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   Inside Out Extra: Monday March 21, 2005

CANNABIS AND CHOCOLATE

Cannabis plant
Cannabis - increasingly used for pain relief

Marijuana, weed, grass, pot - they're all names for cannabis. For decades people have taken the plant for fun - but sick people are increasingly turning to the drug as a painkiller.

Inside Out investigates the covert networks being set up to supply people with this illicit medicine.

Part one - Mail order cannabis
Part two - Multiple sclerosis patients
Part three - A potted history
Part four - Legal maze

Cannabis is a powerful herb which has been used in pain-relief for centuries. There's just one hitch - it is illegal.

Despite this, people are risking going to jail to send the drug to total strangers who say that they desperately need to use cannabis as a painkille

Groups have sprung up in the North East and Cumbria who share one mission - to provide medicinal cannabis, free of charge, to those in urgent need of pain relief.

Mail order cannabis

Twice a week in a village of the North of England, volunteers at the mail order company THC4MS set to work.

But this is a mail order operation with a difference - the company sends out cannabis-laced chocolate to people with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Chocolate
Chocolate with a difference - it has a medicinal quality

Two hundred carefully packaged parcels make their way to the homes of bone fide MS sufferers all over the country.

The operation is shrouded in secrecy, and for good reason. What they're doing could land them with a hefty prison sentence.

Each chocolate bar contains pure cannabis worth £20, but THC4MS send it out for free.

To keep the operation going, the organisation relies on donations - of chocolate, cannabis and cash.

Therapy in a package

THC4MS stands for Therapeutic Help from Cannabis for Multiple Sclerosis.

It was founded in 1998 following a debate about cannabis and MS on the Kilroy television programme.

Cannabis plant
Cannabis - more than just a weed for MS sufferers

THC4MS relies on donations of raw cannabis from growers across the UK, and supplies medicinal cannabis chocolate to people with MS nationwide.

The group does not buy or sell cannabis or cannabis chocolate.

It is a non-profit making organisation with the sole aim of helping those in need.

THC4MS now has so many clients that it keeps a register of them. It has 330 registered recipients of its product, and there's also three new enquiries from MS patients every day.

The group sends out about 70 chocolate cannabis bars a month. Each chocolate bar has 24 squares, and recipients normally take up to three squares a day to relieve their pain.

Keeping active

Lezley Gibson is someone who knows about the impact of MS. When she was diagnosed at the age of 20, she was absolutely devastated.

"I went from being a very active hairdresser to being a disabled person. I couldn't walk, I couldn't talk, I couldn't dress myself, I couldn't wash my face. At 20 it was awful."

Lezley Gibson
Feeling the benefits - Lezley Gibson is a MS sufferer

Lezley believes that she has benefited from taking the the cannabis chocolate.

"Using it makes me walk better, it makes my arms work better, it makes me see better.

"It makes my speech work, it stops me wetting myself and it stops me falling over.

"Ultimately it makes me feel a bit happier than I did when I wasn't taking it."

Easing the pain

Pauline Taylor is a MS patient from Durham. She has had MS for 10 years, and for five of those, she has smoked cannabis to ease her pain.

"At the very beginning it was my daughter who got it for me.

"I was very worried about exposing my daughter in that way... She could've got into a lot of trouble with the police."

Sometimes Pauline has to go without cannabis for months because supplies can be erratic.

But when the pain really kicks in, cannabis helps and, as a result, Pauline says that she can at least manage to get out of bed in the morning.

Cannabis rolls
Before the chocolate Pauline had to smoke cannabis

Now she's trying something new - her first ever batch of cannabis chocolate.

"Obviously it's a new way of taking cannabis. I feel excited but wary. I'll take little nibbles and do it gradually to get the effect."

Pauline is impressed with the results, "It tastes really nice - it just tastes like chocolate.

"The pins and needles in my legs are definitely less. I just feel as if my head's clearer than it was and I might just venture out.

"It's nice to think that all I have to do is to open the fridge door and I'll be able to have some chocolate which will help my pain."

Pauline is delighted that there are now organisations that have the courage and the guts to come forward to help people like herself.

But there's still the problem of legality and obtaining the drug safely.

