30 Jan CLEAR Medicinal Users Panel. Fourth Delegation To Parliament.
There is real momentum building in Parliament on the issue of medicinal cannabis. The first thing George Freeman said this week when he welcomed us to the Department of Health was: “There is a lot of discussion going on in government about this subject”.
This is extraordinary progress, unimaginable as recently as 2012.
Undoubtedly, developments in the US have raised cannabis up the political agenda. Through 2014, CLEAR has been well received by the Home Affairs Select Committee, the Home Office, the Department of Health, the Health Select Committee and just before Christmas I met with Baroness Meacher and Lord Howarth in the House of Lords. They are chair and treasurer, respectively, of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform. They are determined to push reform through to make medicinal cannabis available and have briefed one of the UK’s leading psychopharmacologists to prepare a review of existing evidence on the subject. Armed with this they have a plan to meet with key individuals in both Houses of Parliament and I have no doubt that they will succeed in changing minds.
Also this week, I met with advisors to Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, in the very heart of government at the Cabinet Office. The Liberal Democrats are planning towards another coalition after the General Election and determined to see drugs policy form part of a new coalition agreement. Right at the front of their priorities is medicinal cannabis for which there is strong support from existing ministers, Lynne Featherstone at the Home Office and Norman Lamb at the Department of Health. Expect announcements in the run up to the election.
George Freeman is the Life Sciences Minister, responsible for medicines, NHS innovation, research, development, the MHRA and NICE. His role is as important as any other minister in achieving the reform we seek. He is another ally and has asked me to submit a paper setting out our proposals. Of particular importance is how medicinal cannabis could be regulated, either with a full Marketing Authorisation from the MHRA or possibly registration as a Tradional Herbal Medicine. The very fact that we are now discussing such detail is a measure of how far we have come.
So there is great cause for optimism at the start of 2015. We are closer than we have ever been before and this has been achieved by moving away from the old ‘protests’ and outdated campaigning ideas. I am confident that early in the new parliament we will see substantial progress.