UK view on cannabis is harming medicine and forcing the sick to break the law

Cannabis should be legalised – for medical use at least. I had a friend with MS who got great relief from muscle spasms by smoking grass – but she was forced to get her supply from a drug dealer.

I thought at the time it was a ­scandal that she should have to resort to an illegal source to get relief.

The first recorded use of cannabis was in ancient China. Queen Victoria’s personal physician, Russell Reynolds, said in medical journal The Lancet in 1890: “Indian hemp, when pure and administered carefully, is one of the most valuable medicines we possess.”

Calls have come from UK politicians to reconsider the role of cannabis in society. Two recently told The British Medical Journal: “We have heard testimonies from patients… that cannabis has given them their life back.”

Plus, the international position on cannabis as a medicine has changed.

Many international agencies and governments are relaxing their ­prohibitionist position. Internationally, there’s been an important shift away from prohibitionism, allowing cannabis to be used for both medical and recreational purposes.

There are many possible legal ­positions for cannabis ranging from complete prohibition to regulated legal supply in the same way as alcohol.

For strictly pharmaceutical use it could be licensed like any other ­medicine. Cannabis is now available for medical uses in 29 states in the US, while Canada, the Czech Republic and Israel take a progressive view.

Decriminalisation allows doctors to discuss the risks and benefits of use in much the same way as they might for any other medicine.

A report by the US National ­Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine sets out the social, legal and potential medical benefits of cannabis and its derivatives and makes several recommendations.

For the purposes of using cannabis as a medication these can be ­summarised as “do more research” and “change the law”.

The report stresses the need for “research grade cannabis products,” different enough from each other to look at individual psychoactive ­ingredients and their effects.

I believe the place of cannabis as a prohibited and purely harmful ­psychoactive substance should be questioned. Then there’s plenty of evidence to support the kind of reform already occurring in US states and internationally.

The UK is lagging behind.

Doctors should be free to provide advice on the benefits and harms of medicinal cannabinoids.

Then cannabis should follow the standard regulatory route and be licensed as a medicine.