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Wales

Welsh MPs back rescheduling of cannabis for medicinal use

Welsh Assembly Members voted in favour of a motion to ask the UK Government to reschedule medical cannabis from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001, to allow it to be prescribed and legally supplied.

The majority of Welsh Assembly Members (AMs) support rescheduling of cannabis to allow for medical research and use, according to a Senedd debate held on 17 January 2018.

In the non-binding vote, 31 AMs voted in favour of a motion to ask the UK Government to reschedule medical cannabis from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001, to allow it to be prescribed and legally supplied. Two AMs voted against the motion and 18 AMs abstained.

The motion proposed that the National Assembly for Wales “recognises that there is clinical evidence of the effectiveness of cannabis for medicinal purposes”. It further proposed that the Assembly “believes that the Welsh Government should ask the UK Government to reschedule cannabis for medicinal purposes; and, in preparation for this outcome, the Welsh Government should map out within the Welsh NHS how a system whereby cannabis for medicinal purposes could be made available via a prescription to those who could benefit.”

The motion noted that Wales is the only nation in the UK where Sativex (Bayer) is available on the NHS, but added that the medicine was only licensed for the treatment of spasticity, and “only then available to a small group of people living with multiple sclerosis who meet the criteria.”

The motion was tabled by AMs Leanne Wood, Rhun ap Iorwerth, Mark Isherwood and Mike Hedges. Introducing the motion, Isherwood told the Assembly that “The clinical and anecdotal evidence of the effectiveness of cannabis for medicinal use is compelling”, and said that it was used for symptomatic relief from conditions including “multiple sclerosis, dystonia, epilepsy, arthritis, cerebral palsy and cancer”. People who use cannabis to relieve symptoms associated with these conditions should, he said, be able to make the decision to do so “without fear of prosecution”.

In the debate, Vaughan Gething, Welsh cabinet secretary for health, wellbeing and sport, acknowledged that cannabis and its derivatives can offer relief of symptoms from a range of conditions, but warned that the motion advocates “the use of herbal cannabis and circumventing our long-established and respected regulatory and appraisal processes … without clarity on purity, dosage and strength and the conditions for treatment, we would place prescribers in an untenable position.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2018.20204256

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