A recent court case in which an MS sufferer was fined for possessing cannabis he was using for pain relief has sparked a debate as to whether or not the drug should be legalised for medicinal purposes.
Local organisation TIPSA, who provide alcohol and other drugs education and prevention services in Mid-Ulster have said an informed debate needs to be had on the issue.
Martin McCann, Project Coordinator for TIPSA told the MAIL: “The debate has become polarised to the two extremes. There are a lot of people who are very pro-legalisation and there’s a lot of people who are very anti it. But as in most things in life, the proper approach probably lies somewhere in between.
Martin continued: “There is merit in what both sides are saying. For example cannabis in relation to MS, studies have shown that it can relieve a lot of the symptoms the pain, the spasms, but on the flip side is has also been shown that people with MS who smoke cannabis perform less well in cognitive tests. So while they may want to relieve the pain there is a possibility of reduction in memory.
Martin also spoke about a treatment based on cannabis extracts which also splits opinion.
He said: “There have been steps taken to try and comprise, there is a spray called sativex which again divides opinion, it is an extract which helps to treat the painful spasms that come with MS.
“It is not widely available in the NHS and I believe Wales is the only one that regularly prescribe it.”
Martin added that politicians and elected representatives having the debate on this issue should not be based on point scoring for elections etc, but rather letting the science do the talking
“Some of the politicians don’t want to come out and say what they think on this issue as they don’t want to be seen to be soft on drugs issue or soft on crime. But some of the smaller parties are quite open and vocal about it.
“The public needs to engage in the debate in the proper way, but again you need leadership on that issue.
“I think the area where the debate has to be focused is not on whether it’s good for you or not, but it should let the science on both sides do the talking.”