Parliament discusses legalisation of cannabis

Members of the House of Commons raised a very interesting issue in Parliament on Tuesday 20th February on the legalisation of cannabis.

Conservative MP Crispin Blunt asked the Home Secretary “if she will make a statement on the case of Alfie Dingley, whose parents and doctors are seeking access to medical cannabis to treat his epilepsy”.

 

The question was raised after six-year-old Alfie Dingley’s plea was rejected by the Home Office to allow him the use of cannabis to help him cope with his extreme seizures. His parents took to social media to campaign for a change in the UK government’s position on cannabis.

As it currently stands, cannabis is a class B drug, meaning it can result in up to five years in prison if found in possession of the drug, and up to fourteen years in prison if found to produce and supply cannabis.

Marijuana, aside from being widely used as a recreational drug, has also been known to help certain medical conditions and there has been an increase in support for getting the drug legalised in the UK.

There have been several pressure groups who have created online petitions to increase the number of supporters for legalising marijuana such as Clear and NORML UK.

 

Yasmin Banner, a journalist who produced a documentary on the subject, said “I think more people are coming around to the idea that cannabis undeniably has medicinal properties due to case studies that have been the media lately. Research I have completed myself shows people do still feel threatened by the legalisation for cannabis users because of its recreational use”.

 

In response to Blunt’s question, Nick Hurd, Minister for Policing and the Fire Service, responded by saying “The current situation is that outside of research we would not issue licences for the personal consumption of cannabis because it is listed as a schedule 1 drug.

However, we are aware of differing approaches in other countries and continue to monitor the World Health Organisation’s expert committee on drug dependence, which has committed to reviewing the use of medicinal cannabis. We will wait until the outcome of the review before considering any next steps”.

 

Although though the Minister did not offer any immediate solutions, the fact the government is now seriously looking into the legalisation of cannabis for medical purposes is a step in the right direction.

Stating the examples of the Netherlands and US, MP Blunt went on to explain how these examples have found ways to accommodate the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. He went on to add “Failure by the Government to move from their current position will sentence Alfie to the steroid-based treatment he was receiving before he went to the Netherlands, which is likely to give him early psychosis and a premature death.

Their position also means that British citizens are being denied all the potential medical and symptomatic benefits that could come from a properly licensed, regulated and researched access programme to cannabis-based medicines”.

Blunt’s position shows a more forward-thinking attitude from politicians towards alternative drugs for pain- relief. He was quick to add that cannabis should only be used in a controlled environment where “peer-reviewed, evidence based treatments produced to pharmaceutical standards” would allow patients with special cases to use the drug.

 

Ms Banner, who spent months researching the potential risks and benefits of legalisation of the drug, shared a similar respone: “yes I do think to a degree that the UK could reach a point where cannabis is legal in some form medicinally. We are already almost there with CBD being sold regularly around the country. Corporate chains such as Holland and Barrett are distributing cannabis related products“, she said, referring to the CBD oil that is being sold by Holland and Barrett to help alleviate some forms of pain.

She went on to say that maybe one of the reasons cannabis is taking so long to be legalised is due to the stigma attached to the drug. “The use of cannabis,like other illegal drugs, is associated with unsociable people from a lower class background and commonly young, rebellious people.

But what some people do not realise is, like many things cannabis users can not just be pigeon-holed into one stereotype. There are many people out there in UK and in other countries that are suffering, using medicines that cause more problems then solutions due to side effects, when there is cannabis that supposedly has good results without some of these consuming after effects”.

 

However, the government has been reluctant to allow any loop-holes for special cases without having done extensive research and experimentation with the drug in terms of its use in medicinal circumstances. This means patients such as Alfie Dingley are more likely to look abroad to countries such as the Netherlands to be able to use the drug without fear of persecution from the government. The UK government said it will wait to review the WHO committee report on drug dependance before making any decisions about its use in the country.

Raisa Ismail

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