CBD Oil & Cannabis Oil in The UK – How Has it Come About?
After a couple of recent high-profile cases in the media, the UK government was urged to rethink its position on the use of cannabidiol (CBD oil) as a medicine. Previously, cannabis was classed as a ‘schedule 1’ drug, meaning that it was not known to have any medicinal value and it can’t, therefore, be prescribed or possessed.
Recently, however, the stories of Billy Caldwell and Alfie Dingley, two young boys both with severe forms of epilepsy, have anecdotal evidence tied to Cannabis oil having a positive effect for them. These two cases prompted the government to reassess the use of medical Cannabis and CBD oil. The change in classification to ‘schedule 2’ means that doctors can now prescribe cannabis-based medicines and medical Cannabis oil for certain medical conditions. Albeit a long and complicated process to do so.
The main point to note here is although the names sound very similar, and most of what makes each oil are similar, but Cannabis Oil and CBD Oil are actually different products. Cannabis Oil is pretty much the same as CBD Oil except it is made from marijuana strains that have a high THC percentage. THC is the component in cannabis plants that has psychoactive properties and makes you feel "high". Cannabis Oil can contain as much as 50% THC and sometimes even higher with up to 80% THC! CBD Oil can be made from both the marijuana cannabis plant or hemp plant and is made to have less than 0.2% THC. Making CBD Oil have no psychoactive properties. The majority of CBD Oils are made from industrial hemp plants.
The UK government is working on what constitutes a cannabis-derived medical product with a view to deciding what is going to be allowed to be prescribed. It is worth noting, of course, that the Home Secretary Sajid Javid has stated very clearly that making changes to the classification of CBD as a ‘schedule 2’ drug will not lead to the legalisation of other forms of cannabis in the UK, which has been a concern for some.
The History of Cannabis as a Medicine in The UK
While the reclassification of CBD oil is obviously a big change and considered by many as a step forward in the treatment of certain medical conditions, it is not the first time that cannabis products have been prescribed legally in the UK. Until the Misuse of Drugs Act came into force in 1971, doctors were able to prescribe cannabis for medical use. Before 1971, the UK had a fairly relaxed approach to cannabis and the country’s drug policy was fairly liberal.
The changes recently talked about by the government haven’t yet come into force and, until the new regulations are finalised, clinicians still can’t prescribe medical Cannabis Oil. However, in exceptional cases like that of Billy Caldwell, licences for medical use can be issued. It is worth noting at this point, though, that it is actually possible to buy CBD Oil in the UK and has been for a short while. There is a big difference, however, between the oil used by Billy and the oil that is available to buy in high-street stores and online in the UK.
What is The Difference between CBD Oil in The UK Shops and Medicinal CBD Oil
The CBD oil that you can buy in shops on the high street and online in the UK is strictly regulated. The CBD must come from industrial hemp containing less than 0.2% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the psychoactive substance that causes the ‘high’ associated with typical cannabis use. Thus, oil produced without THC (or less than 0.2%) doesn’t give users a ‘high’, nor is it an addictive product.
Any UK CBD product is perfectly legal since it will have been produced from one of the 63 EU approved industrial hemp varieties, all of which contain less than 0.2% THC. What is more, further regulations mean that sellers of CBD oils and oil products are sold as a food supplement.
Billy Caldwell’s Case
Billy Caldwell is a 12-year-old who suffered a severe form of autism and epilepsy and was having up to 100 seizures per day. Back in 2016, he was prescribed cannabis oil by a US doctor, which his mother claimed kept her son seizure-free for 250 days. When Billy was denied access to this oil because of the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act, he began having seizures again and was admitted to hospital.
So, if CBD oil is legal to buy in the UK, why was Billy Caldwell’s confiscated from his mother at Heathrow Airport? The difference is that Billy used Cannabis Oil, not CBD Oil. The Cannabis Oil was purchased in Canada, and was made from cannabis flowers and leaves and has a THC concentration much higher than 0.2%. This is, therefore, was classed as illegal in the UK because of the high THC properties. To summarise, while hemp is still cannabis, not all cannabis is hemp, and even then it needs to be below 0.2% THC to be considered legal.
Oil produced from the cannabis plant itself will still contain THC but oil from hemp will not (at least not in concentrations higher than 0.2%). So a CBD Oil made from the cannabis plant will have the CBD isolated from THC, or it will be made from hemp plants. Cannabis Oil will be made strictly from the Cannabis plant and will have a higher THC content. For Billy, the decision was eventually made to allow access to this product even though it contains THC. This means now cannabis-derived medical Cannabis Oils are available for UK patients, as opposed to CBD Oil solely with zero to low (less than 0.2%) levels of THC that users purchase themselves in health stores. However, there is an extremely complicated of processes to be prescribed Cannabis Oil and it requires reviewing at the highest levels.
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