TREAT cannabis like morphine and stop criminalising medicinal users, the UK’s drugs minister said this week.

Liberal Democrat Norman Baker spoke to The Northern Echo after writing to health secretary Jeremy Hunt calling for the legalisation of the Class B drug for medicinal use.

He said: “I’ve seen in my capacity as drugs minister many credible individuals who tell me that they have medical conditions that traditional forms of treatment do not help, conditions that are relieved by cannabis.

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“It’s wrong that the government should prevent people having access to something that will help their health and doubly wrong that the government criminalises them.

“I want to see cannabis more widely used in the same way drugs like morphine are.

“Morphine is illegal for recreational use but legal for medicinal and cannabis should be the same – controlled by the NHS under strict conditions.”

John Holiday, founder of the Teesside Cannabis Club, turned to cannabis after a debilitating stomach complaint left him reliant on seven types of prescription drugs each day.

Committed to campaigning for the legalisation and regulation of the drug, he welcomed Mr Baker’s stance, saying: “The fact Mr Baker has stepped up and gone on the record in this way tells us that the tide isn’t turning – it has turned.

“It proves there are people in government with common sense and the compassion to give people their basic human right and stop them from suffering.

“It’s more than a step in the right direction, every political party is now considering this issue and attitudes are changing.”

He added: “Cannabis made a massive difference to my health, I spent four years having to take a cocktail of drugs every day and my suffering was unbelievable.

“The health benefits massively outweigh any side-effects you hear about, most of which are completely unfounded.”

However, a government spokeswoman said there were no plans to legalise cannabis or soften their approach to its use as a medicine.

She added: "There is clear scientific and medical evidence that cannabis is a harmful drug which can damage people's mental and physical health.

"Our cross-government strategy on drugs remains clear. We must prevent drug use in our communities, support users through treatment and wider recovery and ensure law enforcement agencies tackle the organised criminals behind the drugs trade.”