Wednesday, June 20, 2018 06.00AM / BBC
The use of medicinal cannabis is to be reviewed by the UK government, which could lead to more prescriptions of drugs made from the plant.
The UK home secretary said the decision was prompted by recent high-profile cases of children with severe epilepsy being denied access to cannabis oil to control seizures.
But Sajid Javid stressed the drug would remain banned for recreational use.
Charlotte Caldwell, whose son Billy has severe epilepsy, welcomed the decision after campaigning for change.
Speaking to the House of Commons, Javid said the position “we find ourselves in currently is not satisfactory”.
He said the cases of Alfie Dingley and Billy Caldwell had made him conclude it was time to review the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.
He also announced that six-year-old Alfie, who has a very rare form of epilepsy that causes up to 150 seizures per month, was being issued with a licence to receive cannabis-based drugs.
His family had originally applied to the government in April, saying his condition improved after using cannabis oil in the Netherlands.
Meanwhile, Billy, 12, was granted a 20-day licence for the drug last week after doctors made clear it was a medical emergency.
He was admitted to hospital after his seizures “intensified” following his supply being confiscated at Heathrow Airport.
His mother, Charlotte, speaking after Mr Javid’s statement, said: “Common sense and the power of mothers and fathers of sick children has bust the political process wide open and is on the verge of changing thousands of lives by bringing our medicinal cannabis laws in line with many other countries.”
But she added that while it was a “clearly largely positive” announcement, “we still want to hear the details”.
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott welcomed Javid’s statement, telling MPs that it was “long overdue”.
Lady Meacher, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group for drug policy reform – which two years called for cannabis-based drugs to be legalised – said the move could benefit many people.
She said, “There are 200,000 people in this country with uncontrolled epileptic seizures, MS sufferers, people with Parkinson’s, people with cancer. So there are just so many people who must be celebrating today and I’m celebrating with them.”
Canada Legalises Recreational Cannabis Use
Canada's parliament has passed a law legalising the recreational use of marijuana nationwide.
The Cannabis Act passed its final hurdle on Tuesday in a 52-29 vote in the Senate. The bill controls and regulates how the drug can be grown, distributed, and sold.
Canadians will be able to buy and consume cannabis legally as early as this September.
The country is the second worldwide to legalise the drug's recreational use.
Uruguay became the first country to legalise the sale of cannabis for recreational use in December 2013, while a number of US states have also voted to permit it.
Cannabis possession first became a crime in Canada in 1923 but medical use has been legal since 2001.
The bill will likely receive Royal Assent this week, and the government will then choose an official date when the law will come into force.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that until now, "it's been too easy for our kids to get marijuana - and for criminals to reap the profits".
But some groups objected to the new law, with opposition Conservative politicians and indigenous groups among those voicing concerns.
The government is expected to give the provinces and territories, as well as municipalities, eight to 12 weeks to set up the new marijuana marketplace.
This timeframe will also allow industry and police forces to prepare for the new legal framework.
In 2015, Canadians were estimated to have spent about C$6bn ($4.5bn, £3.4bn) on cannabis - almost as much as they did on wine.
It is likely that by mid-September, Canadians will be able to buy cannabis and cannabis oil grown by licensed producers at various retail locations.
Canadians across the country will also be able to order the drug online from federally licensed producers.
Adults will be able to possess up to 30 grams (one ounce) of dried cannabis in public.
Edibles, or cannabis-infused foods, will not be immediately available for purchase but will be within a year of the bill coming into force. The delay is meant to give the government time to set out regulations specific to those products.
The minimum legal age to buy and consume marijuana has been set federally at 18, but some provinces have chosen to set it at 19.
Provinces are in charge of how it is sold and have the power to set various other limits on its use within their jurisdiction - like where it can be smoked.
But the federal government has set guidelines for plain packaging with little branding and strict health warnings. It will also impose restrictions on promotions targeting young people, promotion through sponsorships, or depictions of celebrities, characters, or animals in advertisements.
It will be illegal to possess over 30 grams of cannabis, grow more than four plants per household, and to buy from an unlicensed dealer.
Penalties will be severe. Someone caught selling the drug to a minor could be jailed for up to 14 years.
Some critics say the penalties are too harsh and not proportional to similar laws like those around selling alcohol to minors.