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In December 2016, the MHRA classified cannabis oil as a medicine, which contains cannabidiol (CBD) but does not contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which induces a ‘high’ or ‘stoning’ effect on the user. Cannabis oil is now on sale in a number of local pharmacies and health food stores and is in high demand particularly by people in chronic pain.

It can bring relief to patients for several conditions, including epilepsy. In April of this year, eleven-year-old Billy Caldwell and his mother made headline news when Ms Caldwell was successful in obtaining marijuana on prescription by the NHS. Her son Billy suffered from epilepsy and could have up to 100 fits per day. The family were due to travel to the US to obtain the cannabis oil, when Dr Brendan O’Hare, the local GP stepped in and prescribed the medicinal product to him.

According to one pharmacist in Northern Ireland, the cannabis oil is mostly sought after for pain relief “We have stocked cannabis oil for a month. People are asking for it for pain relief. We had to look into the legalities of it. It is definitely growing in popularity.” Mr Niall Corry, pharmacist and owner of Corry’s Chemist in Enniskillen stated that the cannabis oil is being sold as a food supplement and stressed “The pharmacist will oversee the sales of cannabis oil so that it is used in the right way”.

Other pharmacies in the area are also planning to stock the oil soon due to rapidly growing demand “We don’t stock it at the minute but we will probably contact our suppliers to look into it because we are receiving a lot of queries about it from our patients, including one patient who sourced it for chronic pain. It seems to be used for conditions where all other drugs don’t seem to be dealing with the issue”, Niallin McManus a pharmacist in Erne Pharmacy commented.

Nature’s Choice Health Food Shop has also updated its customers by confirming it has restocked on cannabis oil after the first batch sold out. In a Facebook post in April they wrote “We have been inundated with requests. Thanks for all your patience, we had no idea this product was going to be so sought after. It’s a sad reflection really of the number of people out there living in chronic pain. We really hope cannabis oil brings relief”.
Back in December 2016, the MHRA announced their decision on the classification of cannabis oil “We have come to the opinion that products containing cannabidiol (CBD) used for medicinal purposes are a medicine.”

“If you use CBD and if you have any question, speak to your GP or other HCP. We have written to UK CBD stockists and manufacturers to inform them of our view”.

Unless exempt, medicinal products must have a product licence before being sold, supplied or advertised in the UK. A license is awarded to those medicinal products that meet stringent safety, quality and efficacy standards.

The MHRA is committed to providing regulatory guidance to any company wishing to apply for a licence for cannabis oil.