In recent years, the United States and Canada have become the leaders of the cannabis legalization movement. While these countries have taken charge, England and the rest of the United Kingdom have lagged far behind. This week, the National Health Service (NHS) approved two cannabis-derived medicines for the first time. The news comes as a welcome surprise to some in the English cannabis legalization movement, but is considered by many to not be enough.
Cannabis Policy Overseas
There are a number of factors that contribute to the excruciatingly slow pace at which legalization efforts have moved in England. One key reason for this stand still is the division of public opinion. While 66% of Americans support cannabis legalization, only 48% of English citizens favor making the growth, sale, and use of cannabis legal. The U.K. government will be far less likely to push forward any legalization movement that less than a majority of its population supports. Until public opinion shifts, government policy will not budge.
While legislative policy in England stagnates, the National Health Service continues to research potential cannabis based medicines. Medical cannabis is not legal in the U.K., but the NHS has the ability to approve medicines derived from cannabis if it believes they can improve the lives of people suffering from illnesses.
Though cannabis legalization may seem far away in England, the NHS recently approved two cannabis based medications for use. The two medications, Epidiolex and Sativex, are used to treat epilepsy and multiple sclerosis respectively.
Approving Medicines That Can Change Lives
Epidiolex may be familiar to Americans as it was the first cannabis based medication to be approved by the FDA. It is a CBD based medication used to treat a specific form of epilepsy called Dravet syndrome. Despite the fact that Epidiolex features no THC and causes no high, some regulators and medical practitioners have felt uneasy about its approval simply because it is derived from the cannabis plant. Despite its detractors, the safety and efficacy of Epidiolex is something that families of loved ones with Dravet epilepsy appreciate.
Sativex is not currently approved for prescription in the United States but is an oral spray consisting of delta-9 THC and CBD that is used to treat spasticity associated with MS. Spasticity can be one of the more devastating conditions associated with MS as its symptoms include muscle stiffness and spasticity that can make everyday life impossible. Sativex treats this by alleviating inflammation and aiding in neurotransmission to the affected muscles.
The English public clearly lacks the same enthusiasm about cannabis legalization as the United States. However, the approval of two cannabis based medicines by the NHS has a chance to become the tipping point that convinces people of the potential for medicinal cannabis.
Lane is based in Southern California and is a content curator for Medical Marijuana 411. He focuses his research into finding informative stories that can help medical marijuana patients better understand their diverse medicine.