I can’t help but be thankful to see herbal medicine supplies available in the UK, after a spate of arrests for the illegal trade.
The Government has banned the sale of herbal tea at supermarkets, but a handful of online retailers have continued to sell it.
It has been banned by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) from being sold in pharmacies, but those in the public domain still sell it online.
As part of its crackdown, the Government has also introduced a five-year moratorium on the sale, dispensing and use of any products containing cannabis and extracts.
The Medicines, Healthcare Products and Cosmetics Act 2006, passed in March last year, came into force after the collapse of the old Psychoactive Substances Act in 2009.
But the moratorium was criticised by drug policy experts, who said it was ineffective and could be exploited by unscrupulous individuals.
Drugs minister Michael Gove has said he intends to continue the moratorium until the MHRA rules, and that the Government will be putting forward legislation in Parliament next year that will put a halt to any further sales of herbal medicines.
“It’s important that we do not continue to see the sale and dispensing of this dangerous product in pharmacies or retail outlets,” he said.
“I’m also going to be bringing forward legislation that will end the moratorium and allow the sale in pharmacies of medicinal herbal tea.”
He said the Government’s move was a “great start” to the crackdown, and was expected to “allow the sale” of medicinal cannabis.
However, pharmacists, the Association of British Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and the Association for Therapeutic Goods Association are urging the Government to extend the moratorium.
“This ban will be ineffective as it only affects the sale by pharmacies of medicines containing cannabis extracts and not cannabis-based products,” they said in a joint statement.
This ban has led to a surge in the number of people arrested and prosecuted for the sale or dispensing, and the use of cannabis-infused products in England and Wales, the Apec said.
Drug policy experts said the ban was likely to further increase the number who would be prosecuted for dealing or selling cannabis-derived products in the future.
More than 1,300 people were charged under the Psychoactive Substance Act between 2011 and 2018, the figures show.
The MHRA said it has received reports of the sale at pharmacies of herbal medicine in the last 12 months, with “hundreds” of complaints lodged with the regulator.
In a statement, the regulator said it had received more than 4,000 complaints about the sale over the last three months.
Last month, the MHRC launched a new programme to tackle the growing number of prosecutions for dealing and selling cannabis extracts, with the aim of cracking down on people “selling, dispensering or offering to sell medicinal cannabis”.
The Government will introduce legislation in the autumn that will extend the ban on the medicinal use of medicinal herbs to other products, including non-prescription pharmaceuticals, such as vitamins and minerals, and cosmetics.