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Former UK Chief Drug Advisor Wants Medical Cannabis For The Masses

medical cannabis uk
Written by Steven Bridge

Cannabis and Hemp have been under prohibition across most of the world since the 1930s. But with legalization afoot in the US and some countries in Europe, some experts want it to be “embraced like Penicillin.”

As cannabis legalization sweeps across North America – with Canada being the latest country to permit cannabis for medical and recreational use – some countries in Europe apparently didn’t get the memo. The UK government, for example, has always been very conservative when it comes to the cannabis legalization issue, no matter who’s in power.

Other countries in Europe like Holland and Portugal are far more liberal when it comes to these matters, and that’s why the former UK’s chief drug advisor to the government – Professor David Nutt – wants the UK to follow suit. Nutt, a Neuropsychopharmacologist and highly intelligent and successful man, found himself in hot water some years ago after he openly criticized the government’s drug policies, urging them to “embrace cannabis like penicillin.” The Home Secretary at the time, Alan Johnson, fired him in 2009 for his stance on prohibited drugs.

According to Nutt, doctors at the time embraced Penicillin even before proper clinical trials were carried out on the controversial new drug. They did so as there was an urgent clinical need for it at the time, just like there is for cannabis in this day and age, according to Nutt.

According to a BMJ report, Nutt said the medical community is still overly suspicious about cannabis but that it mainly comes from ignorance. The first port of call for Professor Nutt is that the UK needs to open up research into medical cannabis, and specifically into CBD – the compound in cannabis that can be used to treat children with epilepsy. He also feels that doctors should embrace medical cannabis treatments, much like thousands of health professionals in the US have done.

medical cannabis uk

Neuropsychopharmacologist David Nutt wants cannabis to be ’embraced like penicillin’

In Nutt’s words: “About 70 years ago another natural medicine came into the medical arena,” he said about penicillin. “This was welcomed enthusiastically by UK doctors even though there had been no placebo-controlled trials of its efficacy because it was seen to fulfill a major clinical need,” he added.

What Nutt is saying seems logical and straightforward, as it’s known that cannabis and CBD can help with a range of issues in a safe and non-harmful way. Many people use CBD for anxiety, to manage pain, to encourage relaxation and to help with a good night’s sleep. However, many decades of prohibition have most certainly taken their toll, and the dogma surrounding cannabis is still very predominant in countries like the UK.

For the time being, there is little medical cannabis provision in the UK on a healthcare level. For now, anyone needing cannabis needs to buy it from the black market, and that means that the government there is foolishly missing out on what could be millions or even tens of millions of tax dollars. Even though new regulations were introduced in November 2018 enabling specialists to prescribe cannabis-based products for medical use, many have said this is not enough.

States in the US who legalized cannabis and put a tax on it have seen some significant revenue from it, and some boroughs even have a surplus of cash to spend. For whatever reasons though, the UK seems to be stuck in a quagmire of anti-cannabis sentiment, and that’s affecting many people in some very real ways.

Whether legal, decriminalized or none of the above, cannabis is used by hundreds of thousands of people across the world who prefer to take a non-toxic, non-addictive and highly safe natural herb that’s usually grown organically. It remains to be seen what way the cannabis policy will go in the UK, but if any expert who advises the government to legalize gets fired on the spot, it doesn’t bode well for the future of patients who wants access to this wonderful herb.

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  • This article is very confused. Professor David Nutt was sacked 10 years ago!! It was in 2009 that the then Labour home secretary, Alan Johnson, sacked him for saying taking Ecstasy was safer than horseriding – which, of course, it is.

    Professor Nutt’s article in the BMJ comparing cannabis to penicillin was published 1st May 2019 so the two events are totally unconnected.

    Furthermore, this statement is totally incorrect: “For the time being, there is no medical cannabis provision in the UK on a healthcare level.” New regulations were introduced on 1st November 2018 enabling specialist doctors to prescribe cannabis-based products for medicinal use. It’s true that this isn’t working well and much more work is needed but progress is being made.

    • Many thanks for your comment Peter, and thank for setting me straight. Indeed i neglected to mention that Professor Nutt was in fact fired in 2009 by the Home Secretary for his stance on illegal drugs. I have also amended the fact that some specialists in the UK can prescribe cannabis-based drugs as of November 2018.

      • Thanks for pointing out those corrections, Peter. Appreciate you amending the article so quickly too, Steven.

        Progress is indeed being made as Peter points out. Although the pace at which it is does feel a tad lethargic.

        Guess it’s a case of watching this space…

  • Peter Reynolds is correct,

    I was the first person to call for Nutt to be sacked. His enthusiasm for legalisation of illegal drugs for recreational purposes was in my view incompatible with his rioole for government. More than that, this article and Professor Nutt, neglect to mention that although Cannabis or medications made from Cannabis can undoubtedly have some positive clinical effects, there are much wider concerns about the teratogenic, epigenetic and carcinogenic properties of Cannabis. All apart from the mental health issues.

    The rise in birth defects, statistically linked to Cannabis use, in US and Canadian regions of legalisation or high consumption, is startling. The most recently published analysis only two weeks ago strongly links Cannabis intake during pregnancy with autism.

    Even NHS Wales has a website warning about Cannabis and Gastroschisis. (Wales has had a Gastroschisis outbreak) The first Uk paper I have found linking Cannabis use to Gastroschis goes back decades.

    CBD is not off the hook either.

    We had the Thalidomide tragedy in the Uk because of unbridled enthusiasm for prescription of a particular drug. We should be careful it does not happen again because of commercial interests overcoming rational caution

    • Where the hell did you read these so called “studies”? What the hell are you talking about? Give us links.

About the author

Steven Bridge

Having been a cannabis and CBD aficionado for many years, Steven spends much of his time opposite a shiny MacBook, researching, exploring, understanding and creating interesting reading for people interested in knowing more about CBD, Vaping, Cannabis Strains and Delivery Methods, and just about anything related to magical green herbs that help people with anything from sleepless nights to pain.