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HSC clarifies arrangements around medicinal cannabis

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Friday 21 August 2020

The Committee for Health & Social Care is aware of some confusion within the community in respect of the legal status of medicinal cannabis and how such products may practically be obtained.

In June 2019, the Committee for Health & Social Care made the legislative changes necessary to allow, in defined circumstances, the prescribing of pharmaceutical standard medicinal herbal cannabis by authorised specialists based in the Bailiwick. This effectively meant cannabis-based products for medicinal use in humans transferred from Schedule 1 of the Misuse of Drugs (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Ordinance, 1997 (which details controlled drugs which are considered to have no medical value and therefore cannot be lawfully possessed or prescribed) to Schedule 2 (which are recognised as having a medical value and therefore can be lawfully prescribed).

Schedule 2 drugs can be lawfully possessed by anyone holding a prescription. However, the current arrangements are reliant on local doctors feeling able and willing to prescribe such products and being appropriately qualified to do so. There are many reasons why a doctor may feel ill-equipped to do so based on their professional experience and expertise. Up to now, no local doctors included on the UK Specialist Register have approached HSC with respect to prescribing cannabis-based products.

Having been made aware of this practical barrier, HSC is actively progressing further legislative changes which will enable islanders to privately access care through off-island clinics, with the potential for support from on-island clinicians, and for prescribed cannabis products to be lawfully imported into the Bailiwick. This will retain the same robust safeguards inherent in the original legislation to ensure islanders access high-quality products while addressing the operational challenges which arose in giving effect to the intention of the 2019 Order. This will see the Committee able to issue a licence for the importation and supply of a cannabis-based medicinal product for human use, even if it is not prescribed (or directed) by a specialist medicinal practitioner registered in the Bailiwick of Guernsey, and does not have a marketing authorisation issued by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency or the European Medicines Agency.

This work is being progressed as a priority and it is hoped that the legislative changes will be made within the next month.

Deputy Soulsby, President of the Committee for Health & Social Care said:

"It's one thing to make a change in the legal status, which we were pleased to be able to do last year, and another to make medicinal cannabis practically accessible. There are limits in how much we can influence that as a government, as it is rightly a matter for individual doctors to decide what they feel is best for their patients, in line with their professional expertise. However, this further change we're announcing today means Islanders will be able to access UK doctors with experience in this area and, where appropriate, get a legal prescription for cannabis products and access to the products themselves."

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