Intended for healthcare professionals

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“Illogical” cannabis regulation blocks research into therapeutic uses, say doctors

BMJ 2018; 361 doi: (Published 25 June 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;361:k2780

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Re: “Illogical” cannabis regulation blocks research into therapeutic uses, say doctors

I concur wholeheartedly, as any reasonable person would, with the thrust of the argument to allow medicinal use of cannabis but the eminent scientists making the case misunderstand the law.

Whether doctors can prescribe a schedule 1 drug is a moot point. Doctors have common law prescribing rights under which they can prescribe any medicine licensed or unlicensed. I can find no evidence of a doctor ever having been prosecuted for prescribing a schedule 1 drug or what the charge would be. However, removing cananbis from schedule 1 would not solve the problem.

The Misuse of Drugs (Designation Order) 2001, in accordance with section 7 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, makes prescribing cannabis a specific criminal offence. Cannabis, the oldest medicine known to mankind, is one of only a few drugs to which this special provision applies. This order would have to be varied in order to enable prescriptions

Furthermore, there is no justification at all for cannabis to be in the very strictly regulated schedule 2 when Sativex, the whole plant cannabis oil from GW Pharmaceuticals is in schedule 4. They are one and the same thing

In fact, Sativex has been inaccurately granted a marketing authorisation from the MHRA on the basis that it consists of only two molecules: THC and CBD with “unspecified impurities”. Meanwhile Dr Geoffrey Guy, founder of GW Pharma, is on the record confirming that it is “the first approval of a plant extract drug in modern history. It has 420 molecules, whereas every other drug has just one.”

Both these points further underline the longstanding ‘hostile environment’ at the Home Office and MHRA towards our fellow citizens that need cannabis as medicine.

Competing interests: No competing interests

25 June 2018
Peter J Reynolds
Writer and President of CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform
CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform
London, UK