If you happen to live in the United Kingdom, you’ll know that the British government has one of the most blinkered views on drug policy anywhere in the world. An advanced nation in many ways, but when it comes to common sense and drug policy…not so much. Let’s not forget that this was and is the government that once fired its most senior drug advisor, simply because the wisdom of the experts didn’t gel with the outdated and misguided opinions of lawmakers. Indeed, it’s a sad day when facts, evidence and logic take a backseat to BS – meaning it’s a sad day every day in the UK!

Still, there’s at least a shred of progress being made in some areas, which could eventually lead to changes being made for the better. For the very first time…which in its own right is a pretty sad thing…the British government’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has admitted that cannabis does indeed have medicinal properties. Not exactly a ground-breaking revelation, given the fact that it’s something we’ve technically known for centuries. Still, this represents wholly new territory for the UK gov as it’s the first time the MHRA has ever acknowledged the fact that cannabis has the potential to be in any way positive.

And of course, this represents the first and most important step on the road toward medical marijuana legalization. It may be a very small step, but even a stumble is forward movement…right?

Better Late Than Never

Great British Cannabis Flag

Great British Cannabis

The investigation was carried out following discussions with MediPen – a company that makes the first ever CBD vaporiser to be in any way trialled by the UK’s National Health Service. They were of course, interested in the effects and properties of CBD – the active ingredient that makes up about 40% of the extract taken from a cannabis plant and is known to have remarkable medicinal properties. It doesn’t get you high, but it has proved pretty impressive in large-scale tests when used to treat a variety of chronic conditions.

What makes the relatively modest findings and comments of the MHRA so significant is the way in which they go directly against everything the government currently says about cannabis. As far as the powers that be are concerned, cannabis remains a direct threat to public health and is a substance with no directly beneficial properties. Hence the reason why it remains a Class B Controlled Substance and is illegal in every way, shape and form. Nevertheless, more research groups and pharmaceutical companies than ever before are shouting and screaming the benefits of CBD to the world, making it nigh-on impossible for lawmakers to ignore them.

“Since our inception we’ve worked hard to obtain our goal of breaking down the negative connotations surrounding Cannabis to lead to a reform in the law for medicinal use,” said Managing Director of MediPen, Jordan Owen, in an interview with The Independent.

“Now this is finally becoming a reality, which will provide ground-breaking results.”

The Full MHRA Assessment

Houses of Parliament in action

Houses of Parliament in action

As for how the MHRA decided to word its historic findings, the statement of interest reads as follows:

‘The MHRA has now completed it’s review and has considered all information available to it relating to Cannabidiol(CBD) and having taken into account all the scientific advice and evidence, it has come to an opinion that products containing Cannabidiol will satisfy the second limb of the definition of a ‘medicinal product’ because it may be used by or administered to human beings either with a view to restoring, correcting or modifying physiological functions by exerting a pharmacological, immunological or metabolic action, or to making a medical diagnosis.’

In addition, those using or considering the use of CBD products for any given purpose were targeted directly by the MHRA with simple advice.

“If you use CBD and if you have any questions, speak to your GP or another healthcare professional,” an MHRA spokesperson said.

“We have written to UK CBD stockists and manufacturers to inform them of our view. We can provide regulatory guidance to any company who may wish to apply for a licence.”

What It Really Means

Rather than spurring the rapid legalization of any kind of cannabis, it’s instead likely to lead to further studies and investigations on a wider scale – most of which will most likely only repeat the findings of tests carried out worldwide. Either way, it’s not until there’s concrete evidence provided by its own researchers that the UK government is likely to give the green light to medical marijuana. Which, suffice to say, could take some time…and a lot of it.

As for what it all means for the future of cannabis in the UK, the short answer for the time being is actually pretty depressing. Whilst they have finally agreed with something we have all known for a long time, CBD is a beneficial for numerous health issues.  What has actually happened is they have written to all major UK sellers and told them that all CBD products must be removed from the shelves within 28 days. So the MHRA now agrees its beneficial but you can no longer access it.

Scare Stories

Cannabis Is Illegal

Cannabis Is Illegal

In the meantime, we can expect the same kinds of scare stories that have been scripted and churned out for decades, by those looking to keep cannabis off the streets. One case-in-point example having been recently shared by The Mirror, referencing a study carried out in Canada that apparently highlights the true dangers of cannabis. As far as the researchers behind this particular study are concerned, smoking cannabis as a teenager can make you stupid.

And cure the collective yawn among those tired of this dead horse being flogged once again.

According to the details of the study, smoking cannabis as a youngster leads to detrimental effects on no less than four important areas of the brain. The team was interested in how exactly cannabis might affect the brains of those who start smoking it before turning 17 years of age. They reported that visual and spatial awareness, memory, introspection and reward processing were all affected negatively in young pot smokers. In addition, they stated that the younger a person begins using cannabis, the more negatively their resulting IQ development is affected.

“These findings suggest using marijuana does not correct the brain abnormalities or symptoms of depression and using it from an early age may have an abnormal effect not only on brain function, but also on IQ,” wrote Dr Elizabeth Osuch, of Western University, Ontario.

The only problem being that there are in fact two glaring problems with these findings. First of all, they are comprehensively outweighed by the results of countless studies that have brought to light evidence suggesting that this just isn’t how it works at all. Whether it’s a case of misinterpreting the old ‘cause and effect’ argument or jumping to conclusions, there just isn’t nearly enough evidence to suggest that cannabis has any such effects on the brain. In addition to this, even the researchers behind the study admitted that the scale of the study was far too small to come up with any concrete conclusions.

So once again, an interesting theory, but not one to buy into. That is, unless propaganda is your thing, which it very well might be.

Turning a Blind Eye

Police Observe Cannabis Smokers

Police Observe Cannabis Smokers

With the way things are going, the situation in the UK is going to become increasingly odd and contradictory going forward. Even at this moment, a growing number of police forces across the country have stated that they will continue to turn a blind eye to low-level cannabis use and distribution, having accepted that there are far more pressing matters to focus on. Or in other words, they’re to a certain extent taking the law into their own hands, having acknowledged the fact that the way things stand in an official capacity no longer makes sense.

Slowly but surely, it’s getting tricky to find really any place in the UK where you’re likely to get in any real trouble for smoking cannabis and getting caught. Maybe if you have a small plantation at home or a huge bag of bud on you, but simply for smoking weed and carrying a bit, very few seem bothered anymore. Hell, just this last week the Plymouth Cannabis Social Club organised a public ‘protest picnic’ which saw a bunch of cannabis users gather together for a collective smoke.

They’ve spoken openly since being founded in 2014 of their intention to help raise awareness of the important of safe, fair and regulated cannabis policy, with the best interests of the community in mind. This time, despite there being more than 30 people smoking pot out in public, not a single arrest was made.

And it’s the same picture across much of the rest of the country too, suggesting that lawmakers really need to pull their collective fingers out and catch up. The public has changed its views on cannabis, local police forces are focusing their efforts elsewhere and hugely important health groups and researchers are touting the incredible benefits of pot. Indeed, the only ones NOT getting the message are those in charge of making the laws we all live by.

Still, as said at the beginning it’s at least safe to say that a small step in the right direction is far better than a huge step backwards.