Pubdate: Fri, 13 Jun 2003
Source: Scotsman (UK)
Copyright: The Scotsman Publications Ltd 2003
Author: John Ross


A WHEELCHAIR-bound cannabis campaigner plans to take her own life with an 
overdose of paracetamol and champagne after putting her case to legalise 
the drug at a court case next week.

Biz Ivol, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, is already planning her own 
funeral and has had a cardboard coffin delivered to her home in Orkney.

She says she desperately wants to end her life because of the crippling 
pain from the illness which makes her feel like a prisoner in her own body.

However, she has pledged that she will first of all fight her charges of 
possessing and supplying cannabis, which she claims alleviates her suffering.

Yesterday, her MP said the case highlights the plight of MS sufferers and 
hopes this will be the last prosecution of its kind in the UK.

Mrs Ivol, 56, from South Ronaldsay, a long-time supporter of legalising 
cannabis for medicinal purposes, was charged following a police raid at her 
home in August 2001.

Her trial, which has been postponed several times, is now due to he heard 
next Wednesday at a sports centre in Kirkwall, which has better wheelchair 
access than the sheriff court.

She has pleaded not guilty to three charges of possessing cannabis, 
producing two cannabis plants and being concerned in the supply of the drug 
to others.  The charges relate to cannabis-laced chocolates which she is 
accused of making and distributing to fellow sufferers across the UK.

Yesterday, as a friend assembled the eco-friendly coffin, which arrived in 
a flat pack, she said: "I'm going to use it as soon as the court case is 
over.  I'm too tired now to fight on.

"I feel no-one is doing anything to make things better for people with MS 
and that I no longer have any quality of life. I can't do my garden. I 
can't knit and I can't sew because my hands are dying. I can't read because 
my eyes are going - there's nothing worth staying for anymore on this earth."

She added: "I'm not frightened about what might happen to me. They can't 
put me in jail because of the condition I'm in. They can't fine me anything 
because I haven't got any money. And I'm already a prisoner, trapped inside 
a body that's full of pain and doesn't work anymore."

Mrs Ivol, who says her pain is like barbed wire being dragged through her 
spine, began a campaign six years ago for the legalisation of the drug for 
medicinal use by people with MS and other conditions. It followed an 
earlier court case, when she was admonished after police found cannabis 
plants growing at her home.

She said: "I've lost count of the number of phone calls I've had from 
people telling me not to give up the fight. But the court case will be my 
last stand. I'm fed up with fighting now. It's taken them two years to take 
me to court. It's been niggling away at the back of my mind - once it's 
over, I know I can't go on any longer."

Her neighbour, Bobby McCutcheon, said friends are devastated by Mrs Ivol's 
decision, but understand her desperation.

"It's just so sad to see the coffin waiting for her in the house. She 
really has lost all hope, she has no interest whatsoever in being alive," 
he said.

Last year, David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, relaxed the law on cannabis 
possession, downgrading the drug from Class B to Class C.

At the time, Mrs Ivol told The Scotsman the decision made the position "as 
clear as mud" and said she was determined to debate the merits of cannabis 
use at her trial. Her plight has won backing from Alistair Carmichael, the 
Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland, and the Legalise Cannabis 
Alliance (LCA).

Mr Carmichael said: "This is a tragic case. Biz is just wrung out with a 
combination of the disease and the campaign. Hopefully, this will be the 
last of these prosecutions. If it were, it would be quite fitting and give 
her some sort of comfort and satisfaction. I have told Tony Blair [the 
Prime Minister] that it is ridiculous that we make a criminal of someone 
simply trying to get relief from pain which is not available in any other way."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Alex