Clandestine supplies

Sixty-six-year-old Patricia Tabram from Humshaugh in Northumberland is Britain's most unlikely drug supplier.

This pensioner could go to jail for buying cannabis which she adds to food which she cooks for herself and for sick friends who live near her home.

It all started when Pat was involved in a car crash and endured a series of family tragedies. She also developed severe arthritis.

Her first experience of trying to buy cannabis was bemusing and would probably terrify most old age pensioners, as she explains.

Pat Tabram
Gran power - Pat Tabram is a woman with a mission

"The first cannabis I bought, I was told to go to a pub in Newcastle

"I stood there with looking out of place with my shopping trolley."

Eventually Pat found a dealer who sold her a small bag of cannabis for £20.

She had no idea what to expect or what she was really getting into.

Today she's still breaking the law, this time to help others and to keep the clandestine supply lines open.

"I'm just like a little district nurse really but instead of going around with injection needles and things, I go round with boxes of food which will keep them pain-free."

Pat is constantly afraid of being caught, "I'm always nervous that I'm going to bump into the Police."

A potted history

The reported beneficial qualities of cannabis as a medicine have been known for centuries.

Medicinal cannabis was first written about by the Ancient Chinese in Sheen Nung's Pen Ts'ao in 2737BC.

The Roman surgeon Dioscorides also praised its medicinal virtues in 70AD whilst the English herbalist Culpeper wrote about it in the Complete Herbal and English Physician.

Cannabis was taken widely for its medicinal value until the 20th Century when it was stigmatised and eventually banned.

Home Office statement
The official line from the Home Office

Over the last five years, there has been a re-examination of the drug's potential as a medicinal treatment.

In 2004 Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary took part in a national trial to see if cannabis could relieve the symptoms of MS.

Patients who took part found some improvement in their condition, although results were mixed.

Those who saw an improvement reported pain reduction, better sleep quality, and a reduction in spasms.

However, progress in making cannabis available for medical use through the NHS has been slow.

As a result we are now seeing the first moves to co-ordinate the supply of cannabis by special interest groups within communities.

Bosom Buddies

Bud Buddies is run by Jeffrey Ditchfield. He makes illegal cannabis creams, capsules and ready-rolled joints, and posts them to sick people.

It is not a commercial enterprise. Jeffrey is taking huge risks - he's been arrested five times.

But Jeffrey is clear about his intentions - he says that what he is doing is a "medical necessity".

Jeffrey Ditchfield
Arguing for the right to supply cannabis for pain control

"Before Bud Buddies started helping people, they were having to get cannabis from their local dealer.

"The sort of cannabis these dealers sell... only contains 6% cannabis.

"The rest is plastic, diesel, ketamine (a horse tranquilizer), so people are damaging their health by going to dealers.

"Plus - they've got the chance of being ripped off or assaulted.

"I don't think people in wheelchairs should have to go down back alleys to meet scumbag dealers to get something which, effectively to them, is a medication."

Legal maze

Cannabis

Cannabis, the drug

  • The drug derives from Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica, a plant related to nettles and hops. It grows wild in many parts of the world. The plant is believed to have originated in the mountainous regions of India.
  • Cannabis contains more than 400 chemicals, including 'cannabidiolic acid' - an antibiotic with similar properties to penicillin.
  • The main psychoactive ingredient of cannabis is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC.
  • The effects of cannabis generally last for up to four hours depending on the amount used.
  • Cannabis comes in many forms - herbal, resin, powder, and oil.
  • Eighty per cent of UK cannabis comes from Morocco. A growing amount is also home-grown.

    Effects

  • The main effects of taking cannabis are relaxation, talkativeness and cheerfulness.
  • However, high doses can cause mild hallucinations and sensory distortions, which may cause alarm.
  • Mild panic and paranoia are sometimes experienced by those who use the drug when already feeling anxious or depressed.
  • Nausea and vomiting can occur when an inexperienced user tries too much cannabis at once.
  • Other effects include short-term memory loss, and increased risk of lung cancer for smokers.
  • Cannabis can assist in the treatment of Aids, arthritis, cancer, muscular pain, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.

