Medical Cannabis October 2016

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding the medicinal use of cannabis [and the related 'End Our Pain' campaign].

The law around drug use is a sensitive issue and I recognise that there are a range of strongly held views on this matter. I know that a number of organisations are campaigning for changes in drugs laws and, specifically, the legalisation of cannabis for medicinal use. I am also aware of the recent publication of the APPG on Drug Policy Reform's report on this issue.

I have enormous sympathy for anybody with a physical condition seeking the most effective pain relief. However, I do not believe that we need to legalise cannabis in order to have access to its medical benefits. 

It is, of course, important that a medicine is thoroughly trialled to ensure it meets rigorous standards before being licensed, so that both doctors and patients are sure of its efficacy and safety. As you may be aware, there is a regulatory process in place to enable medicines, including those containing controlled drugs such as cannabis, to be developed and subsequently prescribed and supplied to patients. Indeed, Sativex - which is a cannabis-based mouth spray - has been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency for use in the UK as an add-on treatment for relieving symptoms in patients with spasticity due to Multiple Sclerosis. 

I understand, though, that Sativex is not currently available in England due to cost and, although this is a decision for NICE, I would like the Government to look again at this.

I believe cannabis is a harmful substance, with regular users more likely to develop a wide range of psychological conditions. Indeed, there is a recognised link between cannabis use and the development of depression or anxiety, particularly amongst those who started using it at a younger age. In my view, there remains real public concern about the negative impact of recreational use of cannabis, and so I am therefore not persuaded that it would be responsible to support measures that may make the drug more readily available.

Thank you for writing to me and sharing your views. I can assure you that I will continue to follow this issue closely and bear in mind the points you raise.