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a cannibis leaf imageJune 22 2018

A review into the scheduling of cannabis for medicinal purposes will look for “significant medical and therapeutic benefits” before a decision is made.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced the review as a response to recent media publicity around the availability of cannabis products for use by children with medical conditions. He also announced a licence will be granted for a child, Alfie Dingley, which will allow clinicians access to the cannabis-based medicine needed to treat a rare form of epilepsy.

“Cases like Billy Caldwell’s, Alfie Dingley’s, and others like it, have shown that we need to look more closely at the use of cannabis-based medicine in healthcare in the UK. The position we find ourselves in currently is not satisfactory. It’s not satisfactory for the parents, it’s not satisfactory for the doctors, and it’s not satisfactory for me,” said Mr Javid.

“I have now come to the conclusion that this is the right time to review the scheduling of cannabis.”

Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies has been asked to lead the first part of the review, considering the evidence available for the medicinal and therapeutic benefits of cannabis-based medicines. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) will then provide an assessment based on the balance of harms and public health needs, of what, if anything, should be rescheduled.

The Home Office announcement emphasised: “The review will not look into the reclassification of cannabis as a Class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and will not consider the legalisation of cannabis. The penalties for unauthorised supply and possession will remain the same.”

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has published a policy statement supporting the rescheduling of cannabis from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001. However, it “does not support the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use, and believes that any cannabis-based treatment given to patients must be of demonstrable pharmaceutical quality and licenced for medicinal use.”

The policy statement points out that as cannabis is currently in Schedule 1 it means that within the UK, researchers must obtain a licence from the Home Office before carrying out research into any therapeutic use of natural and synthetic cannabis extracts and analogues. 

“There is emerging evidence that cannabis may be of benefit to patients suffering a number of serious conditions, and many countries have changed legislation to facilitate research. Currently, the UK retains close controls over research into the effects of cannabis. This is increasingly out of step with the approach adopted by several other countries,” says the policy statement.

RPS President Ash Soni has formally written to the Home Secretary recommending the change. “The RPS would support moving cannabis to Schedule 2, which would give pharmaceutical scientists greater freedom to research its potential medicinal uses and to carry out clinical trials,” he said.

Links:
Home Office announcement     
RPS comment   

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