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UK: MS Sufferer's Dismay over Drug Suppliers' Conviction

Melissa Beck

Evening Telegraph

Saturday 16 Dec 2006

A Multiple Sclerosis sufferer has spoken of his dismay after three
people who provided him with cannabis for pain relief were found guilty
of supplying the drug.

Tony Withers uses a wheelchair and is unable to use the lower half of
his body.

The 62-year-old's legs used to twitch so much at night that neither he
or his wife, Jill, had been able to get a full night's sleep for nearly
nine years.

Someone at an MS support group meeting in Derby suggested that he tried
using cannabis to control his symptoms.

Mr Withers, of Alvaston, discovered Canna-choc, a mixture of the drug
and chocolate, from an organisation called THC4MS, or Therapeutic
Cannabis for Multiple Sclerosis.

But yesterday, the three people behind THC4MS, Mark Gibson, Lezley
Gibson and Marcus Davies were found guilty of supplying the class C drug
after a trial at Carlisle Crown Court.

The group told the court they supplied cannabis for free in return for a
donation and they only supplied the chocolate to MS sufferers who
provided a medical note confirming their condition.

Mr Withers, who was an RAF navigator and a sub-postmaster in Devon
before moving to Derby eight years ago, said: "It's sad they have been
found guilty because they were only helping people.

"They won't make the chocolate now they've been found guilty and I've
got a real problem.

"I'll have to turn to artificial Cannabinoids, which I will have to pay
for on the NHS and won't be as effective."

Cannabinoids can be prescribed to MS sufferers and cancer patients to
treat the side effects of chemotherapy.

Mr Withers, who takes one small square of chocolate in the evening
before going to bed, added: "You can never get more than one bar at a
time, so it's not like I have enough to throw a party.

"If the drug were clearly dangerous, at least in the quantities I need,
then I could understand a lack of tolerance by concerned politicians,
health authorities and the justice system.

"But the balance between protecting irresponsible individuals and
allowing personal choice in the reduction of private pain appears out of
all proportion."

Gibson, 42, and his wife, Lezley, 42, who has MS, both from Alston,
Cumbria, and Davies, 36, of St Ives, Cambridgeshire, will be sentenced
on January 26.




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