This week the UK government ushered in a brave new era by permitting thousands of specialist doctors to prescribe medicinal cannabis to their patients.
The Home Office legalized medicinal marijuana after public outcry at news of sick children suffering because they were unable to source the cannabis that would ease their pain. The Chief Medical Officer gave it her approval and Brits can now apply for marijuana in a limited number of circumstances in which alternative medicines have failed.
They include severe epilepsy, nausea brought about by chemotherapy, and muscle pains associated with multiple sclerosis. Advocates are celebrating, but one charity has warned that access to treatments will be a lot more limited than Brits were led to believe due to the strict guidance the Home Office has laid down.
Genevieve Edwards, director for external affairs at the Multiple Sclerosis Society UK, put out a press release calling on the National Health Service to urgently revisit its guidance and work with neurologists to ensure that people who need cannabis will not be left disappointed by being denied treatment.
Spectrum Cannabis, a wholly owned subsidiary of Canopy Growth Corporation, one of the world’s largest cannabis firms, echoed those points. It said there’s still a lot of work to be done to ensure that patients in the UK have reasonable access to medical cannabis. It urged the British government to work with producers to build “knowledge and capacity” in the medical community.
Germany legalized medicinal marijuana last year, but anecdotal evidence suggests some doctors are reluctant to prescribe it and a shortage of supply has encouraged people to return to the black market, according to the German Hemp Association. Industry insiders fear a similar situation might develop in the UK, and they are encouraging the NHS to deliver more conferences that educate specialist doctors about the myriad medical benefits of marijuana.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid declared that there are no plans to follow Canada’s lead and roll out a legal recreational cannabis industry, but public support for legalization is now at an all-time high.
The Centre for Medicinal Cannabis campaign group believes that marijuana prohibition is no longer seen as the smart and responsible policy, and the business case for legalization could soon overwhelm any objections from puritan forces. Several Conservative politicians, police chiefs and campaign groups have called for an end to prohibition and we could soon see the UK joining Canada and Uruguay by permitting recreational cannabis supply.