Should cannabis be le­galised in UK for medic­i­nal use?

The Mail on Sunday - - Comment -

YES Pro­fes­sor David Nutt FOR­MER GOV­ERN­MENT AD­VISER

CANNABIS was a medicine in the UK un­til 1971 when the Gov­ern­ment suc­cumbed to a decade of pres­sure from the USA to fol­low its lead and elim­i­nate it from medicine.

This was based on po­lit­i­cal, not health con­sid­er­a­tions and was aimed to stop recre­ational use, an am­bi­tion that failed spec­tac­u­larly as in the sub­se­quent 20 years the num­ber of recre­ational cannabis users in­creased 20-fold. But pa­tients were de­nied a proven medicine.

The Amer­i­can Academy of Sci­ence last year pub­lished a com­pre­hen­sive re­port re­veal­ing the medic­i­nal value of cannabis across a range of dis­eases in­clud­ing can­cer and AIDS, PTSD and ad­dic­tions, car­dio­vas­cu­lar and gut dis­eases. At least 17 coun­tries other than Amer­ica have med­i­cal cannabis at present, in­clud­ing Hol­land and Spain.

For the UK, once a world-lead­ing coun­try in health­care, to deny the value of med­i­cal cannabis is a sad re­flec­tion on how much po­lit­i­cal polemic has dis­torted ra­tio­nal think­ing. For the sake of the mil­lions of pa­tients who will ben­e­fit from med­i­cal cannabis, we must change the law now.

NO Kevin A. Sa­bet FOR­MER WHITE HOUSE DRUG POL­ICY AD­VISER TO PRES­I­DENT BARACK OBAMA

IMAG­INE if some­one grew opium pop­pies in their gar­den and told you to smoke it to get the ef­fects of mor­phine, which is an ex­tract of the plant. That is what is hap­pen­ing with the move­ment to le­git­imise med­i­cal cannabis.

Yes, the cannabis plant has med­i­cal prop­er­ties but the idea of in­hal­ing or eat­ing raw, crude cannabis in the form of a spliff or choco­late bar is any­thing but sci­en­tific.

That is why it is hardly sur­pris­ing that the vast ma­jor­ity of US med­i­cal mar­i­juana card­hold­ers are peo­ple with headaches or back­aches – not can­cer or AIDS – and most of them have a drug prob­lem. The move­ment to le­git­imise raw mar­i­juana as medicine – and by­pass the sci­en­tific process en­sur­ing safety and ef­fi­cacy of a spe­cific med­i­ca­tion – is not only a front to le­galise drugs, it is putting pa­tients at risk.

To­day’s high-po­tent cannabis greatly in­creases the risk of men­tal ill­ness. If cannabis shows it­self to have medic­i­nal prop­er­ties, so be it. Let’s de­velop proper med­i­ca­tions and reg­u­late them un­der the ad­vice of a physi­cian. But don’t call your daily toke ‘medicine’ – it is any­thing but.

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