Laws governing medical marijuana could soon be relaxed in the UK

  • The British government has confirmed it will review the use of cannabis for medicinal use.
  • Laws over recreational use will stay in place.
  • Possession of cannabis in the U.K. carries a maximum jail term of up to five years in prison.
GW Pharmaceuticals cannabis laboratory
Source: GW Pharmaceuticals
GW Pharmaceuticals cannabis laboratory

The British government has confirmed it will review the use of cannabis for medicinal use.

Home Secretary Sajid David told the U.K. parliament Tuesday that the use of cannabis-based medicines in the health service should be examined, as the current setup wasn't working.

"It is not satisfactory for the parents, it is not satisfactory for the doctor and it is not satisfactory for me," he said.

The issue has come to public attention after the family of a six-year-old boy who suffers from a rare form of epilepsy applied to the government to use cannabis oil medication. David said a license is being issued today to allow the boy's treatment to go ahead.

U.K. Home Secretary, Sajid Javid.
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U.K. Home Secretary, Sajid Javid.

More pressure was placed on British lawmakers after officials at Heathrow Airport confiscated cannabis oil bought in Canada for treatment of a 12-year-old boy who also suffered serious seizures.

Cannabis oil with more than 0.05 percent of the psychoactive element THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is currently banned in the U.K.

Cannabis has also been found to alleviate symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS) and one drug, Savitex, has been licensed in the U.K. to help MS patients, but only when other drugs fail.

'Irreversibly lost'

David told lawmakers that he wanted to be clear that the government was making no steps towards full legalization of cannabis for recreational purposes.

This despite a call for full legalization from the former Conservative Party leader William Hague, who said Tuesday that the police battle against cannabis had been "irreversibly lost."

William Hague arriving at Downing Street on July 14, 2014.
Oli Scarff / Staff | Getty Images News
William Hague arriving at Downing Street on July 14, 2014.

In an opinion piece written for The Daily Telegraph newspaper, Hague argued that restricting its legal availability to medicinal use would lead to a situation where more potent strains would become available. Hague said the current law was only helpful to "organized crime gangs."

Possession of cannabis in the U.K. carries a maximum jail term of up to five years in prison. Should authorities deem it is being held for supply and production, then those found guilty can serve up to 14 years.