“I was at my nan’s house at the weekend and she asked me if I could get some cannabis for her arthritis,” Kellie tells Parveen. “At first I was horrified that my lovely old nan had developed a drug habit, but she showed me a bottle of this CBD oil that my aunt had got her. She says it is making a real difference and she feels so much better — but it’s illegal, surely?”
Cannabis is never far from the headlines, it seems, but never more so than now. Cannabidiol oil (commonly known as CBD) has been in the news and all over social media recently, fuelled by stories of people saying it has helped them with chronic pain, anxiety, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy and a range of other conditions.
CBD products are made from the leaves and flowers of hemp, a variety of cannabis that contains little or no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive element more usually associated with the plant.
There are many such products on the market, sold as food supplements in order to circumvent MHRA licensing regulations, and therefore not able to list any medical claims on the packaging. Oils are popular, but CBD comes in a range of formulations, from capsules and tinctures to sprays and creams.
CBD oil should not be confused with THC-containing cannabis oil, which is not usually allowed in the UK. CBD products cannot contain any more than 0.2 per cent THC. Similar rules are in place in a number of other countries, including EU member states and many parts of the US.
Cannabis itself is a Class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, and falls under Schedule 1 of the Medicines Act 1968 and Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001. The latter denotes that the substance is regarded as having no medicinal value, and therefore may only be possessed, supplied or administered if a Home Office licence is held. This usually means only for research purposes.
However, there are plans in the pipeline for cannabis to be rescheduled, with the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) stating that there is evidence of medicinal benefit under some circumstances and tasking the DHSC and the MHRA with producing a definition and set of standards for cannabis-derived products, which, in turn, will give prescribers and patients assurance over safety, potency and effectiveness.
The ACMD has also called for clinical trials to be conducted urgently in order to improve understanding and the evidence base for cannabisderived medicines.