Belfast Telegraph

Pro-cannabis party CISTA steps aside after SDLP backs medicinal use

A party supporting the legalisation of cannabis has announced it will not run a candidate in the West Tyrone by-election after the SDLP announced its support for legalising medicinal cannabis.

The announcement was made at the party's annual conference at the weekend by West Tyrone candidate Daniel McCrossan.

Mr McCrossan spoke about people in his constituency the drug could potentially benefit, including 12-year-old Billy Caldwell, who suffers from epilepsy and went 300 days without a seizure after becoming the first person in the UK to receive a medicinal cannabis prescription in April 2017.

Pro-cannabis party CISTA's candidate in the by-election Barry Brown announced he would no longer be running in light of the SDLP announcement, and a similar commitment from the Alliance Party.

In a post on his Facebook page, Mr Brown said he would like to do a Facebook live interview with each of the candidates to discuss their views on legalising cannabis.

Speaking about the party's decision to push for legalised medicinal cannabis, the party's health spokesperson MLA Mark H Durkan said his party needs to have "a compassionate response to those who are suffering from chronic illnesses and are in desperate need of new treatment".

“After considering expertise and clinical advice in relation to cannabis for medicinal purposes, the SDLP is happy to support the legalisation to help those who are suffering from chronic illnesses. I would encourage other parties to explore this and consider the needs of those who are suffering," he said.

“It is important that parties work together to establish a regulatory framework for the use of medicinal cannabis to treat chronic conditions and this should happen sooner rather than later.”

Medicinal cannabis has been available in the United Kingdom in the form of prescription drug Sativex since 2010, but is not prescribed on the NHS in England, Scotland or Northern Ireland due to it being prohibitively expensive.

The drug is available in some limited circumstances in Wales, including for MS sufferers.

The cannabis oil prescribed to Billy Caldwell contained cannabinoids Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is illegal in Northern Ireland.

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