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Drug-related Harm

Volume 645: debated on Tuesday 24 July 2018

2. What recent discussions he has had with the Home Secretary on policies to tackle drug-related harm. (906606)

I attended the most recent cross-Government board meeting, which was held in June and chaired by the Home Secretary, to discuss the implementation of the drugs strategy. We know that drugs can devastate lives and damage our communities. The Government’s approach remains clear: we must do everything that we can to prevent drug use and support people through successful treatment and recovery.

Given the recent statistics showing that drug-related deaths in Portugal are three per million, compared with the UK figure of 64 per million, does the Minister agree that the UK Government should follow Portugal’s example and make drug policy reform a matter primarily for Health and Social Care, rather than the Home Office?

The truth is that we work together. In July 2017, the Government published a comprehensive new drugs strategy, setting out what we think is a balanced approach that brings together the police, health, and community and global partners to tackle the illicit drugs trade, and to protect the most vulnerable in our societies who are struggling with drug dependency and help them to recover and turn their lives around. I know the hon. Gentleman takes a very different view, but that is our approach.

My nine-year-old constituent is currently having up to 400 epileptic seizures every week, and his family believe that medicinal cannabis may be beneficial. Will my hon. Friend update the House on what progress is being made regarding the use of medicinal cannabis for epilepsy sufferers?

Obviously, our thoughts are with my hon. Friend’s constituent. A two-part review is going on. In the first part, the chief medical adviser considered the evidence available for the medicinal and therapeutic benefits of cannabis-based medicinal products, and found conclusive evidence of the benefits of those products. Part 2, which will be led by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, will provide an assessment, based on the balance of harm and public need, of whether we need to do anything regarding the misuse of drugs regulations. While the review is under way, we have established, as an interim measure, the expert panel of clinicians to advise Ministers on any licence applications from senior clinicians, which helped Alfie Dingley, for example.

What action is the Minister taking with colleagues in the Home Office in respect of the drug Xanax, which is reputedly freely available at very low prices, and is more addictive than heroin? What action is he taking to raise awareness and deal with rehabilitation?

We are very aware of this drug and its dangers. A few months ago, I responded to an Adjournment debate on the matter that was secured by the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Bambos Charalambous). We are watching the issue very closely. I will find out some more details and write to the right hon. Gentleman. I know that he takes a close interest in this, and we will speak about it.