AMs vote to exert pressure to legalise medicinal cannabis

Today AMs tabled a motion to exert pressure on the UK Government to reschedule cannabis from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2, which would recognise the medicinal value of the drug.

WalesOnline reports, in response, Health Secretary Vaughan Gething said advocating the use of herbal cannabis, a “raw and illegal” drug, would undermine the evidence-based approach to approving medicines.

However the motion was successful in being passed, with thirty one voting in favour, eighteen abstaining and two voting against.

People with multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, dystonia and cancer have championed the use of cannabis but say they live in fear of being prosecuted for trying to access cannabis illegally.

Leader of Plaid Cymru Leanne Wood, one of the AMs to table the motion, said “Previously the Welsh Government said that ‘whilst the legal classification and licensing of medicines are not a devolved matter, where agents are licensed for medicinal use and there is clinical evidence of their effectiveness we will take positive action’. The clinical and anecdotal evidence of the effectiveness of cannabis for medicinal use is compelling. People living who use cannabis to alleviate the symptoms associated with their conditions cannot wait until Wales has the legislative competence to legalise cannabis for medicinal use. We need the Welsh Government to take positive action and ask the UK Government to reschedule cannabis and in preparation for this, the NHS in Wales should develop a system whereby cannabis could be made available via a prescription to all those who could benefit.”

There are a growing number of countries which regulate the medical use of cannabis and cannabis derivatives, including Canada, the Netherlands and Israel. More than twenty states in the US also regulate herbal cannabis for medical use.

In September 2016, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Drug Policy Reform called on the UK Government to legalise medical cannabis based on the results of their seven month inquiry into the issue and on the findings of an independent review of global evidence commissioned by them that ran alongside the inquiry. The report heard that people were suffering “unnecessarily” and were travelling abroad to find the cannabis they need to ease their symptoms. It concluded that all this could change by moving cannabis from Schedule 1 to Schedule 2.

In October last year, Newport West MP Paul Flynn presented a ten minute rule bill in Westminster on the legalisation of cannabis for medicinal use. The bill was put through unopposed to the next reading on February 23rd.

In 2014, the oral spray Sativex was made available in Wales following approval from the All Wales Medical Strategy Group (AWMSG). It meant Wales became the first country in the UK to offer a cannabis-based drug for sufferers of the progressive condition. But it is only in the last few months that all health boards in Wales are able to prescribe Sativex to those people living with MS who are deemed eligible.

The motion was tabled by Assembly Members Mark Isherwood (Conservative), Leanne Wood (Plaid Cymru), Mike Hedges (Labour) and Rhun ap Iorwerth (Plaid Cymru).

A Welsh Government spokesperson said “The only way we can be assured a medicine is safe for use is when it has been tested successfully by the internationally accredited licensing and regulatory process. Cannabis derivatives can play a role in treating some medical conditions and we made Sativex available in Wales because it went through a highly-regulated quality assurance process. But using an illegal raw drug of unknown quality is not how we want to provide medicines.”

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