See the debate here:
We were really pleased to see that our question on Social Affairs beat Teachers, Dairy Farmers and Fracking to be asked at the final Labour Leadership hustings on Sky News and by quite a margin.
It is rather sad that politicians seem to giggle like school kids every time the topic is raised and perhaps the laughter of the audience was merely the majority remembering the last time they got stoned, but we at United Patients Alliance don't feel that denying sick people a legitimate, effective medicine that vastly improves their quality of life is a laughing matter. It certainly isn’t to the 8000 medical cannabis patients whose voices and stories we represent, nor to the 1 million medical consumers across the UK not to mention the other (under-estimated) 2 million regular cannabis consumers who find they enjoy its effects as an alternative to other, more dangerous drugs such as alcohol. So for at least 3 million people in this country it is a very important issue in our lives and being that is more than people who regularly attend church, I think that makes us a very significant voice that has the right to be heard.
Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham got to answer the question first and opened with “There is a case for it” pointing out that for sufferers of Multiple Sclerosis; “The benefits are enormous!” All of our MS patients would whole heartedly agree, Andy, not least our founder Clark French who has been living with the debilitating disease from the age of 24.
“Cannabis reduces my pain, inflammation and spasms. Helps me get an appetite, stops my bladder weakness and helps me sleep, Cannabis allows me to forget the trauma of chronic illness and allows happiness into my life.”
Andy recognised the difficulty in regulating medical cannabis over recreational and pointed out some genuine concerns and suggested we “proceed with caution” and look very carefully at relaxing the rules for medical use.
Whilst this is really positive from Andy and we applaud his courage in presenting a pragmatic and compassionate approach it must not be forgotten that medical cannabis patients are suffering today and are constantly under the threat of criminalisation, so we would urge him to consider the significant benefits of immediate decriminalisation. Let’s just stop criminalising patients. We already have more evidence of its safety and efficacy for many conditions today from around the world than for most approved medications on the market.
The first thing Yvette Cooper pointed out was that they had never been asked that question at any previous hustings. Glad to be of service, Yvette. It was unfortunate that she chose to answer a completely different question about our processes for approving medicines in this country, so I was not able to determine whether she believes that we should stop criminalising patients for choosing to consume a medicine that helps them. I must assume that she didn't really want to answer the question. Great politician?
Liz Kendall also called for more research into cannabis whilst accepting that many people are reporting benefits right now, however I suspect she fails to understand that getting medicinal cannabis researched and approved in a country that defines it in Schedule 1 of the Misuse of Drugs act 1971 as having no therapeutic applications and high potential for abuse, in contrast to all the most recent peer reviewed scientific evidence on the subject is rather difficult “Normal processes” just don’t work for cannabis. Perhaps she would commit to helping us out here?
Then came Jeremy Corbyn. Oh Jeremy you lovely man! I have to admit to literally applauding his response:
“I don’t think there should be criminalisation of something that is used for medicinal purposes, it is obviously beneficial to many people, particularly those suffering from MS, and I think we should be adult and grown up about this in society and decriminalise.”
I have nothing to add, other than “Here, Here!” and "Thank-you Jeremy"
It is great to see this really important issue being discussed in an intelligent, pragmatic and compassionate way and Labour do seem more up to date in their attitudes than our current government but they still have a long way to go; Andy Burnham has “got it”, but needs to be braver, Liz Kendall needs a little more encouragement and information and needs to learn a little more about the practical implications of its current status in Schedule 1 of the MODA, Yvette needs to take this issue more seriously on behalf of the 1 million people suffering today, and Jeremy, well – “He’s our man”
Jon Liebling – Political Director of United Patients Alliance