Medicinal cannabis: What is it and is it legal in the UK?
The law on medicinal cannabis changed in the UK in November 2018
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Charlotte Caldwell, the mother of 15-year-old Billy Caldwell, has brought her legal campaign to acquire medicinal cannabis for him through the NHS to an end.
Mrs Caldwell and her son made headlines in 2018 when officials at London’s Heathrow airport confiscated cannabis-based medicine from them, which had been obtained in Canada to treat his epilepsy.
Billy has refractory epilepsy, which can cause him to have a hundred seizures a day.
The following year, the family launched a legal challenge against the NHS and the department of health in Northern Ireland over access to his cannabis-based medicine.
According to the Belfast News Letter, the legal proceedings were withdrawn at Belfast’s High Court on Monday 7 September 2020.
The Honourable Mrs Justice Keegan stated: “There will not be a need for further litigation, which is the last thing this family needs.”
Barrister Monye Anyadike-Danes QC, who represents Mrs Caldwell, added: “My client thinks this matter can best be pursued through the RESCAS [Refractory Epilepsy Specialist Clinical Advisory Service] panel.”
The RESCAS panel, which is led by Great Ormond Street Hospital, was created in order to bring together paediatric neurologists who specialise in epilepsy, to support patients by offering their expertise.
Mrs Caldwell will now correspond directly with the health professionals on the panel to discuss her son’s access to treatment, urging them to ensure her son’s prescription is funded, the News Letter said.
Speaking on BBC’s The Emma Barnett Show on Monday 7 September, Mrs Caldwell said that over the past 18 months, she and Billy have been through a “very, very torturous ordeal”, with her son being “left high and dry by the powers that be”.
She explained that Billy was referred to the RESCAS panel in July this year, with the panel of eminent UK doctors coming to the conclusion “that there are no legal or clinical barriers to medical cannabis access for Billy”.
So what is medicinal cannabis, what conditions is it used to treat and is it legal to prescribe in the UK?
What is medicinal cannabis and is it legal in the UK?
The term “medicinal cannabis” is used to refer to any form of medication that contains cannabis, the NHS states.
In the UK, cannabis is classed as a Class B drug.
If a person is found in possession of cannabis, they could face up to five years in prison and/or a fine, according to the government.
If they are found to be supplying and producing the drug, they could face a life sentence, in addition to an unlimited fine.
Medicinal cannabis, on the other hand, is legal in the UK.
On 11 October 2018, the government announced that from 1 November 2018, expert doctors would be given the authority “to legally issue prescriptions for cannabis-based medicines when they agree that their patients could benefit from this treatment”.
The government emphasised that only a “specialist doctor” – and not a GP – can prescribe “these unlicensed medicines”.
“They must make decisions on prescribing cannabis-based products for medicinal use on a case-by-case basis, and only when the patient has an unmet special clinical need that cannot be met by licensed products.”
If a product – such as CBD oil or hemp oil – is marketed as being a form of medicinal cannabis, there is “no guarantee these are of food quality or provide any health benefits”, the NHS states, explaining that these products can be bought legally as food supplements.
CBD is a non-psychoactive chemical compound found in the marijuana plant.
Products that contain CBD (cannabidiol) are not illegal in the UK, as long as they only contain trace amounts of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the main psychoactive compound in cannabis.
What conditions is it used to treat?
As explained by the government, while medicinal cannabis is legal, it can only be prescribed by specialist doctors on a case-by-case basis.
In England, only patients with certain health conditions are likely to be prescribed medicinal cannabis, the NHS says.
These include: children and adults who have rare, severe forms of epilepsy; adults who have undergone chemotherapy, which has caused them to vomit or suffer from nausea; and patients with multiple sclerosis whose health condition has caused them to experience muscle stiffness and spasms.
“It would only be considered when other treatments were not suitable or had not helped,” the NHS adds.
The health service states that the “risks of using cannabis products containing THC (the chemical that gets you high) are not currently clear”, which is why further clinical trials are needed.
However, the majority of cannabis products are likely to “contain a certain amount of THC”, the NHS explains.
Side effects of medicinal cannabis can include a decreased appetite, dizziness, fatigue, diarrhoea and nausea.
1 /1 Is medicinal cannabis legal in the UK?
Is medicinal cannabis legal in the UK?
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Marijuana in England
Possession of cannabis is illegal in this country and may entail imprisonment plus financial penalties. No cultivation is even contemplates therapeutic purposes.
