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Government to review medicinal use of cannabis

Move follows recent high-profile cases of use of cannabis oil to curb frequency of epileptic fits in children

Caroline White

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

The government is to formally review the medicinal use of cannabis, home secretary Sajid Javid has announced.

The move follows recent high-profile cases of children using cannabis oil to curb the frequency of epileptic fits.

A cannabis-based mouth spray (Sativex) is already licensed for use in the UK, but only for the treatment of spasticity associated with MS, and in cases where that person hasn’t responded to other drugs or can’t tolerate their side effects.

The review will be carried out by the Home Office and chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies. The home secretary confirmed to MPs that if the review finds that cannabis has significant medical and therapeutic benefits, then it would be rescheduled for medicinal use.

But in a statement to parliament yesterday, the home secretary made it clear that the government had no plans to decriminalise the recreational use of the drug.

The review won’t look into reclassifying cannabis as a Class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and it won’t consider the legalisation of cannabis. The penalties for unauthorised supply and possession will remain the same, he said.

The home secretary also announced that a licence would be granted for Alfie Dingley which will allow his clinicians to access the cannabis-based medicine he needs to treat his rare form of epilepsy.

At the weekend, he issued an emergency licence to allow Billy Caldwell’s medical team to do the same.

The home secretary said: “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.

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

The review will be conducted in two parts, the first of which will be spearheaded by Professor Dame Sally Davies. This will consider the evidence available for the medicinal and therapeutic benefits of cannabis-based medicines.

The findings will inform which cannabis-based medicines should be taken forward to part two of the review, which will be led by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). It will provide an assessment based on the balance of harms and public health needs, of what, if anything, should be rescheduled.

On Monday the policing minister Nick Hurd told parliament that the government will establish an expert panel of clinicians to advise ministers on any applications from senior clinicians to prescribe cannabis-based medicines.

The home secretary confirmed that the panel would be able to start considering applications within a week.

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