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UK: MS sufferers the losers in cannabis chocolate case

Dave Gudgeon and Phil Coleman

Cumberland News

Friday 22 Dec 2006

THE collapse of a cannabis chocolate ‘industry’ following the
prosecution of the Alston couple who ran it for people with multiple
sclerosis has left many sufferers in distress, says a national charity.

Mark and Lezley Gibson produced more than 20,000 bars at their Front
Street home, sending them to MS sufferers who could provide medical
proof of their condition.

Production ceased shortly before the couple were convicted along with a
friend at Carlisle Crown Court of conspiring to supply the class C drug.

The Gibsons, both 42, and Marcus Davies, 38, who lives in Camridgeshire,
will be sentenced on January 26, though the judge has said they will not
face immediate custody.

Mrs Gibson, who was diagnosed with MS 21 years ago, is adamant that
using cannabis has saved her from a wheelchair.

All three had hoped to escape conviction because their motive was not to
make money but to help MS sufferers ease symptoms.

Judge John Phillips told the jury that the law has to be applied as it
is, and not as some say it ought to be and a recent Appeal Court ruling
made it clear that can be no medical necessity defence.

He said: “It’s not lawful for unqualified individuals to assume the role
of unqualified doctors by obtaining, prescribing, and supplying
cannabis, whether in chocolate or otherwise. No doubt there’s a debate
to be had on whether that should be the law.

“But the court is not the proper place in which that debate should take

As the debate on the case continued, powerful evidence has emerged
suggesting that the loss of the Canna-Biz bars has left many MS
sufferers with no effective way to ease often crippling symptoms.

Helen Yates, of the national MS Resource Centre charity, said: “We’re
getting calls from people who have been very distressed by this case.

“They’re distressed emotionally by the prosecution, and physically
distressed in terms of the impact this case is now having on their
symptoms. There are a significant number whose quality of life is being
directly affected by this.”

She spoke of one 25-year-old for whom the chocolate was her only way of
preventing incontinence, while another MS victim, aged 81, said the
chocolate was the only thing that freed her from pain.

Ms Yates added: “We can’t condone law-breaking but in this case the law
is wrong.”

Several Cumbrian MS sufferers also contacted The Cumberland News to
speak of the impact on them.

They included Wigton woman Helen Wallage who said: “Because I walk
badly, everything tenses up and I get burning sensations. The chocolate
eases all that and makes those feelings disappear. It makes life bearable.

“There should be an exemption for people with MS who need to use
cannabis. I feel so sorry for Mark and Lezley – they were only trying to
help people like me.”

This week the THC4MS (Therapeutic Help from Cannabis for Multiple
Sclerosis) website, set up by Marcus Davies, was displaying the
following message: “We regrettably have to inform you that THC4MS, to
comply with our judge’s ruling, have ceased manufacture and supply of
Canna-Biz chocolate. THC4Ms has now reverted to a pressure group
fighting for your right to use cannabis as medicine.”

During the trial Mark Gibson said he began making and supplying the
cannabis chocolate about six years ago after a woman living in the
Orkneys, became too ill to do it. Lezley helped out.

The jury heard that over the years about 36,000 bars were sent around
the world to about 1,600 sufferers.

All had supplied medical notes to prove they has MS.

The service was funded by donations of cash and cannabis. The police
took action after a package containing one of the Canna-Biz bars burst
open at the Royal Mail sorting office in Junction Street, Carlisle.

After the verdict a spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service said:
“We prosecuted the case because it is an offence to possess or supply
cannabis or to conspire to supply it.”

What are your views on this case? Write to: The Editor, The Cumberland
News, Newspaper House, Dalston Road, Carlisle CA2 5UA. Email:




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