13 September 2016
Here’s the BBC report published this morning UK time..
MPs call for medical cannabis to be made legal
The All Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform says there is clear evidence cannabis could have a therapeutic role for some conditions, including chronic pain and anxiety.
It says tens of thousands of people in the UK already break the law to use the drug for symptom relief.
But the Home Office says there are no plans to legalise the “harmful drug.”
Plant cannabis contains more than 60 chemicals.
The All Party Parliamentary Group wants the Home Office to reclassify herbal cannabis under existing drug laws, from schedule one to schedule four.
This would put it in the same category as steroids and sedatives and mean doctors could prescribe cannabis to patients, and chemists could dispense it.
Patients might even be allowed to grow limited amounts of cannabis for their own consumption.
People with multiple sclerosis can legally take a derivate of cannabis.
This licensed medicine, called Sativex, is a mouth spray and contains two chemical extracts (THC and CBD) derived from the cannabis plant.
Under current laws in England and Wales, cannabis is not recognised as having any therapeutic value and anyone using the drug, even for medical reasons, could be charged for possession.
The NHS warns that cannabis use carries a number of risks, such as impairing the ability to drive, as well as causing harm to lungs if smoked and harm to mental health, fertility or unborn babies.
The All Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform took evidence from 623 patients, representatives of the medical professions and people with knowledge of how medical cannabis was regulated across the world.
Medicinal cannabis use
average age of patient
try conventional medicines first
- 37% don’t tell their doctor
- 72% buy street cannabis
- 20% grow their own
Source: APPG/UPA survey
Risks and benefits
Co-chair Baroness Molly Meacher said: “Cannabis works as a medicine for a number of medical conditions.
“The evidence has been strong enough to persuade a growing number of countries and US states to legalise access to medical cannabis.
“Against this background, the UK scheduling of cannabis as a substance that has no medical value is irrational.”
The group commissioned a report by an expert in rehabilitation medicine, Prof Mike Barnes, which found good evidence that medical cannabis helps alleviate the symptoms of:
- chronic pain (including neuropathic pain)
- spasticity (often associated with Multiple Sclerosis)
- nausea and vomiting, particularly in the context of chemotherapy
And there was moderate evidence that it could help with:
- sleep disorders
- poor appetite
- post-traumatic stress disorder
- Parkinson’s symptoms
But there was limited or no evidence that cannabis helps:
- dementia mood problems
- bladder function
- Tourette’s syndrome
- Huntington’s disease
- obsessive compulsive disorder
- gut disorders
- curb cancer growth
It found short-term side-effects of cannabis were generally mild and well tolerated, but that there was a link with schizophrenia in some long-term users.
“There is probably a link in those who start using cannabis at an early age and also if the individual has a genetic predisposition to psychosis. There should be caution with regard to prescription of cannabis for such individuals,” says the report.
Also, there is a small dependency rate with cannabis at about 9%, “which needs to be taken seriously but compares to around 32% for tobacco use and 15% for alcohol use”.
The evidence for cognitive impairment in long-term users is not clear but “it is wise to be cautious in prescribing cannabis to younger people, given the possible susceptibility of the developing brain”, says the report.
Smoking cannabis in a joint rolled with tobacco can make asthma worse and probably increases the risk of lung cancer.
Prof Barnes said: “We analysed over 20,000 scientific and medical reports.
“The results are clear. Cannabis has a medical benefit for a wide range of conditions.
“I believe that with greater research, it has the potential to help with an even greater number of conditions.
“But this research is being stifled by the government’s current classification of cannabis as having no medical benefit.”
Cannabis is currently classified as a Class B drug, with possession carrying a maximum sentence of five years in jail or an unlimited fine.
Those supplying or producing cannabis face tougher penalties, with a maximum of 14 years in jail.
The drug comes in many different forms – hash is cannabis resin, while marijuana is the dried leaves and flowers of the plant.
A Home Office spokesman said: “There is a substantial body of scientific and medical evidence to show that cannabis is a harmful drug which can damage people’s mental and physical health.
“It is important that medicines are thoroughly trialled to ensure they meet rigorous standards before being placed on the market.
“There is a clear regime in place, administered by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, to enable medicines, including those containing controlled drugs, to be developed.”
About 24 US states, Canada, Israel and at least 11 European countries already allow access to cannabis for medical use.
APPG Report ‘Accessing Medicinal Cannabis: Meeting Patient’s Needs’ – Report of the Inquiry of the APPG for Drug Policy Reform into medicinal cannabis:
‘Cannabis: The Evidence for Medical Use’ by Professor Michael P Barnes MD FRCP Honorary Professor of Neurological Rehabilitation, Newcastle University and Dr Jennifer C Barnes DPsychol Clinical Psychologist, Northumberland, Tyne & Wear NHS Foundation Trust
The APPG Report launched on the 13th September emphatically calls on the UK government to legalise medical cannabis based on the results of their 7 month inquiry into the issue and on the findings of an independent review of global evidence commissioned by them that ran alongside the Inquiry
According to Caroline Lucas MP, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group, ‘Many hundreds of thousands of people in the UK are already taking cannabis for primarily medical reasons. It is totally unacceptable that they should face the added stress of having to break the law to access their medicine. This a matter of compassion and human rights. The government should have the political courage to view the issue of medical cannabis separately from any wider drugs reform and act urgently.’
According to Baroness Molly Meacher, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group, ‘The findings of our inquiry and review of evidence from across the world are clear. Cannabis works as a medicine for a number of medical conditions. The evidence has been strong enough to persuade a growing number of countries and US states to legalise access to medical cannabis. Against this background, the UK scheduling of cannabis as a substance that has no medical value is irrational.’
During the inquiry, the Group has taken evidence from 623 patients, representatives of the medical professions and people with knowledge of how medical cannabis is regulated across the world. The Group has commissioned Professor Mike Barnes, Professor of Neurological Rehabilitation and consultant neurologist and consultant in rehabilitation medicine and acknowledged expert in the subject, to undertake the most comprehensive review of evidence from the around the world in relation to this issue. The Report – Cannabis : The Evidence for Medical Use (the Barnes Report) is published alongside the results of the APPG inquiry. The report concludes that there is good evidence that medical cannabis helps alleviate the symptoms of chronic pain, including neuropathic pain; spasticity (often associated with Multiple Sclerosis); nausea and vomiting, particularly in the context of chemotherapy; and in the management of anxiety.
According to Professor Mike Barnes , ‘We analysed over 20,000 scientific and medical reports. The results are clear. Cannabis has a medical benefit for a wide range of conditions. I believe that with greater research, it has the potential to help with an even greater number of conditions. But this research is being stifled by the government’s current classification of cannabis as having no medical benefit’