Theresa May dismisses calls to legalise cannabis by ex-Tory leader William Hague

PM’s spokesman underlined ‘serious harm’ medical studies show it causes

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Tuesday 19 June 2018 11:54 BST
Lord Hague wrote an article saying the war on cannabis had been ‘lost’ and that decriminalisation should be considered
Lord Hague wrote an article saying the war on cannabis had been ‘lost’ and that decriminalisation should be considered

Downing Street has rubbished calls from former Conservative leader William Hague to legalise the recreational use of cannabis.

Theresa May’s spokesman said there are no plans to legalise or decriminalise the drug and underlined “serious harm” medical studies show it causes, after Lord Hague said the UK needs a “bold” rethink of the law.

But it comes as home secretary Sajid Javid prepares to make a commons statement, which The Independent understands will relate specifically to patients who need cannabis for medicinal use.

The issue has been thrust to the forefront of political debate after the mother of 12-year-old Billy Caldwell, who had cannabis oil to treat his epilepsy confiscated from her at Heathrow, asked for urgent meetings with both health secretary Jeremy Hunt and Mr Javid this week.

After Lord Hague wrote an article saying the war on cannabis had been “lost” and that legalisation should be considered, Ms May’s spokesman said: “The harmful effects of cannabis are well known and there are no plans to legalise it.”

He went on: “In terms of decriminalising cannabis, there are no plans in that respect. The evidence is very clear – cannabis can cause serious harm when it is misused.

“For example, the NHS has set out that cannabis use carries the risk of psychotic illness and can impair the health of unborn babies.”

He highlighted that both the Royal College of Psychiatrists and King’s College London have said cannabis is highly addictive and can lead to serious health problems.

But it does appear that the case of Billy Caldwell has led to a potential shift in how the government treats medicinal cannabis.

Earlier this week, Mr Javid intervened to grant a 20-day licence for Billy to be treated with cannabis oil, after he suffered seizures following the confiscation his of supplies, brought by his mother from Canada.

On Monday the government then announced a new expert panel to consider the use of medicinal cannabis in individual cases, with the goal of streamlining decisions in cases like Billy Caldwell’s.

Nick Hurd announcing an expert panel to look into medicinal cannabis cases

The Independent now understands that the government may reconsider specific rules around medicinal cannabis, and whether any change could be made that allows doctors to proscribe it for patients who need it for treatment.

Billy Caldwell was rushed to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital on Friday night in a critical condition having suffered multiple seizures, after his supply was taken off his mother on 11 June.

Following Mr Javid’s intervention he received treatment and was discharged on Monday afternoon, leaving Ms Caldwell, 50, calling for an urgent review of the law.

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