Pubdate: Sat, 18 Mar 2000
Source: Independent, The (UK)
Copyright: 2000 Independent Newspapers (UK) Ltd.
Contact:  1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL
Author: Brian Farmer 


A disabled man who admitted using cannabis to ease the pain of
Multiple Sclerosis was cleared of charges for growing the drug
yesterday by a jury that took less than two hours to reach its verdict.

Thomas Yates, 51, from Lowestoft, Suffolk, told Ipswich Crown Court
that he had to smoke cannabis because it was the only effective way of
reducing his constant pain.

The jury took 90 minutes to accept his defence and reached a unanimous
not guilty verdict.

Cannabis and cultivating equipment were found in Mr Yates's house
during a police search for a wanted man who had been an acquaintance
of his many years ago.

At first, Mr Yates had said that the three upstairs rooms were empty
but, when questioned later, he admitted openly that he was growing
cannabis. Mr Yates, who now uses morphine - a drug that leaves him
feeling sick - is entitled to have his cultivating equipment returned,
but the cannabis will be destroyed.

"I know quite a few other MS sufferers who use cannabis. It really
works and has no side effects," he said. "It makes your quality of
life 100 per cent better. But I'll have to stick to morphine. I know
other people who use cannabis are frightened they'll end up in court."

Ben Smith, an official from the UK Cannabis Internet Activists Group,
said: "This is about the fifth trial that has ended up like this in
recent months. The message must be getting through to the Crown
Prosecution Service that it's just a waste of time and money. The law
must be changed."

Bev Clydesdale, a welfare officer with the South Suffolk branch of the
Multiple Sclerosis Society, added: "We don't want anyone to break the
law. But the laws on cannabis need to be changed to allow people like
Mr Yates to use it."

Sally Freeman, for the prosecution, told the court that Mr Yates had
broken the law as it stood and that changing the law was not for the
courts to decide.

Mr Yates is hoping to take part in Government-sponsored trials in
which disabled people would be legally allowed to take tablets made
from a cannabis derivative.
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