Earlier this month Health Minister Andrew Green announced in the States that, pending further advice, certain cannabis products prescribed by a doctor could be legalised. There are no plans to legalise smoking the drug.
Deputy Green’s announcement came following new advice in a major study known as the Barnes Report.
However, Deputy Montfort Tadier wrote to Senator Green to raise his concerns after Dr Susan Turnbull, the Island’s Medical Officer of Health, told the BBC during a live radio interview that there was ‘no evidence that smoked cannabis is effective’ as a medicine.
Deputy Tadier pointed to a part of the Barnes Report which suggests that smoked cannabis is effective in alleviating pain.
Responding to the Deputy via email, Dr Turnbull said: ‘The only evidence of some effectiveness in the context of pain relief are the four available studies of smoked cannabis for pain relief, three of which were based on small numbers of participants, including the one to which Deputy Tadier’s email refers.
‘Each of these studies found some beneficial effects on pain, but significant side effects were documented in two of the other three studies.’
She added that while the main conclusion of the Barnes Report was that cannabis did have medicinal value it also said the ‘medical recommendation would be that cannabis should not be taken as a smoked product’.
‘The Barnes Report conclusions are likely to influence progress in the use of medical prescription of properly regulated, quality-assured cannabis medicinal products.
‘It showed that for certain medical conditions there is good evidence of benefit, in others some moderate or limited evidence of effectiveness, but also – importantly – that in many other medical conditions there is no convincing evidence of efficacy,’ she added.
Senator Green told the States that he hoped to bring forward legislation legalising certain cannabis-based products later this year.