Tuesday, 9 January, 2001, 22:14 GMT
A former police drugs squad officer who turned to cannabis in an attempt to alleviate the symptoms of MS has told how she was forced to resort to illegal dealers.
Kate Bradley said the fact that she was unable to obtain cannabis legally from a doctor meant that she was being forced to feel like a criminal.
The 56-year-old came forward after Labour MP Peter Bradley highlighted her plight in the House of Commons.
Mr Bradley, who is not related to his constituent, urged the government to recognise the medicinal qualities of cannabis for people who suffer from MS.
He said Mrs Bradley had been an undercover drug squad officer in the West Midlands Police.
"It was her job to pursue and to lock up the people who peddled drugs.
"Now, she is out on the streets seeking to secure the only relief that she can have for the pain that she suffers from."
He called on Gisela Stuart, a junior health minister, to persuade the Home Office and the police that people in Mrs Bradley's predicament were "victims and not criminals".
"They are victims of the torment of MS, they should not be made to be victims of an injustice," he said.
Mrs Bradley, from Telford, Shropshire, who now needs a wheelchair to help her get around, said cannabis was the only drug that alleviated her pain.
She was forced to quit the police when she became ill with MS in the 1970s.
"For years I suffered horrendous pain. It was like living in a hornet's nest, with pain in my arms, legs, tongue, everywhere.
"The doctors put me on morphine but that didn't work. Then someone mentioned cannabis and in desperation I tried it."
She said she bought the drug from an illegal dealer and smoked it.
"Within an hour, after all those years, I felt the relief I was crying out for."
Mrs Bradley, who is married with a daughter, said she prayed the government would change the law to "recognise cannabis for its medicinal qualities".
Report due in 2003
Responding to Mr Bradley in the Commons, Mrs Stuart said that government research involving 660 sufferers of MS was underway.
A report was due in 2003 and the government would make a decision on that clinical evidence.
Mrs Stuart said: "I sympathise with any patient who is suffering and feels that an effective medicine is not available.
"However, as in any chronic illness it is very important to evaluate the benefits and risks of treatment. The possession of cannabis is against the law for good scientific reasons in terms of acute and chronic health effects."
'Stupid and cruel'
But Labour MP Paul Flynn branded the government's policy on the drug as "stupid and cruel".
He said: "Cannabis has been trialled and tested for 5,000 years in every continent by millions of people and not had any serious side effects in all that period."
Mr Flynn, who has long campaigned on the issue, said 100 MPs and a majority of the British Medical Association were among those who thought that "natural cannabis should be used now medicinally".
"This policy is stupid and cruel," he said.
Outside the Commons, Mr Bradley said later: "People like her (Mrs Bradley) are already suffering from MS.
"We have got to take
care not to make them victims of an injustice as well."