Home Office rules out SNP call for medicinal cannabis use

A store selling medical cannabis in Denver, Colorado. SNP delegates have backed a motion in support of the drug being used for medical conditions. Picture: Wikicommons

A store selling medical cannabis in Denver, Colorado. SNP delegates have backed a motion in support of the drug being used for medical conditions. Picture: Wikicommons

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The legalisation of cannabis for medical use in Scotland remains unlikely, despite winning the backing of the SNP conference in Glasgow.

The Home Office confirmed to The Scotsman it has no plans to devolve drug laws to Holyrood or review the classification of the plant, which is illegal to sell, use or possess in the UK.

Laura Brennan-Whitefield, who suffers from MS, spoke in favour of the motion at the SNP conference in Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL

Laura Brennan-Whitefield, who suffers from MS, spoke in favour of the motion at the SNP conference in Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL

SNP delegates overwhelmingly backed a motion in favour of decriminalising the drug for medical use at last weekend’s gathering of the party membership, and urged Westminister to grant the Scottish Government the necessary powers to make the motion law.

The regulation of all proscribed drugs remains a reserved issue and policy is set by the UK Government.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “This Government has no plans to legalise cannabis or devolve drug control.

“It is important that medicines are thoroughly trialled to ensure they meet rigorous standards before being placed on the market. There is a clear regime in place, administered by the Medicines and Healthcare Products regulatory agency to enable medicines, including those containing controlled drugs, to be developed.”

But an SNP spokesman insisted the conference motion could not simply be forgotten.

“The SNP conference is the supreme governing body of the party - responsible for deciding policy,” he said.

“The NEC’s role is to ensure that decisions of conference are implemented.”

READ MORE: SNP delegates pass resolution in favour of medical use of cannabis

It is estimated around 8.4 per cent of Scots use cannabis every year, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, while 20.5 per cent will try it at least once during their lifetime.

Personal and medical use of the drug is already legal in the US states of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington.

Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and Slovenia have also decriminalised the drug to varying degrees in recent years, while the sale of small quantities for personal use has famously been permitted in several Dutch cities for more than 40 years.

Experts have stressed the issue of the availability of medicinal cannabis should not be confused with the decriminalisation of drugs.

“Calls for the legalisation or decriminalisation of cannabis possession are now part of mainstream debate,” said David Liddell, chief executive of the Scottish Drugs Forum.

“In large part this is because present and past users of cannabis include a wide social spectrum of people. This is not the case with other drugs - with heroin, for example.

“We support the view that people should not be prosecuted for the possession of small amounts of drugs as the evidence shows that prosecution for possession of drugs has no impact on levels of use, while at the same time potentially affecting the lives of a significant number of people through having a criminal record.

“It is important to note that while the drug laws are a reserved to Westminster, the Crown and Police Scotland have significant powers in terms of enforcing laws particularly around possession of drugs.

“However the direction of travel is clear - possession that now may result in no action or in a fine once would have attracted a prison sentence decades ago.

“As ever there is a need for an informed open debate on drug laws and the wider issues of problem drug use and its causes, consequences and how Scotland responds to these challenges.”

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