Medicinal Cannabis: Update October 2019

Thank you for contacting me about medicinal cannabis.

While there is strong scientific evidence that cannabis can harm people’s mental and physical health and damage communities, recent cases have shown the need to look more closely at the use of cannabis-based medicine in treating patients with very specific conditions in exceptional circumstances. This is why the Government decided it was appropriate to review the scheduling of cannabis.

The decision to reschedule these products means that senior clinicians will be able to prescribe the medicines to patients with an exceptional clinical need. Following short term advice issued in September 2018 the ACMD are to review the current rescheduling and its appropriateness by November 2020 and provide further initial advice on synthetic cannabinoids by summer 2020.

Moreover, NHS England has published a review which is aimed at assessing the barriers to prescribing cannabis-based medicinal products where it is safe and clinically appropriate to do so.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has also been developing updated clinical guidance on prescribing cannabis-based products for medicinal use, including for the management of chronic pain. NICE is currently consulting on the draft guidance.

It is crucial that this country keeps in step with the latest scientific evidence so that patients and their families have access to the most appropriate course of medical treatment.

My Ministerial colleagues have also been clear that, given the nature of the medicine, it should only be prescribed by specialist doctors and on a case-by-case basis. I believe these controls are necessary to develop clinical expertise and an evidence base for this treatment’s effectiveness.

Notwithstanding the above, however, I absolutely understand the concerns and anguish of patients and their families like Alfie Dingley who suffer on a daily basis. I welcome the rapid process that has been made and look forward to further rapid progress supported by robust evidence so patients like Alfie receive the best, most appropriate treatment and medication.

The decision whether to prescribe an individual with medicinal cannabis is therefore not a political or financial decision but a decision by a medical expert who will have considered whether it is the most effective treatment based on an individual’s particular condition.

Any constituent who would like to discuss this issue further, especially if they are personally affected by it would be very welcome to contact my office again or to arrange to see me at a 'Meet Your MP' event, details here

I will continue to monitor closely the roll-out of medicinal cannabis.

Thank you again for contacting me.

Craig Whittaker MP

October 2019