Pubdate: Fri, 27 May 2005
Source: Eastern Daily Press (UK)
Copyright: 2005, Archant Regional
Author: Ben Kendall


An eminent Norfolk doctor said today that patients may be forced into 
criminality if a medicinal form of cannabis is not made available.

Consultant anaesthetist Dr William Notcutt, from the James Paget Hospital, 
Gorleston, spoke of his frustration after today's Court of Appeal ruling 
quashing an attempt to effectively legalise the use of the Class C drug for 
the relief of severe pain.

It means sufferers of conditions including multiple sclerosis, serious bone 
conditions and chronic back pain now face a Hobson's choice: break the law 
or live in pain on less effective treatments.

Dr Notcutt, who submitted written evidence to the court, was responsible 
for Britain's first clinical trial of cannabis.

His research was used to develop the cannabis-based drug Sativex which has 
been licensed for use by multiple sclerosis patients in Canada where it 
will begin widespread use soon but which has still not be legislated for in 
the UK.

He said: "I'm not entirely surprised by this decision but it serves to 
highlight the importance of making a medicinal product available to 
patients as soon as possible.

"The treatment has been available for more than two years now and we are 
still not able to prescribe it.

"Only today I was talking to a patient who could benefit hugely from such 

"The most galling thing is doctors in Canada will soon be able to prescribe 
Sativex and we're trailing behind.

"From a patients point of view it must be very frustrating. They don't want 
to break the law but until a medicinal alternative is available, some may 
feel they have little choice."

Three judges ruled against the argument that conduct that would otherwise 
be unlawful was "excused or justified by the need to avoid a greater evil".

The court had been told that cannabis was more effective than conventional

forms of pain relief and did not have the potentially serious and 
life-threatening side-effects of alternative treatments.

But the judges ruled that the defences of necessity or duress should not 
apply to the use of the drug and should be confined to cases where someone 
faced "imminent danger of physical injury".

The court dismissed appeals by Barry Quayle, 38, of Market Rasen, 
Lincolnshire; Reay Wales, 53, of Ipswich; Graham Kenny, 25, of Shipley, 
West Yorkshire; and Anthony Taylor, 54, and May Po Lee, 28, both from London.

All had been given either a fine, community service or suspended jail 
sentence for possessing or importing the drug.

The judges also ruled that the defence should not have succeeded in the 
case of Jeffrey Ditchfield, of North Wales, who was acquitted of possessing 
the drug with intent to supply it to victims of serious and painful medical 

The appellants have been permitted to apply to the House of Lords for leave 
to appeal.
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