Medical Cannabis

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:37 pm on 20th February 2018.

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Photo of Nick Hurd Nick Hurd The Minister of State, Home Department 3:37 pm, 20th February 2018

I, personally, and the Government sympathise deeply with the situation faced by Alfie Dingley and his family. I think that everyone on both sides of the House and outside it will understand and respect the desire of the family to try to alleviate his suffering in any way possible. I assure my hon. Friend that we want to help to find a solution within the existing regulations.

As my hon. Friend will know, the current situation is that cannabis, in its raw form, is not recognised in the UK as having any medicinal benefits. It is therefore listed as a schedule 1 drug under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001. This means that it is unlawful to produce, supply or possess raw cannabis unless it is for the purposes of research. Products must be thoroughly tested in the UK to provide the necessary assurances of their efficacy, quality and safety.

We have a clear regime in place that is administered by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency to enable medicines, including those containing controlled drugs such as cannabis, to be developed, licensed and made available for medicinal use to patients in the UK, as happened in the case of Sativex, as my hon. Friend knows. The Home Office will consider issuing a licence to enable trials of any new medicine under schedule 1 to the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001, providing that it complies with appropriate ethical approvals. Cannabis-based products should 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.

The current situation is that outside of research we would not issue licences for the personal consumption of cannabis because it is listed as a schedule 1 drug. However, we are aware of differing approaches in other countries and continue to monitor the World Health Organisation’s expert committee on drug dependence, which has committed to reviewing the use of medicinal cannabis. We will wait until the outcome of the review before considering any next steps. [Interruption.] I am also aware—before Paul Flynn starts chuntering—that the private Member’s Bill on the legalisation of cannabis for medicinal purposes introduced by the hon. Gentleman will give the House a further opportunity to debate the wider policy.

The whole House will understand that it is a natural desire for parents to do everything they can to make sure that their children do not suffer unnecessarily, but we also need to make sure that cannabis is subjected to the same regulatory framework that applies to all medicines in the UK. We must ensure that only medicines that have been tested for their safety to the correct standard are prescribed for UK children.