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Thursday, 2 November, 2000, 00:18 GMT
Cannabis laws 'too strict' say doctors
Cannabis compounds
Eight out of 10 doctors would prescribe cannabis
More than half of doctors believe the laws on cannabis are too strict and one in three want the drug legalised, a survey has found.

Eight out of 10 doctors say they would prescribe cannabis to patients with serious illnesses such as multiple sclerosis (MS) or cancer, if they were allowed to.

A quarter of the 1,000 doctors questioned said cannabis was less addictive than tobacco, alcohol, prescribed drugs or illegal drugs.

But they raised concerns about the lack of scientific research into the effects of cannabis on driving and its links with cancer.


Doctors are very supportive of the thousands of patients who are using cannabis to treat themselves

Clare Hodges, Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics
The survey, carried out by Medix UK - a website for doctors, revealed 54% believe the current law on possessing cannabis is too strict. About a third said cannabis should be legalised now.

While 80% said they would prescribe the drug to patients with serious illnesses, many said they would give it to people with other medical ailments.

One in five would consider prescribing it for patients with back pain and 16% would consider it as an alternative to traditional anti-depressants.

However, some doctors expressed concerns, with half said they knew of patients who had gone on to harder drugs after smoking cannabis.

Admissions

The findings come just weeks after Health Minister Yvette Cooper and eight members of the Tory shadow cabinet admitted they had tried the drug.

They made their admissions after Tory shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe proposed 100 on-the-spot fines for anyone caught with an illegal drug.

She later backed down, after police chiefs and drugs charities criticised the policy.

Earlier this month, Professor Tony Moffat, chief scientist at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society predicted that cannabis would be legalised for medical use within two years.

Two large scale clinical trials are currently being conducted into the benefits and safety of cannabis compounds.

The British Medical Association welcomed the survey findings. It published a report in 1997 which advocated prescribing cannabis to alleviate the symptoms of illnesses like MS.

A spokeswoman said: "This survey of doctor opinion fits together very strongly with the BMA's report on cannabis published in November 1997.

"Our report identifies a number of hazards associated with smoking cannabis, such as its high tar content, the aggravation of psychotic illness, and other problems such as loss of motivation and libido."

But she added: "There are a number of patients who find that cannabis relieves their symptoms in a way that other drugs and painkillers do not.

"We believe that for long term clinical use, properly developed medicines containing the beneficial components of cannabis are a better option than simply smoking the raw product."

Clare Hodges, a member of the pressure group Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics and an MS sufferer, said the survey findings reflected the fact that patients were telling doctors they were using the drug to alleviate their symptoms.

"This confirms our experience that doctors are very supportive of the thousands of patients who are using cannabis to treat themselves.

"These results are also a tribute to the patients who have been telling their doctors that cannabis has helped them.

"Doctors are now sitting up and taking note, and seeing for themselves that cannabis can be therapeutic."

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See also:

21 Mar 00 | Medical notes
Cannabis: The debate
05 Jan 99 | Health
Cannabis grown for medical tests
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