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Medical cannabis: Secret Somerset site conducting research

At a secret site in Somerset the first cannabis plants approved for growth for medical research are protected by heavy security
Image caption The site, where the cannabis is being grown, is protected by heavy security

The UK's first university-backed cultivation of cannabis for medical research is under way at a secret location in Somerset.

Sativa and King's College London are investigating how it can help treat inflammation and respiratory diseases.

Last week, two cannabis-based treatments for epilepsy and multiple sclerosis were approved by the NHS.

Both contain CBD or cannabidiol, one of the 113 identified cannabinoids in cannabis plants.

Image caption Cannabis plant seedlings are being grown under a Home Office licence

Dr Tom Freeman, lead director of the Addiction and Mental Health Group at the University of Bath, said: "It is now crucial to raise awareness of cannabis-based products and cannabinoids to doctors, patients and the public."

The cannabis plants, licensed for medical research, are being grown under a Home Office licence by Sativa, which is based near Frome.

Next week the plants will be transferred into a cultivation room ready to be harvested in three months' time.

BBC West health correspondent Matthew Hill was given exclusive access to the cannabis production plant, where the seedlings are protected by motion sensors and security cameras.

Image caption University of Bath expert Dr Tom Freeman advised the NHS over the medical use of cannabis

If the research proves positive, full clinical trials for the wider prescription on the NHS of cannabis-based medicines would still be required, but it is thought that the seedlings could signal the growth of a new medicine.

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