Pubdate: Fri, 29 Sep 2000
Source: Guardian, The (UK)
Copyright: 2000 Guardian Newspapers Limited
Contact:  75 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3ER, England
Fax: +44-171-837 4530


A woman with multiple sclerosis was yesterday cleared of a criminal charge
of possessing cannabis, after telling a court that she needed it to relieve
the symptoms of the muscle wasting disease.

The public gallery cheered as Lezley Gibson, 36, was found not guilty by a
jury of seven women and five men at Carlisle Crown Court.  She had denied
one charge of possessing eight grams of the class B drug, worth UKP40, on
the grounds that she needed it for medical reasons.

Outside court, flanked by her husband, Mark, Mrs Gibson said she would
continue smoking cannabis and called for a change in the law:

"There are hundreds of people like me out there.  No one in my position
should have to be dragged through the courts like this, but I am glad it is
all over.  I feel brilliant." She intended to throw a party to celebrate.

During the four day trial the jury heard that police raided her home in
Alston, Cumbria, in August of last year and found cannabis.

She told the court she began smoking 12 years ago, three years after being
diagnosed with MS at 21. She had tried other medications and treatments, but
nothing made her feel as well as cannabis.  She smoked up to five joints a
day bought from dealers, because it enabled her to have a more normal life:
"I would use paint stripper if I thought it would make me well."

The prosecution did not accept Mrs Gibson had the defence of necessity,
because she did not need to smoke cannabis to avoid death or serious injury
from her condition.
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