TOMMY Sheppard has called for reform of the laws surrounding medicinal cannabis, arguing that it has the potential to benefit two million people and create over 97,000 jobs.

Writing on Twitter, the Edinburgh SNP MP said that these benefits “are currently not being realised because of barrier the UK Govt have put in place”, but said he was “proud to support the sector and echo their calls for reform”.

Under current law, only private consultants can prescribe cannabis-based products, though advocates for reform have long argued for a change in the law that would allow medicinal cannabis to be available via GPs.

READ MORE: How to get a prescription for legal medical cannabis in the UK

A 2021 report from medical cannabis experts Maple Tree Consultants and Mackrell Solicitors, from which Sheppard sourced the cited figures, also suggests that the UK’s medical cannabis industry could be worth in excess of £2 billion if even half of those believed to be obtaining cannabis illegally for medical reasons were granted prescriptions.

Speaking to The National, Sheppard added: “The issue of drugs policy should be viewed as a public health issue and it is high time it was treated as such by the UK Government.

“It has almost been four years since the Government announced that medical cannabis would be available to those to those who would benefit from it. And yet, many are still refused access due to the red tape surrounding the sector.

“Significant barriers would be broken by allowing GPs to prescribe these medicines. However, this would require a change in the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 – something only Westminster has the power to do. 

“If the UK Government continues to refuse to act and get medical cannabis in the hands of people who so desperately require it for treatment, then it must devolve the relevant powers to Holyrood so that the Scottish Parliament can.”

In June of this year, Holyrood saw its first ever members’ debate on access to medicinal cannabis, prompted by the plight of nine-year-old Cole Thomson, who relies upon a £1300-per-month private cannabis oil prescription to remain seizure-free, and whose family have fought an unsuccessful four-year battle to secure government funding for the treatment.

READ MORE: Legal medical cannabis user left suicidal after drugs seized by police

Peter Reynolds, president of the cannabis law reform campaign group CLEAR, told The National: “The single most effective thing that could be done to develop the sector would be to permit prescribing by GPs rather than just consultants. GPs are actually far better equipped to prescribe cannabis, as they have an overall picture of a patient’s healthcare needs rather than being focused on one condition.

“Unless the NHS takes a more evidence-based and progressive view on cannabis, the only way that the millions of people who could benefit from it will be general legalisation, which realistically is inevitable within the next few years anyway. As well as meeting the medical needs of at least 1.4 million people presently using cannabis illicitly for medical reasons, this would have the great benefit of combating the organised crime and gangster-controlled cannabis market which causes so much harm in our society.”