NEW calls have gone out for a change in the law in Scotland to allow the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Decisions over decriminalising drugs are currently reserved to Westminster. However this week’s SNP conference in Glasgow will debate the issue, with a motion lodged in support of reform.

A motion from the SNP Ayr North branch to be debated on Saturday states that “cannabis should be decriminalised for medical use and available on prescription”.

The Tory health spokesman at Holyrood is also backing decriminalisation.

The First Minister has already said she would back a change in the UK law to decriminalise cannabis for medicinal use. In a speech in Dundee, just days before the Scottish Parliament election on May 5 this year, she argued that there is a “specific case” for relaxing the laws to treat people with conditions such as multiple sclerosis.

Nicola Sturgeon cited Sativex, the first cannabis-based medicine to be licensed in the UK which can prescribed for the treatment of MS, as the type of substance that should be ought to be legal for use by patients. She has yet to properly add to her remarks.

Shadow Public Health Minister Miles Briggs, a Lothians Tory MSP, has now lodged a series of questions at Holyrood on the issue, seeking clarity from Sturgeon about the Scottish Government’s position, as he backed a shake-up in the drugs law.

He claims that there is now “substantial evidence of the medical value of cannabis” for treating conditions like MS and other chronic pain, long-term degenerative diseases.

Dr Jean Turner, a patron of the Scotland Patients Association, added her voice to the calls for reform, saying there should be “no hesitation” to review the law on medicinal use of cannabis to alleviate the suffering of those with chronic conditions.

She said relaxing the law would have widespread support if it was aimed at easing the suffering of those with painful conditions rather than for recreational use.

However the positions of the Scottish and UK governments on the issue appear to be in stark contrast, with Sturgeon supporting reform while the Home Office rules out such a move.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “This government has no plans to legalise cannabis.

“There is a substantial body of scientific and medical evidence to show that cannabis is a harmful drug which can damage people’s mental and physical health.

“It is important that medicines are thoroughly trialled to ensure they meet rigorous standards before being placed on the market. There is a clear regime in place, administered by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to enable medicines, including those containing controlled drugs, to be developed.”

The issue is clearly not on the agenda of UK ministers.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Whilst the treatment and prevention of drug problems are devolved to the Scottish Government, policy on the use of controlled drugs is currently reserved to the UK Government.

“All medicinal products must be fully tested and researched before they can be licensed for use in the UK, and the licensing, safety and efficacy of medicines is also currently reserved to the UK Government.”