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MP’s bill to end ‘shameful’ cannabis criminalisation in close defeat ahead of Brexit debate

PUBLISHED: 11:17 12 December 2018

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb calling for cannabis legalisation in the House of Commons. Photo: House of Commons

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb calling for cannabis legalisation in the House of Commons. Photo: House of Commons

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North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb suffered a narrow defeat on a bill calling for the legalisation of cannabis, ahead of an emergency debate on the delay to the vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

The Liberal Democrat MP called for legalising “the possession and consumption of cannabis” and “the regulation of the production, distribution and sale” just minutes before MPs were due to debate the government’s delay to vote on the prime minister’s deal with the EU to deliver Brexit on Tuesday.

Speaking after the vote, he described the continued criminalisation of cannabis use for pain relief as “shameful”.

Mr Lamb, a former health minister under the coalition government, said: “Over the last few weeks, three constituents have individually come to see me to discuss cannabis.”

He said the three men suffered “acute and continuing pain” from fibromyalgia, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s disease and a leg injury, and were unable to use conventional painkillers such as Fentanyl and codeine.

One man, who was cautioned by the police after purchasing cannabis online, now fears he will be unable to visit his son in Australia, Mr Lamb told MP’s in the House of Commons.

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New regulations allowed doctors in the UK to prescribe cannabis to patients for medical use from last month.

But Mr Lamb told MPs one of his constituents was refused access to medical cannabis, by his GP, who said the drug had “no evidence of therapeutic value”.

He added: “The government’s reforms have raised expectations but have dashed hopes.

“Surely we can’t justify this postcode lottery?

“The government should look at the harm the prohibition of cannabis is causing this country.”

Mr Lamb’s bill was opposed by Steve Double, Conservative MP for St Austell and Newquay, who said: cannabis use “in its current form is wrong and unsustainable and doing a great deal of damage”.

He added he did not believe decriminalising the drug was the answer, and suggested Mr Lamb was “confusing medical use with recreational use” and the government needed to do more to inform medical professionals about the new legislation.

He said: “We need to allow more time for these changes to come into effect.”

Mr Lamb’s bill was defeated by 66 votes to 52, a result he said was “depressing” and “hypocritical”.

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