The State of Medical Cannabis in the UK
UK Utilization of Medical Cannabis: An Overview
If you have been following UK news, you may have heard about the rescheduling of cannabis.
Last year, after much lobbying by and on behalf of Alfie Dingle and Billie Caldwell (The British Charlotte Figi), on November 1, 2018, specialist doctors were approved to prescribe various forms of marijuana for patients suffering from a range of ailments.
Nearly six months into the new program, however, a scant six patients have been granted the licensure required to use medical cannabis. Shockingly, two of these have had their licenses revoked and the remaining four patients may face challenges to extending their license beyond the end of April.
In a tragic-ironic twist, whilst patients are struggling for access, the country has no shortage of cannabis.
The UK is the World’s Largest Cannabis Exporter
Contrary to what most people may assume, the United Kingdom is actually the world’s largest exporter of legal cannabis according to a 2016 United Nations report.
Indeed, the BBC, The Telegraph, and various other British media outlets have confirmed this assessment, claiming that the UK is the world’s “main producer and exporter of cannabis-based medicines.”
The news has created a justifiable level of discontent among British citizens, many of whom view it as unjust that a nation willing to produce massive amounts of cannabis for export revenue allows very little access to its own residents.
Why Isn’t the UK’s Domestic Medical Cannabis Program Working?
Expressing his frustration with the situation, one Newcastle University professor has described the UK’s cannabis program as “appalling,” highlighting the fact that not a single patient has “benefited from a cannabis prescription on the NHS.”
In other words, if you think you will be getting access to legal marijuana in the UK any time soon, think again. Only specialist (sic. private) doctors are able to write a prescription for marijuana, and the current pervasive culture largely discourages even this.
While the amendments to the scheduling of marijuana for medical use were intended to increase access, in reality, only patients suffering from epilepsy, MS, side effects of chemotherapy and chronic pain are eligible. This neglects many other conditions for which marijuana has demonstrated benefit. Furthermore, currently only the cannabis-derived pharmaceutical products marinol, epidiolex and sativex are approved for use.
According to an analyst with the drug policy reform group Transform, UK patients are either “denied access and [are] suffering unnecessarily, or are forced to buy cannabis from the criminal market.”
The British Paediatric Neurology Association has publicly advised doctors against prescribing any form of cannabis. One physician has even claimed that he would be “sacked” if he were to write a prescription.
So while the United Kingdom is set to maintain its status as a major global cannabis supplier, it does not appear to be making access for UK residents a top priority.
The lack of accessibility to cannabis-derived therapies is one of the main reasons why we at CiiTECH have invested so much time and energy into our line of Provacan CBD food supplements and skin care products. Under EU laws, hemp derived food supplements can be marketed without prescription. Despite the recent unlawful addition of hemp extract to the EU Novel Food catalogue, CBD is fully legal. This allows us to offer premium cannabis-based products even in a restrictive regulatory market.
As part of our global efforts to study medicinal cannabis and uncover additional usages of the plant, CiiTECH has been working closely with scientists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and thought leaders across the Israeli cannabis industry to accelerate discovery and innovation.
Visit us at CannaTech Tel Aviv 2019, Booth 42 to find out more.