|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Flynn: Organic and natural are entirely accurate words to use for cannabis. Every drug with which we have had problems--eraldin, thalidomide and opren--have been chemical abstracts that have come out of a laboratory, never having been ingested by human beings before. After a period in the laboratory, the Government might produce some cannabinoids and find that, of the 400 compounds in cannabis, compound No. 6 neutralises compound No. 384. We need those to be in balance. The chemistry is highly complex. We could well find something that works in a beneficial way on animals but which, after a period of use on human beings--where the only real experiments take place--has dreadful side-effects. The safest thing is to allow people to use natural, organic cannabis in its present form.
We know that people in their thousands are using cannabis in this country. These people, according to the Government, are the master criminals. I wish to refer to a couple of real cases of what cannabis is used for now. One of the main uses is for the nausea caused by the effects of chemotherapy. Nausea is trivial, but not when it is as a result of chemotherapy. It is not just a feeling of sickness; it is all-pervading and goes on for 24 hours a day, destroying the will to fight the cancer. One drug used for it has the effect of mimicking a secondary cancer. We know the effect that that has on a patient. There is an alternative available, which is widely used: cannabis.
In another case, a woman had a 28-year-old daughter who was dying from a rare form of cancer. The girl, in her final months, was using another drug to deal with the effects of chemotherapy. It turned her into a zombie. She could not communicate lucidly with her mother, who went on the streets of Poole, obtained cannabis and gave it to her daughter, who knew that she was dying. She could then communicate clearly, and give her mother the precious messages that she wanted to give in her final days.
We are saying that that woman is a criminal, who should be sentenced to 14 years in prison, and we criminalise others in a similar position. One lady who has become famous, Clare Hodges, has visited the House on a number of occasions. She recently visited Belgium. Partly as a result of her visit to Belgium, the Belgian Government have decriminalised cannabis not just for medicinal uses but for all uses.
Clare Hodges told the Senate in Belgium:
"the physical relief was almost immediate. The tension in my spine and bladder was eased, and I slept well. I was comfortable with my body for the first time in years. But, just as important, I felt happy that there was something, after all, that could help me. It was as if a huge weight had been lifted from me.
I have been using cannabis now for nine years. There is no doubt that my condition has improved in different ways. I do not have to take as many prescribed medicines. I now eat better, sleep better, and I feel more positive and motivated. As my health is more stable, I find I can now do simple things that I hadn't been able to do, like go to the shops or cook my children's dinner after school."
Quite rightly, the trials taking place have no chance of success because of the common sense of the juries. The Criminal Justice (Mode of Trial) Bill will never get through the House while that situation exists. It is quite right that those who oppose the Bill, including myself, will go to any lengths necessary to make sure that the powers of juries are not truncated as the Government intend. The juries speak for the common sense and compassion of the country in this regard. We need those juries, not an unfeeling Government.
Unless the Minister changes her mind about this Bill, we shall hear that the Government are compassionate. We shall hear the words again--I have heard them in three Parliaments. They say, "Oh, we are very sympathetic towards these poor people with cancer and glaucoma destroying the will to live. We care about them so much." When we ask the Government what they will do about it, they say, "We shall make sure that the pills are available." When? Someone suffering from MS wants a night's sleep tonight; they want relief from the spasms tonight. They want to get rid of their nausea; they want a clear head. They do not want to be tormented by pain throughout the day.
When will the Government help them? In five years, 10 years, some time, never? That is what the Government are saying and have said repeatedly. Should we not say that they are hypocrites, callous, cruel and stupid, because of their attitude to this and previous Bills?
There is no reason why the Bill should not go through. The whole weight of the medical profession is behind it. It would make a simple change that would affect a small number of desperately ill people who are looking to this place to lift from them the anxiety of using an illegal drug.
There is nothing trivial or minor about this. This is not a game; it is not a matter of playing politics. It affects thousands of human beings who are suffering unnecessary pain and living daily with the anxiety of the knowledge that they are disobeying the law and that they could be dragged into the courts at any time because of our stupidity and political cowardice.
That is not just something that could happen; it happened six months ago. That was the last time a desperately ill MS sufferer was dragged into court.
