A cross-party group of MPs has savaged the “botched” and “cruel” guidance that is preventing thousands of Brits from accessing medicinal cannabis.

Last week the UK government ushered in a new era by permitting specialist doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients suffering from a range of conditions. But the All Party Parliamentary Group on Medical Cannabis under Prescription has assessed the guidance given to doctors and decided that they have been warned off prescribing cannabis.

Conservative MP Sir Mike Penning chairs the group, which also features Jim Shannon of the Democratic Unionist Party, Conservative MP Dr. Dan Poulter, Tonia Antoniazzi and Frank Field of Labour, Ronnie Cowan from the Scottish National Party, and Baroness Walmsley of the Liberal Democrats. On Monday the group went public to attack the draconian restrictions placed on doctors, accusing health bodies of effectively shutting down the roll-out of medicinal marijuana.

The NHS turned to the Royal College of Physicians and the British Paediatric Neurology Association to draw up the guidelines that thousands of specialist doctors in the UK must adhere to when prescribing cannabis. Penning said the two bodies should hang their heads in shame for cruel actions that will cause suffering to people suffering from pain.

Public opinion towards legalizing medicinal marijuana turned in the UK after two children suffering from severe epilepsy, Billy Caldwell and Alfie Dingley, made front-page news. They were denied the treatment that could have eased their symptoms, leading to a public outcry, and eventually the Home Office relented.

Their parents report that they are now leading normal lives thanks to the cannabis treatment they’re receiving. But they say that their children would not be able to access cannabis under the strict guidelines imposed by the Royal College of Physicians and the British Paediatric Neurology Association. Penning said this situation is cruel and ludicrous as it will force families to raise money to go abroad and secure treatment for their children.

After pouring over the restrictions, Antoniazzi said she was “outraged and dumbfounded in equal measure”. Royal College of Physicians president Professor Andrew Goddard hit back, saying the guidelines are in place due to a lack of evidence to support the use of cannabis for pain relief. But the stance has been met by an outpouring of anger from parents of epilepsy sufferers and there are fears that the UK’s medicinal marijuana industry has been thwarted before it even had a chance to gather momentum.

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