Although cannabis possession is illegal, the authorities can only warn if it is the first time they meet a person with marijuana. But if the police find someone repeat, this can lead to imprisonment of up to five years, although rarely usually apply this penalty. But caution, if you have cannabis with intent to sell, the penalty can be up to 14 years in prison. In practice, this sentence rarely occurs as strict as it would, for example, being caught selling 200 kilos of cannabis.
Sativex, a spray with extract of cannabis.
As it regards the cultivation of cannabis also condemns a maximum penalty of 14 years and unlimited fines. The law specifies that it can take into account extenuating circumstances in cases of medical necessity, and in practice, imprisons very few individuals with serious medical conditions to cultivate small amounts for medical use.
The only company licensed to produce cannabis drugs is GW Pharmaceuticals, which grows 20 tons of cannabis annually and uses it to produce Sativex spray cannabis extract. But it is not available in the UK, but only in some places. Some UK doctors have prescribed cannabis to people traveling to other places in Europe to buy cannabis legally prescribed. However, despite existing laws in the European Union, the Ministry of Interior has prohibited residents of the UK can enter the UK with medicinal cannabis legally obtained elsewhere.
Both consumption and possession of soft and hard drugs are illegal in the UK, including possession for own consumption.
GW Pharmaceuticals, a company licensed to produce cannabis drugs
Are frequent arrests of Spanish citizens as a result of possession of drugs for personal consumption. Three-quarters of Spanish prisoners in British jails serving sentences for drug trafficking. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says that lately there has been an increase in arrests of young Spaniards of both sexes, especially during holiday periods, which generally do not result in felony charges constituent subject to deprivation of liberty although in arrests police station where they remain to go before a judge.
Possession of soft and hard drugs are illegal in the UK
The arrests are generally from other issues such as theft, possession and consumption of drugs (including so-called soft drugs in Spain, such as cannabis). So keep this in mind if you’re traveling to this country.
If arrested, you have the right to ask the British authorities to put you immediately contact the Consul of Spain. The Spanish consulate may notify the detention to their families if the detainee so wishes, to visit regularly give and receive messages and correspondence. What the Spanish embassy or consulate can not do is, in case of arrest, guarantee better treatment than that accorded to nationals of the country, nor, of course, will pay the fines.
Cannabis in politics
British MPs discussed the issue of cannabis only a few months ago (in October 2015) following a request for legalization that collected more than 220,000 signatures. But the British Home Office confirmed that it had no plans to change the legalization of cannabis, which is considered illegal drug class B.
Hundreds of young people gathered in Hyde Park, London, to demand the legalization of marijuana. (PHOTO: EFE)
All aforementioned must also frame it in the study made by the British Treasury in which was said that regulating marijuana market would generate significant tax revenues and lead to an overall saving of the criminal justice system. The study also said that more than 2 million people aged 16-59 believed they used cannabis in 2014 and a total of 216 tons were consumed.
Hemp is legal
Hemp cultivation (seed, oil and fiber included) is legal in the UK. Hemp is used for the production of food, cosmetics and fibers used for automotive, construction and textile industries. Of course, the producer must have a license issued by the Ministry of Interior.
Hemp House in England
In this country it is legal to buy and having any kind cannabis seeds, but nevertheless, the law prevents seeds germinate and cultivate cannabis of any kind without a license.
A year without a driving license
Police stopped in the town of Huntingdon once a driver for going too slowly and after an inspection, police discovered he was under the influence of marijuana.
Therapeutic cannabis oil
The driver admitted the charges and released, but the penalty imposed was the withdrawal of his driving license for one year. His blood THC level was above the permitted level. The man was arrested at 2 am on one of the main streets of the city that was traveling at a speed of 30 kilometers per hour in an area where the speed limit is 50 kilometers per hour. When he was arrested he was immediately made a test substance as a driver, the citizen was charged with driving under the influence of cannabis. His passport was withdrawn for one year and also had to pay a fine of 230 euros.
On the other hand, a woman who grew cannabis to extract oil to combat the illness of her husband who was close to death was sentenced to community work for 18 months after a judge accepted that had not cultivated cannabis to market with it. At least, this woman who only wanted her husband did not suffer, could save her from imprisonment. But, as we see, the penalties in the UK do not forgive nor such cases.
By Noelia Jiménez, Team Piensa En Verde