- Home Secretary confirmed today medicinal cannabis was being reclassified
- Following a scandal over the case of Billy Caldwell, Government has u-turned
- It means some cannabis-based products will be available on prescription
Medicinal cannabis will be available on prescription for the first time in Britain from the autumn in a major shift announced by the Home Secretary today.
Sajid Javid said following advice from the chief medical officer, he would reclassify cannabis products used by doctors elsewhere in the world.
The dramatic change to policy comes after a scandal over epileptic boy Billy Caldwell being banned from taking cannabis oil prescribed abroad.
Billy was given back the medicine after a high profile campaign by his mother forced Mr Javid to grant a 20-day emergency licence for its use.
The Home Secretary insisted today’s change was not the first step toward broader legalisation of cannabis.
Sajid Javid (left in Portugal today) said following advice from the chief medical officer, he would reclassify cannabis products used by doctors elsewhere in the world
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 licence 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.
‘This will help patients with an exceptional clinical need, but is in no way a first step to the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use.’
Genevieve Edwards, Director of External Affairs at the MS Society, said: ‘This is exceptional news and we want to thank the Home Secretary for the speed at which this decision has been made.
‘We started campaigning for cannabis for MS exactly a year ago and it’s incredible to see how far we’ve come since then. The priority now has to be making sure everyone who could benefit can access cannabis in a safe and responsible way.
‘We plan to work closely with the Government to determine what exactly this will mean for people with MS. This life-changing decision could help thousands with the condition who haven’t been able to find relief for their pain and muscle spasms.’
The dramatic change to policy comes after a scandal over epileptic boy Billy Caldwell being banned from taking cannabis oil prescribed in Canada
Mr Javid ordered a two part review into medicinal cannabis earlier this summer after the outcry over the drug.
In the first part of the review commissioned by the Home Secretary, the Chief Medical Advisor, Professor Dame Sally Davies, concluded that there is evidence that medicinal cannabis has therapeutic benefits.
The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) carried out the second part of the review, considering the appropriate schedule for cannabis-derived medicinal products, based on the balance of harms and public health requirements.
The ACMD recommended that such products meeting a clear definition of what constitutes a cannabis-derived medicinal product should be placed in Schedule 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001.
WHAT IS CANNABIS OIL AND IS IT LEGAL IN THE UK?
Government advisers made it legal to buy CBD in 2016
Government advisers made it legal to buy cannabidiol (CBD) oil in 2016 after they admitted that it has a ‘restoring, correcting or modifying’ effect on humans.
However, the oil’s legal status has confused thousands across England and Wales, after the MHRA back-tracked on its position just weeks after.
Suppliers now have to obtain a licence to sell it as a medicine, following the decision in October two years ago – but some weave the strict rules.
Manufacturers are able to avoid regulation by selling it as a food supplement – ignoring the lengthy process of gaining a medicinal licence.
CBD oil, which can reportedly help with back pain, anxiety and epilepsy, has yet to be approved for use on the NHS in Scotland.
It comes in many forms, the most popular being an oil – which users spray under their tongue – or gel tablets which melt slowly in the mouth.
However, cannabis oil, which contains THC – the compound that gives users a ‘high’ – is illegal under UK laws.
But Billy Caldwell, from Castlederg, Northern Ireland, made headlines last April when he became the first Briton to be prescribed it on the NHS.
Cannabis oil, which reportedly has no side effects, influences the release and uptake of ‘feel good’ chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin.
It said there is evidence of medicinal benefits from some of these products in certain circumstances.
It recommended doctors in the UK should have the option to prescribe cannabis-derived medicinal products for their patients.
In line with the ACMD’s recommendations, the Department for Health and the Home Office will develop additional frameworks and clinical guidelines to ensure that cannabis-derived medicinal products can be prescribed safely to patients but cannot be traded illicitly.