A newspaper has reported (18 February 2018) that a mother has made a heart-rending plea for the NHS to give her six-year-old son cannabis to treat his epilepsy. Her son, Alfie, has a rare form of the condition, which causes him to suffer up to 30 fits a day. And although he has been successfully treated abroad with cannabis oil, he cannot be given the same drug in Britain because it illegal.
It is against this backdrop that, on Friday 23 February, the Legalisation of Cannabis (Medicinal Purposes) Bill, sponsored by Paul Flynn MP, will be given its second reading in the UK House of Commons. Supporters of the Bill point to a number of similar stories in their calls for a change to the current UK regime, under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. At the moment, only GW Pharmaceuticals' Sativex, containing the psychoactive THC, is available as a medicine in the UK.
Those in favour of a change in the law note that "medical marijuana" is now available in 30 US states, as well as in Canada, The Netherlands and some other countries, and cite the growing list of medical conditions, including multiple sclerosis, AIDS and cancer, for which doctors elsewhere are willing to prescribe cannabis-based drugs. However, other medical practitioners and legislators continue to argue against legalisation because of the possible health risks, as well as the concern that such legislation could increase the likelihood of recreational use of cannabis.
Not for the first time, all eyes will be on Parliament. Should the Bill become law in due course, a new range of drugs should become available relatively quickly for patients like Alfie. In addition, a major new opportunity would open up within the UK healthcare market, not only for those manufacturing and supplying "medical marijuana", but also for the investment community; one has only to look at the recent experience in North America to see how seismic this could be, with US, Canadian and other international players amongst those likely to become involved if the UK chooses legalisation.