    The law

  • Cannabis became a controlled substance in Britain in 1928.
  • Cannabis was decriminalised in the Netherlands in 1976.
  • America established the Compassionate Use programme for medical use of marijuana in 1975.
  • Cannabis was reclassified in Britain in 2004. Smoking in public is still illegal.

    Cannabis and chocolate

  • The combination of chocolate and cannabis was first isolated by Israeli bio-chemist Raphael Menchoulam in 1964.
  • The special effects resulting from the combination of marijuana and chocolate are due to the subtle interplay of anandamide.

Despite the claims about medicinal value of cannabis, it remains an illegal drug.

On January 29, 2004, cannabis was reclassified from a Class B to a Class C drug in the UK, based on a recommendation from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.

However, the Home Secretary has now ordered a review of the decision to downgrade cannabis, as new studies suggest a strong link between the drug and mental illness.

Charles Clarke has now asked the body to consider whether the fresh research would lead it to change its position.

A home office spokesperson said, "To allow the cultivation and possession of cannabis would create a clear tension between the Government acting to facilitate an increased supply of cannabis and its educational message - to young people in particular - that all controlled drugs, including cannabis, are harmful and that no one should take them.

"Cannabis remains a controlled drug for good reason - it has a number of acute and chronic health effects and can induce dependence.

"Cannabis was reclassified to Class C in January 2004, there is now a presumption against arrest for adults found in possession.

"But they can be arrested if there are specific aggravating circumstances, such as smoking it blatantly in a public place, near to children or for repeat offending.

"Every Chief Constable in England and Wales signed up to the Association of Chief Police Officer's (ACPO) cannabis guidance.

"Of course there will be some variations, to allow for local circumstances, but we and ACPO expect the guidance to be followed in every force, and are carefully monitoring this."

Medical concerns

The British Medical Association (BMA) advises people with chronic medical conditions not to take cannabis - no matter how desperate they are.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, Head of Ethics at the BMA, told Inside Out that the drug has a wide range of serious side effects.

"Perhaps the best known cause a change in mood – a pleasant change for some but for others this can result in nightmares and confusion," she explains.

"Cannabis contains hundreds of active agents and all of those have potential to cause side effects in different people."

Future hopes

In the meantime, groups who supply MS sufferers with cannabis, however well-meaning, are still at risk of prosecution.

In early 2005, THC4MS, the group supplying the chocolate cannabis, was raided by the Police.

Cannabis and chocolate-making equipment were seized. Two people were arrested and are currently on bail.

There are 83,000 people with MS in the UK - and research has shown that up to 2/3 may already be using cannabis to relieve their condition.

But in future, groups like THC4MS could be immune from prosecution depending on a ruling expected any day by the Court of Appeal.

In the meantime, people like Granny Pat continue to risk arrest to keep the supply lines open to ease her own pain and that of others.

See also ...

Inside Out: North East
Drugs and driving

On the rest of Inside Out
Cancer cure
Khat smuggling

On bbc.co.uk
Cannabis
Drugs debate
Video Nation - Cannabis
Multiple sclerosis
Clarke orders rethink on cannabis
Drug doubles mental health risk
Cannabis - mental health risk probe

On the rest of the web
THC4MS
Drugscope
Medical Research Council
MS Society

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

kris moralee
in response to phil stovell, cannabis is available as a pain killer although not strictly leagle in its procurement!if you are serious(and anyone else reading)about using cannabis why not research the drug and try growing your own?the 2 most active ingredients in cannabis are the THC content which tends to get you high and CBD which has the numbing effect and is more than likely to help with pain relief.lots of differnt weeds have differing levels of both ingredients so you would have to look into getting the seeds of something with a higher(pardon the pun) CBD level.

kris moralee
in response to barry clemments comment, dont you think that instead of burying your head in the sand and increasing your cannabis use to deal with your partners severe mental health problems was a bad move? i have used cannabis for 15 years and in that time i have suffered from extreme depression,self harmed and dealt with an eating disorder all the while using cannabis,i have found after disscusing this with many other users that the drug doesn't cause deppression but brings the issues that cause the condition to the forefront of your mind.Anyone who has cared to research the drug on its recreational use will tell you that it is a "thinkers"drug and going by past experience it is far better to deal with an issue rather than thinking increased drug use will end the problem

