The government says it will reach a decision within the next few weeks
on whether laws around medical cannabis will be changed.  The Advisory
Council on the Misuse of Drugs is now assessing the “balance of harms
and public health needs” in terms of rescheduling treatments.  It
comes after high profile cases involving children with severe epilepsy
being denied access to cannabis oil.
Cannabis for recreational use will remain illegal. The first part of
the review – looking at the scientific evidence – has already been
completed by England’s chief medical officer.  Prof Dame Sally Davies
said there was conclusive evidence of therapeutic benefit of
prescribing cannabis-based products for certain medical conditions.
That list includes treating:
•       chronic pain
•       nausea and vomiting caused as a side-effect of cancer therapies such as chemo
•       muscle spasticity symptoms in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients
Overall, the report found less evidence for the treatment of epilepsy.
The Home Office recently granted Billy Caldwell and Alfie Dingley,
boys who have rare forms of epilepsy, a short-term licence to allow
them access to cannabis oil, which their parents say helps to control
their seizures. An epilepsy drug called Epidiolex is currently going
through the process of authorisation and is being assessed by the
European Medicines Agency for the treatment of childhood epilepsy. It
contains a compound found in cannabis called CBD and is exempt from
scheduling regulations. US regulators have already approved its use.
There are cannabis-based medicinal products currently available in the
UK. Sativex, which contains both CBD and the principal psychoactive
component of cannabis THC and is used to treat MS, is listed as a
Schedule 4 drug. Raw cannabis and THC are controlled as Schedule 1
drugs as there is currently no recognised medicinal or therapeutic
benefit in the UK. Dr Michael Bloomfield, Clinical Lecturer in General
Psychiatry at University College London, welcomed the review saying:
“It could help patients suffering from devastating illnesses and
facilitate medical research into new potential treatments for a range
of disorders.”

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