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The UK Continues Banning Cannabis-Based Painkillers – Campaigners Not Satisfied With The New Bill

The continuing UK ban on cannabis

Cannabis-based medicines have been approved in various countries, however, the UK still continues to show its resistance against the legalization of these medicines. People have associated marijuana with a stigma for decades and it isn’t surprising to see people being dubious about trusting cannabis-based medications. 

There are two major cannabis-based medicine- Epidyolex and Sativex. Recently, both these medicines were licensed in the NHS for children suffering from two severe forms of epilepsy- Lennox Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. Although the NHS legalizing these medicines seems like a good step, charities have said that the guidelines do not go that far. 

While the new law permits cannabis-based medicines to treat the symptoms, these are still not legal to use or purchase for reducing the pain. The NHS is following the updated guidelines issued by the drug advisory body NICE. 

Epidyolex consists of cannabidiol or CBD, Sativex consists of both THC and CBD. 

CBD or cannabidiol is a non-psychoactive substance found in hemp, a cannabis genus plant. It is known to have anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce inflammation, acute pain, ache, muscle soreness, injuries and promote accident recovery. CBD is also well-known for its mind-calming effects which helps people deal with anxiety, depression, insomnia and other health disorders including Alzheimer’s, epilepsy and Tourettes. 

Contrary to the effects of CBD, THC or tetrahydro cannabidiol is a psychoactive substance found in cannabis plants. It produces a feeling of euphoria and often renders hallucinations to the user who is consuming it. THC, if used for an extended amount of time can lead to permanent mental health disorders. However, in limited concentration, THC is not harmful. 

Despite regulatory bodies and frameworks, people still tend to be reserved when it comes to cannabis-based medicines. However, for those who suffer from severe forms of epilepsy like Dravet syndrome and Lennox Gastaut syndrome, the availability of Epidyolex at NHS seems like good news.

While the United States has widely accepted CBD products and is using it in an array of consumer-based products, the UK seems to be one step behind it. According to the Farm Bill in December 2018, the U.S. government legalized hemp-derived cannabinoid for medicinal purposes with a maximum limit of 0.03% THC per unit. 

The U.S. consumer market is flooded with Cannabis-based products ranging from skin care products such as oils, tincture, creams, topical, etc to edible items like gummies, chocolates, candies, popcorn, beer, and much more. 

But the market in the UK has quite limited options when it comes to CBD based products. It hasn’t been an easy journey for parents whose children suffer from epilepsy. Although they know what can help alleviate the symptoms of their children’s conditions, accessing cannabis-based medicines has been a difficult task. 

The idea that only a handful of doctors can allow prescription based medicines, clinically tested by a state regulator, can measure that pain seems absurd. Campaigners and charities have been fighting this battle for long now. What’s more heartbreaking is that doctors answer politicians who in turn answer to pharmaceutical companies that have vested interests in existing products. 

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The introduction of cannabis-based medicines may lead to a dramatic fall in the sales of other medications being used for epilepsy, which concerns pharmaceutical leaders. However, with the promising future that CBD envisions, companies are gradually integrating CBD in their products. 

When last year, Sajid Javid, the then home secretary had issued licenses for cannabis-based medicines for children with two highly publicized cases, it seemed like a progressive move. However, it turned out to be merely headline-grabbing news.

An initiative by Drug Science led by David Nutt, the neuropsychopharmacologist will consist of 20,000 strong trials of patients’ experience with cannabis-based medicines. The study is aimed at conditions shown to be affected by the drug, not just epilepsy and MS, but anxiety, chronic pain, post-traumatic stress and Tourette’s. 

Nutt says that it’s simply wrong to neglect the needs and urgency of better medications for people who are suffering from one of the other diseases. Also, if left untreated, people may turn to the black market to access cannabis-based medicines which may be unregulated and harmful. 

The breakthrough came in the U.S. only after the federal government was told that it could not interfere with the state’s right to decide. So when it comes to the UK, local bodies will have to empower themselves to stand with the people for having the right to choose a better and much efficient medication- cannabis-based medicines. 

Although research is limited when it comes to the effects of CBD, there is still evidence that proves the efficacy of cannabis-based medicines. Be it be a child suffering from epilepsy or a woman suffering from depression, CBD has been touted to benefit them all.

Ivan writes about Cannabis at The Cannabis Radar. He has a degree in Nutrition Sciences from University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Centre. He likes to spend his spare time reading to his daughter or spending time with his wife.

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