Medical marijuana decriminalisation backed at SNP conference

The UK government still gets to decide on the drug's legality.

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The decriminalisation of cannabis for medicinal use has been overwhelmingly backed by Scottish National Party (SNP) delegates at the party's conference. Use of cannabis is currently outlawed across the UK but SNP party members called for the UK government to devolve power over the class B drug to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.

The resolution to decriminalise the drug was proposed in an impassioned speech by Ayr North representative Laura Brennan-Whitefield, who said she became aware of the medicinal use of cannabis in her time as a sufferer of multiple sclerosis (MS).

She said: "I have been living with MS for nine years and the fact that I am standing here at conference giving a speech means that I am one of the lucky ones. It has become clear to me that many people living with MS have been using cannabis to help with the symptoms of that condition.

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"In fact, it's one of the worst-kept secrets at the hospital. All of these people risk a criminal record, unlike in Australia, Chile, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Romania and some US states. We as a developed Western nation are fast becoming behind the times."

The current penalty for possession of the drug is up to five years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both. Suppliers face a maximum of 14 years in prison.

But Brennan-Whitefield said she does not believe sufferers should be criminalised for trying to ease their pain.

"I can assure you, those who are willing to use cannabis have in most cases exhausted every other option," she said. "Is it not unreasonable to criminalise them?

"I am talking about some of the most vulnerable people in society who may have had the added misfortune of going through the Department of Work and Pension's inhumane assessment procedure for disability benefits. To be then branded criminals, for trying to have a quality of life?"

She added: "I know what it is to suffer pain. And, be in no doubt, if it came to it, I would not hesitate to ease that pain in any way I could because that is a natural instinct."

She added that MS sufferers could now get a drug called Sativex, which contains cannabinoids (cannabis ingredients), but it was not widely available and those that could access it, had to pay a prescription cost of £4,250.

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SNP delegates overwhelmingly backed the resolution. However, this does not mean cannabis laws will be devolved as the matter is for Whitehall to decide.

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