SEEDSMAN SPECIAL | UK REPORT
HOW ACCESSIBLE IS MEDICAL CANNABIS IN THE UK?
When the British government approved medical cannabis on November 1st 2018, many people naturally assumed that they would soon be able to receive their medical marijuana from the NHS. Yet according to a study that appeared last month in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, only 12 prescriptions for unlicensed cannabis-based products have so far been given out by the NHS[i]. So what gives?
To get your head around the numerous barriers separating the British public from medical cannabis, it’s necessary to look at the circumstances that led to the change in law. After stubbornly refusing to acknowledge the plant’s curative properties for decades, the government finally changed its stance in order to allow two young boys named Billy Caldwell and Alfie Dingley to receive life-changing cannabis-based medications for their severe epilepsy. Following this move, licenses were granted to three marijuana-containing products, all of which can be prescribed by specialist doctors but only for specific conditions.
These include Epidyolex, which can be prescribed to treat seizures in people suffering from certain forms of epilepsy; Nabilone, which is used to reduce nausea and vomiting in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy; and Sativex, for the treatment of spasticity in people with multiple sclerosis.
All other cannabis products remain unlicensed, including those that might be used in other countries to treat conditions such as chronic pain or anxiety. This has led to quite a bit of confusion, with some clinicians saying they now spend 80 percent of their clinic time explaining to patients that unlicensed cannabis products are not freely available on the NHS[ii].
Yet that’s not to say that these medicines are off-limits, as the rescheduling of cannabis products to Schedule 2 means that specialist doctors are actually allowed to prescribe them. The fact that they clearly aren’t doing so is the result of their own reluctance, which in turn is influenced by a number of factors.
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