Source: East Anglian Daily Times, [UK]

Pub Date: 11 July 2002

Subj: UK: Campaigner believes plant can benefit health

Author: Katey Edwards


Cited: Legalise Cannabis Alliance -


CANNABIS cafes would see an end to confusion over the dope debate once and for all, claims Don Barnard, an executive member of the Legalise Cannabis Alliance.

Don, of Braintree in Essex, who was given 50 hours community service for growing cannabis plants in his garden in 1994, wants to see the drug brought within the law.

He claimed the plant helped relieve his wife's arthritis and his own persistent back pain. He would like to see greater recognition of its potential health benefits.

In 1999 he helped form the Legalise Cannabis Alliance, a registered UK political party, to force the issue of legalisation in British politics.

In January this year, he stood for election for Braintree District Council west ward, winning just 19 votes (1.1%) to Labour's 671. It would seem the Braintree electorate are not quite ready for Dutch-style cannabis cafes.

Don is suspicious of yesterday's announcement of the Government's intention to downgrade cannabis to a low risk category class C, making possessing small amounts or smoking it in private a non-arrestable offence. The move falls short of decriminalisation or legalisation, leaving users somewhat confused.

Don, 60, believes the Government is not laying all its cards on the table and should open the debate to wider discussion, with cannabis users themselves.

He said: "Although it may appease a few cannabis smokers, we have to be very careful about today's announcement and look not at what's been said but how it will work in practice. There are still some very grey areas. I don't think we're seeing the whole picture.

"I think it's time the Government put its policy down in black and white and local authorities held public meetings for people to give their opinion on what they want for their communities.

I'm having difficulty understanding what they're doing at the moment.

"We want to see a situation where cannabis is regulated and controlled. I don't think we would see much change after reclassification except, perhaps, more seizures. Give us our cannabis cafes where people can smoke it legally rather than on the streets. It's a natural progression from the Brixton experiment."

He added that certain issues would have to be addressed such as smoking cannabis and driving, and protecting young children from exposure to dope. He would support quality controls of the drug and taxation of the suppliers' profits.

Cannabis cafes for the over 18s, he argued, could also supply information and advice about drugs to users, helping to educate them about the real dangers of harder drugs.

Don argues that cannabis is a great pain relief for illnesses such as Multiple Sclerosis and his own condition - spondylitis, or arthritis of the spine.

He said: "I should take strong painkillers but I know that if I start taking them now, at a later date, if I am still around I'll need a much higher dose. Smoking a joint really does get rid of the pain."

Don added: "A cannabis user can function normally and think rationally, that's the good thing about it. If he wants to get a bit more laid back and let it take control, he giggles a lot and reaches for some chocolate but that's as bad as it gets."

He does not deny that cannabis can be harmful: "It's a well known fact that cannabis can cause problems with those pre-disposed to psychotic incidences. If you have a problem with it, stop smoking it. It's as simple as that."

The official report from the Government's advisory council on misuse of drugs (ACMD) in March revealed that the main risk was from smoking it, as it has a higher concentration of carcinogens than cigarettes.

The report also showed the addictive potential of the drug was far less than amphetamines, tobacco or alcohol but that it did pose significant dangers for those with heart and circulation problems or schizophrenia.

The study concluded, however, that high use of cannabis in society was not associated with major health problems for individuals or society.


Back to List