HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html These Women Could Be The First To Take Cannabis Legally - But Should They Be Allowed?
Pubdate: Tues, 19 Jan 1999
Source: Daily Mail (UK)
Copyright: 1999 Associated Newspapers Ltd
Contact:  Ann Kent


These women are pillars of the community, the kind of people who always turn
up at school parents' evenings.  Yet they also habitually break the law - by
smoking cannabis as a painkiller.

Now they could be among the first Britons to be administered the drug
legally.  As part of a unique and controversial new study, they will inhale
cannabis to try to establish if it really does have medicinal effects.  They
already take the illegal drug to alleviate excruciating pain and muscle
spasms, buying it from street dealers.  At least now they will be able to
obtain it in a safe, standardised form.

DIANA BEEDLE, 44, from Torquay has been disabled with chronic back pain for
13 years.  She says: "I tripped on the stairs when I was rushing to answer
the door and fell all the way down.  It caused sever damage to discs,
vertebrae and nerves.  I was on my back in hospital for three months, and
was left with severe pain and a leg that went into spasms.

"I stuck to prescription drugs for nearly three years and also tried TENS
machine and chiropractic.  But nothing worked as well as cannabis -
something I tried, reluctantly, after a friend suggested it and bought some
for me.

I smoked it first thing in the morning.  If I didn't, my muscles would go
into spasms and I would barely be able to move.  I also smoke in the evening
to help me sleep.  I see myself as a totally law-abiding citizen and would
hate anyone to think of me as a criminal.  You see MPs interviewed with a
scotch in one hand and a cigarette in the other.  They're taking much more
dangerous drugs than I am.  There has never been a death attributed to
cannabis alone."

SYBIL LUCAS-BREWER, 43, of Preston was diagnosed with severe rheumatoid
arthritis ten years ago, and is registered as disabled. She says: "I don't
feel comfortable about taking an illegal drug, and using it is the most
illegal thing I have ever done. Unfortunately, with painkillers you get
immune to the effects.

"When my arthritis flares up, the pain is soul-destroying - life-sapping. If
you take too many painkillers, you just sit in a chair and dribble.  You
want to go to sleep and not wake up.

"I try to relieve my pain by meditating, and use cannabis as a last resort.
It was something a friend told me about.

"If I am chosen for the trials there is a chance I will get a placebo, which
will do nothing for my pain.  But it is worth the risk.  I want the
authorities to realise how effective cannabis is, because even when I get
hold of it, I can't really afford it on my disability benefit.

"it is expensive because it is illegal.  Cannabis would be cheap to
manufacture if legalised.  If it could be made available as an aerosol
medicine, that would be ideal.  It would hit the bloodstream instantly and
give maximum pain relief.

"An awful lot of people take cannabis, but you don't hear about them. When I
was in hospital a while ago, an old lady on the ward, who also had
arthritis, took me into the grounds and rolled me a joint.  She was in her
70's and she was perfectly matter-of-fact about it."

CLARE HODGES, 41, a house-wife and mother from Leeds, has multiple
sclerosis.  Seven years ago she set up the Alliance for Cannabis
Therapeutics (ACT) to campaign to have cannabis made available on
prescription.  She says: "I am a nice, middle-class mother of two, and I
belong to our local Crimebusters Group.  Until recently, the supporters of
Act have been lone voices.  Now e have support in the House of Lords.  I had
Ms for nine years before I tried cannabis.  I found it stops muscle spasms
and helps against nausea.  It also relieves bladder problems, so I don't
have to constantly get up in the night to go to the loo.

"I hope something is sorted out because thousands of people with medical
problems use cannabis in a potentially dangerous way.  You don't know the
quality or the strength of what you are taking, and forced to break the law.

"I don't feel as if I am a threat to society.  Nor are we a crowd of
dope-smokers - most people don't take enough to get high.  We take cannabis
because we need to."

VOLUNTEERS for research should contact Disability Now, 6 Market Road,
London, N7 9PW

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