Medical cannabis is one of the most important talking points in the United Kingdom right now. Across vast swathes of the United States and Canada in its entirety, medical cannabis has been widely available for many years. Over in Great Britain, it’s still to this day classified as a harmful and dangerous substance with no therapeutic value.
Over the past couple of months, two incredibly high-profile medical cases have forced lawmakers at the highest level to revisit the subject of medical cannabis classification. Global outcry regarding the cases of two severely epileptic boys - Billy Caldwell and Alfie Dingley – eventually lead to the UK government allowing therapeutic cannabis oils to be imported and obtained by their respective families.
But not after the kind of painful, pathetic and drawn out-fight that highlighted just how harmful the UK’s current medical cannabis legislation is.
In the wake of these landmark rulings, the government’s official advisory body - The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs – has stated in no uncertain terms that certain types of medical cannabis should be permitted for therapeutic use. As a result, this technically means that doctors should be able to provide their patients with prescriptions for very specific cannabis products, should their conditions necessitate.
All of which appears to be significant progress, but things aren’t quite as simple or ideal as they may appear on the surface. The reason being that with the way things stand at present, anyone who uses therapeutic cannabis in the United Kingdom will still officially be classified and treated as a criminal.
Irrespective of the continuous calls from leading health authorities to permit the use of medical cannabis, the government seems hell-bent on doing the exact opposite. While the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs has recommended the rescheduling of certain forms of cannabis, nothing has actually taken place as of yet. Even if it does, it’s largely guaranteed that all cannabis products in their standard form – buds, concentrates, edibles etc. – will remain 100% illegal under British law.
This essentially means that anyone using cannabis purely for medical purposes will continue to be considered a criminal, if the cannabis products don’t fall within those permitted within the new legislation.
It’s entirely possible that certain types of cannabis-based medicines will become available in the near future, classified as Schedule 2 controlled substances for distribution only by authorised professionals. Should this be the case, it’s likely that the overriding bureaucracy and costs involved will deter the vast majority of doctors and professionals from obtaining and/or prescribing such products in the first place.
For the producers, there simply won’t be sufficient demand for additional cannabis products to justify their development and distribution. Hence, the industry is likely to remain stalled for some time to come.
The Right to Decide
As far as advocates are concerned, the whole argument should come down to one important thing – the right to decide. When an adult makes the informed choice to self-medicate using medicinal cannabis of any kind, they do so for the sole purpose of relieving their symptoms and improving their quality of life.The most remarkable thing being that in the vast majority of instances, the cannabis products they use are not psychoactive.
Hence, there can be no suggestion whatsoever that they are simply using cannabis to get high.
As for the financial side of things, a recent study found that should legalisation be introduced in the United Kingdom, the country as a whole would benefit from an enormous £6.8 billion new industry, the creation of thousands of new jobs, a reduction in organised crime and enormous improvements to public health in general.
Whether or not such sweeping reforms ever happen remains to be seen.