RPS hosts debate on legal status of cannabis

17 Sep 2015
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) will host a debate on whether the legal status of cannabis should be changed from a Schedule 1 to a Schedule 2 drug at its annual conference on Monday 14 September.  
Some argue a change in the listing would make it easier to research the drug’s potential to provide treatments for cancer, multiple sclerosis, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and pain relief. 
A Schedule 1 listing under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 is given to drugs considered to have no medicinal use and potential for harm and abuse. 
Research into a Schedule 1 drug needs approval from the Home Office and includes purchase of a special licence which costs £4700 and can take up to a year to arrange.  In addition, bespoke security arrangements are required at additional cost when storing or obtaining the drug, as well as regular Police checks on both premises and staff.
Drugs listed under Schedule 2 are considered to have medicinal uses, so they can be prescribed, and include heroin, cocaine and morphine.  Their listing means research departments do not require a licence to possess the drugs and the security needed is less complicated and costly to comply with.
Professor Jayne Lawrence, RPS Chief Scientist said: “Cannabis contains around 70 ingredients called cannabinoids, which studies suggest interact with the body’s systems of pain control and brain function. International research* has shown promise in cannabinoids reducing stiffness and muscle spasm in MS, lessening pain caused by damaged nerves, helping patients with ADHD and cancer. 
“The worst possible situation would be to have patients deprived of potentially effective medicines that could make a real difference to their lives. This debate will allow us to think through whether changing the status of cannabis would allow more clinical research and hopefully more effective cannabis based medicines.”
The mind-altering substance in cannabis is THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol. When making a licensed medicine, this can be separated out from potentially medically useful ingredients, so patients do not have to experience the ‘high’ associated with recreational use.  Cannabis has been licensed for medicinal use in some parts of the USA, but this means patients have to smoke or eat the drug, and so can experience harms and mind-altering effects.
Professor Elizabeth Williamson MRPharmS, Professor of Pharmacy, University of Reading will argue for a cannabis to be changed to a Schedule 2 drug and Professor Tony Moffat FRPharmS, Emeritus Professor of Pharmaceutical Analysis, UCL School of Pharmacy, will argue against.
The RPS Annual Conference is being held on 13 and 14 September at the International Convention Centre (ICC), Birmingham. To take part in this debate, book your ticket today.