HOLYROOD is to set up its first cross-party group in support of medicinal cannabis.

The parliament’s Standards Committee this morning approved an application to establish the group from Glasgow Labour MSP Pauline McNeill.

Its aim will be to seek to “better understand the benefits of medicinal cannabis and recognise case studies indicating its positive impact on patients suffering from a variety of conditions”.

It will also seek to “support patient rights to get access to medicine”.

Giving evidence to MSPs, Ms McNeill cited the case of East Kilbride boy Cole Thomson whose family must pay for Bedrolite cannabis oil privately to ease his epileptic seizures.

She said: “For some patients it is absolutely life-changing. So it’s in the public interest that we would examine the evidence-based research and seek to investigate case studies of those with chronic illnesses who would benefit from medicinal cannabis.”

Ms McNeil said the group would also look at the MedCan ID card used in the US state of Colorado to give people access to medicinal cannabis for health benefits.

“I personally feel quite strongly that patients, if they feel it’s beneficial to them, should not be prevented from the use of a cannabis product because of any laws or judgment calls on people who use it.

“Why did I do this? My own father, who had very severe arthritis, used to say to me that if we ever legalised cannabis, would I be the first person to get get him some so he could alleviate his pain and suffering.

“But being a law-abiding person - he sadly passed five years ago - he didn’t get the chance.

“For many people they believe it will alleviate conditions like arthritis, so that’s what drove to me to do this work.”

On legislation for medicinal cannabis growers, she said: “It’s becoming big business now. So we want to make sure that it’s not something only big business can control.”

The group will initially have four Labour MSPs, one SNP MSP and two Tories, although more are expected to join.

Ms McNeill will be the groups’s chair with Strathkelvin and Bearsden SNP MSP Rona Mackay and Dumfriesshire Tory MSP Oliver Mundell as its deputy conveners.

It is expected to discuss access to cannabis-based drugs, patient rights, NHS and private treatments, and risks and side effects as well as benefits.

It will also consider how to reduce the stigma of medicinal cannabis use, “evidence to unlock institutional (eg NHS) and political resistance”, and legislation for cannabis growers.

As well as politicians, the group also includes the MS Society Scotland, the Scottish Cannabis Consortium, and patient representatives.

Ms Mackay said recently: “This is such an important issue and it’s long overdue that the benefits of medicinal cannabis are explored and researched.

“ I hope this group sheds light on evidence and the work being done to progress the use of this treatment, as well as the challenges being faced in its implementation.”

Westminster has an all-party parliamentary group on “Medical Cannabis under prescription”, which seeks to help patients get medical cannabis on the NHS.