Medical cannabis is to be legalized in the UK, after controversy over children being denied access to medicine, although only certain strains will be allowed.
The Home Office said that it had consulted with experts, and would now allow certain cannabinoids to be prescribed to patients. They stressed, however, that other forms of cannabis would be kept under strict control.
The decision comes after some high-profile cases in the UK regarding children being denied access to cannabis oil to control epileptic seizures. One of those was Billy Caldwell, 12, who had his medicine taken away by the Home Office, who then became the subject of a campaign to allow medicinal cannabis.
“Recent cases involving sick children made it clear to me that our position on cannabis-related medicinal products was not satisfactory,” Home Secretary Sajid Javid said in a statement.
“Following advice from two sets of independent advisers, I have taken the decision to reschedule cannabis-derived medicinal products – meaning they will be available on prescription.”
Cannabis is listed as a Schedule 1 drug in the UK, which means it is judged to have no therapeutic value but can be used for research. This new legislation will place certain cannabis products into Schedule 2, meaning they have a potential medical use.
Some have criticised the move, however, saying it doesn’t go far enough. The UK still lags far behind other countries in its approach to medicinal cannabis, and this legislation will only allow very specific cannabinoids to be used by doctors.
“This appears to be a very conservative decision by the Home Secretary as he could have opted for a lower schedule,” Ian Hamilton, a lecturer in Mental Health at the University of York, told the Science Media Centre. “Unfortunately this adds to the lack of credibility in the approach to cannabis policy as everyone knows that opiates and cannabis pose different risks yet they are now both schedule 2 drugs.”
Still, it’s a rare win for common sense in the UK, with a government that is increasingly happy to shoot itself in the foot. Many will be hoping it leads to broader changes to similar legislation in the near future.