01 Jul Nick Hurd MP, The Times. ‘Out-of-date rules must not come before compassion for those who need medicinal cannabis’
This article by Nick Hurd MP, the Home Office Minister, is re-published from the Times of Friday, 29th June 2018.
It is the most significant recent government statement on cannabis.
“Out-of-date rules must not come before compassion for those who need medicinal cannabis
There are times when life presents a situation for which the status quo is no longer viable; when the case for compassion stands in direct challenge to the rules of the day. This is perhaps no better illustrated than in the case of two young boys and their need for a medicine current legislation does not allow within the UK.
The laws restricting access to cannabis-related medicine in this country have stood for decades. The highly emotive cases of Alfie Dingley and Billy Caldwell have brought home the urgent need to reconsider those rules.
It is impossible not to feel huge empathy for parents expressing their desperation at the difficulty of accessing a treatment they consider essential to the health and wellbeing of their children. I am very aware that behind those high-profile cases stand other families and individuals experiencing the same frustration at the current restrictions.
The home secretary and I are in the process of reviewing the case for rescheduling cannabis-related medicine. This review will be evidence led and should be completed in the autumn.
If medicinal and therapeutic benefits are identified, the intention would be to reschedule cannabis-related medicine as a treatment available through GPs. Whilst recent cases in the media have involved epilepsy this would be open to patients suffering from all illnesses where such treatment is identified to benefit them.
While we await this review, we are confined to working within the existing rules which require a licence. I am delighted that we were able to issue one on behalf of Alfie Dingley — the first ever licence for the long-term treatment of an individual using cannabis-related medicine in the UK.
However, this process took too long and I want to thank Alfie’s family and the clinical team for their patience in working with us to reach this landmark.
We have also issued an emergency licence to treat Billy Caldwell at the request of his clinical team at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. I have assured Ms Caldwell that Billy will continue to have access to the medicine should his medical team request it and have made clear that we will do what we can to facilitate a long-term licence application for Billy.
We have worked intensively to put in place a much better route for clinicians to secure licences on behalf of their patients until a decision is taken on rescheduling. An expert panel of clinicians will advise Ministers on individual applications. I want to reassure those involved that we are determined to strip this process of any unnecessary bureaucracy. As such, any application can expect to receive a final decision within two to four weeks.
We also want to remove anxiety on fees and are committed to urgently reviewing the fees paid for licences that are awarded as a result of the advice of the expert panel.
The bottom line is that we do not want people to suffer needlessly because of rules and processes that no longer feel fit for purpose.”