House of Commons Library

Medical use of cannabis

Published Wednesday, August 15, 2018

This briefing provides a short overview of the current control of cannabis in the UK, and information on a recent review on cannabis based medicinal products. In July 2018, the Home Secretary announced that he had decided to reschedule these products which would allow them to be prescribed.

Jump to full report >>

Under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, it is illegal to possess, supply, produce, or import/export cannabis in the UK. Whilst some controlled drugs, such as morphine, can be prescribed for legitimate medical use under the conditions of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001, cannabis is listed under Schedule 1 of these regulations which generally applies to drugs that have been deemed to have no therapeutic value and as such, it cannot be legally prescribed by a medical practitioner.

Whilst there has previously been some support for a change in the law with regards to medical use of cannabis, the cases of two young boys with severe forms of epilepsy has led to increased recent Parliamentary debate on this issue. Following the admission of one of these children, Billy Caldwell, to hospital in mid-June 2018, the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, issued an emergency licence to allow the medical team to access medicinal cannabis to treat him. Alfie Dingley has also been granted a licence to use medicinal cannabis.

In a statement on 19 June 2018, the Home Secretary expressed sympathy for the families in these cases and said that the position in the UK on this issue was not satisfactory. He announced that the Government would review the scheduling of cannabis. There were two parts to the review:

    • Part one was undertaken by the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sally Davies, and looked at the evidence for the use of cannabis based medicinal products. She reported that there was conclusive evidence of the therapeutic benefit of cannabis medicinal products for certain medical conditions and recommended that the whole class of cannabis based medicinal products be moved out of Schedule 1; and
    • Part two was undertaken by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs and provided advice on whether certain products should be rescheduled. Based on its short-term review, the ACMD advised that cannabis derived medicinal products of the appropriate medical standard should not be in Schedule 1 of the regulations.In the short term, an expert panel has been established to consider and provide advice to Ministers on applications for licences for the medical use of cannabis.

On 26 July 2018, the Home Secretary announced that, following this advice from the ACMD and the Chief Medical Officer, he had decided to reschedule cannabis derived medicinal products. The Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 would be amended to move these products to Schedule 2 which would allow them to be prescribed, and the intention was to do this by autumn 2018. The Home Office, Department of Health and Social Care and the Medicines and Healthcare products Agency (MHRA) would work on developing a clear definition for cannabis derived medicinal products and only these products would be rescheduled. The Government would also look at additional legal amendments and clinical guidance that would ensure appropriate prescribing and reduce potential risks.

In the short term, an expert panel has been established to consider and provide advice to Ministers on applications for licences for the medical use of cannabis.

This briefing provides a short overview of the control of cannabis in the UK, and information about the recent review and proposed rescheduling of cannabis based medicinal products

 

Commons Briefing papers CBP-8355

Author: Sarah Barber

Topics: Diseases, Drugs crimes, Health services, Health staff and professions, Medicine

Share this page

Stay up to date

  • Subscribe to RSS feed Subscribe to Email alerts Commons Briefing papers

House of Commons Library

The House of Commons Library provides research, analysis and information services for MPs and their staff.