The British government’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has confirmed that products containing cannabis are medicines.
MHRA officials said cannabidiol has a “restoring, correcting or modifying” effect on “physiological functions”.
It is potentially a significant milestone for campaigners who want to legalise cannabis based on its potential medical benefits.
Products which have cannabidiol in them, which is also known as CBD, are now officially classed as medicines by the UK’s regulatory body.
However, the Class B drug itself remains illegal to possess and has not been recognised by the official bodies as having any health benefits.
A spokesperson for the MHRA said: “We have come to the opinion that products containing cannabidiol are a medicine. Products for therapeutic use must have a medicines license before they can be legally sold, supplied or advertised in the UK.”
That means those products have to meet with very strict safety, quality and effectiveness standards to make sure public health is safeguarded.
Companies using cannabidiol now have 28 days to get the right license so they can legally sell their products. Any firms selling products without a license could risk time in prison for its bosses or a large fine. Consumers currently using such products have been told to speak to their GP if they are confused about the situation.
The announcement from healthcare regulators comes after a review was carried out on a cannabidiol vaporiser which was reported to help people suffering from a wide range of conditions.
Jordan Owen, who is managing director of the MediPen vaporiser said: “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. Now this is finally becoming a reality, which will provide ground-breaking results.”
Around 200 million people globally are believed to have used cannabis as a recreational drug.
Cannabis used medicinally is said to reduce nausea and vomiting in people having chemotherapy during cancer treatment. It is also reported to improve appetite in those with HIV or AIDS and to help to treat chronic pain and muscle spasms.
Cannabinoids are also currently involved in research to determine whether they have the potential to treat stroke or children’s epilepsy.
Adverse side effects, however, include feelings of dizziness, tiredness, vomiting and hallucinations while long-term effects are unclear.