L Talior
I am a long time sufferer from hypermobilty of the joints, fybromyalgia and a chronic back problem - for which I hope to have surgery soon. I have often been bedbound and have needed help with all aspects of my life. In the past I have been prescibed Morphine, and other strong painkillers, all of which has either left me feeling completely 'off the planet' or worse still had little or no effect on the pain. I have been hospitalised on a number of occasions and pumped with infusions of lignacaine which recent research has shown to have a possible side effect on the heart! For a very long time I fought against the idea of trying cannabis, believing all sorts of nonsense about the herb... I have tried chocolate cannabis, and whilst I do not want to feel 'floating and dreamy' (I have a job to go to) I have felt a definite difference in my condition for the better. For the first time in years I slept for four solid hours without waking (something that never happens to me unless I have been aneasthetised) despite using diazepam. My joints are now less painful, and I feel much more positive. I feel have my life back once more! I'm afraid to let anyone know about this for fear of the implications, and, social prejustice. We need cannabis in some potent form available to sufferers of chronic illness's on the NHS and soon!!! I'm sure that we would all like to be assured that we are not 'overdosing' on cannabis, instead of having to make an 'educated' guess on amounts to take. We should not be criminalised because we are trying to get out of soul and life destroying pain. Many Doctor's whilst having sympathy for chronic illness/pain sufferers, cannot always alieviate pain and suffering using prescriptive medicines. Chronic pain/illness's can destroy people, families,and careers. I have known people through my hospital stays, to have committed suicide because no one could alieviate their pain! Government, it's time to get your heads out of the sands, and act upon this. The evidence for positive cannabis use in the treatment of chronic illness's is overwhelming. Why not conduct clinical trials as you do with any medicine to be used for the general populos? Perhaps then this issue with people fearing prosecution and having to seek out dealers can finally be 'put to bed'.

Grace Stephens
As an MS sufferer who spend most of the day and night suffering from pain and spasms I was delighted to see your programme and would like to thank all those who are fighting on our behalf for all their time and effort. It is wonderful to know that there are people out there who are willing to put themselves at risk whilst our Government sits back and, as it were "feels no pain". I'd like to know how many members of the cabinet suffer from this or a similar soul destroying condition.

Tall Paul
To be honest though, the government have no clue what people who suffer from MS have to go through on a day to day basis, so they do not have a reputable view on proceedings, from what i can gather.

Richard
It has been suggested that Cannabis causes mental problems, I do not believe this to be true in the majority, A good friend of mine who has suffered with clinical depression for years Tried cannabis and found it to be of great benefit, this seems to be common Cannabis is helping with the depression not causing it, I myself as a teen had problems with depression and I took it through those years I eventually recovered and for the past 10+ years have not used cannabis, but from my experience I believe it to be a good thing, Anyhow If anything should be illegal tobacco aught that’s a proven killer, but the government make tax money on that, seems like a double standard to me, Cannabis should be legal just with a warning like paracetamol..

Colin Lindley
I have hepatitis c and use herbal cannabis medicinally because research and personnel experience have proved its benefits with regards to my condition Especially contra indicators and no toxicity, this compared to LEGALLY PRESCRIBED medicines available for this chronic disease, which have many severe side effects and risks Among which is the lack of data from pharmaceutical company about the drugs their effects and the actual outcome of treatment. I was arrested 3 times for cultivation of cannabis due to the fact there is no legitimate medical access to cannabis in the U.K. [contravenes human rights legislation see Canadian Government response to this issue] Prosecuted at crown court defended myself Medical Necessity Duress of Circumstance Because of the Judges attitude, the CPS, Home Office and Governments official position I was found guilty sentenced to 9 months imprisonment served 3 months. I still have hepatitis c I am not prepared to use prescribed medicines because of The high risks involved and lack of informed consent therefore I am persecuted and criminalized my human rights abused because I have no legitimate access to cannabis a medicine that vastly improves my quality of life and control aspects of my condition. Until the Law is corrected to enable the legitimate use of all cannabis’s property many people will continue to have their human rights denied and have no recourse but suffer or become a criminal just to procure a benign herb for their own medical needs and face state sanction and imprisonment which leads to inevitable deterioration in health because of Inadequate conditions in prison. From personal experience Criminal Sanctions for medical cannabis impose a double punishment denial of liberty and denial of adequate health care combined with lack of duty of care, which could amount to a denial of the right to life.

