Cannabis is illegal to possess, grow, distribute or sell in the UK. It is a Class B drug, with penalties for unlicenced dealing, unlicenced production and unlicenced trafficking of up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both. The maximum penalty for possession of cannabis is five years in prison and an unlimited fine. A “Cannabis warning” can be issued for small amounts of cannabis (generally less than 1 ounce of herbal cannabis, or a slightly higher quantity of hashish) if it is found to be for personal use. This entails the police keeping a record, albeit one which carries no fine and does not show up on standard DBS Check.
Cannabis has remained a Class B drug since the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act, except for a period from 2004 to 2009 during which it was classified as Class C, a lower punishment category. The 2004 reclassification (originally announced in 2001) removed the threat of arrest for possession of small amounts, for the purpose of allowing police to focus on harder drugs and violent crime. In May 2008, under the leadership of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, it was announced that cannabis would be moved back to Schedule B, against the recommendations of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.
In the survey-year ending March 2014, possession of cannabis offences accounted for 67% of all police recorded drug offences in the UK.
In 2015, County Durham police announced that they will no longer be targeting people who grow cannabis for personal consumption unless they are being “blatant”. Derbyshire, Dorset and Surrey police announced that they will also be implementing similar schemes. The move is in response to significant budget cuts, which means police forces are having to prioritise more pressing areas.
According to figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request, there are large differences by county regarding how many cases actually result in an offender being charged. In 2016, Hampshire police had the most charges at 65%, while Cambridge had the lowest proportion of charges at only 14%.
Medical use of cannabis was legalised in the UK on 1 November 2018, after the cases of two epileptic children who benefited from using cannabis brought increased public attention to the issue. The children (Billy Caldwell, 12, and Alfie Dingley, 6) both experienced significant improvement in their conditions after they began using cannabis, but were initially not allowed to continue their treatment under UK law. This led to increased public outcry, particularly in the case of Billy Caldwell who was hospitalised with life-threatening seizures after his medication was confiscated by authorities.
On 20 June 2018, then Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced his support for the medical use of cannabis and that a review would be undertaken to study changes to the law. On 26 July 2018, Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced that cannabis products would be made legal for patients with an “exceptional clinical need”, and that cannabis would be moved from a Schedule I classification to Schedule 2. On 11 October, the new provisions were officially presented and accepted in the House and the policy came into effect on 1 November 2018.
A licence is available from the home office to import prescribed medicinal cannabis. However, as of mid-February 2019, virtually no-one has been able to access medical cannabis. However, the first stand alone CQC registered cannabis clinic was opened by Sapphire medical in December 2019, since then a number of private clinics have opened across the UK. It has been estimated that between October 2018 and 2019 there has been 204 prescriptions for unlicensed cannabis medicines.
The law stipulates that GPs are not allowed to prescribe cannabis-derived medicines. Treatment must be initiated by a specialist consultant and may be continued under sharedcare by a GP or non-medical prescriber. NHS guidance states that medical cannabis should only be prescribed when there is clear published evidence of its benefit and other treatment options have been exhausted.
Sativex is an approved cannabis-derived medicine and is indicated for the treatment of spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Nabilone is another cannabinoid drug that has been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), but is a synthetic form of THC and not naturally derived from the plant. Nabilone can be prescribed to treat nausea and vomiting caused by cytotoxic chemotherapy.
Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is legal for use and sale in the UK without a prescription, as long as when it is sold to the public it is not sold as medicine and it does not contain more than 1mg per container. The CBD drug Epidiolex is approved for use in the EU. CBD flowers, although openly sold online and in some retails store, are not legal in the United Kingdom as confirmed in an email from the Senior Compliance Officer of the Home Office Drugs & Firearms Licensing Unit.
On 31 October 2020, it was reported that the NHS has been repeatedly refusing to fund medical cannabis for children with severe epilepsy. It was reported that at least twenty families are paying for private prescriptions after not being provided by the NHS. One family reported paying £2,000 a month for their 11-year-old daughter, who had been suffering up to 300 seizures a day. Doctors put her into an induced coma and transported her to intensive care. After an anonymous donation was given to one of the child’s parents of £2,500, the parent bought cannabis oil for their child, who after taking it was allowed home within two days. The Department of Health and Social Care said more research is needed before it can routinely prescribe cannabis-based medicines. Peter Carroll, of End Our Pain said there are dozens more families in a similar position or unable to pay for the drugs at all.
Following the UK’s exit from the European Union at the end of 2020, patients importing cannabis-based medicine products have faced difficulty obtaining prescriptions. Hannah Deacon, mother of Alfie Dingle stated that The Department of Health and Social Care gave a two-week notice to source an alternative medicine for Alfie’s condition. The DHSC stated that “prescriptions issued in the UK can no longer be lawfully dispensed in an EU member state” and therefore, “dispensing finished cannabis oil (Bedrocan products) in the Netherlands against prescriptions from UK prescribers is no longer an option from 1 January 2021”.
Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth & protection of the country.Thomas Jefferson
The advantage of using of CBD
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- Boosts metabolism
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Things you didn’t know about CBD
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