May's Conservatives at Odds Over Brexit and Now Cannabis

(Bloomberg) -- Hopelessly divided over Brexit, Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives are now also publicly arguing about the merits of legalizing marijuana for medical use.

On the eve of a key vote that could deliver May a humiliating loss in Parliament, the government is struggling to show unity on any number of issues, from how to fund a boost to the National Health Service to whether to review its approach to medicinal cannabis.

The latest controversy is over the confiscation of medicinal cannabis oil, banned in the U.K., to treat a 12-year-old boy with severe epilepsy. Following the high-profile case, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said it was time to look for “a different way” and Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced a review. Both men are flagged as potential future Tory leaders.

Javid told lawmakers on Tuesday that the current situation was not satisfactory and require a closer look at how cannabis oil is used for medical purposes: “Rules of this type cannot be changed overnight. They have to made on evidence.”

He also issued an emergency licence to allow Billy Caldwell, the sick child, to have cannabis oil for medical purpose. His intervention came after May was reported to have shut down a Cabinet discussion on the matter. Her spokesman said the government has no plans to legalize cannabis -- even for medicinal use.

Since promoting Javid in April, he has been determined to show his independence of his boss. He has sided with the pro-Brexit faction in her Cabinet committee on future customs arrangements with the bloc. In his first keynote speech as home secretary, Javid struck a conciliatory note with the police, a marked contrast to May’s combative approach.

Former Conservative leader William Hague angered May’s office by writing in the Daily Telegraph newspaper that her government should legalize cannabis and create a regulated market for its sale. Currently the penalty for possession of the drug is five years in jail and for supplying it 14 years.

The ready availability of illegal cannabis on Britain’s streets showed that any war on the drug had been “comprehensively and irreversibly lost,” he wrote.

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