13th birthday is amazing. I wonder if he knew?”
"Never has Billy received a better birthday present, and never from somebody so unexpected."
She continued: "Crucially, my little boy Billy can now live a normal life with his mummy because of the simple ability to now administer a couple of drops a day of a long-maligned but entirely effective natural medication."
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Cannabis to be reclassified in the UK...FINALLY!
Cannabis is still currently classed as a schedule 1 drug in the US and in the UK, meaning it is perceived to have “no therapeutic or medical value”. It had, up until now, only been possible to conduct research on cannabis through the acquiring of a special Home Office license.
However, following the government’s crucial decision, cannabis will be rescheduled as a Schedule 2 drug. Schedule 2 drugs are considered to have a strong potential for medical use. With cannabis now joining them in this group, a far greater level of detailed research into its benefits will be possible in the near future.
The Department for Health and Social Care and the Medicines and Health products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) will now be responsible for developing a clear definition of what actually constitutes as a cannabis-derived medicinal product. Once this is defined, these treatments will be rescheduled and potentially offered on prescription should they meet the requirements.
Until the new legislation is in place, clinicians will still have the option of applying to a panel of independent experts on behalf of patients wishing to access these kinds of treatments. Those doing so, will no longer need to pay any license fees for the applications while those already granted a license will not face any costs either.
Former justice minister Sir Mike Penning, (who was among those appealing for Alfie Dingley to be given a special license for medicinal cannabis), welcomed the decision but urged caution regarding which treatments may actually be rescheduled.
"Any move to restrict medical cannabis in the UK to a very narrow range of derived products, each requiring full pharmaceutical trials, thereby blocking out the many products available overseas, will lead to great disappointment and be a missed opportunity."
Sir Mike Penning
The incredible turn-around in UK legislation was lauded by both cannabis proponents and health experts alike, with many pointing to the potential of increased cannabis research that will be possible following its reclassification.
Dr. Tom Freeman, a senior academic fellow at King's College London, said the decision would have a "substantial impact on research by facilitating the development of safer and more effective medicines".
With cannabis now moving towards a new era of research and study, we can feel increasingly confident that more and more benefits of this remarkable plant are just waiting to be discovered.
Clearly, with this decision, the British government are setting a crucial example in the legitimizing of medical cannabis. By removing it from its current position as a Schedule 1 drug, a whole wave of new research possibilities have been opened up to our British counterparts. Hopefully, this will inspire the US to adopt a similarly level-headed approach.
The cannabis reforms currently sweeping the planet are leading to a whole range of new treatments and possibilities for those who suffer from chronic illnesses. However, with cannabis still listed as a class 1 substance in the US at federal level, it is now essential that we see new legislation that fully legitimizes and decriminalizes this wonderful healing plant for medical use.
With millions of Americans desperately in need of access to treatments that could change their lives and with cannabis reform currently sweeping the planet, it remains unfathomable that the US government will continue to ignore their needs.
Having been ignored and derided for so long, it is truly remarkable to witness the evolution of the cannabis plant in our society over the past decade.
Despite years of misunderstanding and stigmatization, it is apparent that cannabis is here to stay. When you think about it, it really is incredible that even despite its negative reputation throughout the years, cannabis is now being accepted, legalized and used in medicine across the world.
With decisions like these, we can be genuinely optimistic that cannabis is finally reaching a point of acceptance and new understanding in our society.
Not only will so many gain access to treatments previously denied to them, but remaining stigmas will surely now be consigned to the annals of history. Where in the future no one can say cannabis has “no medical value.”
Cannabis is now evolving from a position of derision, misinformation, and rejection to its rightful place as a legal, viable and natural medical treatment.
Widespread and long-lasting change now seems inevitable.