It is nonsense that, although cannabis is used by 60 per cent. of young people recreationally, to get a kick, and although that kind of use is out of control and the police are not arresting them, people seeking relief from serious pain can be, and have been, thrown into prison.
I do not say that cannabis is a safe drug. As a chemist, and also as someone who has a great interest in such matters, I believe that all drugs, including medicinal and legal drugs, fall into two categories: 50 per cent. of them have dangerous side effects, and the other 50 per cent. have dangerous side effects that we have yet to discover. There is a long history of the discovery of the dangers of drugs.
However, of all the drugs that we have, cannabis is in the lowest risk category. Some reports were published yesterday, all of which are helpful to the Bill--although in contradiction of many other reports, one of those suggested that cannabis could lead to bouts of mental ill health. The Select Committee on Science and Technology has examined that part of the report and decided that there is no such risk, but I would not want to minimise the risks.
Even if there are risks, especially for those who smoke their cannabis, people are less likely to be exposed to the dangers if the Bill is passed, because it will then be up to doctors to take serious decisions about people who are ill.
Mr. Forth: Would the hon. Gentleman care to comment, even if only in passing--although I would prefer him to expand on the subject a little--on why we as a society tolerate substances such as tobacco and alcohol, which are legal, widely available and consumed, although they have both psychological and physiological side effects, yet the product that we are talking about, which also has those effects, is illegal? Has the hon. Gentleman any thoughts on that subject?
Mr. Flynn: A great many. Alcohol was once prohibited, with disastrous effects. Prohibition led to the build-up of an empire of criminals, and many people were poisoned by bad alcohol.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for bringing me to my next point, which is to ask what is being sold to people now, and what their choice is.
Kate Bradley is an ex-policewoman, who during her years in the force went out on the streets to bring in people who were dealing drugs. She is now a 58-year-old woman with MS; she is in serious trouble, and has given a statement to a Member of Parliament. Her role now is to go out on to the same streets and become a customer of the people whom she once arrested. That is Britain 2001. That is the effect of a law that we created and support, but which we could change today.
The World Health Organisation, in an authoritative work, has examined the dangers of all drugs, and categorised them. It says clearly that cannabis is less dangerous than alcohol and tobacco, even if it is used in the same way. I know little about such things, because I have never used an illegal drug in my life and I never will, but I understand that nobody uses cannabis in the same way as tobacco, because if someone smoked 40 joints a day they would be floating on the ceiling.
We now have the worst of all worlds. Those who have to go on to the streets to get their cannabis have no idea of the quality or strength of what they are using. The Bill would liberate the medical profession to produce cannabis that could be taken in ways other than smoking. The most dangerous aspect of using cannabis in joints is that it is mixed with that deadly, addictive, poisonous killer drug--tobacco.
I am aware that some research is taking place, but if there could be freer research, we could find out how to use cannabis in other ways--as a drink, in food, as a spray, and so on. Those methods will then be freely available. It is not open to someone who grows cannabis in their back garden to use the drug in that way. Those forms of use will come; they should be available now. If the Bill is passed, the research could be carried out immediately.
I promised that I would not speak for too long, as there are other Bills to be debated. The Bill is necessary; it has the support of every free-thinking and conscientious person. It will make a great difference to the lives of tens of thousands of people. We cannot say, hand on heart, that we do not support the Bill. I challenge anyone in the House to say that, if one of their loved ones asked them for relief from a terrible pain or ailment, they would reply, "No, you can't have it, I'm not going to get cannabis for you because it's against the law". Every one of us would go and get cannabis from the street to relieve the pain of a loved one. Many people are in that position at present.
If we are not prepared to obey that law, how dare we suggest that it should remain the law of the land? It is indefensible, cruel and foolish. The law is certainly an ass in this instance. If anyone suggests that there is no strong feeling about this matter, I shall be happy to reintroduce the Bill if it is killed today. I will then bring to the House many people in wheelchairs and people who are in pain or dying. They will give witness to the House.
I plead with the Minister to take a fair view of the Bill. We can act today to ensure that at least the Bill receives a Second Reading. Those adults who suffer so much and have taken their own decision to use a medicine of their choice should not be treated as criminals.