Star comment: Research needed on cannabis
The debate over the legalisation of cannabis is not as fervent in the UK as it is in many other countries.
Unlike in America, there is no clamour from large sections of the public to make the drug legal.
That is with good reason.
The vast majority of British people rightly have concerns over its links to mental health issues, particularly depression and schizophrenia.
This is especially the case for young people, with research showing that those who start smoking cannabis before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop a psychotic illness.
We should remember that cannabis is a highly addictive drug. In many of the eight US states where cannabis has been legalised for recreational purposes, its use has rocketed.
However, the case for giving patients with debilitating illnesses access to cannabis deserves greater examination.
There are patients, particularly those who suffer from illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, for whom all treatment avenues have been exhausted without success.
Many of them feel they have nowhere left to turn, and for a small proportion of them, cannabis has proved to be an effective solution.
Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant is right to highlight the difficulties suffered by one of his constituents, Vicky Clarke.
The former teacher’s life has changed drastically for the worse as a result of MS. She says that cannabis has helped to soothe her pain and make her life bearable.
But she has been placed in the unenviable position of either reducing her pain or breaking the law.
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Cannabis must never be legalised in this country for recreational purposes. The impact on our society would be disastrous.
But more research needs to be done regarding the drug’s usefulness for medical purposes. Plenty of other far more harmful drugs than cannabis are prescribed on the NHS.
Morphine is regularly handed out for the treatment of acute pain.
Before any action is taken over cannabis, the Government needs to conduct a thorough examination of its use in medicine.
One thing is certain, people such as Mrs Clarke should not be criminalised for attempting to subdue the pain she is suffering.
Ministers should consider all the relevant expert advice before deciding how to proceed with this contentious issue.
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