Last Wednesday, a team of us from NME took Damian Marley, Professor Green, American drugs expert Dr Frank D’Ambrosio and campaigner Kate Rothwell – whose cousin Oliver has a severe form of epilepsy which is alleviated by cannabis oil – to Parliament to meet MP Norman Lamb and discuss the future of legalised cannabis in Britain.
As we often do before these sorts of events, we opened our inbox to receive questions from you guys, our readers. Sure enough, we received loads of smart, incisive questions – and I got time to put some of them to our panel. Check out the video of the full discussion here to see how they responded.
So far, so expected. We knew that NME readers would ask smart and incisive questions. What I was personally less prepared for was how many of you would get in touch simply to share your own powerful personal stories about your struggles to access the cannabis-based medicine that you know could change your life.
We heard from a woman with a damaged spinal chord who wants the opportunity to use cannabis instead of morphine. We heard from a single mother with pancreatic cancer who decided to make her own cannabis oil but is terrified of being caught buying the plant. We heard from several others who have young relatives who suffer from seizures. Perhaps most movingly of all we heard from the mother of a girl who died at the age of two years and two months, who knows that cannabis oil could have alleviated some of her daughter’s suffering during her tragically short life.
The fact that so many people across Britain have these stories to tell just underlines the importance of why we brought this panel together in the first place: The prohibition of cannabis in this country isn’t just a stupid law, it’s also causing unnecessary suffering. The law needs to change now.
This Friday, there’s an opportunity to change things. The Legalisation of Cannabis Bill – which was first introduced as a Private Member’s Bill by MP Paul Flynn on 10 October last year – is due to have its second reading in the House of Commons. It comes at a time that – thanks to cases involving young patients like Alfie Dingley, Billy Caldwell and Kate Rothwell’s cousin Oliver – there’s never been more tabloid media support for things to finally change. They’ve managed to catch the ear of politicians who have ignored them for too long.
As Norman Lamb MP put it during our discussion: “I want to pay enormous credit to Kate and her family, because the government wasn’t listening to this at all. We were making no progress, there was very limited support in Parliament in terms of people who would actually come out and talk about it. Then you come along, get 250,000 signatures on a petition, and then you have these other cases where children’s lives are potentially at risk and suddenly it feels like the dams are bursting.”
We need to keep this pressure up by letting MPs know that this is an issue that people really care about. Here’s how you can do just that:
First, find your MP. This is the easy part. Just head to writetothem.com, stick in your postcode and hit ‘GO’. On the next page, ‘Choose your representative’ scroll down until you see your MP. Click their name and you’ll be automatically taken to a site where you can send them an email.
As well as creating her viral petition, Kate Rothwell has also drafted an example of the sort of email you might like to send. Here’s her example, but of course you could also add any personal stories of your own:
Please consider publicly voicing your support of the Legalisation of Cannabis (Medicinal Purposes) Bill (HC Bill 108) and attending the second reading on Friday 6th July, helping it to be passed on to the next stage. This legislative change would improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of citizens, and the public support has been overwhelming. An online petition calling for medicinal cannabis to be legalised has received over 300,000 signatures. This can be found at change.org/MedicalCannabisNow. The passing of this bill will allow patients access to life changing, and lifesaving medication, and the demand cannot be ignored. I would really appreciate it if you would respond to this e-mail, and let me know if you are willing to support this cause.
Thank you in advance for your support.
That’s it! Edit and send. With your help, we can change this law and start getting cannabis legally into the hands of everyone who needs it. It could also be an important first step towards legalising cannabis for recreational use in this country as well. In the video of our panel discussion, you’ll hear Dr Frank D’Ambrosio describe how successful medical legalisation in California led to full adult-use legalisation. As Norman Lamb put it: “It’s very interesting that once a state legalises it for medicinal use, and people see that the world doesn’t cave in and actually that it helps a whole load of people, then the population of that state, in a referendum, vote in favour of full legalisation. They’ve done the same in Canada through a general election, with a government getting elected on a platform to legalise cannabis. They just did it last week. Things are moving quite rapidly, and we’re just getting caught behind what’s happening on the other side of the Atlantic.”
It’s time that Britain caught up. In a Great British summer of sunshine and football, this is another opportunity to make this country’s future look brighter. I’ll leave the last word to Damian Marley, who summed up how a plant he’s always used is now bringing hope to so many. “We have a saying in Jamaica that: ‘The herb is the healing of the nation,’” he said. “With it becoming legal in various places, there’s now slowly more research that proves there is evidence of that.”