At the Scottish National Party (SNP) conference, SNP members have voted that cannabis, a class B drug, should be made available as a medical treatment on the NHS.
Nicola Sturgeon is pushing for power over drug policies to be devolved to Holyrood. This could allow cannabis to be used in treatment of medical conditions such as arthritis and epilepsy in Scotland.
Non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD) is a major chemical component of cannabis. This week, the UK government’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) declared that it believes that products containing CBD should be classified as medicine.
This is a large step forward for legalising the use of marijuana for medicinal use, as previously the UK government has been adamant against admitting the medical and physiological benefits of cannabis.
Cannabis’s psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has also been found to have positive effect on certain health conditions.
THC increases appetite and reduces nausea, and has been prescribed in the US to some patients undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, to ease the side effects.
CBD has been linked to reduction in inflammation such as in arthritis, and controlling seizures in epilepsy.
Studies into treatments using THC and CBD together were found to increase the cancer-eradicating effects of radiation treatment in mice.
Huge amounts of money are being invested into research on CBD supported by the National Institute for Health in the US.
There are remarkable benefits to the use of cannabis to treat many medical conditions, but there are some risks.
The use of cannabis while pregnant has been associated with abnormal brain development, similar to the risk of consuming alcohol, and the use of cannabis in teenagers can disrupt brain development as this is a period of substantial change in the brain.
Are these reason enough to completely disregard the numerous health benefits of cannabis and its derivatives?
Cannabis has offered an alternative and a saving grace to parents of children with severe epileptic disorders when conventional medicine proved unsuccessful.
It has shown benefits in treating patients with arthritis and other chronic pain conditions.
The Home Office’s claims that cannabis “can unquestionably cause harm to individuals and society” are unfounded.
Research has shown that it is not possible to overdose on marijuana, and that there are no significant risks to its use that are not also true for alcohol, which is a perfectly legal substance.
The war on drugs as a whole has been shown for years to be ineffectual and damaging to society.
But the larger question is this: is it really right to deny an effective treatment to many people because of the government-imposed stigma surrounding it, when the evidence says it can only do good?
Image: GetBudding.com (via Unspash)