By Trevor Mason, Press Association Political Staff
Peers have welcomed the Government’s decision to review the medical use of cannabis for treatments in the UK.
Independent crossbencher Baroness Meacher said she applauded Home Secretary Sajid Javid for his decisive action in setting up an expert panel to review the rules.
But she stressed the issue was urgent and warned that, if the review failed to make these medicines available, 200,000 people in the UK with uncontrolled epileptic seizures would continue to be “further brain-damaged every single day”.
Health minister Lord O’Shaughnessy said there was an urgent need for the panel to consider specific licence applications.
He said the second part was to review whether there were therapeutic benefits for cannabis and cannabis-derived products.
Tory former Cabinet minister Lord Forsyth of Drumlean also congratulated the Home Secretary and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt for the speed with which they acted to make cannabis-based medication available for treatment of certain conditions.
But he warned of the “real damage which cannabis-taking for recreational use can do to our young people – in particular creating paranoia and mental illness”.
Lord Forsyth said it would be “irresponsible for any government to condone the use of recreational cannabis” given the damage it could cause.
Lord O’Shaughnessy said ministers agreed there was a clear distinction.
“We know cannabis-based products can create harm,” he said. “The question is can they also have therapeutic benefits?
“If they can, it needs to be weighed in the balance and rescheduled appropriately.
“That doesn’t diminish the negative impact you have described that the recreational use of cannabis, particular very strong strains, can have on young people.”
The exchanges at question time came after the Government rejected a call from former Tory leader Lord Hague to consider legalising the recreational use of cannabis because the war on the drug had been “irreversibly lost” and a change of policy was needed.
The issue was raised after a high-profile case involving a boy with epilepsy, Billy Caldwell, who was given a special licence to use cannabis oil.
Pic by REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger