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UK: Protestors target dopey drug laws

Suni Peck

Disability Now

Friday 01 Aug 2008

Disabled people who use cannabis to ease their conditions held a protest to complain at being criminalised. Sunil Peck reports.

Six years ago, Rebecca Gadsby was on a cocktail of pills and painkillers, but was still in too much pain to be able to get out of bed. Then she started taking cannabis.

She says it has transformed her life, by stopping her muscle spasms and pain. “I was not the sort of person that had ever done any drugs, but I read up on it and found no problems with it.”

On 25 June, Gadsby left home in the West Midlands at half-past two in the morning to attend a demonstration opposite Downing Street. Activists were calling on the government to change the law that makes it illegal for people to use cannabis for medicinal purposes.

The mood at the demonstration was relaxed, with joints rolled and smoked as the police looked on. A Metropolitan Police spokesman put the number of demonstrators at 30, and he said no arrests were made.

Gadsby was in agony during the demonstration but was too terrified to take any of the cannabis she had brought with her because of the police presence.

She said it was important to campaign for the right to cultivate cannabis for personal use because too many disabled people risk damaging their lungs with the sand, plastic and fibre­glass that is often present in contaminated cannabis bought from street dealers.

A medicinal cannabis-user known as Pinky, who organised the demostration, told Disability Now that he was fighting for people like his aunt, who is in pain because of multiple sclerosis, his sister, who has Alzheimer’s, and people who go blind from glaucoma rather than risk a prison sentence for being convicted of possession of cannabis.

One protester, Chris Baldwin, said that, although the government needed to stop persecuting disabled people for using cannabis, the media was fuelling public ignorance of the drug with its negative coverage.

One recreational user from Southampton told us that he attended the demonstration to show solidarity with medicinal cannabis-users, who he thought had a “strong case” for legalisation.

Another protester, Winston Matthews, urged medicinal users like himself to defy an “unjust law” by cultivating cannabis for personal use.

When we asked Pinky for his message to the Prime Minister, he said: “None of the people in your cabinet have any of our conditions. [You are not] in our shoes, where your life is unbearable and you are looking to euthanasia to ease your pain and suffering and discomfort, [so] please come to us and listen to us.”

Pinky delivered a petition to Number 10 calling on the government to legalise the use of medical cannabis to ease spasms and pain if their doctor has stated they have symptoms that can be alleviated by cannabis.

A Home Office spokesman declined Disability Now’s request for a response to what the demonstrators had told us. Instead, he re-iterated that the government had no intention of legalising cannabis in its raw form for medicinal use.




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