Cannabis should be legalised for medical use, nurses have voted.
They argued patients should be allowed to take the drug if it helped reduce their pain or controlled symptoms of conditions like epilepsy.
Members of the Royal College of Nursing voted overwhelmingly in favour of lobbying the Government to change the law around the drug.
Nurses argued that painkillers such as morphine and fentanyl were both legal despite being from the same family as heroin, so cannabis should be treated no differently.
Legalising the drug would protect patients from disreputable dealers and prevent them being treated as criminals, they added.
Tracey Risebrow, a nurse from Suffolk, said: “Surely it is better to have patients using cannabis being monitored by health professionals able to pick up on any adverse effects quickly.
“It is inhumane to have people suffering when there is something that can help… We are making criminals out of people who only want to do what is best for their loved ones.”
Speaking at the union’s annual congress in Belfast, nurse Fallon Scaife said she had lost “the man I loved” to cannabis use but had since moved to a cancer ward and seen the benefits the drug had for patients.
Geoff Earle, from Edinburgh, added: “Our patients are often forced to use irresponsible dealers and risk prison sentences.”
Nurse Catherine Gault said she suffered from a chronic condition which may require treatment with cannabis in future, adding: “There is strong enough evidence to support the use of cannabis to treat pain. It would not be a recreational drug for me, it would add quality to my life.”
After the debate, RCN chief executive Janet Davies said nurses found it “frustrating” they were not allowed to give patients a drug which could help them.