After an inquiry into marijuana’s potential to help patients with a wide range of conditions, a cross-party group of MPs and peers have called for cannabis to be made legal in the UK for medicinal purposes.
The group, chaired by Lady Meacher, have called for changes that would put the UK in line with at least 11 other European countries and 24 US states where laws have already been passed allowing patients to use the drug to help treat and manage chronic pain and numerous other conditions.
In their report, the group called upon the government to introduce a system that allows patients to access cannabis for medicinal purposes, and to decriminalise the growth of small amounts of the drug at home for the same purposes.
During the inquiry, the group looked at evidence from over 600 patients and medical professionals and also commissioned Professor Mike Barnes, a consultant neurologist, to review all of the existing published research on the drug’s potential to relieve medical problems.
Barnes found that there was good evidence that marijuana can help with chronic pain, muscle spasms often associated with MS, the management of anxiety, and nausea and vomiting, particularly when caused as a side effect of chemotherapy.
The inquiry heard that a large amount of patients had attempted to source cannabis to treat their symptoms, despite the fact it is currently illegal, and that users often found it impossible to get expert medical guidance or supervision in relation to how they should take the drug.
According to the report, some 30,000 people in the UK currently use cannabis as medicine, but it is thought that that figure could be a lot higher with estimates around 1 million.
Lady Meacher has been quoted in the press stating: “In Professor Barnes’ report, we now have irrefutable evidence that cannabis is an effective medicine for very large numbers of people. These are people who are suffering the most appling chronic illness, involving severe neuropathic pain, interminable nausea, and anxiety, and all of these conditions can be helped, not in every case, but in many cases where prescribed medicines do not work or because there are such appalling side-effects that the person is worse off with prescribed medicine that without.
“About 30,000 patients in the UK currently risk arrest and, in some cases, are being arrested for buying their medicines from illegal drug dealers, and that is an appalling state of affairs. This money goes to drug dealers and terrorists, and we could avoid putting this money into the hands of these people by legalising cannabis for medicinal uses.”
The report challenges the government’s classification of cannabis under schedule 1, which is reserved for drugs that have no recognised medicinal uses. Under the scheme, the production, possession, and supply of cannabis, along with LSD and mescaline, is permitted only for research and other special purposes.
David Nutt, the government’s former chief drugs adviser and professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London, has often commented that it is outrageous that the government has dragged its heels over legalising cannabis for medicinal uses.
Nutt has been quoted in the press stating: “Cannabis has been a medicine for more than 4,000 years, and in the UK was in the pharmacopoeia until 1971 when the USA forced us to remove it as part of the war on drugs. Now, over 200 million Americans have access to medicinal cannabis whereas we do not.”