A year after an outpouring of support for a public petition, demanding the full legalization of marijuana, forced Parliament to give the issue some consideration, an influential group has emerged with plans to lobby for the legalization of medical marijuana for the entire scope of the United Kingdom.
Earlier this week, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Drug Policy Reform published a new report suggesting that the British government should legalize medical marijuana—retail sale and home cultivation—because a considerable number of patients are now being driven into the black market to gain access to this medicine.
“Many hundreds of thousands of people in the UK are already taking cannabis for primarily medical reasons,” Caroline Lucas MP, co-chair of the APPG, said in a statement. “It is totally unacceptable that they should face the added stress of having to break the law to access their medicine. This a matter of compassion and human rights. The government should have the political courage to view the issue of medical cannabis separately from any wider drugs reform and act urgently.”
The APPG set out on a mission hoping to compile some definitive evidence that marijuana does, in fact, have medicinal value. To do this, the group spoke with more than 600 patients and medical professionals all over the world, digging through a plethora of scientific research.
Professor of Neurology Michael Barnes, who was commissioned by the group to oversee the project, found “good evidence” that marijuana is effective in treating chronic pain and anxiety, as well as controlling the nausea and vomiting often associated with chemotherapy.
“We [analyzed] over 20,000 scientific and medical reports. The results are clear,” Barnes said. “Cannabis has a medical benefit for a wide range of conditions. I believe that with greater research, it has the potential to help with an even greater number of conditions. But this research is being stifled by the government’s current classification of cannabis as having no medical benefit.”
The group is calling for the British government to downgrade the Schedule I classification of the cannabis plant and allow it to be used for therapeutic purposes. As it stands, Britain is still in line with the United States regarding marijuana prohibition.
David Nutt, psychiatrist and professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London, told the Guardian it is “outrageous” that the government has continued to sandbag the issue of medical marijuana.
“Cannabis has been a medicine for more than 4,000 years, and in the UK was in the pharmacopoeia until 1971 when the USA forced us to remove it as part of the War on Drugs,” Nutt explained. “Now, over 200 million Americans have access to medicinal cannabis whereas we do not.”
It remains to be seen whether the group will have any success getting officials to listen to the details in the report. A government spokesman told the BBC that there are no plans to legalize marijuana for any purpose because evidence shows it “is a harmful drug which can damage people’s mental and physical health.”