Pubdate: Sat, 28 Aug 2004
Source: Eastern Daily Press (UK)
Copyright: 2004, Archant Regional


A man who grew his own cannabis was given a conditional discharge by
magistrates after they accepted he was smoking it to relieve the
symptoms of his severe eczema.

Ian Howarth, 25, of Falkland Close, Hellesdon, near Norwich, admitted
growing cannabis, driving off without paying for 15 worth of petrol
and stealing two packs of ointment from Asda.

After the case, a Norfolk doctor leading clinical trials into the use
of cannabis in the treatment of ailments said thousands more people
suffering pain and discomfort could be helped but for the stigma of
taking the drug.

Dr William Notcutt, who spearheaded Britain's first clinical trial of
the drug at the James Paget Hospital, Gorleston, said cannabis or its
derivatives could help people with conditions like eczema.

"We know some cannabis derivatives have an effect on pain in
rheumatoid arthritis," he said. "It doesn't surprise me that someone
is using cannabis in this way."

Passing sentence at Norwich Magistrates' Court, deputy district judge Irena
Ray-Crosby told Howarth: "I totally accept the reasons for cultivating
cannabis. It was not done for fun. This is totally because of your
circumstances. You are obviously suffering."

Prosecutor Ben Brighouse said Howarth went to the Wayside service
station in Dereham Road, Costessey. He put 15 worth of petrol into
his Nissan Micra car but left the garage without paying for it.

Howarth was traced through his car, and when police went to his home
they noticed the powerful odour of cannabis.

The found cannabis leaves and also plants being grown under
temperature-controlled conditions. There was a total of 17 plants, 10
of them just seedlings.

Mr Brighouse said the estimated value of the leaves and plants was
about 800.

Anna Farquharson, for Howarth, said he was on sickness benefit because
of his acute eczema.

"He tells me smoking cannabis alleviates the itching and very often
the pain he suffers from eczema. He is regularly admitted to hospital,
so bad is his eczema," she said.

Dr Notcutt has expressed his frustration that the Department of Health
had not yet agreed to make cannabis available as a painkiller on the
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