Despite laws that lag behind many other European nations, the United Kingdom is slowly advancing its approach toward medical cannabis, from initial research to prescription for patients.
Medical cannabis could be legalized in the Channel Islands of the UK thanks in part to a report by noted neurologist and rehabilitation physician Professor Michael Barnes. The islands’ governments are reviewing laws around the drug, citing a report commissioned and “ignored” by a UK parliamentary committee.
Benefits for a Wide Range of Conditions
The report was commissioned in May 2016 by the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform. Prof. Barnes and his co-author Dr. Jennifer Barnes conducted a literary review of more than 20,000 papers concerning the use of drugs containing cannabinoids. The results showed “indisputable evidence” that cannabis-based medication helped “with a wide range of conditions.”
Prof. Barnes has more than 40 years in medical practice, most recently in the independent sector, where he established a neurorehabilitation center and serves as the Clinical Director of Christchurch Group Neurological Rehabilitation. Dr. Barnes, his daughter, is a clinical psychologist.
Through his career, Prof. Barnes has become an advocate for medical cannabis. In 2016, his report for Parliament – Cannabis: The Evidence for Medical Use – detailed how strong evidence shows that medical cannabis supports treatment of chronic pain, anxiety, spasticity, and nausea and vomiting, particularly during chemotherapy. The report concluded that further research was being “stifled” by the government’s classification of cannabis as having “no medical benefit.” Prof. Barnes has called for a change in classification to allow cannabis as a Schedule 2 or 4 medication, which would allow doctors to prescribe it.
Prof. Barnes is also a supporter of the End Our Pain campaign to legalize medical cannabis in the UK.
“I support the call to change the law to allow doctors to prescribe cannabis where they consider it would help their patients; and for patients to have their prescription honored at the pharmacy.”
‘Accept the Evidence’
In an opinion piece for The Guardian, Prof. Barnes issued a challenge to the government “to have the political courage to accept the scientific rationale, accept the evidence and move to legalize access to medical cannabis under prescription here in the UK as a matter of urgency.”
Despite the reaction from the UK Parliament, where cannabis is listed as having “no recognized medicinal value,” the Channel Islands are pursuing a different approach. Jersey’s health minister Senator Andrew Green and president of Guernsey’s committee for health and social care, deputy Heidi Soulsby, have been working on the proposals together. Both governments stressed the move would not “legalize cannabis or any of its derivates”, which would remain controlled substances, and Senator Green called the move a “small cautious step” down the medicinal route.
On hearing of the move in the Channel Islands, Prof. Barnes said he was “very pleased,” and wished the UK would follow suit. He said the UK was “well behind the rest of the world” and the current position of cannabis having “no medical benefit” was “unreasonable.”
Opening Doors for Research
Prof. Barnes added legalizing cannabis for medical use would help developers research and produce better products. The current system, where interested parties must apply for a Home Office license before being able to research and develop products, is too time consuming, according to the professor.
In March 2017, Oxford University announced a new £10m research program into the medical cannabis. Scientists will explore the potential benefits of cannabis compounds to create new treatments for conditions including pain, cancer and inflammatory diseases.
Privately, cannabinoid biotechnology company MediPen announced in June 2017 the launch of a dedicated research facility this summer, which will also provide a platform for anyone looking to utilize its facilities for the purposes of driving innovation around the use of medicinal cannabis.
Building on that momentum, CannaTech UK, the world’s premier medical cannabis convention, is on coming Oct. 25. Now is the time for regulators, companies, entrepreneurs, researchers and investors to develop innovative solutions that answer the growing demands of this new market. CannaTech is where that conversation unfolds in earnest. We have designed our programming to reflect the unique needs of the current market in the UK. To that end, we have created a full-bodied program that introduces you the fundamentals of medical cannabis from both a medical, scientific and regulatory perspective – with a special focus on the unique investment opportunity inherent throughout the seed to sale chain.
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