Cross-party group recommends legalisation of cannabis for medical use

Cannabis use for medical purposes should be legalised according to a cross-party group at Westminster.

Baroness Meacher (pictured), chairman of the group of peers and MPs who undertook an inquiry into the issue, said that to refuse to recognise the medicinal advantages of cannabis was “irrational”.

As the law stands, cannabis use is illegal for medicinal purposes although one drugs, Sativex, a cannabis-based product, is classified differently and can be legally prescribed in limited circumstances.

David Liddell, chief executive of the Scottish Drugs Forum, said: “Drugs are an emotive issue. For this and for other, historical reasons, our drugs laws are not wholly based on evidence or in reason. In this sense they are a cultural rather than scientific artefact. It is unfortunate that any medicinal benefits of a substance like cannabis cannot be researched properly without raising controversy.

“Ironically, proper research may not only show medical benefits but means by which the benefit can be derived without associated intoxication. Pain and symptomatic relief are of enormous benefit to patients with chronic conditions.”

Crossbench peer Lady Meacher said: “The findings of our inquiry and review of evidence from across the world are clear. Cannabis works as a medicine for a number of medical conditions. The evidence has been strong enough to persuade a growing number of countries and US states to legalise access to medical cannabis.

“Against this background, the UK scheduling of cannabis as a substance that has no medical value is irrational.”

The Green Party’s Caroline Lucas, who co-chairs the group, said: “Many hundreds of thousands of people in the UK are already taking cannabis for primarily medical reasons. It is totally unacceptable that they should face the added stress of having to break the law to access their medicine.

“The government should have the political courage to view the issue of medical cannabis separately from wider drugs reform.”

Professor Mike Barnes was commissioned by the group to look at evidence from around the world.

He found good evidence that cannabis can alleviate spasticity, chronic pain and anxiety.

Professor Barnes said: “We analysed over 20,000 scientific and medical reports. The results are clear. Cannabis has a medical benefit for a wide range of conditions. I believe that with greater research, it has the potential to help with an even greater number of conditions. But this research is being stifled by the government’s current classification of cannabis as having no medical benefit.”