Health chief takes up ailing Lezley's case for cannabis


Source: Cumberland News, UK

Date: 6 March 1998

Author: Phil Coleman

A HEALTH manager wants new research into the medicinal use of cannabis after an AIston woman claimed that using the illegal drug has kept her illness at bay for ten years.

Multiple sclerosis sufferer Lezley Gibson, 33, regularly breaks the law by smoking up to three "joints" a day.

She insists that using the drug has made a remarkable difference to her health, helping to prevent a recurrence of symptoms such as paralysis, blindness and speech loss.

Cumbria police say the law makes no exceptions for people who claim they are using illegal drugs for medicinal purposes.

But Dr Peter Tiplady, North Cumbria Health Authority's director of public health, said the case highlights the need for more detailed research into possible beneficial effects of cannabis.

He said: "I would not under any circumstances support the smoking of cannabis or the use of cannabis resin for pleasure. There are long-term medical and psychological problems, and it occasionally leads to experimentation with other drugs which are more harmful.

"But canibinol, the active part of cannabis, is known to be effective in relieving pain in some conditions, particularly MS. There is a case for re-examining the law in relation to the medicinal use of it." Dr Tiplady said he would only support use of the drug in tablet or liquid form and on prescription, with a similar degree of control as is already exercised for other pain-relieving drugs.

Lezley Gibson said: "I am hoping to God that the police don't get in touch because it's something I could do without. I'm worried about the police knocking on the door anyway, so I might as well stand up and be counted.

"I think it is disgusting that I am deprived of medicine.

"The Government should make provision for people like myself so we can get hold of cannabis."

First diagnosed with MS in 1984, Lezley was initially told she would be in a wheelchair within five years.

Her early symptoms included complete paralysis on the right side of her body, and loss of sight and speech. "But if I am ill now, the attacks are very, very mild," added Lezley, who believes cannabis is helping to control her condition.

A spokeswoman for Cumbria police said the law makes no distinction between illegal drug-users who smoke cannabis for pleasure and those who claim they use it for medicinal reasons.