Cannabis cannot be prescribed safely
Sir, On October 15, 2016, the SNP conference backed a motion to decriminalise cannabis for medical usage. An impassioned speech was made for progressive social justice which sought help for those in chronic pain. The only questioning delegate was jeered.
Savitex is the medicinal cannabis which has already been made available in Scotland for people with multiple sclerosis. It was sanctioned by the Scottish Medicines Consortium despite the lack of a convincing evidence.
The SNP policy to decriminalise cannabis for medical use in chronic pain would be difficult to implement. Surveys report 20 per cent of the Scottish population are in some form of chronic pain. Would the NHS have to grant licences to those judged to be in chronic pain?
Encouraging the smoking of decriminalised cannabis plants would have considerable impacts on patients, even if the drug itself was purchased at the patient’s expense. Cannabis smoking has a powerful adverse effect on the lungs and causes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease even more aggressive than tobacco.
Large quantities would have to be smoked to alleviate the physical pain. The ‘free’ drug to the NHS would actually cost about £60 a month per patient in inhalers for the lungs damaged by smoking cannabis.
The SNP is always keen to learn from the Nordic experience in policy development for a healthy Scotland. The evidence base for the harmful effects of cannabis comes from a study of Swedish Army recruits which showed correlation between cannabis usage and later psychosis.
Cannabis-induced psychosis is very serious for the individuals affected for life and their families. Decriminalising cannabis for medical use would risk a massive increase in cannabis psychosis.
Tobacco-based cigarettes have required taxes for social control. Organised crime has now moved into the supply of tax-free cigarettes as a response to addiction.
If untaxed medicinal cannabis became freely available, would current tobacco smokers switch to cheaper cannabis?
Future spend on NHS drugs in an independent Scotland would have to anticipate a requirement for longterm anti-psychotics and inhalers.
I am sure those who voted for the decriminalisation of cannabis for medical usage in SNP policy did so to empathise with Scottish citizens in chronic pain. However, the consequences to the nation’s health would be considerable.
Cannabis can be addictive and causes psychosis. It causes chronic lung disease in most people. There is no medical evidence base that it is an effective drug for treating chronic pain.
Cannabis impairs driving more significantly than many painkillers. We have just managed to crack down on drink driving. This policy risks going back decades in road safety with a medical excuse.
NHS Scotland policies seek to encourage self- care and patient autonomy in all chronic diseases, including pain. However, the SNP policy to decriminalise cannabis for medical usage would only encourage more dependency among Scottish citizens and stop the development of personal empowerment in dealing with chronic pain.
Dr James Douglas, Seafield Gardens, Fort William.