Tuesday July 10, 11:54 AM
While residents of Lambeth, in south London, can smoke cannabis as part of a pilot scheme sanctioned by the Home Secretary, those who take the drug for medicinal reasons in other parts of the country - to help relieve the pain of multiple sclerosis, for example - could face prosecution.
Health professionals are reacting cautiously to the cannabis debate, which continues to rage following Conservative MP Peter Lilley's call for decriminalisation, and they are keen distinguish between medicinal and recreational use of the drug.
While the British Medical Association (BMA) is an enthusiastic supporter of clinical trials on cannabis, it opposes general decriminalisation on public health grounds.
A BMA spokeswoman said, "We're more interested in research and how cannabinoids can be used safely as a form of medicine to treat specific illnesses. We don't believe that decriminalisation would be helpful. Cannabis in its present form could have many harmful side effects."
The Royal College of Nursing is sympathetic to apparent perversities in the law as it stands. "Given that substances intended for medical use can be misused, caution is understandable, but it seems a pity that people who could benefit greatly from medically prescribed cannabis for pain control do not have access to it," a spokeswoman said.
These views echo those of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, which in March issued a report which concluded that it was 'undesirable' for therapeutic cannabis users to be prosecuted.
Home Secretary David Blunkett has called for an 'adult debate' on the law surrounding cannabis.
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