M Whitehead
It's seems so odd to me that we are still in this state with cannabis, especially with regard to medical users. Obviously drugs react differently person to person, and whether it's for medical reasons or personal use, and is not suitable for everyone. The real question is do you want to be apart of a society that would leave someone in pain, without letting that person with the facts fully explained try a drug which might relieve some of their symptoms. I think the real issue with the goverment legalising cannabis, is how it will look to the rest of the world (especially the US goverment). The comment left above from Barry Clements touches on something that most cannabis users, or for that matter any substance users should know, and that you should not use it to cope with 'hard times'. It would be the same case if he was drinking alcohol - apart from the liver damage. With regards to the link with mental illness I think it is worth noting that the link has been severly questioned, with one question unanswered: If cannabis causes mental illness, how come there has been no comparative raise in the number of cases of mental illness while cannabis use has increased year after year in the UK

Chereyl Fisher
I am not an MS sufferer but I suffer from another very painful illness called Sickle Cell Anemia. I have been using canabis since I was 18yrs old and without I wouldn't be able to do any thing. I've completed my studies at college and going on to start my own business. In my eyes if canabis is used in the right way and legalised alot more sick people would get off the benefit and go out to WORK!

Jeffrey Ditchfield
I am very grateful for the support and the views expressed on this site I understand that in the eyes of the law our actions are criminal, however I feel by denying seriously ill people an effective natural medicine that in this instance it is the law that is criminal Members of both THC4MS and Bud Buddies are currently on police bail, but we continue to operate. As Martin Luther King (Jnr) said "It is the duty of all citizens to obey the law, however it is also the duty of every citizen to disobey an unjust law"

Patricia Allchin
Its about time the Government came to its senses, I have suffered from M.S. for 8 years now , and have used cannabis to great effect, not only does it relieve my pain but it also makes me happy and confident to face the world.

sonia law
as a long standing sufferer over 20 years I have never been offered any help since being diagnosed with this condition except drugs meant for epileptic conditions. For more than seven years I have found relief from the symptoms of M.S. by using cannabis. On many occasions I have found newly diagnosed people left without any help or advice to deal with this frightening disease most times with family members not understanding the varying symptoms, due to the myopic view of the medical profession. As to the view that cannabis use could lead to other dependancies, is it this goverments view to combat obesity by banning food?

naomi fitzparick
I am a ms sufferer with two young children . I would like to have anything to ease my pain , and enable me to run around the park with my babies. Why have the goverment put a block on pain relief that could help so many people - maybe if one of the politicians or high flyers were in pain they would invesigate more - plus this pain relief is legilised in canada ??

Sarah Hewitt
Thank goodness, there are some rational people out there! I was worried that when I read these comments above that people would be banging on about "negative effects" and "the war on drugs must continue" but thankfully most of you are talking sense. I have been an Arthritas sufferer since 15 years old (juvenile rheumatoid arthritas). When diagnosed I was given Voltorol (Ibup based) Steroids and Co-codomol. I was taking 6-8 tablets a day and this resulted in me being hospitalised due to a reaction to the coctail. I stopped taking all prescribed meds and was left to deal with the constant pain. I then found cannabis (!) and have been regularly using it (smoking and in yummy homemade cakes) for pain relief and recreational purposes for many years. Since using cannabis I have been able to overcome mobility problem and use pens without bulky rubber grips on them! I smoke cannabis everyday, I have completed my degree smoking everyday and I hold down a very responsible job while smoking everyday and I have a busy and active life by somking canabis everyday as have my "stoner" friends. The negative effects... Hmm... I spend more money on biscuits now! Well done all those on the programme for taking the risk... though they shouldn't have to.

