Cannabis for medical use could become law after MPs form legislation action group
Former Health Minister Dan Poulter – who still works as a GP part-time – said he had already signed up four of the Commons’ nine medical doctors; fellow Conservative Andrew Murrison, Labour’s Paul Williams, and Philippa Whitford of the Scottish National party.
On Thursday Poulter was inviting colleagues to join an all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on medicinal cannabis. He is to co-chair the group with Mike Penning, an ex-Tory justice minister who told the Guardian that they estimate that the group has the support of around 80 politicians.
The push is good news for sick children like Alfie Dingley, a six-year-old boy with epilepsy. He had been effectively treated with cannabis oil in the Netherlands, but was denied it in the UK. Dingley’s family put medical cannabis on the political agenda with a 300,000-strong signature petition to Downing Street.
Another boy, Billy Caldwell, 12, is in a similar situation to Alfie. His doctor found himself in hot water with officials for trying to write a cannabis prescription. Campaigners say that there are hundreds of other families facing the same problems as Billy and Alfie.
“What these cases help to do is bring into focus some of the absurdities about the law at the moment,” Tory MP Poulter said. The Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP said that there is a general consensus among MPs that the ban on cannabis-derived drugs should be lifted. He added that the support of so many doctors in the Commons would give the campaign more weight.
Members of the APPG will look “in a rigorous scientific way” at evidence from other countries that have allowed medicinal cannabis use. The group will then make recommendations to the government on how the legislation can be changed.
Details of the plan were revealed on Tuesday by the Conservative co-chair of the all party parliamentary group on drug policy reform, Crispin Blunt, at a medical cannabis investors conference.
Legalisation of medicinal use of cannabis could be the first step towards full legalisation. Canada, which allowed medicinal use in 2001, prepares for Justin Trudeau’s government to follow through with its promise for a fully legal market.
However APPG co-chair Mike Penning said anyone hoping for a similar situation in the UK would be “drawing the wrong conclusions.” He said: “I would not be part of or even consider being a party of an APPG where [legalisation] was the end goal.”
A line in the sand needed to be drawn between patients like Alfie Dingley and the wider drug law debate. “[Alfie] doesn’t go into a bar in Amsterdam and have a spliff, it’s completely different and that’s why we’ve set up this group,” Penning said.
Charlotte Caldwell, Billy Caldwell’s mother, confirmed that she had met Poulter and threw her support behind his plan. “This is not about one boy, this is about all of the children that desperately need this medicine,” she said.
“This is so important. This now is about every child in our country that’s suffering from this brutal condition. And now is the time to get these children their medicine, to give them a better quality of life.”
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