Draft bill published to allow GPs to prescribe cannabis

by Volteface Team

The Cannabis Industry Council (CIC) have drafted a bill to enable general medical practitioners (GPs) to prescribe cannabis medicines in the UK.

The CIC have been campaigning for this cause since the launch of the ‘Protect our Patients‘ campaign in July 2023. Their report explains why GPs should be allowed to prescribe medical cannabis and what impact this could have on patients in the UK.

The UK is lagging behind other countries that have legal medical cannabis markets. There are just 1,000 prescription cannabis patients on the NHS each year, and around 20,000 with prescriptions from private clinics. These numbers could significantly increase if GPs were allowed to initiate prescriptions. However, it is worth noting that if GPs permitted to prescribe medical cannabis in the UK this wouldn’t immediately help to expand NHS access and would still be limited to the private sector.

Jurisdictions which allow GPs to initiate prescriptions include Australia, Germany and Denmark. These countries have improved rates of patient access and outcomes, including higher proportion of prescriptions from the elderly and women.

The CIC’s report concludes that allowing GPs to prescribe medical cannabis can drive down NHS waiting lists, reduce opioid dependency, and cut crime. The report has been sent to the Treasury ahead of the upcoming Autumn Statement.

The CIC and its lawyers believe that the most straightforward process would be to make three simple amendments to section 4 of The Misuse of Drugs (Amendments) (Cannabis and Licence Fees) (England, Wales and Scotland) Regulations 2018. The amendments would incorporate ‘general medical practitioners’ alongside ‘specialist medical practitioners’ as lawful prescribers, as well as defining who constitutes as GP. So, really a minor piece of change to the legislation.

The draft Bill has been written as a piece of primary legislation. However, the intended outcomes of the draft Bill could potentially also be implemented via secondary legislation (as a statutory instrument), if certain changes are made to the text.

Dr Sunil Arora, Co-Chair of the CIC Prescription Cannabis Working Group, commented: “Given NHS waiting lists have soared to over seven million, allowing GPs to prescribe cannabis medicines is an oven-ready solution to this growing health emergency. Around one in three adults has chronic pain, and so they will make up a significant number of those in the queue. Cannabis medicines are proven to be effective at managing these conditions. The Cannabis Industry Council is publishing this draft Bill to further raise awareness among MPs, and we hope that a bill can be taken forward in the near future.”

Over a dozen MPs from across the political spectrum have signed EDM 1410, which calls for GPs to be allowed to prescribe cannabis medicines to their patients.

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