I am feeling vindicated. Last week I warned in TCW that the Home Secretary had acted prematurely and dangerously on medical cannabis.
In a letter to the Times on Friday some of the country’s leading drugs experts condemned Sajid Javid’s rush ‘to allow medical cannabis based on “political expediency” rather than medical advice’.
As I had explained in my post, the decision to allow hospital specialists to prescribe cannabis products such as oil or resin without the normal safety and testing procedures of our pharmaceutical approval system was reckless. I explained, too, that the NHS guidelines for prescribing these products, which the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs said must be worked out, would not be in place. How they can ever be in the absence of the necessary clinical trials is an open question.
The Chief Medical Officer’s recommendations had gone beyond recommending a change in the law to encourage cannabis research. The evidence she reviewed did not point to clearly established (by clinical trial) medical indications for cannabis.
The doctors writing to the Times confirm this – saying that cannabis as ‘an effective treatment for chronic pain is not supported by the evidence and may be associated with significant harm’.
Likewise the Faculty of Pain Medicine, the professional body for specialist doctors, has backed these concerns about the lack of evidence and the side-effects. They warn, further, that cannabis prescription could result in a crisis similar to that caused by ‘the widespread use of high-dose opioids [which] over the last 20 years is already the cause of considerable concern’.
It is not difficult to see potential parallels.
As I pointed out, this un-thought-through prescription ‘carte blanche’ will put huge pressure on doctors and cause leakage into the illegal market. It already is, they say: ‘Patients are already demanding cannabis when it might worsen their condition and gangs are likely to exploit those in chronic pain as a source of the drug to sell on the streets’.
Rajesh Munglani, the pain consultant who organised the letter, said: ‘The feeling is very, very strong out there that this is a bad move. Patients are already demanding they are given medical cannabis. People are coming in and saying, “I’m not interested in any other technique or drugs, I just want the cannabis.” We may end up becoming drug dealers inadvertently.’
And this is exactly the point. Everywhere the medical cannabis card has been played, it functions primarily as the thin edge of the wedge to full cannabis legalisation. That is what is happening here too now, thanks to a foolish decision by the Home Secretary. You just have to see the the numerous ‘now it’s time to legalise’ articles (some of which I listed last week) by those with vested interests in the commercialisation of cannabis, or by those oblivious to or ignorant of its serious risks and harms.
The doctors are protesting at their exploitation in this process. So they should.