The Home Office released its latest position on medical cannabis within the UK on Wednesday 28 June. These first faltering steps into a brave new world offer hope to thousands of patients, but many are going to be unhappy with the finer details of Medical Cannabis UK 1.0.
It must be stressed that this is not the final long-term position. This is just the process that will allow some people to access cannabis for medical purposes, with a government license, and some basic guidelines on how this license process will operate in the interim, until the APPG panel in Westminster, at which the UKCSC is set to provide expert evidence, makes its initial findings in the next six to 18 months.
It also, as expected, has no provision for personal cultivation, nor a set, unquestionable, condition access list.
It also has no provision for people paying for themselves, the treatment having to be paid by the local NHS, if they refuse to fund it, no access.
For many this sounds considerably like the Sativex postcode lottery.
The referral and request for a license also have to come from a Healthcare Professional, so self-referrals cannot be made. However, this is not a negative advancement, and also contains considerable positives for patients and the community.
For a start no conditions are off-limits. The License body will examine all recommendations, and that’s a first anywhere in the world in the opening stages of medical acceptance, although careful assessment of the granted licenses should be carefully studied, alongside the panel’s future statements over time, to better gauge how this will work in practise.
We also know that doctors in the UK, for the first time, have a legal and direct route to prescribe cannabis, knowing a licensing scheme is in operation for their patients. That, again, is a worthwhile progression.
We also know that these just the first stages of a longer term progression, with an intended framework for access and provision the intended outcome of the APPG.
For many this doesn’t go far enough, and while of course all cannabis use should be legal – and you obviously can never solve the problems of prohibition without solving the Right To Grow, Share, and Socially Consume, for all consumers – this is a welcome and positive step for those who have no choices in their medical access, and will end up being an event that has the potential to positively impact thousands of lives.
The panel will be led by the Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland, Dr Michael McBride.
Policing Minister Nick Hurd said: “I completely sympathise with the families who have been facing desperate situations to find treatment and we have taken action, creating an expert panel to review individual medicinal cannabis licence applications.
“Clinicians must be at the heart of the process to provide the reassurance that prescribing unlicensed and potentially untested products is in the best interests of the patient.
“I look forward to receiving the expert panel’s recommendations in the knowledge that these families will be prescribed the most appropriate course of treatment, firmly based on medical evidence. We have been clear that we will continue to push hard against any unnecessary bureaucracy in the system.”
At the UK Cannabis Social Clubs we are aware that not everyone is going to be able to apply, or if they do, will be approved. We will therefore remain assisting the sick and terminally ill who rely on cannabis as their first line of medicine as it is the most effective option for them.
You can find your nearest club here, or join the UKCSC as a Supporter Member below to help us continue bringing safer access to cannabis for adults and patients and securing the right to grow at home for personal and medical use.