Legalisation of Medicinal Cannabis in the UK, What’s the Deal?
The use of Cannabis for medicinal purposes was technically made legal in the UK a few months ago, though still, many patients who could benefit from its use are still able to access medicinal cannabis.
Over the past few months, since new legislation was passed that allows doctors to prescribe medical cannabis to some patients in the UK we have only seen a handful of patients actually given access to the drug to treat conditions relating to chronic pain. It does seem as if doctors are a little apprehensive to prescribe cannabis, though much of this anticipation could be down to a lack of supply.
According to BBC News, the UK currently subscribes to enough medicinal cannabis to treat 30 patients per month, that cannabis comes from a supplier from The Netherlands.
What does the law state?
UK law does not stipulate that cannabis is legal for medicinal use, rather a change was made which moved cannabis from ‘schedule 1’ to ‘schedule 2’ of the Misuse of Drugs act (2001). This move means that cannabis could be recognised as having therapeutic value and thus could be prescribed for medical purposes, despite still being a controlled drug.
Furthermore, there are still no licensing regulations in the UK, therefore doctors are only able to issue cannabis in the instance that other traditional medicines aren’t able to help the patient. Lastly, only a few doctors are actually allowed to prescribe it, GP’s and family doctors do not fall in this category and therefore, all patients need to be referred to a specialist consultant before getting a prescription.
One such specialist, Dr David McDowell has spoken to the BBC to discuss some of the problems he has faced when issuing prescriptions:
“Prescribing cannabis is new to UK doctors and so it may take a while before they begin doing so. The price for cannabis – £695 for one month’s supply – takes the edge off the good news adding that he didn’t believe it would be sustainable for him in the long term.”
Moreover, not only is it expensive and hard to prescribe, the process of getting medical cannabis into the UK is very time consuming indeed:
“This batch coming from the Netherlands has been grown at a specially regulated site for cannabis for medical purposes and the export has to be approved by the Dutch government. Importers in the UK need to apply to the Home Office for a licence to bring in the cannabis from overseas. The whole process can take up to 28 days, so by the time it’s completed, the prescription may have expired. These delays are why companies involved in the process of importing medical cannabis say it’s important to bring in a bulk amount.”
The problem here is within the way the UK has failed to actually set any specific regulations to back up this change in law. Simply put, the UK infrastructure isn’t ready to start using cannabis as a serious medical solution. Until more clear laws are put in place, it seems that medical cannabis in the UK is going to be short in supply and only reserved for very rare and extreme cases.