COLUMN: Attitude change needed towards cannabis use for health reasons

Rosemary Westwell

Rosemary Westwell - Credit: Archant

Attitude change needed towards cannabis use for health reasons

It has recently been reported that the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has suddenly allowed a 12-year-old boy who suffers from severe epilepsy to use an illegal drug – one that contains cannabis - as a medical emergency to alleviate his epilepsy.

His mother and many MPs are now campaigning to have the drug readily available to others in Britain for medicinal purposes - and why not?

Hopefully, their demands will be met soon.

It is commonly accepted that cannabis, also known as hemp, Hashish and marijuana, has its negative effects, like developing paranoia.

But it has been known for some time that some substances from the plant can be incorporated in medicines that help alleviate cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, muscle spasms, seizures, severe pain, and severe nausea.

It has also been reported that although we are not allowed to use cannabis ourselves, our country is one of the major suppliers of the drug for medicinal purposes to other countries. How two-faced is that?

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It is time common sense reigned. Unless the system is changed promptly, the law is indeed nonsensical.

We know that other substances like alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine are detrimental to our health and alcohol, especially, can be addictive – yet these have not been banned.

If our nanny state was consistent, these would not be freely available either.

I am not suggesting that alcohol, cigarettes or caffeine should be banned but our government should stop trying to control us like a fretting nanny, and should trust the doctors and pharmacists to provide the drugs we need.

My cousin who grew opium poppies legally in Tasmania soon spotted an errant opium poppy in Ely some years ago.

Opium poppies contain morphine, codeine and thebaine, which are often used in painkillers. It is also the basis of illegal drugs such as heroin.

As a university student, I arrived home to Tasmania and joked with my father that I could easily nip over the fence to the opium farm one of his customers owned and acquire some poppies.

My father was not amused and it was then that I realsed that there are very strict controls in Tasmania and no doubt anywhere that grows the poppies. Why, then, is our government making life so difficult for people who need the drug to alleviate their painful medical conditions, but seems relatively disinterested in preventing so much illegal usage on our streets or in reducing addiction?

It is often reported that people are dying from overdosing on heroin they have acquired personally, so no matter what laws are made, these laws will be broken.

What is needed is a complete change of attitude.