THE SNP’s Tommy Sheppard is calling for a change in the law on drugs and backing the case for medical cannabis to be allowed on the NHS.
Writing in today’s Evening News, the Edinburgh East MP says he has always believed in reform of drugs legislation but now feels it needs to be made a priority.
Earlier this week, we reported how mum-of-three Karen Gray from East Craigs is campaigning for medical cannabis to be made available on the NHS in Scotland to help her five-year-old son Murray who suffers from a rare form of epilepsy.
Karen said his frequent seizures meant her son, a P1 pupil at Clermiston Primary School, had only been able to attend for three weeks since starting and was missing out on his education and time with his friends.
Mr Sheppard says he went to a meeting at Westminster organised by the parents of six-year-old Alfie Dingley, who suffers from a similar condition which can cause him to have fits up to 250 times a month. His family moved to Holland where they could legally give him cannabis and the fits almost disappeared, but now they have had to return to England where the medicine is illegal.
Mr Sheppard says: “For centuries cannabis has been used effectively to treat many conditions. And in most of America and in 12 EU states, this is allowed. But here relieving pain with cannabis makes you a criminal. All the more ridiculous when you consider that morphine (related to heroin) is widely used in our hospitals.”
He also cites a recent report which revealed that while class A drug misuse has been stable over the last decade, the number of deaths had doubled.
“The report concludes that the main reason is that the ‘war on drugs’ has driven supply and use further underground. Organisations providing advice and counselling have been berated for encouraging consumption. Without information people make mistakes.”
Mr Sheppard also refers to a parliamentary debate on drug consumption rooms, where users can take class A drugs under medical supervision.
“Here the argument is that as part of its responsibility for treatment of drug misuse, the Scottish NHS should have the ability to test what known addicts are taking and provide them with a safe, clean place to take it. This removes it from the streets, making it safer for users, reducing anti-social inconvenience for residents and keeping the authorities updated on what’s being sold.
“The problem? For the brief period an NHS employee has the drugs for testing, they could be jailed for possession.”
Mr Sheppard says for years drugs policy – which is mostly a Westminster responsibility – has amounted to “a collective sticking of fingers in ears”.
And he concludes: “Too many people are dying to let this continue. We need to move drugs out of the hands of criminal gangs and into a legally enforceable licensing regime.
“And in the short-term we need to focus on harm reduction, making sure anyone intending to take drugs knows what’s in it and where to get help.”