Source: The Times (UK)
Pubdate: Thu, 24 Dec 1998
Copyright: 1998 Times Newspapers Ltd
Contact:  The Times, PO Box 496, London E1 9XN United Kingdom 
Fax: +44-(0)171-782 5988 
Author: Ian Murray, Medical Correspondent


THE Prince of Wales has expressed an interest in the effectiveness of
cannabis in relieving the pain of diseases such as multiple sclerosis. 

During his annual visit to the Sue Ryder Home in Cheltenham,
Gloucestershire, he asked Karen Drake, who has MS: "Have you tried taking
cannabis? I have heard it's the best thing for it." 

Mrs Drake, 36, said afterwards: "I was surprised but I think I would like
at least to try it. Anything that can help relieve the pain can only be for
the good." 

The Prince raised the subject after she gave him a copy she had made of a
Monet painting. A spokesman for the Prince said that the conversation had
been private. "If the Prince does have a view on this matter, he is not
making it known," he said. 

Gillian Rose, the home's appeals co-ordinator, said: "I only presume he
mentioned it because it is a talking point for MS sufferers." 

In November the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology
recommended that doctors should be allowed to prescribe cannabis to some of
the 85,000 MS sufferers in Britain. The Government said that it would not
consider doing so until there had been extensive clinical trials. 

Next month the Multiple Sclerosis Society will publish a protocol worked
out with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society on how clinical trials on
cannabis and its derivatives should be conducted. 

The society believes that trials are essential to find out whether cannabis
has dangerous long-term effects and believes that only neurologists should
be allowed to prescribe the drug. 

"We recognise that some people who use cannabis to relieve symptoms find
themselves on the wrong side of the law but we do not feel they should be
treated as criminals," a spokesman said. 

"There is anecdotal evidence that smoking cannabis can help in some cases
but not in all. We wouldn't recommend that anyone breaks the law." 
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Checked-by: Richard Lake