The government has announced a review of the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, which could lead to patients being prescribed drugs made from the plant in the UK.
Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, announced the decision in the House of Commons following a series of high profile cases in which children with severe epilepsy were denied access to medication which can control seizures.
The government was forced to look at the law after the case of Billy Caldwell - whose mother fought for him to be able to use cannabis oil for his epilepsy.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said it was obvious the government was not "getting the law on this kind of thing right" and suggested a review would take place "as quickly as possible".
Why has it taken the suffering of a child to get the government to take action?
Cannabis Scheduling Review Part 1
The therapeutic and medicinal benefits of Cannabis based products – a review of recent evidence
Professor Dame Sally Davies Chief Medical Officer for England and Chief Medical Advisor to the UK Government June 2018.
As the Chief Medical Advisor to the UK Government, I have examined evidence of the medicinal benefit of cannabis-based products to advise on the appropriateness of their place within Schedule 1 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 and subject to designation under s7(4) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
Schedule 1 drugs have little or no therapeutic potential. As summarised in this review, there is now conclusive evidence of medicinal benefit of cannabis-based products for certain medical conditions, and reasonable evidence of benefit for indications that they may be useful under restricted circumstances.
My recommendation is that cannabis based medicinal products are moved out of Schedule 1 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001.
Review of the scheduling of cannabis
The government has announced a review of the scheduling of cannabis. The review will be in 2 parts:
The expert panel will consider the merits of each case to establish whether the criteria below has been met. They will make a clinical assessment of an exceptional and unmet clinical need which the product would address, considering the urgency of the case and any prior treatment with the product, through clinical trial or otherwise.
The expert panel will also consider the products in question and the appropriateness of alternative courses of action.
There are currently 8 members of the Expert Panel. The register of interests for members of the Expert Panel lists their occupations, the organisations they work for and the nature of any interests they might have.
Looking at the Biographies of the members of the panel, none have any specific knowledge or experience of medicinal cannabis.
Cannabis based medicinal products panel
The panel will consider applications against the following criteria:
• There is no non-Schedule 1 medicinal product (whether licensed, or unlicensed) available in the UK that would meet the specific need;
The above point means that medicinal cannabis would be used as a treatment of last resort.
Lord Hague calls on the government to consider legalising the recreational use of cannabis.
The former Tory leader said the war on cannabis had been "irreversibly lost" and a change of policy was needed.
Lord Hague said the debate about Billy Caldwell was "one of those illuminating moments when a longstanding policy is revealed to be inappropriate, ineffective and utterly out of date".
By returning the medicine to the Caldwell family, the Home Office had "implicitly conceded that the law has become indefensible", he said.
Licensing cannabis for medical use would be a "step forward", he said, but the Conservatives should be as "bold" as Canada where state-regulated recreational consumption was being considered.
Many other countries, including much of the US, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, have legalised the use of medicinal cannabis, but very few have legalised recreational use.
Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable said his party supported the legal sale of cannabis for recreational use provided it was "properly regulated" and sold by "legalised distributors", which he said "would reduce the harm caused by "potent and damaging forms" of the drug.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said he would decriminalise cannabis for medicinal purposes. But a Labour government would "look at the medical effects on the wider community and on cannabis users" before deciding whether to back legalisation for recreational use, he added.
Prime Minister Theresa May remains firmly opposed to legalisation or decriminalisation of the drug because of the harm she says it does to individual users and communities.
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