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Medical Cannabis Under Prescription

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:55 pm on 20th May 2019.

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Photo of Patrick Grady Patrick Grady SNP Chief Whip 6:55 pm, 20th May 2019

I congratulate Sir Mike Penning and Tonia Antoniazzi on securing this debate, and I thank the Backbench Business Committee for managing to schedule it so that we have enough time for a reflective, open and consensual debate—[Interruption.] So far! I am really looking forward to hearing what the Minister has to say in response.

We are debating an issue whose time has come. The individual cases have come together into a campaign that shows where the consensus is beginning to lie. I want to reflect a bit on that, and to speak, as many others have done, about an individual constituency case. I also want to think a bit more about the consequences of the wider campaign.

At the beginning of the debate, some Members, including Crispin Blunt, talked about the growth of the campaign and of public awareness of this issue. Campaigns such as these can often start with what seem to be quite isolated cases. An individual comes to one of our surgeries and the Member then has the incentive to raise the issue here in the House, after which others join in, saying, “I’ve had that as well.” Then we get the urgent questions and the Back-Bench debates, and the issue becomes much more live and mainstream. Members of the public are encouraged to come forward to their MPs with their individual cases, and the broader public are encouraged to support the overall issues. We have seen this in a number of areas. I am reminded of the WASPI campaign—although that is a completely different situation—because of the way in which it snowballed as people came forward to their individual MPs with their local cases and it built into a positive campaign from there.

The policy environment on medicinal cannabis is ripe for change. We have heard today about the knowledge and experience in other countries as the different kinds of cannabis medicines have been rolled out effectively. In fact, we have heard about that happening here as well, because those people who can afford private prescriptions are feeling the benefit of these medicines. However, it is incredibly frustrating for those who, for whatever reason, cannot access the right kind of medicine privately. The whole point of the NHS is that treatment should be available free at the point of need, and that it should be blind to people’s individual financial circumstances. The progress that the Government have made has to a certain extent been welcome, but the hope that was provided when the reclassifications and the provision for prescriptions from individual doctors were announced has now been dashed.