Decriminalise cannabis: Lords cannabis inquiry

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The Independent Online
A HIGH-POWERED investigation into the medical and recreational use of cannabis is to be launched by the House of Lords, with a report expected by the end of the year.

The breakthrough Westminster inquiry comes five months after the Independent on Sunday launched its decriminalise cannabis campaign. It marks the biggest step yet in the drive to relax the laws on the drug's use. To date, the Government has refused to allow a debate on the matter in the Commons, despite calls from backbench Labour MPs.

One factor in the Lords' decision was a report in November from the British Medical Association, urging ministers to consider "changing the Misuse of Drugs Act to allow the prescription of cannabinoids [active chemical compounds in cannabis] to patients with certain conditions causing distress that are not adequately controlled by existing treatments".

The BMA plea came after the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Bingham, called for a debate on the issue, saying: "It is a subject that deserves, in my judgement, detached, objective, independent consideration."

Lord Bingham's urging will be met by the Lords Select Committeee investigation, to be chaired by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Perry of Walton, a former professor of pharmacology. The all-party investigation's terms of reference are thought to cover "the scientific case for and against relaxing the prohibition on the medical and recreational use of cannabis".

The inquiry is expected to start holding public hearings, with evidence from expert witnesses, after Easter, with a report that could be delivered in the autumn.