Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education



Front Page

World

UK

UK Politics

Business

Sci/Tech

Health

Education

Sport

Entertainment

Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Archive
Feedback
Low Graphics
Help

Wednesday, July 7, 1999 Published at 12:35 GMT 13:35 UK


Health

BMA rejects legalisation of cannabis

Cannabis can have some beneficial effects

A call for cannabis to be legalised for medical use has been narrowly rejected by the British Medical Association (BMA).

Representatives at the annual BMA conference in Belfast also threw out a motion calling for the drug to be decriminalised for recreational use - by a huge majority.


BBC Scotland's Colin MacKinnon reports
The motion on medical use, tabled by the Scottish Regional Public Health Committee, failed by just nine votes after a heated debate on the benefits of the drug.

Last year, the conference voted for trials into the possible medicinal benefits of cannabis.

These are set to begin in October. Some patients suffering from conditions such as multiple sclerosis and arthritis have said the drug has relieved their pain.

'Blanket prohibition'

BMA
Dr Stephen Kisely, who proposed the motion, said: "We are not proposing that the corner shop should be able to sell marijuana to anyone who comes through the door, but neither are we promoting the blanket prohibition which is in place at the moment.


[ image: Prosecutions
Prosecutions "destroy livlihoods"
"The legal effects of cannabis are far worse than the medical and psychological effects.

"People who are prosecuted for possession of cannabis may have their livelihoods destroyed for the use of a compound which has less adverse consequences than alcohol and tobacco.

"The BMA should stand up and act to help its patients. Making them criminals does not help them."

But Dr Joan Richards said trials on the medical benefits should be conducted before the BMA made calls for legalisation.

"We do not know enough about the possible benefits yet. We should wait for the evidence," she said.

'Chaos' warning

Dr Frank Wells added: "I have spent a lifetime combatting the tobacco industry. I have also seen the effects of alcohol.

"If we pass a motion like this we are going to cause chaos."

Dr Vasco Fernandes, a public health doctor in Oxford, said cannabis was a "gateway drug".

"The reason why much of the youth of today use cannabis is because it's illegal - it's a risk thing.

"Legalise cannabis and you will move them onto harder drugs, especially heroin."

Edward Tierney, a GP in Rochdale, said voting for the decriminalisation of cannabis for recreational use would send out a confusing message to the public.

He said it would conflict with an earlier motion calling for a ban on smoking in public places.

"We know cannabis is the most widely used recreational drug, we know that it is usually smoked in a joint," he said.

"What in the name of God are we doing? Last year we voted for more scientific research and now we're asking for recreational use? We must be mad."

Chairman of the BMA Dr Ian Bogle said: "I think we should reject this motion.

"We have spent many years discussing how to get the public off cigarettes. We do not want to spend the next 20 years talking about how to get the public off cannabis."

Last year, the House of Lords science and technology committee backed the use of cannabinoids - chemicals in cannabis - for medicinal purposes.





Advanced options | Search tips




Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©


Health Contents

Background Briefings
Medical notes

Relevant Stories

21 Jun 99 | Health
New call for cannabis reform

10 Jun 99 | Health
Townswomen support cannabis use

17 Mar 99 | Health
Support for medicinal use of cannabis

10 Jan 99 | Health
Doctors volunteer for cannabis trials

05 Jan 99 | Health
Cannabis grown for medical tests





Internet Links


British Medical Association

Cannabis information


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.




In this section

Disability in depth

Spotlight: Bristol inquiry

Antibiotics: A fading wonder

Mental health: An overview

Alternative medicine: A growth industry

The meningitis files

Long-term care: A special report

Aids up close

From cradle to grave

NHS reforms: A guide

NHS Performance 1999

From Special Report
NHS in crisis: Special report

British Medical Association conference '99

Royal College of Nursing conference '99