Should the UK Law on Medicinal Cannabis be changed?
Home Secretary Licenses ‘Illegal’ Cannabis Oil to Treat Epilepsy Sufferer
In a recent, unusual move, Home Secretary Sajid Javid intervened to issue a license to return cannabis oil medication that is currently not legal in the UK after epilepsy sufferer, 12-year-old Billy Caldwell from Tyrone, Northern Ireland was hospitalised after he had the cannabis oil used to treat his seizures confiscated by customs at Heathrow.
Billy and his mother had been travelling to Canada to buy the oil after his GP had been banned from prescribing it in May of this year. Previously he had been taking it for 19 months and had been seizure free for 250 days yet once it was confiscated he suffered another fit and is battling for his life in hospital.
This is why the Home Secretary used his “exceptional power” to return Billy’s medication stating that: “our immediate priority is making sure Billy receives the most effective treatment possible in a safe way.” Now the Government are considering reviewing the law on this complex issue of medicinal cannabis.
Is Any Cannabis Oil Legal in the UK?
Currently, in the UK it is possible to buy some low concentrate version of cannabis oils for medicinal purposes. They must have less than 0.05 per cent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is the component in cannabis that gives a “high” feeling.
At the moment cannabis-based drugs that contain THC, such as Sativex has been licensed in the UK to treat MS.
Whether or not medicinal cannabis containing THC will become legal is a complex issue as shown in Billy Caldwell’s case.
Although there has been limited research, there is evidence that medicinal cannabis can;
• Alleviate some side-effects of cancer treatment
• Promote sleep
• Reduce stress, anxiety and depression
In response to the Billy Caldwell case, Dr Amir Englund, who studies cannabis at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London said: “The duty of government is to protect its citizens from harm with regulations on medicines so that the ones doctors prescribe are safe and effective.”
“However, there are instances which these measures become counterproductive and harmful. This is such an instance, and the Home Office should allow an exemption so that he does not come to further harm.”
Furthermore, Dr Michael Bloomfield, a clinical lecturer in psychiatry at University College London, believes that “Any ‘medical marijuana’ needs a scientific evidence base, in the form of medical trials et cetera, which is currently lacking for many disorders.”
Therefore, it is possible that Home Secretary Javid and the Government will review the law on medicinal cannabis licencing to make it more widely available in these extreme circumstances.