Edward Gold
Have you not seen details of the very substantial trials that GW Pharmaceuticals plc have carried out. http://www.gwpharm.com/research_anti-tumour.asp Also see the adjournment debate in the House of Commons in which Peter Bradley MP attempeted to get agreement that all MS sufferrers could get GWP's Sativex on prescription from their doctors which is what virtually all the 500 (?) patients that were on the GWP trials are now allowed to do. But if you have MS and were not on the trial, you can't. The only reason that Sativex is not available now is that the Committee of Safety of Medecines ruled in December that · Efficacy: Positive effect in spasticity seen in clinical data but clinical relevance* is uncertain. A further confirmatory study in spasticity is required which, if sufficiently positive, would enable grant of a product licence. (*clinical relevance: i.e. how much the improvement seen means to the patient). As your article demonstrates, efficacy is not in question - it works. It is unfortunate that the statistical evidence submitted was insufficient. The quality and safety of the medicine was approved and is not in doubt. How stupid is it for so many sufferers to smoke it! Ingesting it in chocolate seems a much more acceptible way - particulary if you are a non-smoker(but how much cannabis is in each square of chocolate). I understand that the Home Office are very sympathetic to the use of Sativex and the Medicine's Commission will be reviewing the CSM's decision which, with a positive result, would mean that Sativex would get UK approval. Health Canada have given preliminary approval and confirmation of this is said to be only weeks away.

Nathan Bateman
As I have read trough this information,my mum(gill) suffers from MS and is willing to try anything to feel better and thanks to Pat Tabram I think she could.

Tia
As a sufferer of MS I welcome your program and as a cannabis user, I found it informative. I hope that the appeal for the THC4MS has a positive outcome. As a parent I do not like the risks involved for buying illegally but unfortunately, the government officials seem to think it is ok to be in constant pain and be unable to work because of it, rather than provide cannabis as a legal painkiller, with fewer side effects than a lot of the prescribed ones (at least I can still function with cannabis), this goes for all drugs waiting licence. Particularly those used by MS sufferers (aimspro's goats serum, LDN although licensed not legal to prescribe for MS!)

Maggie Moss
The day after I'd explained the latest link between psychosis and regular cannabis use to my 17 year old, (and not with my usual laid back approach to the subject of the occasional spliff) comes this jolly programme about dealing grannies and chocolate. I didn't see the whole prog. so perhaps it did give a balanced view - I hope so because that's one confused teenager who sees even less reason to pay any attention to anything he's informed about by a parent. Your web pages seem fairly balanced, but he's not reading those!

Barbara Williams
It seems that every day we hear that some drug or other is too expensive to be given to all the sufferers of various illnesses and that is because, in my opinion, the drug companies are charging far too much for their pills. I think that the government should spend a bit more time putting pressure on them to reduce the over inflated prices, perhaps then we wouldn't have to resort to other methods to obtain pain relief. It may also be said that the NHS could save huge amounts of money if medicines were cheaper and that money could be put to much better use elsewhere to improve their service to the public. I think that Mr Ditchfield is doing a great thing and I wish him every success.

MS Suffers partner - West Mids
Having seen with my own eyes the improvement using cannabis has had on my partners health, I am increasingly angry at the way cannabis is treated by the authorities. I have known people who have used cannabis since the early 80's and none of them has suffered any ill-effect (unless you count doing well in work, building a family and generally being a good citizen as an ill-effect). In the meantime we have to endure the frightening sight of teenage drinkers tanked up every weekend in our city centre. Ultimately people can and will make judgements based on their own experiences and senses. It's all they can do. When the difference between what we are told and what we know grows, so does contempt for the authorities. Incidentally, although we would rather not have to deal through the "back streets" to obtain cannabis, I would like to say that all the people who have dealt to us have been sympathetic and sensitive to the medical situation, and many is the time we have had advice and help from people who the law is classing as "dealers".

Pat Taylor
Thank you for bringing this subject to the public's attention. I hope it will highlight the plight of chronic sufferers of diseases such as MS. I have been an MS sufferer for 14 years. Believe me, only another sufferer can explain the frustration we feel from the disease and its attendent problems. Maybe the government should actually listen to the sufferers, instead of making us feel like criminals, just because we want to feel human and pain free again. Is it so much to ask? To all those who risk prison sentences and fines for trying to help us. THANK YOU.

