Pubdate: Sun, 12 May 2002
Source: Independent on Sunday (UK)
Copyright: Independent Newspapers (UK) Ltd.
Author: Charlie Courtauld


Sorry to disappoint all you dope smokers out there, but marijuana 
legalisation isn't something I get worked up about. If it's legalised, 
fine. If it isn't, so be it. So why was I sitting in the waiting room at 
the Institute of Neurology on Monday, desperately hoping that I'd get free 
dope from the cannabis-in-multiple sclerosis trial? I can tell you that it 
wasn't in the hope of getting a safe supply of Lebanese White Widow. It 
never did much for me.

Apparently cannabis helps some people with walking difficulties. And since 
this is a rather cheaper and safer method than a clandestine meeting with 
some spotty teenager with a Nirvana T-shirt in a Colchester subway, I 
joined the trial queue. Acquiring the weed this way isn't simple. First you 
have to be assessed. Hence last week's trip (pardon the pun) to Queen's 
Square in London's Bloomsbury. The Institute of Neurology is a bit swankier 
than the hospitals I've attended recently. It's got mosaics on the floor, 
and lurid portraits of the late Princess of Wales on the walls. First I had 
to see Emma the physiotherapist. Emma spent some time wiggling my arms and 
legs around, scoring my limbs for spasticity. My right leg's a two, 
apparently. She was undecided about my left, but gave it a one. Whatever 
that means. Then it was time to see the doctor. He looked alarmingly 
younger than me - but then so does Carter in ER, and he's good, so I 
mustn't judge. Anyway, this doctor was called Rory, as is my one-year-old, 
so I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

Rory asked some questions, then gave me the verdict. "I'm delighted to tell 
you that you've been accepted for the trial." Delighted? So was I, 
actually. I don't think I could have stood the rejection.

So much for the good news. Now for the bad. "You understand that you can't 
go abroad while you're on the trial?"

"Abroad? No."

"We're going to provide you with sufficient quantity to merit arrest for 
intent to supply. I'll give you this card you can wave at any UK policeman 
- - but it won't impress foreign cops." Great. Not that I have any plans to 
go abroad, mind. But the prospect of having my collar felt by a Turkish 
rozzer was depressing anyway. "And you can't drive either. I'm going to 
have to inform the Home Office of your intention to participate in the 
trial. If you crash a car while taking an illegal substance, that's a 
criminal offence."

So. No driving for three months. No foreign travel. David Blunkett gets a 
file on me. And the ordeal wasn't over yet. There was still the 
psychological test to endure.

Everyone knows that MS makes you fall over, bump into things and so on. But 
it can also make you a bit... you know... thingy... whatchemacallit... 
forgetful. And so can cannabis. Put the two together and what have you got? 
Where was I?

So the sadists at Queen's Square dreamt up a series of trials to test 
memory and speed of thinking. The first bit was a cinch - just a list of 
hard-to-pronounce words to read out. Even though I work for the Independent 
on Sunday, I don't use "demesne" very often, but it all seemed rather 

Then the test got harder. A tape was played, with a relentless list of 
numbers to add up. The tape went rather faster than my brain, and I think I 
flunked that one. Finally, the decider. A shopping list. I've always been 
bad at shopping lists. Even on a normal trip to Somerfield, I always forget 
something. Usually the cheese. That unforgiving glare from my wife as she 
unpacks... Oh God. And this list went on for ever. "Paprika, jacket, drill, 
parsley, vest..." I tried doing one of those mind maps you often read about 
in the silly season. A mental tour of Somerfield. (Paprika? It's by the 
Maldon salt.) But that didn't work because there were so many items that my 
local supermarket doesn't stock. They don't do jackets in Halstead 
Somerfield. By this time, the psychologist was at the end of the list. And 
she wanted me to repeat it. Five times. Images of my wife's scorning face 
shimmered in front of my eyes. I remembered about three items. And I 
haven't even started on the drugs yet.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom