What AMs said about medicinal cannabis



(Title Image: Telegraph)

The Issue

Cannabis – despite its classification as an illegal narcotic – can be an effective pain-reliever, particularly for chronic and neurological conditions. Chemical components from cannabis have now been used to create conventional medicines, but there’s growing debate as to whether raw/herbal cannabis should be legalised for medicinal purposes.

Drugs policy is non-devolved, so a cross-party group of AMs put forward a motion calling for the UK Government to look into this.

See also: State of Wales – Wales on Drugs

The Motion

The Senedd:

  • Recognises clinical evidence of the effectiveness of cannabis for medicinal purposes.
  • Recognises that, whilst Wales is the only UK nation where cannabinoid symptom management drug Sativex is available on the NHS, it’s only licensed for the treatment of spasticity and only then available to a small group of people living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
  • Believes the Welsh Government should ask the UK Government to reclassify cannabis for medicinal purposes; and, in preparation, the Welsh Government should map out how medicinal cannabis could be made available via prescription.
  • Notes that many people living with Multiple Sclerosis, dystonia, epilepsy and cancer in Wales use illegally-obtained cannabis for medicinal purposes but risk prosecution.
  • Notes that the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Drug Policy Reform in the House of Commons emphatically called on the UK Government to legalise medical cannabis and also that Paul Flynn MP’s (Lab, Newport West) 10 minute rule bill on the legalisation of medicinal cannabis went through unopposed to the next reading on 23rd February 2018.

Key Points

Mark Isherwood AM (Con, North Wales)
For (the motion): Make sure people can access cannabis safely.

  • The cross-party group for neurological disorders argues that cannabis should be recategorised so it can be legally supplied as a medicine.
  • People living with chronic conditions who could benefit from cannabis should be able to acquire it without prosecution or by relying on street dealers.
  • A number of countries and US states have legalised cannabis for medicinal purposes and there are a number of academic studies that prove cannabis’s effectiveness as a pain reliever; Ireland is currently passing a Bill on medicinal cannabis.

Mike Hedges AM (Lab, Swansea East)
For: Trust doctor’s judgement.

  • The debate isn’t about legalising cannabis for recreational use or self-medication, it’s about trusting medics to prescribe it appropriately.
  • Cannabinoid drugs like Sativex should be more widely available for doctors to prescribe; derivatives of opium are already widely used.

Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda)
For: Prohibition puts people at risk.

  • Drugs policy should be devolved, but while it isn’t Wales should still adopt a position on it.
  • Prohibition prevents people accessing the drug safely and in a controlled way.

Caroline Jones AM (UKIP, South Wales West)
Against: Smoking cannabis causes health problems too.

  • Welcomes research into cannabis for medicinal use (like Sativex) but is against reclassifying it as smoking cannabis can cause lung and psychological problems.

Mohammad Asghar AM (Con, South Wales East)
For: Don’t stop law-abiding people treating their pain.

  • A constituent with MS said how Sativex has prevented him becoming bedbound despite using morphine.
  • Driving law-abiding people to break the the law to get pain relief is unethical.

Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn)
For: Look at the evidence objectively.

  • Medicinal use isn’t the same as recreational use and the two have been muddled by the Conservatives in the recent past, neither is it about smoking cannabis necessarily.

Welsh Government Response

Health Secretary, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth)

  • The debate raises more questions than it answers because we are now more aware of the damaging side effects of drugs; it’s better for people to access licensed medicines than raw forms of illegal drugs.
  • He was pleased that it was recognised Wales is the only part of the UK to recommend the use of Sativex – a safe, effective medicine that reaches modern standards.
  • Use of herbal cannabis circumvents regulatory processes; no costings have been provided for introducing a regulatory process for herbal cannabis either.
  • Just because other countries and states have taken the decision, doesn’t mean we have to.

Vote

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