Joshua Glyn-Davies
The way that people like Granny Pat and Jeffrey Ditchfield act so bravely and caringly for those people with health problems is excellent. The fact that they face possible arrest is ridiculous. I regularly smoke cannabis recreationally; i believe side effects pale in comparison to alcohol. This country is moving backwards with its extended licensing laws for pubs and clubs if it seriously won't even consider the complete decriminalisation of marijuana. The amount the NHS and police spend on a weekend dealing with drunken people must be phenomenal, not to mention their abusive violent and disruptive behaviour that hospital staff and officers must put up with. I argue not just for labelled 'stoners' as myself who use the drug in a social context but for medical purposes and environmentally of course; the hemp plant can be cultivated to make paper for example. One acre of hemp making as much paper as 10+ acres of trees. As for health risks 'mood' swings and nightmares, throughout my wide social circle of which there is a HIGH cannabis intake i have NEVER heard anyone complaining of such problems. I don't doubt that cannabis could with extensive use cause mental health problems but surely so does alcohol. Cannabis doesn't interfere with intelligence as alcohol does. The goverment are blowing this 'problem' way out of proportion through a complete and utter lack of understanding. Alcohol consumption, binge drinking; these are the problems in society.

Peter N. Hodge
A friend has just told me about the TV program last night. I have been suffering for over 25 yrs and I used cannabis in cigarettes, but stopped smoking 7yrs ago. Since then I have tried cannabis cakes, and other ways, but without much success. Your idea of chocolate cannabis seems fantastic ( medicine with pleasure ) and I whole heartedly approve what you are trying to do for sufferers.

Alexis Williams
Excellent, About time, My nan is in great pain every day and the doctors are giving her a cocktail of drugs reaching 6-7 different tablets aday, yet i made her a cake and she slept like a baby, and for the first time in 15 years, she was not in pain for a while, i now make her Fudge, as this lasts longer!!

Phil Stovell
Interesting contrast between the companies *legally* supplying fake ID to children so they can buy alcohol and Granny Pat and others supplying cannabis *illegally* to elderly sick patients. The programme showed children by the river Exe drinking vodka and lager. Several children were shown collapsing and one was rushed to hospital. I know the area they were in, by the Exe Weir. Several people have been drowned there. It seemed to me that that is a tragedy waiting to happen, let alone the overdose risk. MS suffers were shown taking cannabis chocolate and describing how their symptoms were alleviated. Patricia Tabram was shown making food with cannabis and was filmed visiting an 82 year old lady she helps. Tabram is facing a prison sentence for supplying cannabis. The Government keeps on delaying the licensing of Sativex, the cannabis-based medicine.

Richard Alexander
Interesting programme. You don't however mention Sativex a cannabis-based medicine developed in the UK by GW Pharmaceuticals. It is currently awaiting approval after many delays by the UK CSM and is about to be approved for prescription in Canada. Sativex is an extract of cannabis and is delivered via a special mouth spray. A first and it will be of primary importance, if approved, to the people in your film.

Mrs Sheila Pearson
As an MS sufferer who over the past twelve years has become increasingly affected by this horrible condition and who is increasingly frustrated by the lack of medical help I say we need to be able to use cannachoc - it is OK for drug addicts to use it why can't sufferers of diseases who want to help themselves use it?!!

W. ROBINSON
I am against taking illegal drugs but I think there is a lot to be said for allowing it for pain alleviation in the elderly. It's high time that serious thought for putting this on prescription was examined. In that way the local G.P. could monitor the situation for side effects.

Gaile Walls
Canabis research should be speeded up so that people with medical conditions can benefit from it. 5 years is a long time when you are in pain. Ordinary pain killers make you feel awful, the side effects are miserable. Canabis relieves pain and spasms without the awful side effects. However if you are taking other medication it is worrying as to how much canibis you should be taking therefore we need correct medical guidance sooner rather than later.

