London- Physicians in the United Kingdom will be able to prescribe medicinal cannabis later this year, officials announced earlier this week.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid stated that patients with conditions that are not able to be treated with traditional medication will qualify for medicinal cannabis products.
In stark contrast to the United States, the U.K. will shift cannabis from a Schedule I narcotic to Schedule II. Although more than half of the states in America have legalized medical cannabis, the federal government still lists cannabis as a Schedule I drug.
Patients will not easily qualify for cannabis in the U.K. Only patients with “exceptional clinical need” will be able to legally receive cannabis. Cannabis flower and edibles have not been approved and only oils will be available to patients.
Recent cases involving children in need of relief have helped build momentum for legalization in the U.K. In particular, 13-year-old Billy Coldwell’s situation seemed to be a catalyst. Caldwell suffers from epilepsy and was granted a special license to use medicinal cannabis earlier this month. But now Caldwell will not be the lone exception.
“For the first time in months I’m almost lost for words, other than ‘thank-you Sajid Javid,’” Caldwell’s mother Charlotte said, according to The Independent. “Never has Billy received a better birthday present, and never from somebody so unexpected,” she said.
The idea of denying children in need of a potential treatment option was starting to put U.K. officials in an untenable position. The government’s “position on cannabis-related medicinal products was not satisfactory,” Javid said according to Newsweek.
Javid felt that the legal changes “will help patients” but stressed that it is not “a first step to the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use.”
Former justice minister Sir Mike Penning supported Javid’s decision but feared that officials are not going far enough.
“Any move to restrict medical cannabis in the UK to a very narrow range of derived products, each requiring full pharmaceutical trials, thereby blocking out the many products available overseas, will lead to great disappointment and be a missed opportunity,” Penning told the BBC.
Although medicinal cannabis was outlawed until now, the U.K. did approve Sativex in 2010, a medication derived from cannabis extract to treat multiple sclerosis symptoms. Last month, U.S. officials approved Epidiolex, a similar medicine that is also made with cannabis extracts.