Thank you to all those who have contacted me about this issue.
I sympathise deeply with the Dingley family – it must be an incredibly emotional and difficult situation for a parent to see their child in pain and it is natural that they would wish to do whatever possible to alleviate their suffering.
The legalisation of medicinal cannabis is a subject which is frequently raised in the House. For example, there was a General Debate about this last July which you might wish to watch at the link below. Similarly, you may be aware that Paul Flynn MP has introduced a Private Member’s Bill about this too.
Currently, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency have a clear regime in place to enable medicines, including those containing controlled drugs such as cannabis, to be developed, licensed and made available for medicinal use for patients in the UK. The Home Office will consider issuing a licence to enable trials of any new medicine under Schedule 1 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001, providing it complies with appropriate ethical approvals. Cannabis-based products would be treated in the same way as all other drugs meaning that they should go through the normal testing procedures applied to any other medicines.
This is a difficult area of policy for me. Whilst I am very much anti-drugs, I do believe that the Government should consider taking different decisions if it can be used in the right way for pain relief. I know that the Policing Minister wants to explore every option and has met with the Dingley family to discuss treatments that may be accessible for him. Indeed, the House of Commons debated this issue earlier in February. You might wish to watch the debate here:
No decisions have yet been made and it is important to note that any proposal to introduce a medicinal cannabis would need to be led by senior clinicians using sufficient and rigorous evidence. Other countries do have different approaches and the Government is monitoring the World Health Organisation’s expert committee on drug dependence which will be reviewing the use of medicinal cannabis. The Government will wait until the outcome of the review is published before considering any next steps.
I imagine a further difficulty might be found in trying to legislate for what conditions might be deemed ‘suitable’ for such a treatment. For example, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, the drug Sativex (which is derived from cannabis), is not recommended to help treat Multiple Sclerosis, but could be useful for other conditions.
That said, I hope you are reassured by this information that the Government are considering the options. I will certainly be monitoring the progress of the situation as it develops.