C Bailey
15 years ago I was the front seat passenger in a car hit by a motorbike. I take painkillers and anti-arthritics every day. co-proxamol (also known as distalgesic) and Celebrex are both being withdrawn. I cannot take any NSAID's (ibuprofen based drugs) nor anything containing codeine or morphine as I am allergic to them, although my GP would prescribe them. I cannot WAIT until the tests on cannabis- based drugs are complete as they offer a little hope of being pain-free (as long as I am not allergic to those,too) I do not know what alternatives my GP can offer to control my pain when my current drugs are withdrawn. They are insufficient in strength, anyway and I take diazepam (valium) as a last resort when the pain and muscle spasms become too much. I do not use cannabis but would if it was available as a stable painkiller. It is not related to any other drug family, to my knowlege and therefore may be ideal for people allergic to other medication.

david
I have had three spinal operations, with another possible later this year. Having suffered nerve scarring and damage I have occasional periods of acute pain which does not respond to high doses of prescribed painkillers. I use cannabis(home grown), in food, which although never stops the pain will alow me a resonable nights sleep and some relief the following day. I feel that with the testing and research that GM pharmaceuticals have done, this form of cannabis should be licenced now and even if it does not help all patients so what? Does everyone respond to all prescribed drugs positively anyway?

Jeremy Brebner
My Mother suffers from acute arthritis and is in constant pain with it. Three years ago she was diagnosed with fallen arches and arthritis of the feet. She has been told by doctors that there is nothing they can do to rectify this problem and that she would just have to live with it. This has been an almighty blow for her and as a consequence is on medication for depression. Obviously I am not particularly happy with this situation, the constant taking of drugs for both the arthritis and the depression and there longterm effects on my mothers health os a great concern to me. In my opinion there are many more insiduous drugs used by the medical proffession that are readily doled out by doctors and to isolate canabis because of its high profile use as a recreational drug is absurd, especially considering the possible benfits to the quality of life that it may provide to people, that otherwise would be in constant pain. I do understand that for some people the drug can have some unpleasant side effects, however they should surely be allowed to see if these outweigh the benefits that the drug may hold for them. The quicker the law is ammended in regard to this matter the better. It is unfortunate that you are not able to publish contact links for the people featured in your programme, as I would definately be getting touch with Jeffrey Ditchfield but I do thank you and your producers for bringing this matter into the public eye. I for one did not know that these people were out there, providing this kind of service and I will now do my upmost to find them in order to see if it can benefit my mother.

Mr Kim Knight
Whats wrong with using cannabis? The BMA say that there are side effect's when taking it, but is there not side effects when taking legal drugs. Does that mean that we should not take them. Dont think so. The other point, which i know will upset some people, hasn't the goverment worked it out yet, that if they make cannabis legal they could possibly put tax on like they do for that other drug. cigarettes or is it that they have worked out that they wouldn't make any gain on it. If it gives ill people a better quality of life then give it to them.

barry clements
i smoked cannabis for about 8 years,having only about 3 joints a day,but ending up smoking nearly 10 in an evening.Then my partner had a nervous breakdown about 2 years ago and i relied on it even more because of the pressure due to her breakdown .A year later and the stresses of her self harming and overdosing caused me to have a breakdown.We both relied heavily on the cannabis ,but now we've given it up after realising that it was making us feel even more depressed.We've both been clean for 3 months now and feel a lot better than we did and we have no intentions of going back on it.

Ivor Fletcher-Cook
This is an apalling state of afairs. The benefits of cannibis to some MS sufferers has been well documented from 100's of pieces of anecdotal evidence. It would take very little effort to have a national register of ill health users who would benefit not only from the use of the drug but the peace of mind many would find from not having to deal with drug dealers on the streets. While the trials of cannabis based drugs are underway sufferers and their legitimate suppliers should be exempt from prosecution.

Danny Davis
It sickens me that the Government are prepared to sell booze in all shapes, sizes and methods of preperation, and yet, deny people thier god given right to use a plant that is so special it can grow pretty much anywhere. Why not remove the links between the criminals and ordinary law abiding citizens by decriminalising Cannabis, and ensuring its supply does not profit criminal networks. Or, go the whole hog and actually make some revenue on it, freeing up cash for the NHS and frustration for many level headed adults who want to live their lives as they want to.



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