THE UK Government is criminalising parents “trying to do the best for their kids”, an MP has said, as the number of people illegally buying cannabis for medical issues skyrockets.

A YouGov poll commissioned by Sapphire Medical Clinics found nearly 1.8 million people across the UK with a diagnosed medical condition were turning to the black market to help manage their illness. In 2019, a similar survey put the figure at 1.4m.

SNP MP Tommy Sheppard said while the UK Government has legalised cannabis for medical use, it continues to “drag their feet” on the issue, leaving families behind in the process.

“The medical argument has been won,” he told The National, “but they still seem to be stuck when it comes to actually licensing and making the products available.

“There’s an awful lot of inertia and there’s still a 1950s-type attitude among Tory MPs that the blister pack pills people would take are somehow recreational and that it’s about people giving drugs to their children.

“The UK Government is making criminals out of mums and dads trying to do the best for their kids.”

So far, only two cannabis products have been recommended for use by the NHS in Scotland – one for children with rare forms of epilepsy and the other for the treatment of specific symptoms in multiple sclerosis.

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The majority of prescriptions for cannabis are issued privately through clinics such as Sapphire but the cost is prohibitive for many.

Sheppard said the poll should prompt fresh calls for drug laws to be devolved to Scotland.

“I think the case for devolution is compelling,” he said. “My party and the Scottish Government are committed to drug law reform and the fact that this is a public health matter and not a criminal justice one.”

MSP Gillian Mackay, health spokes- person for the Scottish Greens, has previously called for drug laws to be devolved.

She told The National that as long as drug policy is set by the UK Government, it will continue to fail Scotland.

Mackay said: “Nobody should have to use the black market to get medical supplies. The authoritarian drug laws we have in place are badly dated and unfit for purpose.

“The war on drugs approach, pursued for decades in the UK, has evidently failed. It is long past time that we adopted an approach which focuses on restoring people’s dignity rather than criminalising them.”

Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine argues that devolution would not solve the issue, as it lies in the fact hat there have not been enough clinical studies for doctors to feel confident about prescribing cannabis.

Jardine said: “Arguing about who deals with a problem doesn’t solve it, it just prolongs it, and in this case it would not provide the evidence which the medical profession needs.

“The UK Government has promised trials and we must pursue those to ensure medicinal cannabis is available on the NHS for the wellbeing of those whose lives it can change.”

Inverclyde SNP MP Ronnie Cowan said: “It remains a great concern to me that many medicines can be accessed privately in the UK but although passed by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency they are not deemed cost effective by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

“Of course the important word in that sentence is ‘cost’. Those who can afford it can buy it, those that can’t must go without.”

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A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The regulation, licensing and supply of medicines remains reserved to the UK Government. This includes the scheduling of Cannabis Based Products for Medicinal Use (CBPMs). The Scottish Government has no power to alter this while responsibility rests with Westminster.

“Although specialist doctors have been allowed to prescribe CBPMs on the NHS since 2018, most have concerns around their safety and efficacy and the lack of robust evidence on their use, particularly the long-term side effects.

“It is only by building this evidence base that specialist doctors will gain the confidence to support the prescribing of unlicensed CBPMs.

“We continue to support the development of UK-based clinical trials which will help to build the evidence base for CBPMs.”