In the UK, medicinal marijuana products are legal but generally very expensive and nearly impossible to get a hold of. In 2017, 270 doses of Sativex—a cannabis-based oral spray for severe medical conditions like multiple sclerosis—cost £375 ($536). Now, a hospital in Jersey, a small island governed by the UK in the English channel, is giving out free Sativex to anyone who receives a prescription.
Senator Andrew Green, Jersey’s health minister, told itv.com that Sativex will “be widely available for where the consultant thinks it appropriate. It’s not for me to say only this condition can have it, or only that one.” This essentially means that specialists have the freedom to prescribe Sativex to whoever they think it will help rather than a limited number of patients with certain conditions.
Sativex is part of a push to bring greater access to medical marijuana in Jersey—and the rest of the UK
The UK first approved Sativex in 2010. Currently, Sativex is the only approved cannabis medication in Jersey. The spray—created by UK-based GW Pharmaceuticals—is an important step for cannabis reform as it contains real cannabis-derived compounds. It has THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, and CBD, the non-psychoactive cannabinoid said to help with pain and anxiety, among other conditions. This makes it markedly different from synthetic “cannabis” products which are made to mimic cannabis but don’t actually have the plant in them.
While medical marijuana is still relatively difficult to access in the UK, this is an important step. Health Minister Green said last year that Jersey hopes to implement a medical marijuana system.
Cannabis in Jersey is a regulatory mess
Part of the problem for Jersey, and the other Channel Islands, is that in order to get cannabis products, they must pass through France or the UK. The UK has strict cannabis laws, and in France, they’re even worse.
Importing medical grade cannabis products is a challenge so Jersey is under pressure to grow its own marijuana. One Jersey politician said, “If the issue is in getting these through UK customs, which I hope should not be insurmountable, maybe the answer is to license our own growers here.”
Jersey already grows hemp, but even that is slightly controversial on the island.