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Not including Northern Ireland in cannabis laws 'perverse': DUP MP Robinson

The DUP's Gavin Robinson has called on Northern Ireland to be included in UK-wide legislation on medicinal cannabis, saying it would be "perverse" for it to miss out due to the absence of a devolved assembly.

The issue of medicinal cannabis was forced onto the political agenda earlier in the summer by the case of Co Tyrone 13-year-old Billy Caldwell, who suffers from a severe form of epilepsy, and his mother Charlotte.

Billy Caldwell was granted a temporary licence to access cannabis oil, ahead of a rule change announced in July which will give doctors' the ability to prescribe cannabis products.

East Belfast MP Robinson said he had written to Home Secretary Savid Javid to ask for any legislation on medicinal cannabis to be extended to Northern Ireland, saying it would be "perverse" for it to miss out because the Assembly is not currently functioning.

"It is in no small measure down to the plight of families from Northern Ireland and the campaigning associated with this that access to medicinal cannabis was placed in the headline and progress achieved," Mr Robinson said.

"As such I have said to the Home Secretary that it would therefore be perverse to see Northern Ireland left behind when changes are introduced in other parts of the UK.

"The Home Secretary only need look across Whitehall to the Department of Health which has acted to ensure Northern Ireland is included in regulations around the cost of medicines supplied to the NHS.

"Instead of waiting for the restoration of devolution a decision was taken to include Northern Ireland because, as the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State [Lord Duncan of Springbank] viewed there being a 'clear public interest in seeing this… progress'."

At the time rule changes were announced at the end of July, the Department of Health in Northern Ireland said changing rules on cannabis-derived medicinal products was a devolved matter.

"Consideration will be given to rescheduling cannabis-derived medicinal products in Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the UK," a spokesperson said.

"In the interim, clinicians may still apply to the Home Office Expert Panel should they wish to use a cannabis-based medicine in the treatment of a patient."

A spokesman for the Home Office said laws around medicinal cannabis in Northern Ireland remains a devolved matter and should be referred to Northern Ireland's Department of Health.

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