NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Plan for Scotland's first medical cannabis clinic in Aberdeen

medical cannabis Image copyright Google
Image caption Medical cannabis was legalised in the UK in 2018

Plans for Scotland's first medical cannabis clinic in Aberdeen have been unveiled.

Medical cannabis was legalised in the UK in November 2018, allowing doctors to prescribe it in certain situations.

Sapphire Medical Clinic plans to be the first clinic to "prescribe medical cannabis for all conditions acknowledged to benefit".

NHS Grampian said it was "concerning" a clinic using GP referrals could give treatments not available on the NHS.

The Scottish government said it had no influence over prescribing and it was the decision of specialist clinicians to prescribe the drug.

The new law moved cannabis from schedule 1 under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 - meaning it had no therapeutic value - to schedule 2.

Sapphire Medical Clinic said it was in the "advanced stages" of securing registration for the clinic, which is in the Bridge of Don area of Aberdeen.

It could be open within two months.

Managing director Dr Mikael Sodergren said it had already been seen first-hand how medical cannabis was "transforming lives".

Image caption The planned site is in the Bridge of Don area of Aberdeen

He said: "It means patients in Scotland will now have access to world-class experts in managing their condition, who also have expertise in medical cannabis.

"Medical cannabis is an exciting and rapidly developing field of medicine that could transform the lives of patients living with certain conditions.

"But prescription numbers have been low, held down by patients who are often in significant pain or with physical disabilities, being unable to travel the long distances to clinics."

NHS Grampian said in a statement: "There is currently a route of access via the NHS for medicinal cannabis products.

"This is restricted to conditions where there is evidence of benefit or accepted UK guidelines for use. Currently, in Scotland, this only includes complex intractable epilepsy or nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy treatment.

"It is concerning that this private clinic operates on the mechanism of GP referrals, given the treatments used in the clinic would not be available nor recognised by the NHS. There is the risk of significant GP time being utilised to provide clients access to this private healthcare."

A Scottish government spokesman said: "The scheduling of Cannabis Based Products for Medicinal Use (CBPMs) is reserved to the UK government and the Scottish government has no powers to alter its status. We welcome the UK government's decision to allow doctors on the GMC specialist register to prescribe such products where there is clear published evidence of benefit. 

"Scottish ministers do not make or influence prescribing decisions. The decision on whether to prescribe any medicine for a patient, and which medicine to prescribe, is entirely one for clinicians on the specialist register to make. If a clinician were to prescribe an approved CBPM using an NHS prescription, it would be dispensed free of charge in Scotland."

Cannabis-based medicines can come in the form of whole cannabis flowers, oils or capsules, or a single compound which can be isolated and extracted.

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