Home secretary’s pledge to review medicinal cannabis use is welcomed in Portsmouth

Portsmouth campaigner Sy Dignam at a cannabis awareness picnic held at Eastney Beach last summer
Portsmouth campaigner Sy Dignam at a cannabis awareness picnic held at Eastney Beach last summer

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POLITICIANS and campaigners in Portsmouth have welcomed the government’s vow to review the use of medical cannabis oil in Britain.

Home secretary Sajid Javid broke the news in Parliament after a series of appeals from parents who want their children to be able to access medications which can alleviate illnesses like epilepsy.

Mr Javid said he authorised a licence to be issued for six-year-old Alfie Dingley, after his mother said she had been waiting three months for prime minister Theresa May to fulfil a personal assurance that he would be allowed to receive cannabis oil.

Speaking to the House of Commons, Mr Javid stressed the class B drug would remain banned for recreational use.

He told MPs the review would be held in two parts, looking first at the medical and the therapeutic benefits oils could have and then whether changes should be made to the classification of these products on an assessment of ‘the balance of harms and public health needs’.

The news comes days after Mr Javid intervened to allow the use of cannabis oil to treat severely epileptic 12-year-old Billy Caldwell, who had been taken to hospital with seizures after supplies his mother had brought from Canada were confiscated at Heathrow.

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan backed the announcement but criticised the government for the time it took to commit to the action.

He said: ‘Billy Caldwell’s is just one of a number of heart-breaking cases that make clear the total failure of government policy in this area.

‘I’m really pleased for Billy and his family that he will now receive the treatment he needs, but many more children have been put at risk and experienced extraordinary suffering by this government’s refusal to grant cannabis oil licences.

‘Labour will allow the legal prescription of cannabis oil for medical purposes; because when it comes to our kids, the government’s hard-hearted bureaucracy must give way to compassion and medical expertise.’

Portsmouth campaigner Sy Dignam, backed the move – but wants to see recreational cannabis being legailised too.

He added: ‘The government has spoken about pumping money into the NHS after Brexit – legalising cannabis could help that.

‘There are millions of pounds to be made in a taxed, regulated industry.’

However, Mr Javid insisted the review was ‘in no way a first step the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use’, saying the Tories had no plans for this.