United Kingdom Legalizes Medical Cannabis

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Medicinal cannabis products will be available by prescription in the United Kingdom this fall after the government relaxed drug laws surrounding the plant’s chemical compounds this week, The Independent reports. The move was prompted by several stories this summer about parents encountering trouble at the border after traveling overseas to acquire life-saving, cannabis-based epilepsy medicine for their children.

“Recent cases involving sick children made it clear to me that our position on cannabis-related medicinal products was not satisfactory. Following advice from two sets of independent advisors, I have taken the decision to reschedule cannabis-derived medicinal products – meaning they will be available on prescription. This will help patients with an exceptional clinical need.” — Home Secretary Sajid Javid, in the reportWhile medical cannabis products will be available via prescription, Home Secretary Javid said the move was “in no way a first step to the legalization of cannabis for recreational use.” In fact, raw cannabis will remain a class B drug in the UK carrying penalties of a potentially unlimited fine and up to five years in jail, with dealers facing 14 years.

Charlotte Caldwell, mother of 12-year-old Billy Caldwell who suffers from severe epilepsy, called the development “incredible.”

”For the first time in months I’m almost lost for words, other than ‘thank-you Sajid Javid.’” — Charlotte Caldwell, via The Independent

Now, the UK‘s Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) face the task of providing a clear definition of what constitutes the newly legal cannabis-derived medicinal products. Once that definition is established, those products specifically will be rescheduled and made available via a doctor’s prescription.

Sir Mike Penning, MP and co-chairman of a bipartisan parliamentary group that pushes for cannabis reforms, warned against over-regulating the newly legal products.

“Any move to restrict medical cannabis in the UK to a very narrow range of derived products, each requiring full pharmaceutical trials, thereby blocking out the many products available overseas, will lead to great disappointment and be a missed opportunity.” — MP Mike Penning, co-chairman of parliamentary group Medical Cannabis Under Prescription, in the report.

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