DELEGATES at the SNP conference have voted overwhelmingly in favour of legalising cannabis for medical use.
Before May’s election, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said there was a “specific case” to relax the laws to aid people suffering from illnesses. However, the Misuse of Drugs Act is reserved to Westminster.
Of all the debates at the party’s conference it was this one that was the most bad tempered, with an SNP councillor being booed by delegates for telling those suffering chronic pain to just take more exercise.
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The motion was proposed by MS sufferer Laura Brennan-Whitefield, who said cannabis was being used legally in a number of countries.
“We as a developed Western nation are fast becoming behind the times. We are the odd ones out,“ she said, warning that the current law was criminalising people in pain, and pushing sufferers towards illegal dealers. These people who are suffering pain, have by the time they’re willing to try cannabis, in most cases, exhausted every other option, Is it not unreasonable to criminalise them?
“I am talking about some of the most vulnerable people in society who may have had the added misfortune of going through the DWP ‘s inhumane assessment procedures for disability benefits. To then brand them criminals for trying to have a quality of life. ”
But Renfrew councillor Audrey Doig warned delegates that cannabis was a gateway drug, and would lead to patients putting pressure on GPs for prescriptions. She told conference of her cousin claiming his “brain was mush” because he had started off with a joint before becoming hooked on harder substances.
“There is alternative to pain medication, and a lot of doctors are basically prescribing a fitness regime for getting you fit,” she said.
She added: “That’s the way to go people. Stop all these pain medications. Go to fitness regimes. The doctors are trying it out now and it’s working for heart patients, for angina and it’s working for MS patients too. I don’t want to see this go through just to have another form of medication. “
The councillor also claimed those given a prescription would still use illegal drugs comparing them to methadone users who also take heroin: “I know that the ‘MS card’ is being played here,” she said, provoking boos from the audience, “but it’s not just MS that it would be used for. I’m sorry, but it’s true. “
There was a motion to remit back, a process effectively asking for more time discuss the motion before asking delegates to vote on it.
Pharmacist Tom McEwen said the problem with the resolution was the use of the word "prescribe". Cannabis was a herbal medicine, not something that should be given out by doctors and pharmacies. Savitex, the cannabinoid-based medicine also simply wasn't effective, he said, which is why the company behind it hadn’t submitted it to the Scottish Medicines Consortium for approval.
“As health care professionals we do want our patients to have everything we can throw at them to help, but we want to do them no harm,” he said.
“The cannabis that people are buying on the streets illegally is not a medicine, it’s a herbal product. As a non-pharmaceutical product cannabis would not meet the standards of a safe medicine”.
Conference passed the motion.