The UK government has ended a ban on bulk imports of medical cannabis to eradicate the long delays that patients have faced.

Licensed wholesalers will be able to import larger quantities of cannabis and also to hold stock for future use. The government promised that patients would now be able to receive cannabis-based medicines within days rather than months as a result of the changes.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the changes are “a tremendous step” towards improving patient access, but admitted the government still has a long way to go. “We need more research into the quality and safety of these medicines, and to do all we can to cut down the costs and remove barriers so that, when appropriate, patients can access it, including on the NHS,” he said.

Home Secretary Priti Patel, whose predecessor Sajid Javid legalized medical cannabis in 2018, added that she has taken swift action to allow specialist doctors to issue prescriptions for cannabis-based medicinal products in a speedier fashion.

British patients currently have to wait around two months to receive cannabis-based medicines. That is a result of the UK’s onerous regulations, which have now been lifted.

The UK’s medical cannabis sector is small for a country of its size, as doctors have only recently been permitted to actually issue prescriptions. More need to be educated about its potential benefits, but campaigners welcomed the news that the government is committed to improving research in this field.

Britain’s first cannabis-based medicine, GW Pharma’s Epidyolex, was made available for epilepsy sufferers on Jan. 6, 2020, after the government fast-tracked it into the National Health Service. Another GW Pharma product, Sativex, has also been given the green light.

Sativex is used to ease the pain suffered by patients with multiple sclerosis. Right now they often self-medicate by purchasing cannabis on the black market.

A survey conducted by YouGov earlier this year suggested that 1.4 million Brits turn to illicit means to source marijuana in a bid to ease their pain. Roughly a fifth of MS sufferers said they self-medicate.

The UK Centre for Medical Cannabis welcomed the news. It said cost savings will be passed onto patients, making cannabis quicker to source and more affordable.

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