The home secretary has announced a government review into the potential use of cannabis as a medical treatment.
Sajid Javid states that the government’s current position on cannabis is “not satisfactory,” while stating that the cases of people such as Billy Caldwell and Alfie Dingley had played a role in the decision to review the potential use of medical cannabis in the UK.
Billy Caldwell and Alfie Dingley, both young boys with epilepsy, have become important figures in the effort to legalise medical cannabis, with the home secretary noting that high-profile cases involving the potential medical benefits of cannabis had influenced his decision.
Charlotte Caldwell, Billy’s mother, expressed positivity about the decision. Caldwell is one of the country’s highest-profile campaigners for medical cannabis legalisation, as well as the founder of a cannabis oil company dedicated to funding her son’s medical care.
Speaking after the review was announced, Charlotte Caldwell noted that “common sense and the power of mummies of sick children” had prompted the decision, and that the UK was on the verge of “changing thousands of lives” through the potential legalisation of medical cannabis.
Caldwell and Dingley both have intractable epilepsy — a form of epilepsy that can’t be effectively treated using conventional medication. Both boys have shown improvements through the use of cannabis oil.
Currently, cannabis is classified as a schedule 1 drug — a classification that means it is viewed as having “no therapeutic value.” The drug cannot legally be possessed in the UK, with a range of legal penalties for its cultivation, sale and possession.
Proponents of medical cannabis claim that the UK has lagged behind other countries, such as the United States, which have taken steps to legalise cannabis as a medical treatment.
Canada also recently became the first major economy to legalise cannabis as a recreational drug as part of a campaign promise by Prime Minister Trudeau. Recreational cannabis is also allowed in several US states, including California.
Speaking to the House of Commons, Javid stated that the UK’s current medical cannabis policy was not only not satisfactory to the government, but that it was also not satisfactory for parents of children with epilepsy, their doctors or him personally.
The home secretary also clarified that the review was “in no way a first step to the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use,” noting that the review would not set a precedent or weaken the government’s ability to combat illegal drug use.
The movement for cannabis legalisation has gained a significant amount of attention over the past few years as an increasing number of people in the UK make use of CBD oil — a medicine developed using cannabidiol, a chemical compound found in cannabis.
Widely used to reduce pain and inflammation, CBD oil shares many of its potential benefits with medicinal cannabis. Usage has grown rapidly in the UK over the last two years, from less than 100,000 users in 2016 to upwards of 300,000 in June of 2018.
As part of the review, the government will analyse and consider evidence covering the potential medical benefits of cannabis-based medicines. The second segment of the review will produce an assessment of cannabis’s potential public health benefits and harms.
While the government has stressed that the review is not a move towards legalising recreational cannabis (it announced it has “no intention of reviewing the classification of cannabis”) the move towards further study of medical cannabis has been welcomed by campaigners.