Earlier this week, the United Kingdom made the decision to legalize cannabis derivatives that will be available with a prescription. Government officials were prompted to make the change after a few parents of epileptic children were having trouble at immigration after acquiring cannabis medication abroad.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid stated that, “Recent cases involving sick children made it clear to me that our position on cannabis-related medicinal 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.”
Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that all cannabis products will be available with a prescription. In fact, cannabis flower still remains a Class B drug in the United Kingdom and simple possession can carry an unlimited fine and up to 5 years in jail.
The new policy allowing cannabis derivatives is a godsend to parents of epileptic children. Billy Caldwell, who suffers from a rare form of epilepsy, will finally be able to purchase his medication in the U.K. His mother, Charlotte Caldwell, expressed her appreciation saying, “For the first time in months I’m almost lost for words, other than ‘thank-you Sajid Javid.’”
Now that Sajid Javid has made this pivotal decision, The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) are tasked with outlining the characteristics of cannabis derived medicinal products. However, some reform activists are concerned that this might lead to over regulation.
The co-chair of Medical Cannabis Under Prescription parliamentary group, Sir Mike Penning remarked, “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.”
For patients who need the medication urgently, clinicians will be allowed to apply for access to an independent panel. Javid did note that licensing fees for applications will be waived, and those who are already licensed will receive no additional charges.
While this is a great step in the right direction, the Home Secretary said that this move is “in no way a first step to the legalization of cannabis for recreational use.” It may take a few more years for the U.K. to see the full potential of a regulated cannabis marketplace, but at least patients can now treat their conditions naturally.