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This has been a very powerful and emotional debate that has moved Members on both sides of the House. It has also been characterised by anger and exasperation on both sides. I thank the Backbench Business Committee for selecting this subject for debate.
I pay tribute to my former, much-respected colleague, Paul Flynn, for his excellent campaigns on this subject. Somewhere, he will be cheering us on and I hope that he will have more to cheer about by the end of this debate, when we hear the Minister’s comments. I pay particular tribute to Sir Mike Penning and my hon. Friend Tonia Antoniazzi; their unflinching commitment to this cause does them credit. Thanks is also due in no small part to the all-party parliamentary group, whose dedicated purpose is to
“help secure…access to natural cannabis for medical purposes in the UK under prescription from a medical professional.”
The group has worked tirelessly to that end, highlighting the barriers that exist and posing constructive suggestions to remove them.
As Crispin Blunt rightly said, we are not concerned today with criminals and illegal drug supplies. We are not concerned with the use of recreational drugs. We are considering a most important health issue. I welcome the fact that at long last the Government accept that the therapeutic use of cannabis is a public health issue and not the business of the Home Office. I trust, therefore, that we will never again see parents in possession of medicinal cannabis products accosted and treated like criminals. I refer of course to the disgraceful treatment meted out to Teagan Appleby’s family.
Cannabis has long been known to contain active ingredients that could have therapeutic use in the treatment of many conditions, including muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease, cancer, AIDS, sickle cell disease and many more. International research and real-life experience in the UK have shown that the active ingredients CBD and THC, in combination, can provide relief for these conditions. There are also strong indications that these medicinal cannabis products can have a transformational effect in paediatric epilepsy cases. In the UK, though, we have been very slow to accept this and even slower to act to help those who could be helped.
Other powerful drugs with significant street values, such as heroin and diazepam, have long been available on the NHS under the supervision and control of qualified clinicians. Such drugs are extremely harmful in the wrong hands, but, subject to the existing controlled drugs regulations, these products can be used beneficially. In recent years, we have made some progress and have begun to accept that cannabis could and should be available in the same way. This changing attitude has most definitely been driven by increased public awareness of the suffering of individuals, many of them children.