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Second reading of medical cannabis access bill falls flat

Last week, Labour MP Jeff Smith's Private Member’s Bill on accessing medical cannabis on the NHS had its second reading in the House of Commons.


Despite the legalisation of medical cannabis in November 2018, thousands of individuals are being denied access to the life-changing treatment on the NHS. Just a small handful of prescriptions have been written, leaving the majority to seek private prescriptions at their own cost. This problem is particularly acute for the parents of children with epilepsy.

With his bill, the Labour MP for Manchester Withington aimed to tackle the two main issues blocking families from gaining fairer access:

  • Lack of available GP’s completing training

  • Lack of framework and assessment

Currently, specialist doctors are able to prescribe medicinal cannabis but there is no clear route for shared prescribing with GPs. Creating a register of GP’s and health boards could see who is eligible to prescribe and where they are in their training. Polls have suggested 73% of GP’s are open-minded about becoming more involved in prescribing medical cannabis.

The Bill also proposed a Commission to review all existing evidence and propose a framework for the correct assessment of cannabis-based medicines. This would provide recommendations in overcoming current barriers to NHS prescriptions, aligned with the 10-point plan as outlined by the experts at Maple Tree Consultants last year.


Speaking about his Bill last year, Mr Smith said:


“With my Bill, I have tried to make common-sense proposals that I believe could move things forward. It aims to expand access to medicines for patients in the short term, as well as working towards getting more cannabis-based medicines licensed.”

Director of Maple Tree, Professor Mike Barnes, said:


“Though it was encouraging to see the Bill discussed in a long debate at the highest levels of Government, it is truly disappointing that this important issue did not progress any further. Maple Tree's work to inform and educate the Government over the next year continues, and we are working with partners from across the medical cannabis sector to keep these crucial issues at the forefront of the conversation.”