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UK: People who want cannabis to be decriminalised are marching through Cardiff today

Will Hayward

Wales Online

Saturday 06 May 2017

For many people, cannabis is seen as a medicine to cope with illness.

On Saturday, May 6, people supporting the decriminalisation of cannabis will march through the capital of Wales.

Assembling at Alexandra Gardens at noon, they will pass through the city along Queen Street in Cardiff and in front of the central library before finally finishing in Hamadryad Park.

The Cardiff march is part of the wider Global Marijuana March, normally held on the first Saturday in May across the world.

It remains illegal to possess, grow, distribute or sell cannabis in any form in the UK. It is a Class B drug and the maximum penalty for use is five years in prison.

According to office for national statistics in 2014, possession of cannabis offences accounted for 67% of all recorded drug offences in the UK.

But for many of the people on this march cannabis is not a dangerous drug but a invaluable medicine to cope with illness.

One of these people is Chris Reilly who suffers from primary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS).

Mr Reilly, 47, will be giving a talk at the march about why he is so passionate about decriminalisation.

He said: “I am a medical patient and I have progressive MS. This has no cure and currently no treatment available.

“Cannabis helps with my mood, my cognition and my appetite. It allows me to live my life to the highest standard that is available.

“It is everything to me, it is my medicine. I don’t see it a therapeutic use, I see that as medical.”

Mr Reilly, who is a member of the United Patients Alliance that represents medical cannabis patients, was diagnosed with MS in his early forties.

“There are two types of MS: relapse and primary progressive.

“My version means you don’t get any let up from your symptoms. Once they appear they don’t disappear. The difference with relapse is that people will have periods of been absolutely fine.

“I have tried all the options when I was first diagnosed and was in a drug induced coma pretty much. I could not function. That is when I started researching medical cannabis that cannot be prescribed in this country.”

Since undertaking that research Mr Reilly claims he has started using cannabis medicinally.

“It is 100% important to me,” he said.

“It is not a medical cure and doesn’t take away the pain- but It allows me to live.

“I used it therapeutically over the years, I dipped in and out of it. Although I don’t know how long I was doing it to medicate as I was diagnosed in my forties.”

Mr Reilly is hoping this march will help drive a move to cannabis being considered a medicine.

He said: “I work with the United Patients Alliance,” he said. “We are a group of patients that lobby politicians to get legal access. Over the years we have also become a support group.

“The main thing I want out of the march is cannabis to be seen as a medicine. If it helps just one person that is enough.

“The march is the opportunity. People should come out, make this civil disobedience to say enough is enough.

“I should not feel persecuted living in Great Britain. At the last count over 350 million people in Europe have access to medical cannabis.”

This sentiment is echoed by one of the organisers, Alistar Burrell.

He said: “There are quite a few reasons to hold the march, but the right to grow is definitely up there with one of the main ones.

“The stigma attached to cannabis is also one.

“We are looking for the full decriminalisation of cannabis, and the introduction of dispensaries - as not everyone is able to grow their own.”

The march is organised by the Cardiff Cannabis Social Club with the help of several other cannabis campaign groups.

Fellow organiser Jo Moss, 51, from Gloucestershire, said: “At the moment there is a massive medical need and most people resort to going to the street dealers, and that’s not what anyone wants.

“They need a safe place to source it and to take it out of the hands of the black market.”

Alistar, from Bristol, said their group would like to see a Spanish style approach, with clubs or associations of people who grow their own cannabis for their personal use and then can distribute any surplus.

He said: “One of the issues is that if someone does have an issue with their consumption they feel like they can’t really talk about it because of the stigma, which doesn’t help anyone.”

A number of people will speak at the march, including Jeff Ditchfield who helps families with children who benefit from medical cannabis.

Marchers were assembling at noon at Alexandra Gardens, Cathays Park, and due to set off at 1pm.




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