Scottish National Party to Vote on Medical Cannabis
This weeks’s Scottish National Party Autumn Conference is set to include a vote on whether or not the party should back the decriminalisation of cannabis for medicinal purposes. The motion, from the Ayr North branch of the party, is to be debated on Saturday and states that “cannabis should be decriminalised for medical use and available on prescription”.
It is already known that SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon supports the motion, having spoken publicly of the need for decriminalisation back in May. Addressing a crowd at the Queen’s Hotel, Dundee, she said: “Cannabis is not a harmless substance. I am not in favour of general decriminalisation but I do think there is a specific case for medicinal use.”
She went on to cite Sativex as evidence of both cannabis’ medical value, and the absurdity of licensing it as a medicine but refusing to allow access to it to people in genuine medical need.
Ms Sturgeon is not the only SNP politician to speak out in favour of reforming cannabis laws in recent times. In August, West Dunbartonshire MP Martin Docherty-Hughes told The Greenock Telegraph, “The medical benefits of cannabis are well known and hundreds of millions of people around the world have safe and legal access to medical marijuana.
“It’s a disgrace in the 21st century that my constituents, living with chronic pain from conditions such as multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and avascular necrosis have to choose between suffering and breaking the law.
“I am delighted to pledge my support for the legalisation of cannabis as a treatment option for doctors and their patients.
“I will be encouraging colleagues to pledge their support and I hope that a change in the law will not be too far off.”
Despite support from inside the party, this will be the first time that the issue has been voted on at a party conference, and should it end up being adopted as official policy it would be a mark of clear progress. However, unlike other parties such as the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, there appears to be little support for further drug policy reform. Despite seeing the light in terms of medical cannabis, Nicola Sturgeon has made it very clear that she does not support full legalisation, or even decriminalisation, of recreational use of the drug.
Of course, whether or not the SNP decide to adopt this motion as their official position on medical cannabis, there is currently very little they can do to implement it. Although some aspects of health policy are already devolved to Holyrood, drug policy is still considered a criminal justice issue, and is therefore firmly stuck in Westminster, where it seems unlikely to change.
However, should the SNP decide to push the issue, there is a possibility that they could get some joy. As already mentioned, health policy is already devolved, and an argument could certainly be made that this falls under that category. It’s an argument that could in theory be won, especially with continued talk about a second independence referendum potentially incentivising Westminster to grant more power to Holyrood.
Either way, the fact that this issue is even being debated at a party conference is certainly a positive thing, even if in the short term at least it is unlikely to trigger any change in policy. The more voters – and particularly active party members – are informed of the reality of the country’s failing drug policy the better.
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