Cannabis for Medicinal Use

February 2018

Cannabis, in its raw form, is not recognised as having any medicinal purposes. The licensing regime for medicines is administered by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which issues licences for medicines in the UK which have been tested for their safety, quality and efficacy.

A medicine derived from the cannabis plant, Sativex, has already been licenced for use in the treatment of spasticity due to multiple sclerosis (MS). The MHRA is open to considering other licence applications for medicines containing cannabinoids should such products be developed. The Minister for Safeguarding, Vulnerability and Crime has recently written to and met with the Parliamentary under Secretary of State for Public Health and Primary Care to consider how to ensure cannabis-based medicines are available where appropriate.

In 2014, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published its clinical guideline on the management of MS that does not recommend Sativex as a cost effective use of NHS resources. In the absence of positive guidance from NICE, it is for commissioners to make decisions on whether to fund this treatment based on an assessment of the available evidence.

The Government, currently, has no plans to legalise the recreational use of cannabis, and the the most recent advice from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs continued to cite medical and scientific research showing that cannabis use has a number of adverse acute and chronic health effects, especially for people with mental health problems.