IDMU - Could you please explain what the House of Lords
debate was about.
November 1998, the House of Lords Science & Technology
committee recommended that doctors should be allowed
to prescribe cannabis for medical use.
comprised mainly of eminent retired scientists, considered
evidence from a wide variety of witnesses, including
academic researchers, clinicians, patients, governmental
agencies, patients" rights groups and Christian
anti-drugs organisations. They recommended that cannabis
be rescheduled from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2 (of the
1985 Misuse of Drugs regulations) pending application
for product licences of therapeutic cannabinoid derivatives,
intended to encourage research into medical benefits
go further than the 1997 BMA report by stating that
medicinal use need not be confined to synthetic derivatives,
but to plant extracts, and that research could include
smoked material, although smoking was not recommended
as a treatment option once alternative delivery methods
are developed (e.g. inhalers, sub-lingual or rectal
preparations) which give a similar rapid-onset effects
with minimal carcinogens from smoking. Synthetic cannabinoids
include Nabilone and Dronabinol. Nabilone (an analogue
of THC) costs the NHS over £100 for 20x1mg capsules
(i.e. £5000 per gram, around 50-100 times as expensive
as natural THC in resin or skunk at "street"
prices), Dronabinol (synthetic THC, trade name "Marinol)
is "significantly more expensive" than nabilone.
did not recommend any change in the law prohibiting
recreational use of cannabis, considering factors justifying
the present ban to include psychological or physical
dependence in regular heavy users, risks to people with
heart conditions, a risk of exacerbating pre-existing
mental illness, and the general and carcinogenic effects
of smoking. However the committee only considered a
limited range of factors involved in the general legalisation
debate, and may have included these negative recommendations
to make the rest of the recommendations more palatable
to the government.
is obliged to respond to the report, and to consult
the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs for advice
before doing so. Initial responses suggest the governmental
response will be the usual rejection of reform proposals,
although there are indications that further research
will be encouraged, and that product licences may be
granted following clinical trials.
is available from HMSO bookshops for £9.50, with
the evidence published separately at £22.60. The
full text of the report is also available on the internet