Lords say cannabis should be given to sick

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A POWERFUL House of Lords Committee will this week call for cannabis to be made available to patients for the relief of pain.

Although the peers will stop short of calling for the drug to be decriminalised, it is understood that they will recommend a change in the law to allow derivatives of the drug to be used for medicinal purposes.

The report, from the Lords' Science and Technology Committee following an eight month inquiry, will increase pressure on the Government to relax the blanket ban on cannabis, which has lasted for more than 25 years. The Department of Health has always insisted that evidence of the medical benefits from cannabis was too weak to justify a relaxation of the law.

However, in its 70-page report, the committee will say it has been persuaded of the case for change. Among those who gave evidence to the inquiry was Geoffrey Guy, the scientist and doctor who has won the first licence to farm cannabis for medical research in England.

The peers, who held 12 public hearings, have concentrated solely on the scientific arguments. They have always stressed that their terms of reference would not allow them to examine decriminalised for recreational purposes.

The British Medical Association concluded last year that there was "good evidence" that extracts from the drug had analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. It said that "individual cannabinoids have a therapeutic potential in several conditions in which other treatments are not fully adequate."

The American Food and Drug Administration has approved the oral use of dronabinol, a cannabis derivative, to help Aids sufferers.

In the UK, the Home Office has granted 22 licences for cannabis research but ministers have always insisted that the drug must satisfy the same criteria as other medicines before being licensed for prescription.