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Government reject Lords recommendations on legalising medicinal cannabis use

On publication of the Lords report, the Home Secretary immediately rejected any suggestion of legalising medicinal use of cannabis. The written response was published in March 1999, justifying the immediate rejection on the grounds that they had a settled position on the availability of cannabis for therapeutic purposes and that otherwise speculation might regard the question as open.

The Government did welcome the research of GW pharmaceuticals, and indicated willingness to licence medical research and trials involving cannabis or cannabinoids via the Home Office Drugs Inspectorate. However the Government rejected the Lords' recommendation that there were compassionate grounds for allowing doctors to prescribe cannabis in advance of the outcome of clinical trials as 'premature', and that allowing use of raw cannabis with unknown cannabinoid content would hinder development of suitable medicinal products.

The Government did not consult the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs on this matter justifying this on the grounds that as no change in the law was proposed by the Government there was no legal obligation for consultation. However they would be willing to consider rescheduling of cannabinoids with clear therapeutic potential.

The Government also rejected the Lords' recommendation that Doctors be allowed to prescribe cannabis on a named patient basis, considering such an option would place undue burdens on doctors, both in terms of civil liability, and from patients putting undue pressure on doctors to prescribe for ailments outside any recommended guidelines. They considered that allowing the smoking of raw cannabis would 'seriously blur the distinction between misuse and therapeutic use' and 'send confusing messages to the public about the risks of misusing the drug', fearing that recreational users would claim therapeutic use and that the prescription had been lost. They considered that a medicinal form would be readily distinguishable, with minimal risk of diversion to the illicit market.

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