Pubdate: Sun, 30 Jan 2005
Source: Sunday Telegraph (UK)
Copyright: Telegraph Group Limited 2005
Author: Olga Craig
Cited: GW Pharmaceuticals
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United Kingdom)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (GW Pharmaceuticals)


For Patricia Tabram, known to the children of her home village of 
Hums-haugh, in Northumberland, as Grandma Pat, the ailing pensioner who 
always has time for a kind word, it was a rather surreal moment. "There I 
was, dear, grey as a badger, tubby as a conference pear, with my hearing 
aid turned up and my walking stick in my hand, sitting in the police 
station listening to the nice policeman telling me I was being charged with 
possession of cannabis with the intent to supply. It was rather an 
experience I can tell you," she says.

"Some cake with your coffee?" she asks solicitously. It is best, one 
believes, to say no.

It is best because Mrs Tabram, a 65-year-old widow, has the dubious honour 
of becoming the first British pensioner to admit possessing the drug and 
intending to distribute it among her 16-strong pensioners' group.

She has taught its members, all older than her, how to cook it in cakes and 
add it to meals for, they insist, medicinal reasons. Cannabis, taken for 
pain, she confides, works best in milk, oil, chocolate and butter. Mrs 
Tabram, however, is not saying whether she has included the ingredient in 
her latest batch of baking.

What she does believe is that, despite its illegality, its pain-relieving 
properties have freed her from agonising incapacity. "Oh it's wonderful for 
aches and pains when you get to my age," Mrs Tabram says enthusiastically. 
"None of us takes it for any other reason. I no longer wear my surgical 
collar, my back and legs no longer ache from arthritis."

Her pensioners' parties have ceased, however. She was formally cautioned in 
May last year for possession and cultivation of cannabis. A month later she 
was caught with 242 grams of the drug, worth about UKP850. Now the 
grandmother awaits sentencing, next month, following Newcastle Crown 
Court's decision to seek reports from a probation officer and a psychologist.

None of this bothers Mrs Tabram. She is prepared to go to jail. Too many of 
our medicines, she believes, contain harmful ingredients. Cannabis, taken 
in moderation, is a valid pain-relieving drug.

Mrs Tabram, who is tee-total, bakes it in her leek-and-chicken pie, stirs 
it into her evening hot chocolate and adds it as an extra ingredient to the 
Gary Rhodes recipes she favours. "I have done all the scientific research," 
she insists. "By trial and error, I know exactly what the dosage should 
be." The grandmother is even writing a book, entitled Grandma Eats 
Cannabis, which is being considered by a publisher.

Eighteen months ago Mrs Tabram suffered a bout of depression brought on by 
local tearaways attacking her property. She took to staying up all night to 
watch for attack from her window. When a friend realised that Mrs Tabram 
had not been seen for weeks and discovered that she had become depressed - 
to the point of considering suicide - she called round.

"When she saw the state I was in, she offered me a hand-rolled cigarette 
from a friend," says Mrs Tabram. "It was shaped like a coronet and had this 
bit of cardboard in the end. But not only did it calm me, the next morning 
the agonising pain I have suffered for years from arthritis and whiplash 
injuries in a car crash had gone."

When Mrs Tabram asked what the cigarette contained, she was stunned to be 
told it was cannabis. She said it had burned her throat, so her friend told 
her that she could add it to her food instead. Mrs Tabram was intrigued. 
Another friend told her that she could buy it in a Newcastle pub. "I got 
two buses and a train; it cost me UKP12, and I went to the pub." When she 
went inside, she sat among teenagers waiting to be served from a "dealer's" 

Mrs Tabram's new lease of life was noticed in her village. People began 
commenting on her sprightly appearance and freedom from pain. A 
multiple-sclerosis sufferer got in touch, and more elderly folk followed. 
All asked for cannabis to free them from pain.

Mrs Tabram realised that she needed a bulk supply. She found a source and 
she and her friends pooled their money. "We wanted a pure supply. After 
all, it was for medicinal reasons," she says. "Each of us went to a cash 
point and I put the money in a brown paper bag." Eventually, she found a 

He drove a hard bargain. "He insisted I had to buy a 'nine bar'," she says. 
"Well, I didn't even know what that was." The dealer asked for UKP120 for 
one ounce, which meant he wanted UKP1,080. Mrs Tabram, however, believed in 
bargaining. When she met him in a car park, late one evening, she told him 
that the cannabis was wanted not for recreational use but to ease the pain 
of the elderly. He agreed a lower price.

"You know, I did find it rather exciting," she confides. "Frankly, in one's 
sixties, life can be boring. But here I was in criminal land."

Mrs Tabram did her deal for her pensioners but before long she was 
"shopped" to police. In two raids, during which she offered police cookies 
containing cannabis, she was finally arrested.

She remains unremorseful. "If jail it is, then so be it," she says. 
"Cannabis in food, if administered correctly, alleviates so much pain. We 
have so much violence, so many serious drug-takers, what is so very wrong 
with a few old people trying to gain ease?"

Until the invention of modern analgesics, cannabis was a popular sedative 
and painkiller. Queen Victoria is reputed to have taken it to ease period 
pains. More recently, cannabis has been suggested as a potential treatment 
for a range of illnesses including migraines, nausea and insomnia and is 
also thought to alleviate symptoms connected with multiple sclerosis and 
chemotherapy treatment.

It is still illegal to use cannabis, even for medicinal purposes. However, 
the Government has commissioned GW Pharmaceuticals, a company based in 
Wiltshire, to carry out research into cannabis-based medicines.

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