England and Wales to Allow Cannabis-Based Medicine
November 2019 saw another landmark decision in MMJ legalization when the National Health Service gave the green light to cannabis-based medicine in England and Wales. Northern Ireland will consider the issue on a case by case basis, while Scotland will adhere to its own system. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which provides guidance on health care matters in the United Kingdom, outlined the parameters for when such treatment would be appropriate. The pertinent medical conditions include childhood epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and chemotherapy-induced vomiting and nausea.
According to the new guidelines, the initial cannabis prescription must be made by a “specialist medical practitioner,” who should also have a special interest in the condition being treated. As to prescribing medical marijuana for children, the rules state that the initiating prescriber should also be a pediatric specialist. Although legal changes relative to medical marijuana legalization in 2018 gave UK doctors permission to prescribe medical cannabis, many have been reluctant to do so due to a lack of clear guidance, forcing British families to seek treatment abroad.
Earlier in 2019, members of UK parliament made an exploratory visit to Canada’s rapidly evolving legal marijuana industry, returning to their own country newly motivated to move MMJ legalization forward at home. Although chronic pain did not make the list of conditions that warrant medical marijuana in the eyes of UK officials, medications now approved for use include Epidyolex (approved for Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndromes), Sativex spray (recommended for muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis patients), CBD oil, and cannabis oil.
Britain’s current laws governing marijuana are stricter than those found in other parts of Europe, but this milestone decision shows that the UK is joining countries across the globe in trending toward medical marijuana legalization and that the officials are open to the possibility of legalizing recreational marijuana in the near future.
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