1 November 2018 marks a turning point in relation to the use of medicinal cannabis in the UK. The Misuse of Drugs (Amendments) (Cannabis and Licence Fees) (England, Wales and Scotland) Regulations 2018 (the "2018 Regulations") lays out the rules in relation to the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes by defining “cannabis-based product for medicinal use in humans.”
A product will be classed as a “cannabis-based product for medicinal use in humans” if it can satisfy the requirements set out in the 2018 Regulations, being in summary:
- it is a medicinal product or an ingredient of a medicinal product;
- the product or ingredient is for medicinal use in humans only; and
- that product or ingredient contains cannabis, cannabis resin, cannabinol or a cannabinol derivative (not being dronabinol or its stereoisomers).
All products under this definition shall be moved from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 of The Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 which will allow for lawful production and supply by a practitioner or pharmacist and lawful possession by individuals for medical purposes.
The UK, once considered a leader in medical advancements, now plays catch up to the rest of the western world. Canada legalised medical cannabis in 2001* whilst the first state to legalise medical cannabis in the USA was 1996**.
Whilst experts still continue to scratch the surface of the potential benefits of medical cannabis, medical trials around Europe have supported the effectiveness of using the product to treat muscular stiffness or involuntary spasms associated with multiple sclerosis where other treatments have failed***. There have also been studies to suggest that the medical benefits are limited. Another study has shown that in relation to the treatment of chronic pain, those who used medical cannabis had increased pain and anxiety****.
As experts continue to explore the potential benefits and risks around the use of medical cannabis, it is clear that greater clarification is required in relation to the form, the source and the quality of the cannabis that would be used to treat a specific illness. What is evident, however, are real instances where the use of medical cannabis in the form of cannabis oil has helped a 12-year-old boy suffering from epilepsy to control his seizures*****. High profile cases of vulnerable people benefiting from the use of medical cannabis in life changing circumstances has accelerated legalisation change in the UK. Whilst the full potential of medical cannabis is still to be discovered, this change in legislation will allow for greater research into the best practice usage for medical cannabis, which can only be a good thing for patients, medical practitioners and the NHS as a whole.