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UK Lawmaker Calls for Government-Funded Medical Cannabis

A UK lawmaker calls for government-funded medical cannabis. But will his input be enough to change the law?

A.J. Herrington

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UK Lawmaker Calls for Government-Funded Medical Cannabis

After high-profile stories of sick children in need of marijuana therapies made the British news recently, a UK lawmaker calls for government-funded medical cannabis for the country.

Tommy Sheppard is a Minister of Parliament (MP) from East Edinburgh in Scotland. He says he has long supported drug policy reform and now wants to make it a national priority, according to media reports. He believes that cannabis is clearly a legitimate medicine and that the government should legalize it. Additionally, the National Health Service (NHS) should pay for it.

“For centuries cannabis has been used effectively to treat many conditions. And in most of America and in 12 EU states, this is allowed. But here relieving pain with cannabis makes you a criminal. All the more ridiculous when you consider that morphine (related to heroin) is widely used in our hospitals,” he said.

Help For Young Patients

Sheppard attended a meeting with Prime Minister Theresa and the parents of Alfie Dingley earlier this month. Alfie is a six-year-old English boy with a severe form of epilepsy that causes hundreds of seizures per month. When his family was unable to obtain cannabis oil in the UK, they moved to the Netherlands to get the medicine Alfie needed. While there, the boy’s condition improved dramatically.

But the family had to return home when funds ran out. That’s when they appealed to the Prime Minister. At their meeting, the government agreed to grant a special license to permit Alfie to use medicinal cannabis.

In Scotland, Karen Gray started a petition calling on the NHS to provide medical cannabis to patients. Her son Murray also has epilepsy and can have up to twelve seizures each day. Although Murray started school this year, he’s been only able to attend classes for three weeks because of his illness. Gray wants the option of medical cannabis for her son to help control his epilepsy.

“It either reduces it or gets rid of it,” she told the BBC. “It doesn’t work for all people but it does work for some people and I just think, why don’t we have it?”

MP Also Supports Safe Injection Sites

Sheppard also favors other drug policy reforms. He supports “drug consumption rooms”—sites where intravenous drug users can inject in a safe and supervised setting. Ministers in Parliament have recently been debating whether they should establish them in the U.K. But Sheppard says that current law is getting in the way while putting NHS workers at risk of legal trouble.

“Here the argument is that as part of its responsibility for treatment of drug misuse, the Scottish NHS should have the ability to test what known addicts are taking and provide them with a safe, clean place to take it. This removes it from the streets, making it safer for users, reducing anti-social inconvenience for residents and keeping the authorities updated on what’s being sold.

“The problem? For the brief period, an NHS employee has the drugs for testing, they could be jailed for possession.”

Final Hit: UK Lawmaker Calls for Government-Funded Medical Cannabis

Sheppard said that is time for the UK to legalize medical cannabis to save lives and provide safe medicine to patients.

“Too many people are dying to let this continue. We need to move drugs out of the hands of criminal gangs and into a legally enforceable licensing regime. “And in the short-term we need to focus on harm reduction, making sure anyone intending to take drugs knows what’s in it and where to get help.”

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