Victory Across the Pond: UK Moves Toward Compassionate Cannabis Policy

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In an announcement that surprised and encouraged many, the UK’s home office yesterday took a step toward more rational cannabis policy. After several high-profile cases in recent months, the government in the United Kingdom has been under increasing pressure to adjust its outdated policies on cannabis and cannabis medicine.

The Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has declared that cannabis-derived medications that meet safety and quality standards will soon be legal for patients. However, they will only allow patients with exceptional clinical need to access cannabis medication at this time. This announcement will impact all of the UK, except for Northern Ireland. Their legislature must change the existing laws before this new policy is enforceable.

Unfortunately, other forms of cannabis and cannabis oil will remain illegal in the United Kingdom. That means that many people who need access to cannabis medication will not receive it when cannabis-derived medications are officially rescheduled. This change will, however, allow some children, like those with severe epilepsy, to access cannabis-based medications.

Some of the earliest beneficiaries of this new policy will be pediatric epilepsy patients, like Billy Caldwell, who depend on cannabis to suppress their seizures. His mother expressed joy over the announcement, which she noted coincided with Billy’s 13th birthday. This decisions comes just weeks after she faced arrest and had her son’s medication seized at Heathrow Airport.

While this change in policy is heartening, it is only one small step toward reform. The United Kingdom has a long way to go toward greater social justice where cannabis is concerned. In fact, policymakers made it clear that this small act of medical compassion is in no way paving the road for recreational cannabis legalization.

Rescheduling medications derived from cannabis is an important first step. However, thousands of people in the United Kingdom will still not have safe and legal access to a medication that could change drastically improve, or even save their lives.


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