Scandalous decisions: explaining shifts in UK medicinal cannabis policy.
Addiction. 2021 Jan 06;:
Authors: Monaghan M, Wincup E, Hamilton I
BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Opening up access to scheduled drugs such as cannabis in the United Kingdom rarely happens, yet on 1 November 2018 the United Kingdom changed the law to allow cannabis-derived products to be prescribed for medicinal purposes, albeit in tightly controlled circumstances. This followed substantial media interest in the cases of two children with epilepsy. This article focuses upon the role of scandal in bringing about legislative change.
METHODS: We used political science and social policy theories (punctuated equilibrium theory and scandal theory) to guide a qualitative content analysis of media articles published in 2018 in UK national newspapers. We focused in particular on the 6-month period prior to the policy change.
RESULTS: The concentrated attention by the media given to the suffering of children with epilepsy appears to have prompted the rapid change in policy by the UK government. A variety of strategies were used to develop a highly emotive response to garner support for reform. Media stories emphasized the injustice of two extremely sick children being unable to access the medicine they apparently needed to enable them to have a ‘normal’ childhood. Three groups of ‘claim-makers’ were identified as important in influencing public opinion: families, high-profile individuals and campaigning groups.
CONCLUSIONS: The case of medicinal cannabis in the United Kingdom suggests that policy reform can occur when a scandal is successfully manufactured. We must be cautious, however, about over-emphasizing the role of scandal as a driver of policy change in this context: only a limited set of circumstances will permit a prescription for cannabis-based medicine to be issued in the United Kingdom.
PMID: 33404120 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]
Source: ncbi 2