Sometimes all that’s needed for a policymaker to change their mind on marijuana legalization is a quick trip to a place where regulation is in place and the apocalypse has not yet arrived. Such was the case when members of UK parliament (MPs) made an exploratory visit to Canada’s rapidly evolving legal marijuana industry. The British politicians came back enthused, with one of them from a political party that hasn’t even declared itself in favor of legalization saying that the UK could shake off cannabis prohibition within a year
“I want the market legalised, regulated and taken away from crime gangs,” said that individual, Labour Party MP David Lammy, in a BBC Newsbeat documentary that captured the trip. “I want to see the strength of the stuff reduced, labelled and properly organised in this country.”
Lammy was joined on the excursion by a number of his peers from various political parties, who all financed their own trip. Sir Norman Lamb of the Liberal Democrats (who have taken an official pro-legalization stance) made history on the trip by becoming the first currently serving British member of parliament to take a cannabis-derived product in public, as documented by the BBC cameras.
Sir Norman also shared that he thought it was “ridiculous” that he had to dispose of his remaining cannabis oil before flying home. The politician says that he uses the oil to sleep and for relaxation.
Happily, not everyone is flushing their medicinal marijuana rather than sending it off to Great Britain. In June, Canada’s Tilray, Inc. sent out company’s first large shipment of cannabis oil to the UK, a THC-CBD blend oral solution.
But though medicinal marijuana has been legal in Great Britain since November of last year, the country is still home to intense stigma against the drug. In May, a morning talk show abruptly cut off a segment featuring medical marijuana champion Charlotte Caldwell. The advocate had been telling viewers the harrowing story of her son Billy, who was reportedly near death when Heathrow Airport security officials confiscated the CBD oil that the family was using to treat his severe epileptic seizures. The hosts of This Morning interrupted Caldwell in the middle of her narrative to transition to an interview with the stars of a hospital-themed soap opera.
Sadly, that stigma has been reflected in the actions of health care professionals as well. At the beginning of the year, hospital staff reported reluctance at Royal Derby Hospital to prescribe cannabis for qualifying health conditions, citing “the risk of serious side effects.”
And not all policymakers were in agreement with Lammy’s year-long prognostication for full-scale cannabis legalization. Conservative MP Jonathan Djanogly went so far in the BBC documentary to estimate that recreational use was still 10 to 15 years away.
“I think we have got a lot to learn before the legalisation of recreational cannabis, which I think will happen at some point,” said Djanogly.
Nevertheless, cannabis politics have seen some recent shifts in the UK. This spring, the National Police Chief’s Council announced that it would be giving officers the freedom to let individuals off for small scale cannabis possession with a simple recommendation that they seek addiction treatment (which, sure, is a slightly annoying suggestion, but surely better than a fine or jail time.)