UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced that cannabis-derived medications will be cleared for prescription by physicians in England, Wales, and Scotland on November 1st. The drugs will be placed on schedule 2 of the Misuse of Drugs regulations (2001), which will allow them to be prescribed legally.
The cases of twelve-year-old Billy Caldwell and six-year-old Alfie Dingley have recently brought a lot of controversy and international attention to the home secretary’s doorstep. In both cases, the children, who each suffer from a rare form of epilepsy, were denied access to CBD-based drugs which help to prevent seizures. These cases, in combination with a change in public opinion regarding the medicinal use of cannabinoids, are being pointed to by many as the reason for the change of schedule.
Addressing parliament via written statement, Javid made it clear that his interest was in ensuring that patients have access to medications they need and that he has no intention of legalizing cannabis for recreational use.
The new regulations allow for three different ways for patients to obtain cannabis-based medications. The first is with a prescription from a physician for a specific cannabis-based product. The second is via clinical trial for a product without marketing authorization, and the third is for products with marketing authorization.
Cannabis itself remains classified as a schedule 1 drug, which means it is illegal to possess and prescribe in the UK. Research on cannabis is allowed, but a Home Office permit is required.