Why is it that substances to feed an addiction which kills almost 80,000 UK people every year and costs the NHS billions are legal while medicinal cannabis is only just gaining a tiny level of official acceptance?
Cigarettes cause agonising death but are legal. Cannabis products relieve pain and suffering but are effectively unavailable.
The government finally legalised medicinal cannabis on prescription in 2018 but you still cannot get it on the NHS and doctors won’t prescribe it for fear of litigation.
Why is there a delay in making medicinal cannabis a mainstream medicine?
The UK Government made cannabis legal for medicinal purposes in Nov 2018 to great fanfare and political hype. That raised genuine hopes that sufferers could finally obtain it as needed through normal channels. Doctors could now prescribe it.
The reality has been shockingly disappointing.
This article explains the reasons and is well worth reading. In summary:
- It’s not the law that is holding things back now, but it was the cause of the current delay.
- Medical research did not happen because cannabis was previously a Schedule 1 drug
- There is not enough data to enable medical experts to quickly provide reliable guidelines for doctors and specialists
- The medical profession rightly fears doing the wrong thing by jumping the gun before more research is carried out
- If a clinic or a specialist were to prescribe it now, with no backing from official guidelines, they could lose their license with the added possibility of litigation
- Money talks – pharma companies can’t patent cannabis plants meaning there’s nothing in it for them and so they won’t finance clinical trials.
All this is little comfort to people suffering from symptoms that medicinal cannabis relieves. That’s especially heart-breaking for parents watching their children suffering.
How are people obtaining medicinal cannabis right now?
Even medicinal cannabis is still a Schedule 2 drug. That means it requires a special kind of prescription. Then the medical supplies company requires a special license to import and store it. Delivery companies must also be licensed to transport it. It seems like hurdles exist at every step of the way.
While going abroad yourself and buying it directly in, say, the Netherlands, is legal – bring it back home to the UK is not. We see stories of parents doing just that for their children but they are breaking the law as it stands.
Basically, being found in possession of cannabis products without a prescription is still an offence. Fortunately, our dwindling police force has bigger fish to fry but that does not excuse the awful situation.
Black market medicinal cannabis
So medicinal cannabis is still a black market. Either that or depending on “guardian angels” who obtain and quietly distribute cannabis products direct to proven sufferers, at significant risk to themselves.
Buying cannabis products online leaves you open to con men and advertised products don’t contain what you might think they do. That’s the big drawback of lack of research and legalisation.
The Home Office has not yet published any guidance at time of writing (Autumn 2019). The Government website points us to advice from the NHS instead.
What needs to happen
Roughly half of US states have legalised medicinal cannabis and others now even permit recreational use. What happens in America eventually filters through to the UK in many instances.
- Pressure groups like the Multiple Sclerosis Society and others must press unceasingly for changes that make medicinal cannabis easier to obtain.
- Parents and carers must not be criminalised for procuring medicinal cannabis.
We will delve into this issue in greater depth inn future. The devil is almost certainly in the detail of how drugs eventually go mainstream.
MS Society (Nov 2018). Cannabis for MS on prescription: your questions answered. Retrieved from https://www.mssociety.org.uk/get-involved/campaign-with-us/campaigns-blog/your-cannabis-questions-answered
NHS (Nov 2018). Medical cannabis (and cannabis oils). Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/medical-cannabis/
NHS (Aug 2018). What is a controlled medicine (drug)? Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/medicines/what-is-a-controlled-medicine-drug/
Office for National Statistics. (July 2019). Adult smoking habits in the UK: 2018. Retrieved from https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/healthandlifeexpectancies/bulletins/adultsmokinghabitsingreatbritain/2015
UK Government (Oct 2018) Government announces that medicinal cannabis is legal. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-announces-that-medicinal-cannabis-is-legal
Varghese, S. (Feb 2019). Medical cannabis is now in the UK, but nobody can get a prescription. Wired. Retrieved from https://www.wired.co.uk/article/medical-cannabis-nhs-prescription