Cannabis: Scotland should enable people with chronic pain to take comfort from medicinal marijuana – Susan Dalgety

The medicinal properties of cannabis are increasingly being recognised (Picture: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)The medicinal properties of cannabis are increasingly being recognised (Picture: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
The medicinal properties of cannabis are increasingly being recognised (Picture: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
The typical image of a cannabis user is of a stoned old hippy, still enjoying a toke or two while listening to the Grateful Dead, man. Or a teenage boy out of his head on weapons-grade skunk, too far gone to know whether it’s night or day.

Cannabis is, according the NHS, the most widely used illegal drug in the UK. And it’s not just rebellious adolescents or bored students that use it. Increasingly, people wracked with pain will smoke hash or bake it in brownies in a desperate effort to relieve their pain.

A friend told me recently of her embarrassment after she had tracked down the constant smell of cannabis in her tenement. “I thought at first it was coming from the flat full of students. But it was my middle-aged neighbour with terminal cancer. It was the only relief she could get from the physical and emotional pain of her disease.”

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But if Edinburgh West MP Christine Jardine gets her way, then cannabis may soon be available on prescription for conditions such as the eye disease glaucoma or epilepsy in children, as well as the terrible pain of cancer.

She has secured a promise from the UK Government for two clinical trials into the effect of medical cannabis and is hopeful that this will lead to a much wider use of the drug by NHS doctors.

UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid legalised medicinal cannabis in November 2018 when he was Home Secretary, but since then only a handful of prescriptions have been issued.

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A private clinic in Stirling has had permission since last year to supply cannabis-based medicines for people, but at a price.

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Prescribing cannabis as a medicine is not a new phenomenon. It has been used across the world for thousands of years to treat everything from malaria to constipation.

Even Queen Victoria was known to use the drug to relieve her heavy period pain. But in 1928, the UK Government made it illegal after an international drugs conference in Geneva decided the plant was “a threat to society and as dangerous as opium”.

Medicinal cannabis can be pretty much the same as the stuff you buy, illegally, in the pub or on the street. The marijuana plant contains up to 100 different chemicals (cannabinoids) which each have a different effect on the human body.

One of these chemicals, THC, is the one that gets you stoned. It is one of the two cannabinoids that are mainly used in the manufacture of medicinal cannabis. The other is CBD, which many people will recognise from their local health store.

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I have a jar of CBD pain relief cream sitting by my bedside for those days when my right shoulder and arm seize up, damaged after decades of typing.

As Scotland’s population ages, with a 50 per cent increase in over 60s projected by 2033, then diseases like cancer and conditions like chronic pain will increase too.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could treat painful life-limiting conditions, not with paracetamol or something even stronger, but with a little, legal, weed?

Just as long as we don’t have to listen to the Grateful Dead to help the medicine go down.

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