ARGUEMENT TO HAVE CANNABIS AVAILABLE FOR PAIN RELIEF..VIDEO SHOWS
Posted on November 12, 2014 | By Henry | Leave a response
The letters columns of The Daily Telegraph do not immediately spring to mind as a rallying point for the liberalisation of this country’s drugs laws. But two correspondents yesterday drew attention to what must be the most irrational and unjust restriction of all: the ban on the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.
Just as there is plenty of evidence that cannabis is harmful (as, indeed, are tobacco and alcohol) it also has palliative qualities. People suffering from multiple sclerosis, for instance, find that cannabis, or substances based on the drug, help relieve muscular pain. Jacquie Langham, an MS sufferer from Holt in Norfolk, wrote about how she had been forced to buy Sativex, a legal cannabinoid that is administered in spray form, from the Internet because two GPs would not prescribe it for her.
“I could scream with frustration and desperation,” she added. Why should people be expected to endure pain when the wherewithal exists to relieve it; or be forced to break the law to obtain a natural substance that will make them feel better?
The NHS in Wales is now expected to use Sativex widely to relieve muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis, but in England there is no clear guidance for clinicians
This debate was rekindled last week when Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat MP, urged the Health Department to review the medicinal properties of cannabis. “I’ve seen more and more evidence that cannabis can provide genuine medical benefits to treat a number of conditions,” he said. It was tempting to dismiss his intervention as another bid for legalisation from a party with a tradition of supporting softer drugs laws. However, Mr Baker is actually the minister responsible for drugs policy in the Home Office – but a minister without any clout or authority, it would seem. A Government spokesman immediately issued a statement saying there were “no plans to legalise cannabis or to soften our approach to its use as a medicine”
Why on earth not? Surely this policy is untenable; and simply to shut down all debate on the subject is an insult to those “credible people”, as Mr Baker described them, who “tell me that cannabis is the only substance that helps relieve their condition”. For the life of me I cannot understand the reasoning here. The Health Department said there was “clear scientific and medical evidence that cannabis is a harmful drug which can damage people’s mental and physical health”. But that is true of morphine, which is administered for pain relief. It is also true of tobacco, for that matter, whose use has declined
massively not through banning it but through cultural change and greater understanding of the risks of smoking.
In any case, we are not talking about recreational use of cannabis. The arguments for and against decriminalising or legalising the drug have been gone over many times and it is clear that no government is going down that route this side of the next millennium. Just look at the pickle Labour got into when it simply tried to recategorise cannabis from Class B to Class C. But why should that stop its medicinal use? No proper explanation is ever given, so I am assuming that the reasons are the usual ones: that cannabis is a “gateway” drug to harder substances; or acknowledging it as a palliative would “normalise” it in the eyes of impressionable young people. Perhaps there is some merit in these points but it still doesn’t explain why someone in pain should be denied by the state the opportunity to alleviate it if they choose.
Bizarrely, cannabis in its herbal form is not recognised in UK law to have any medicinal or therapeutic value, even though it has been used for pain relief from the time of the ancient Egyptians. Plenty of older people will not go near the drug, even if it would give them a better quality of life, precisely because it is illegal. This blanket, unthinking, never-to-be-discussed ban is unfair on them; and nor is it the view taken in many other EU countries and North America, where the medicinal benefit of cannabis is recognised.
There is confusion here in the UK even over whether to prescribe Sativex, which is produced under licence by GW Pharmaceuticals. The NHS in Wales is now expected to use the product widely to relieve muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis following a recent decision by the Principality’s medicines board. But in England there is no clear guidance for clinicians. Indeed, the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has recommended against the use of Sativex in multiple sclerosis, though it may yet change its position.
I can just about see the strength of the arguments used by Nice to limit the prescribing of expensive drugs on the NHS for people with terminal cancers, though I doubt I would be so sanguine if it was me who needed them. But since the health service does not have limitless funds, some rationing is needed and has been inherent in the system right from its inception.
Furthermore, it is always open to people to buy these drugs themselves if they can afford to, including Sativex, though they are usually beyond the price range of most. However, if Nice is not going to allow people in pain to obtain licensed cannabis-based relief on the NHS, how can the state in all conscience then deny them the chance to get it elsewhere without going to a street criminal and risking jail? Perhaps ministers are simply terrified of losing votes if they relax the laws. If so, they should remind themselves that they have the support of Telegraph letter writers, a sensible bunch if ever there were one.