Expert panel to advise government on cannabis for medical use

Home secretary says government plans to reschedule banned drug if review identifies ‘significant medical benefits’

Legal medicinal use of cannabis in the UK is a step closer after the home secretary Sajid Javid yesterday announced a review of the Class B drug.

Picture: iStock

Mr Javid told the House of Commons there was no question of the government legalising cannabis for recreational use, but said there was a need to look more closely at its use in healthcare.

‘Pressing need for access’

The move comes after a series of public appeals by parents of children with severe epilepsy, who want access to cannabis-based medication that can help alleviate symptoms of the condition.

Mr Javid issued an emergency licence last weekend to allow a healthcare team to use cannabis-based medicine to treat life-threatening seizures experienced by 12-year-old Billy Caldwell.

The home secretary told MPs he had also authorised a licence for the treatment of six-year-old Alfie Dingley.

‘If the review identified there are significant medical benefits then we do intend to reschedule,’ Mr Javid said. ‘We have seen in recent months there is a pressing need to allow those who might benefit from cannabis-based products to access them.’

RCN delegates overwhelmingly voted in favour of the decriminalisation of medical cannabis at the college's congress last month.

Advice on applications to prescribe

The cannabis review will have two parts. The first, led by chief medical officer Sally Davies, will consider the evidence and make recommendations on which cannabis-based medicines may be therapeutic.

In the second part, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs will consider whether changes should be made to the classification of these products based on ‘the balance of harms and public health needs’.

In the short term, policing minister Nick Hurd announced the government will establish an expert panel of clinicians to advise ministers on any applications to prescribe cannabis-based medicines. This is intended to ensure advice to ministers on licensing in these cases is clinically led, based on evidence, and is as swift as possible.

The home secretary said the expert panel ‘will be able to start considering applications within a week’.

In other news