Delegates at the SNP Party Conference last week voted overwhelmingly in favour of legalising medical cannabis. They also expressed a desire to have this power devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

The motion was put forward by Laura Brennan-Whitefield, who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis and argued that having access to cannabis would help ease her pain. She said:

“I have been living with Multiple Sclerosis for nine years and the fact that I’m standing here giving this speech means that I am one of the lucky ones. It has become clear to me over these nine years that many people living with MS have been using cannabis to help with the symptoms of that condition, in fact it’s one of the worst kept secrets at the hospital. All these people risk a criminal record, unlike in Australia, Chile, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Romania and some US states.”

Brennan-Whitefield urged her fellow members to “be the party of compassion and common sense”.

The main voice of opposition to the motion came from SNP councillor Audrey Doig, who was booed by the delegates for saying “I know that the MS card is being played here, but it’s not just MS that it be would be used for” and for suggesting that those with the chronic disease should try a “fitness regime” instead. Doig shared a personal anecdote about her deceased cousin in order to make the argument that cannabis is a gateway to ‘harder’ drugs. She said:

“He started taking cannabis because he was having pain when he was playing ice hockey and his mates in ice hockey did the same. Unfortunately, my cousin had an addictive personality and when the pain wasn’t relieved by taking cannabis he went on to taking stronger drugs”.

However, despite popular belief in the ‘gateway theory’, the evidence only suggests a temporal linking rather than a causational effect of cannabis use, with the vast majority of users not going on to take ‘harder’ drugs.

Before the general election, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that there was a “specific case” to relax the laws for medical cannabis, but the power for change in this regard still lies in Westminster.

Words by Abbie Llewelyn. Tweets @Abbiemunch

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