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UK: Cannabis chocolate makers guilty

Russell Jenkins

The Times

Saturday 16 Dec 2006

The campaign to legalise cannabis for therapeutic use suffered a setback
yesterday when a couple who supplied chocolate bars laced with the drug
to multiple sclerosis sufferers were found guilty of a criminal offence.

Lezley Gibson, 42, an MS sufferer, her husband Mark, also 42, and
associate Marcus Davies, 36, from St Ives, Cambridgeshire, were found
guilty of conspiring to supply cannabis at Carlisle Crown Court.

The couple, who run a gift shop in Alston, a village in the North
Pennines, had argued that they were operating a not-for-profit service
to ease the pain of MS sufferers. They said that they had done more to
relieve sufferers’ pain than the NHS.

Mr Gibson argued that he had a defence in law because the drug, recently
downgraded by the Government, was used for medicinal purposes.

The couple, who ran the campaign group THC4MS (Therapeutic Help from
Cannabis for Multiple Sclerosis), say that they posted about 36,000 bars
of “Canna-Biz” to more than 1,800 MS sufferers.

In each case they asked their clients for a note from a consultant,
doctor or nurse confirming their diagnosis. They were then asked to make
a donation, from £1.50 to £5, to cover the costs. But the 150g (5oz)
bars containing 3.5g of cannabis were sent whether the money arrived or
not. Mrs Gibson told the court that her dream of running her own
hairdressing salon ended at the age of 21 when she was confirmed as
having MS. She was told that within five years she would be incontinent
and confined to a wheelchair. Mrs Gibson said that the steroids she was
prescribed — the only conventional medicine she was ever given — made
her balloon in weight and grow a beard. She turned to cannabis and found
it therapeutic.

She and her husband took over the manufacture of the cannabis chocolate
bars from Biz Ivol, an MS sufferer living in the Orkneys. Ms Ivol died
in late 2004.

The operation developed through word of mouth. Mrs Gibson said: “Every
time there was anything in the papers, on TV or radio, we would get
messages from MS sufferers. They were knocking on the door or sending
letters addressed to ‘The MS Lady’ in Alston. It was overwhelming.”

A succession of MS sufferers in wheelchairs testified to the efficacy of
the drug. Michael Wood, who was forced to retire early from his job as a
lawyer, said he found it of great benefit.

Mr Gibson said that each bar cost about £35 to make, but much of the
cannabis was donated. He preferred to use organic chocolate such as
Green & Black, which was then moulded in a £500 melting pot specially
bought from Belgium.

He said they had not made any money from the project, although he agreed
that he and his wife had used the proceeds to travel extensively to
campaign for the drug’s legalisation.The couple returned home yesterday
knowing that they will have to return to court late next month to
receive their punishment. They have been assured by the judge that they
will not be going to jail.

Lawrence Wood, chief executive of the Multiple Sclerosis Resource Centre
(MSRC) charity, said: “When pop stars receive minor fines for repeated
possession, yet those affected by MS are forced to get their cannabis
from street dealers in order to make their lives bearable, it is time
for society to take a long hard look at itself.”

Potted history
# Biz Ivol, an MS sufferer who died aged 56 in 2004, lived in Orkney,
where she hit upon combining chocolate with cannabis to provide pain
relief for non-smokers. In 2003 she was prosecuted for possessing,
distributing and cultivating cannabis, but the Crown abandoned the case
because of her failing health

# In 2004 Chris Baldwin, who suffered from leg spasms, was jailed for
six months for running a Dutch-style coffee shop, the Quantum Leaf café
in Worthing, Sussex

# Colin Davies, 48, a prominent campaigner who once handed the Queen a
cannabis plant, was jailed for three years in 2002 for drugs offences
committed at his Dutch Experience coffee shop in Stockport. He smoked a
joint during a police raid on the café’s opening day,,2-2507140,00.html




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