More MS news articles for August 2002

Dope demand

2 August, 2002

Disabled people want an immediate end to the government's ban on using cannabis to ease their pain, a new survey has found.

The survey, by Disability Now (DN) newspaper, comes close on the heels of the announcement by Home Secretary David Blunkett that he is to relax drugs laws and reclassify cannabis as a class C drug.

This means that people will not be arrested for using it, although using it will still be a crime. But the change will not happen before July 2003.

Now, DN is to ask for a meeting with Mr Blunkett to plead with him for an immediate relaxation of the law to allow disabled people to either get cannabis from their doctors or have immunity from prosecution.

The government has said that cannabis-based medicines currently being tested will only be available through doctors if approved by the Medicines Control Agency. This may not happen before 2004.

Out of 85 disabled people who responded to the DN survey, 62 took cannabis and 82 said the drug should be legalised immediately.

The editor of DN, Mary Wilkinson, said: "Our survey clearly shows that disabled people are being forced to break the law to ease their pain. They need cannabis now. The law must be changed."

While 29 people said they got their cannabis from friends or family, 18 had to risk going directly to dealers. And although 28 said it was easy to get the drug, 16 found it difficult.

Only 22 said the quality of the drug they got was good, with 15 saying it was poor and 25 saying it varied. And 34 people said their doctors knew or approved of it.

Lily Sturgeon, who has spinal muscular atrophy, said: "I'm 55. I'm a great granny. I don't like the under-handedness and the fact that it is against the law. I feel guilty about that every time, but I still feel I have to do it if I want any quality of life. I've tried so many painkillers over the years, and they are useless."

Without a reliable supply from a doctor, she faces problems. "Some stuff is just awful. You feel that you have wasted your money." She can spend £150 of her benefits on an ounce which lasts three months.

© 2002,