THE Scottish Trades Union Congress is to consider backing the legalisation of cannabis for medical use.

A motion at the STUC's annual conference next week will say that Scotland and the UK are lagging behind other countries by criminalising medicinal use.

The SNP overwhelmingly voted to demand that the UK Government devolve powers to Holyrood so it can pass the reform, at its conference in Glasgow last year.

However, backing from the STUC, representing over half a million trade unionists in Scotland, would add to growing pressure for change.

Currently cannabis is a Class B drug, with people facing up to five years in jail for possessing it, or up to 14 years in prison for being involved in its supply or production. The Home Office has repeatedly stated it has no plan to alter the law on cannabis use and says it has "no recognised medicinal benefits.

However , a motion at the STUC congress in Aviemore, which is taking place from April 24-26, talks about the "clouding" of "any rational debate" on the issue.

Unions are being urged to ”support the appropriate use of cannabis for medical purposes and for protections for medical professionals, to enable them to prescribe it safely and appropriately" for those in chronic pain.

The motion also highlights what it claims is "the increasing use of cannabis for treating and alleviating a variety of symptoms" in other parts of the world.

"Legislatures across the Americas and Europe are responding to this by enshrining into law provisions for the supply and consumption of cannabis for medical purposes, the motion from the STUC youth conference stated.

“Scotland and the UK are lagging behind in this regard and the influence of cultural and moral conceptions of cannabis use are still pervasive, clouding any rational debate about how best to manage the use of cannabis in our society, whether medical or recreational”, it added.

The STUC does not have a formal position on cannabis for medical use.

STUC general secretary Grahame Smith said the issue was part of an agenda unions were debating that went beyond their traditional areas of campaigning.

Smith said: "This is an interesting aspect of what the STUC can be about.

"When people think of the STUC they can sometimes think about is as being all about pay and conditions. But this shows that members are looking at wider concerns and interests related to their professional roles."

Labour MSP Pauline McNeill, whose late father John suffered from crippling and agonising arthritis in his dying days, has backed the medical use of cannabis to alleviate the suffering of those with painful conditions.

Last night, McNeill called on the STUC to add its weight to the "growing support" for a shake-up in the drug laws.

In response to the STUC motion, a Home Office spokesperson said: “This Government has no plans to legalise cannabis."