More MS news articles for July 2002

MS victim faces jail over cannabis

Sun 7 Jul 2002
Murdo MacLeod, Political Correspondent
Scotland On Sunday

A WHEELCHAIR-using multiple sclerosis sufferer is facing a year in prison following allegations she baked cannabis-laced chocolates and sent them to fellow MS patients.

Biz Ivol, 54, whose condition has left her house-bound in her Orkney home, has been charged with supplying cannabis. If found guilty, she could face up to 12 months in jail.

Ivol’s friends say she is extremely distressed by the police move, which has been condemned by politicians and cannabis campaigners.

Ivol’s friend, Andrew Caldwell, said: "She’s very perplexed, very upset, and very bemused at the thought of being prosecuted. She is very stressed. When I saw her she put on a very brave face but she is in turmoil at the prospect of appearing in court. That stress is itself not doing her any good, it is known that stress exacerbates the symptoms of MS.

"I find it disgusting to say the least that she’s being persecuted like this. I am not normally lost for words, but I think it is itself criminal that people should be victimised in this way."

Hundreds of people with MS claim cannabis relieves their symptoms, which can include debilitating pain in the joints and muscles. Caldwell added: "I don’t want to buy cannabis from people who will take my money and later sell heroin to schoolchildren.

"I could drink a bottle of whisky, get drunk and then strike someone. I bet I wouldn’t be treated as harshly as Biz Ivol. While the government is announcing study after study into whether cannabis should be used for MS, people are suffering terrible pain. Can they not show some humanity and understanding and allow the people for whom this seems to work to use it? They are hardly a danger to society."

The local procurator fiscal in Kirkwall would not comment on the matter.

Alistair Carmichael, the MP for Orkney and Shetland and a former procurator fiscal depute, has called for a change in the law to allow the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. He said: "I’m not blaming the police or the procurator fiscal - the law is the law. But the law has to be changed to allow for medicinal use. When will the government act to legalise the medicinal use of cannabis and bring an end to the nonsense of prosecutions?"

A spokesman for the Legalise Cannabis Alliance condemned the decision to prosecute Ivol. He said: "I can hardly find the words to describe how disgusted I am at the way people are being treated. When will they stop harassing sick people who find this is their only release from the pain of MS? This is an appalling situation in a supposedly civilised society."

David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, is currently reviewing the UK’s drugs laws and is expected to recommend this week that cannabis should be reclassified from a ‘Class B’ to a ‘Class C’ drug. The move would mean that cannabis users would no longer be arrested for possession of the drug, though supplying cannabis would remain a criminal offence.

Roger Howard, chief executive of DrugScope - which lobbies for cannabis to be permitted for medical reasons - said: "DrugScope has long argued that the merits of the medicinal use of cannabis need to be assessed and we’re glad that the government is now finally doing so. Sadly it seems this move may come too late for some people who have ended up on the wrong side of a punitive law."

Ivol is due to appear in Kirkwall Sheriff Court on July 16 for a summary pleading - a hearing in advance of a possible trial - on one count of concern to supply cannabis, one charge of possession, and a charge of cultivating the drug.

© 2002