Damian Marley and Professor Green call for medicinal weed legalisation in NME symposium at Parliament

The musicians were joined by Norman Lamb MP, Doctor Frank D’Ambrosio and campaigner Kate Rothwell at the panel discussion in Westminster

Damian Marley and Professor Green joined a panel of experts at an NME event in Westminster tonight (27 June) calling on the British government to legalise cannabis for medicinal use.

They were joined at the discussion by Norman Lamb MP, American cannabis advocate Doctor Frank D’Ambrosio and campaigner Kate Rothwell, whose cousin Oliver has a severe form of epilepsy which is alleviated by cannabis oil. Her petition on Change.org calling for the legalisation of the medicine has received over 250,000 signatures.

The discussion panel

The discussion panel

Speaking about the benefits of cannabis use, Marley said: “We have a saying in Jamaica that: ‘The herb is the healing of the nation.’ With it becoming legal in various places, there’s now slowly more research that proves there is evidence of that.”

“We have a saying in Jamaica that: ‘The herb is the healing of the nation.’ With it becoming legal in various places, there’s now slowly more research that proves there is evidence of that” – Damian Marley

Kate Rothwell and Damian Marley

Kate Rothwell and Damian Marley

In the last week, Home Secretary Sajid Javid intervened in the high-profile cases of Alfie Dingley and Billy Caldwell to grant their mothers temporary permission to legally use cannabis-based medicines to treat their children. He also announced a review into the medical use of cannabis.

READ MORE: It’s time for Britain to legalise marijuana

Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk, said that decision was a small step in the right direction: “I think last week was a very significant moment because it was the first time a government has reacted by saying: ‘We’re reviewing it.’ That’s not nearly enough, and we need to keep pushing them constantly to go the whole way, but that was a big breakthrough for this government to do that, and it was because children’s lives were seen to be at risk. They thought: ‘There’s political embarrassment here.’ If we can get medicinal use legalised, just as has happened now in the majority of US states, then you can have a rational debate about full legalisation, which I strongly support.”

He also praised Kate Rothwell for mobilising support for legalisation with her online petition, which calls on Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to allow British patients to be prescribe cannabis oil. “I want to pay enormous credit to Kate and her family, because the government wasn’t listening to this at all,” he said. “We were making no progress, there was very limited support in Parliament in terms of people who would actually come out and talk about it. Then you come along, get 250,000 signatures on a petition, and then you have these other cases where children’s lives are potentially at risk and suddenly it feels like the dams are bursting.”

Doctor Frank and Professor Green

Doctor Frank and Professor Green

Rothwell herself spoke movingly about the experiences of her cousin Oliver, who inspired her to start the petition: “About 18 months ago, my aunt and uncle spoke to the hospital who said: ‘You can try cannabis oil. We’re not allowed to prescribe that because obviously it’s not legal as a medication here.’ They bought it online and were delivering it at home, a couple of drops, and the symptoms dropped massively. He was having 20 seizures a day and that dropped down to just a handful, which was completely life-changing for him and for our whole family, really. About a month ago, the doctors turned around and said: ‘We’re really sorry, we thought it was going to become legal sooner than this and our hands are completely tied. You’re going to have to stop giving him the medication.’ They had to, because the NHS couldn’t give them any other medication if he was still on cannabis oil. He came off it, and within 48 hours he had a drop seizure and knocked out his teeth. He’s been having really severe seizures ever since. It’s absolutely devastating, and none of us really knew what to do.”

Professor Green, who last year presented the critically-acclaimed BBC documentary Is It Time To Legalise Weed?, said that he believes tabloid hysteria has contributed to a reluctance among older generations in Britain to consider legalisation: “I think it’s a generational thing, to be honest, and I don’t think we have a very liberal attitude to much. What happens with that is you have a lack of education because things aren’t spoken about. We’re less liberal when it come to many things when you compare us to other parts of the world, and what we get from that is many more problems. It doesn’t help anything, all it does it cause more problems. If something’s underground, it’s not spoken about. It’s all the scare-mongering in the media. How many times do you see ‘cannabis psychosis’ in the newspapers?”

Dr Frank D’Ambrosio, a California-based orthopedic surgeon-turned-cannabis advocate, pointed to his home state as proof that fear-mongering around legalisation is ill-founded: “California is doing just fine. Just because you’re intending to use the cannabis to achieve the psychoactive effect of the THC, doesn’t mean you’re not still getting the benefits. Even though it’s called ‘recreational’, you’re still getting the medical benefits.”

The panel discussion will be broadcast here on NME.com on Friday. You can sign Kate Rothwell’s Change.org petition here.