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Cannabis Declassification Continues To Spread Around The World - This Time In Britain

November 15th, 2018 Photo/istock/Rex_Wholster 

By Roger Malespin

 When Canada become the first industrialized nation to legalize marijuana last month, economists everywhere predicted a quickening of decriminalization across the western world. It didn’t take long for that prediction to come true, as Great Britain is now allowing doctors to prescribe medical cannabis to patients in need. The moves comes over a series of high profile cases where children with severe epilepsy had their CBD products confiscated, which caused a massive uproar and forced the government to act.

 There are a few ways the laws differ in the U.K. than the U.S. For one, doctors here are not allowed to prescribe medical marijuana because of the federal classification of cannabis as an S1. Instead, doctors here can only ‘recommend’ the treatment. Essentially, this is a necessary way to word things so the doctors don’t get in trouble, but it amounts to prescription. Still, it would be much better if we actually changed the classification so that isn’t necessary.

Another difference is that the U.K. law is allowing doctors to take things on a case by case basis. Here in the U.S., the states write their own versions of legalization, and thus the details vary from state to state. Some of them only allow medical cannabis under a certain number of specific ailments, such as severe epilepsy, not whatever the doctor deems appropriate. 

 According to Professor Mike Barnes, an expert in medicinal cannabis and advocate for declassification, “The recent case of Alfie Dingley and other children, whose epilepsy responded to full extract cannabis oils containing CBD and THC, shows that the matter is complex and that some children seem to respond maximally to a combination of low dose THC and higher dose CBD.”

 “Several reviews have assessed the efficacy of various cannabinoid preparations for the management of chronic pain. One review found eight studies and concluded there was “moderate quality” evidence of efficacy against placebo to support the use of cannabinoids,” he added.

 Home Secretary Sajid Javid said there are no plans, at least in the short term, to extend this to recreational marijuana. However, recreational marijuana is a popular idea among British law enforcement, who already turn a blind eye to most minor marijuana offenses, and many politicians. They cite many of the same reasons advocates here do, such as freeing up resources for law enforcement to focus on more important crimes.

 We are currently living through historic moments in medicine and personal freedoms. Thanks to the hard science and verified anecdotes on the benefits of cannabis, including treatment of chronic pain, nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy, drug-resistant epilepsy, and other conditions, politicians can no longer hide behind junk science and lobbyists.

 Of course, those old fears and misinformation are still there, albeit much less than they used to. An NHS spokeswoman said the change to the law "does not detract from the wider physical and mental health risks and concerns potentially arising from regular recreational cannabis use".