Diane Abbott in cannabis oil U-turn as she backs legalisation for medicinal use
A Labour government would legalise the prescription of cannabis oil for medical purposes and mount a review into public health related drugs policy, Diane Abbott has confirmed.
The Shadow Home Secretary, who just three months ago opposed relaxing laws around cannabis, called on ministers to drop the “heavy-handed and bureaucratic approach” to health-related drug use.
It comes amid the controversy surrounding a severe epilepsy sufferer's mother having cannabis oil confiscated at Heathrow airport after flying in from Canada last week.
Billy Caldwell’s condition quickly worsened prompting Sajid Javid to approve the return of some of the cannabis oil, after doctors made clear it was a medical emergency.
The Government has faced mounting calls to review the UK’s laws, however the Home Office has only gone as far as to admit a limited licence for the drug to be administered to the twelve-year-old in hospital for 20 days.
Ms Abbott’s stance marks a contrast to her position in March, when although she criticised the “war on drugs” approach, she did not back altering the laws on cannabis, including for medical purposes.
“At this point we are not in favour of legalising cannabis for any purpose. I don’t envisage us changing our position,” she told PoliticsHome’s sister title, The House.
But in a statement today, the Shadow Home Secretary said: “A number of recent heart breaking cases have highlighted a failure of Government policy.”
“Children have been put at risk and experienced extraordinary suffering because this Government drags its heels and refuses to grant cannabis oil licences.
“This must not continue. Labour in government will allow the legal prescription of cannabis oil for medical purposes.
“We will also review drugs policy to address all issues of public health. The Government should stop being so heavy-handed and bureaucratic and put the welfare of children first.”
Shadow Transport Secretary Andy MacDonald who lost a son to intractable epilepsy revealed he had written to ministers urging them to review their policy.
Theresa May told journalists following her major NHS speech earlier today that the Government was open to reviewing the law around medicinal use, as long as it was informed by expert opinion.
“It is possible for medicinal cannabis to be used, but what we need to make sure is that we’re listening to clinicians, we’re listening to people as we do that,” she said.
“Do we need to look at these cases and consider what we’ve got in place? Yes, but I think what needs to drive us in all of these cases is actually what clinicians are saying about these issues.”
“There’s a very good reason why we have a set of rules around drugs, because of the impact they have on peoples’ lives and we must never forget that.”