Source: The Scotsman

Pub Date: 30 Aug 2003

Subj: UK: Disabled patients surveyed over cannabis

Author: John Ross



Cited: Disability Now

Biz Ivol

Paul Flynn MP

LCA Challenge

SUFFERERS with a variety of disabilities are to be surveyed to establish how many use cannabis to alleviate their pain.

Disability Now, the campaigning newspaper, is carrying out an Internet survey to find out the extent of use of cannabis, how easy the drug is to obtain, and whether doctors approve of its use for medicinal purposes.

In a previous survey in 1997, 200 readers responded, with 67 per cent admitting they had taken cannabis for medical purposes, and a quarter said their GP knew or even approved.

A total of 98 per cent also wanted cannabis legalised.

It follows the case of Biz Ivol, 55, from Orkney, a multiple sclerosis sufferer who, in June, went on trial facing charges of cultivating,

possessing and supplying cannabis.

She admitted sending out cannabis-laced chocolates to fellow MS sufferers, but pleaded not guilty to supplying the drug, on the grounds that she believed she was doing nothing wrong. The case was dropped because of her deteriorating medical condition.

Mrs Ivol subsequently attempted suicide by taking an overdose, but has since been released from hospital.

The government has also said it will carry out extensive trials to test the medicinal use of cannabis.

Paul Flynn, MP for Newport West, who is backing the survey, said: "We need this information because the government is certainly in the mood for change, but uncertain about what would be most beneficial."

However, the Legalise Cannabis Alliance, while backing the survey, said the results are predictable. Alun Buffry, the LCA's national co-ordinator, said: "The medical history goes back to the times of the ancient Chinese and ancient Egyptians, and cannabis was used in the UK as a medicine, prescribed by doctors, until 1971, when it was banned.

"I have read literally thousands of statements that cannabis helps from people suffering from everything from nausea after cancer chemotherapy treatments, through epilepsy, wasting diseases, asthma, glaucoma to everyday stress and insomnia."

He said Mrs Ivol's case has highlighted the problem: "Biz grew cannabis for her own use and offered to supply it to other people in severe pain. Mrs Ivol is now back in her cottage suffering, not knowing whether she will be raided by police again if she grows or uses cannabis.

"The refusal of successive UK and US governments to recognise the medical potential of cannabis is outrageous and beyond belief," he added. "They are calling thousands of sick people liars."

Mr Buffry said cannabinoid extracts have been proposed in sprays and pills: "Meanwhile, trials using cannabis on post-operation patients are to be conducted at great expense. Those surveys will merely tell us what we already know."

Meanwhile, the LCA has produced a discussion document - Cannabis: Challenging the Criminal Justice System - in an effort to instigate a public debate on the personal use of the drug. It believes the prohibition of the drug has been ineffective, while it says a legal, regulated control of cannabis would cut drug-acquisition crime, help therapeutic support and release police resources for other uses.

It asks whether it would be more effective to have a legal system of cannabis retail outlets, with quality control and harm-reduction

provisions, rather than the existing legal system. It comes after a move to set up Scotland's first cannabis cafe, in Kirkwall, failed.

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