SNP conference backs medicinal cannabis decriminalisation

The party wants the policy devolved to the Scottish government

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The Scottish National Party’s conference has backed the decriminalisation of cannabis for medicinal use.

Delegates at the party’s conference called on the UK Government to devolve the power to regulate the drug to the Scottish government.

Cannabis is currently a Class B drug and people in possession of it can be sentenced to up to five years in prison. Dealers can face up to 14 years. 

In practice, however, the maximum penalties for possession are rarely enforced across the UK.

The SNP delegates’ overwhelming vote came just weeks after former Conservative justice minister Crispin Blunt said he had been told to stop asking difficult questions about drugs policy while he was in office.

Mr Blunt told a fringe event at a Tory conference that he had been rebuffed for asking how much policing drug prohibition costs – and told in ministerial discussions that it was “impolitic” to raise the issue.

The SNP’s conference heard from multiple sclerosis (MS) sufferer Laura Brennan-Whitefield, who called on the party to show “compassion and common sense” over the issue.

“I'm not advocating the smoking of cannabis, what I'm advocating is a progressive and reasonable, compassionate society where you can access pain relief,” she told delegates.

“I have been living with multiple sclerosis for nine years and the fact that I'm standing here giving this speech means I am one of the lucky ones.

“It has become very clear to me over these last nine years that many people living with MS have been using cannabis to help with the symptoms of that condition. In fact, it's one of the worst kept secrets at the hospital.”

She continued: “I don't think someone who is in pain should be criminalised for trying to ease that pain.”

The vote does not necessarily mean the Scottish government will adopt the policy but it gives an indication of strong support for the measure within the governing party.

Delegates heard that cannabis had been able to help reduce pain in patients suffering from arthritis, cancer, Crohn's disease and epilepsy – as well as those receiving palliative care.

Half of the US states have legalised cannabis for medicinal use, with others decriminalising or legalising the drug completely. 

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said he would like to legalise cannabis for medical purposes and that the UK should have a debate about changes to other drug laws.

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