Sajid Javid, England’s Home Secretary, is reportedly looking into expanding doctors’ ability to prescribe cannabis for medicinal use after chief medical officer Sally Davies reported evidence of the drug’s medical efficacy. The driving force behind these developments seems to be the recent buzz in both the U.S. and U.K. regarding CBD based treatments for epilepsy in children.
Davies said two recent high-profile cases – those of Billy Caldwell, 12, and six-year-old Alvie Dingley – indicate the need for reevaluating the current classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug. In both cases, dangerous symptoms of epilepsy seem to be controlled by CBD oil. While the media attention has assured a positive outcome for Billy, there are still more than 20,000 children in the UK for whom current NHS approved treatments are ineffective.
Davies’ recommendation and Javid’s comments are just the first steps in a lengthy process that could end with the reclassification of cannabis. Schedule 1 classification is reserved for drugs with no medical potential; therefore, Davies points out, the contradictory evidence provided by reputable institutions as to the medicinal benefits of cannabis makes its inclusion on the Schedule 1 list “difficult to defend” scientifically.
The chief medical officer was careful to point out, though, that her report was not concerned with recreational use, and that its findings do not condone such activity. Currently, restrictions on Schedule 1 drugs make progress toward medicinal development difficult and prohibit their prescription by physicians. The law does allow for research, but a Home Office license must be obtained, which can be a lengthy process.
Recommendations from researchers point to Schedule 2 as a more appropriate schedule. Opioids, including heroin, for example, while widely believed to be more potentially harmful than cannabis, are Schedule 2 because they do have medicinal value.
A spokesman for the prime minister reiterated that the rescheduling would not have an impact on laws outlawing cannabis for recreational use.