Home secretary Sajid Javid has announced a review of medicinal cannabis in the UK, in response to growing pressure to allow use of cannabis oil to help control seizures in children with severe forms of epilepsy.
In a speech to parliament, Javid said the review would be in two parts.
Part one – led by chief medical officer Professor Sally Davies - will consider the evidence available for the medicinal and therapeutic benefits of cannabis-based medicines.
This will inform which forms of cannabis or cannabis-based medicines should be taken forward in Part two, where the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) will assess, based on the balance of harms and public health needs, whether they should be rescheduled for medicinal use.
As it stands, cannabis is currently a schedule 1 drug, so it is considered to have no therapeutic value and cannot be prescribed. Patients/carers can apply to the Home Office for a license to use a drug containing a controlled cannabis-based substance, but Labour MP Andy McDonald, whose son died as a result of epilepsy, reportedly described the process as "tortuous" and "painful", according to the BBC.
“The position we find ourselves in currently is not satisfactory. It’s not satisfactory for the parents, it’s not satisfactory for the doctors, and it’s not satisfactory for me,” Javid told MPs.
“I have now come to the conclusion that this is the right time to review the scheduling of cannabis.”
According to snap poll by Sky News, 82 percent of Britons believe the drug should be legalised for medical use, marking an increase of 10 percent compared with a similar Sky survey carried out in November 2016.
GW Pharmaceuticals’ is the first cannabis-based medicine to be licensed in the UK. Doctors can prescribe the drug for the treatment of MS-related spasticity, if the patient has shown inadequate response to other symptomatic treatments or cannot tolerate their treatment.