The UK government is being petitioned to hold a referendum on the decriminalisation of the drug cannabis. This has implications for people with diseases that may be helped by using medical marijuana. The petition can be found here.
So far about 12,000 people have signed the petition. It argues that the long-running debate over cannabis legalisation, coupled with a recent emphasis on referendums by the Conservative government (referring to the public votes on remaining in the E.U. and the Scottish referendum) mean that the issue of cannabis decriminalisation should also be put to a public vote. The petition implies that this would be the democratic way to settle the debate. If it were put to a vote, this would follow recent moves by several other authorities worldwide to relax the laws on cannabis, including Alaska, Jamaica, and many US states.
One argument for changing the laws around cannabis is to allow access to the drug for medical reasons. In England and Wales cannabis possession and use for any reason, including medical, is illegal. However, a cannabis-based product called Sativex has been exempted from this law. It can now be legally used to treat conditions such as the muscle spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis. People bringing cannabis into the UK for personal medical use are also permitted to do so if they have a certificate. However, the drug is still not widely available.
There is some evidence that cannabis might help with some symptoms of diseases such as cancer and multiple sclerosis (MS), including chronic pain, nausea from chemotherapy, and muscle spasticity. There have also been claims that the drug may help to control seizures in children with severe forms of epilepsy such as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, but the evidence for this is mixed. Research into the effectiveness of marijuana-based medicines for treating various diseases is still ongoing.
However, this petition applies to all cannabis use and does not differentiate between recreational and medicinal uses of the drug.