Everything we have come to learn about the Conservatives and reform on illicit substances leads us to believe that schedule 2 is the most likely outcome. However there are arguments to be made for a less restrictive schedule. In truth the difference between schedule 2 and schedule 4i is minimal and 4ii is extremely unlikely to be allowed as it enables access without a prescription. Sativex, the only cannabis based medicine available in the UK is Schedule 4i. You can read the finer ins and outs of scheduling here.
Regardless, any rescheduling will mean doctors are able to begin prescribing cannabis medications to UK patients. It's a HUGE success for medical cannabis in the UK. Rescheduling was the UPA's first and foremost goal in this campaign and we're incredibly proud to have played a part in realising this break-though.
There are, as always, a few caveats... Numerous governments have implemented legislation on medical cannabis that prevents those that stand to benefit from accessing it. Here's a rundown of our three biggest fears for medical cannabis legislation and why the UPA will be fighting to avoid these (hopefully obvious) pitfalls.
1. A limiting list of conditions
A government imposed list of conditions for which cannabis can be prescribed would be unprecedented. NICE are the body who regulate prescriptions and they rarely put such restrictions on medications. Instead there are lists of approved medications for different symptoms & conditions. However, a medication as safe to consume as cannabis with so many applications simply cannot be restricted by any such lists.
Those who are in pain or suffering nausea or spasms should be given access immediately prior to diagnosis. Some conditions can take months or even years to properly diagnose. We cannot let patients suffer due to a lack of pre-defined need for cannabis. If their doctor believes it will help their symptoms then they should be allowed to prescribe. It really is that simple.
2. "After all traditional therapies have been exhausted"
This clause, which has been implemented in parts of Australia, is absurd. Cannabis is a pain reliever; it helps regulate the immune system and is a powerful anti-inflammatory. What this clause suggests is that patients would have to try opiates for pain, powerful immune-suppressants for immune-regulation or steroids to control inflammation, all dangerous drugs with severe side-effects that could be avoided if cannabis is used first. Of course there are conditions that are simply too severe for cannabis to control and it won't be the first port-of-call for doctors in all circumstances. But it certainly shouldn't be limited to only being utilised when patients have already tried a plethora of potentially much more harmful pharmaceuticals.
If a patient can avoid addictive and damaging painkillers such as tramadol, fentanyl and oxycontin by consuming cannabis instead, they should be free to do so. We only have to look at the opioid crisis in the USA, and the deaths caused by prescribed painkillers, to see why this is so important.
3. Continued criminalisation.
No one in possession of or consuming cannabis should be criminalised. These are completely victimless crimes and to continue to arrest people for possession and consumption will inevitably lead to chronically ill people being caught up in a criminal system they simply should not have to deal with.
Patients who are prescribed cannabis medicines should not have to carry around a prescription with them at all times. They should not be stopped and questioned by police and they should not have to prove themselves sick in order to be allowed to continue living their lives.
Implementing a system wherein patients are required to carry around proof of their prescription 24/7 is impractical to the extreme. Chronically ill people have enough to worry about. They have enough to think about when leaving the house without adding paperwork proof of their legal right to consume their medication in public. They also have enough stress in their lives. The idea that forgetting their "proof" might lead to a night in the cells is unthinkable.