Products that contain a cannabis-based ingredient called cannabidiol, or CBD, are to be classed as medicines by the UK medicines regulator from this year.
The Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said it had looked at CBD because a number of manufacturing companies had been making “overt medicinal claims” about products.
Gerald Heddel, director of inspection and enforcement at the agency, told Sky News: “The change really came about with us offering an opinion that CBD is in fact a medicine, and that opinion was based on the fact that we noted that people were making some quite stark claims about serious diseases that could be treated with CBD.”
He said that a review of the evidence showed that “it was clear that people are using this product with the understandable belief that it will actually help”.
Cannabis has two key ingredients – THC and CBD. The THC gets you stoned, and it can also make you anxious and psychotic.
But, isolated, CBD has the opposite effect, often calming people down – which is why some people are using it in small doses as medicine.
Most people in the UK get their supplies online in an unregulated and potentially unsafe market, but the decision by the MHRA means manufacturers will now need to demonstrate their CBD products meet safety, quality and effectiveness standards.
While some users are pleased that CBDs are finally being recognized as medicine, others worry about their supply.
Louise Bostock’s daughter Jayla has brain damage. Aged five, she cannot walk or talk and is unlikely to live beyond her childhood.
Ms Bostock turned to CBD to ease her daughter’s symptoms after reading about studies in the US, where fits in children were cut by 50%.
She told Sky News Jayla no longer needs to be taken to hospital every three or four weeks because of seizures.
As CBDs are currently normally only prescribed to adults with multiple sclerosis, authorities stepped in, which Ms Bostock feels was due to a lack of understanding about CBDs.
She said: “They try and criminalise it if you even mention cannabis, but when you are dealing with people who are going to die, how can anyone not give it to these people who have no hope?”
But there are concerns that the move could send mixed messages about the safety and legality of cannabis.
Dr Hamed Khan, medical lecturer at St George’s University Hospital, stressed the ruling “is only about CBDs, which is something very specific, and not cannabis and marijuana as a whole”.
Cannabis is not recognised in the UK as having any therapeutic value, and anyone using it could be charged with possession.
Campaigners for its legalization say classifying CBDs as a medicine opens up the medicinal marijuana debate.
h/t: Sky News