UK Politicians Call For Legal Medical Cannabis
26 October 2016
The All Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform calls on the UK government to reclassify cannabis as a medicine, and allow doctors to prescribe cannabis, chemists to dispense it and patients to grow limited amounts of cannabis for their own consumption.
A group made up from politicians from all parties and both Houses of Parliament recently published a report entitled "Access to medicinal cannabis: meeting patient needs". The All Party Parliamentary Group is co-chaired by Caroline Lucas MP and Baroness Molly Meacher.
This report, launched on 13th September 2016 by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform, is a result of their 7 month inquiry into the medical use of cannabis in the UK, and a large amount of scientific evidence gathered by to Professor Mike Barnes; a Professor of Neurological Rehabilitation and consultant neurologist and consultant in rehabilitation medicine. Professor Barnes claims to have, "analysed over 20,000 scientific and medical reports." He states, "The results are clear. Cannabis has a medical benefit for a wide range of conditions. I believe that with greater research, it has the potential to help with an even greater number of conditions. But this research is being stifled by the government’s current classification of cannabis as having no medical benefit."
The Report, Cannabis: The Evidence for Medical Use, a.k.a. The Barnes Report, was published alongside the results of the APPG inquiry report; including information from 623 patients, medical and legal professionals - in a survey conducted by the United Patients Alliance, a group that campaigns for medical access to cannabis in the UK. Conditions for which medical cannabis is used as a treatment
The respondants reported using cannabis medicinally to treat a wide range of conditions including, chronic and severe pain (24.1%), arthritis (12%), insomnia (21%), fibromyalgia (9%), PTSD (7%), depression (30%) and anxiety (26%). Almost 20% are growing their own, but over 50% are still forced to buy from street dealers.
The Inquiry Panel concluded in the "Access to medicinal cannabis: meeting patient needs" report that:
1. Patients suffering chronic severe conditions should not risk arrest if they obtain cannabis as a treatment, when other treatments have failed or generate unacceptable side effects.
2. The inclusion of cannabis in Schedule 1 (the schedule for substances with no medicinal value) is no longer sustainable. There is now a sound evidence base showing cannabis to be effective for a range of chronic conditions.
3. Some estimated 30,000 patients in the UK use cannabis or cannabis-based products as medicines on a daily basis. This could entail as much as 1,000,000 in total.
4. Cannabis-based medicines have an established place in the management of chronic pain in the UK.
5. Many countries now have or are introducing a form of cannabis regulation to ensure access to herbal cannabis to help those with serious chronic conditions, where prescription medicines have been ineffective.
They recommend that:
1. Cannabis should be included in Schedule 4 rather than Schedule 1, thus promoting research.
2. A scheme incorporating the main features of the proposed German legislation should be introduced into the UK to ensure much wider availability of medicinal cannabis. Herbal cannabis would thus be available on prescription for the treatment of specified conditions, paid for by the NHS for those conditions. Medicinal cannabis would be produced by licenced producers and sold through licenced outlets, such as pharmacies.
3. The Government should decriminalise home growing of small quantities of cannabis for medicinal purposes as is the case in Uruguay and some American States.
Reclassifying cannabis to Schedule 4 would put it in the same category as steroids; meaning doctors could prescribe cannabis to patients, which would then be dispensed by chemists. Patients might even be permitted to grow a few cannabis plants for their own consumption - allowing patients to choose and control their own medicine.
As always with governments regarding cannabis issues it is hard to know if they will pay attention, but a large body of approved scientific evidence now stands against them. We interviewed Clark French, from the United Patients Alliance to talk more about the APPG report and how he thinks it will affect patients in the UK.