Tue 17 Jun 2003
The government is being urged to stop prosecuting people who use cannabis for medicinal purposes following an Orkney womanís threat that she will take her own life after fighting a court case tomorrow.
Biz Ivol, 56, a multiple sclerosis sufferer who is confined to a wheelchair, has already had a cardboard coffin delivered to her home in South Ronaldsay and says she will take an overdose of paracetemol and champagne to end her suffering.
But first she will fight charges of possessing and supplying cannabis, which she says eases her suffering.
Friends and backers of the campaign to legalise cannabis for medicinal use have rallied to her support and have highlighted the case to Cathy Jamieson, the justice minister, and David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, and called for it to be brought to the attention of the Prime Minister.
They have also sent a petition to all Scottish ministers calling for the "inhumane" prosecution to be justified.
The Legalise Cannabis Alliance (LCA) has urged the Home Office to seek the views of Mrs Ivol and other MS sufferers on the issue. Addressing ministers, Don Barnard, a spokesman for the LCA said: "This is not about legalising cannabis or scoring points, it is about justice and therefore should be of interest to everyone, regardless of political allegiances.
"My concerns are that Biz will do this terrible act - who am I to say whether she should or should not - but I do feel that her suffering alone demands that you seek her opinions and views, give her a hearing.
"Please can you also bring this sad case to the attention of the Prime Minister and your colleagues in the cabinet."
Alan Buffry, the LCAís national co-ordinator, added: "I am sickened to my heart to hear what is happening to Biz Ivo. That she was ever arrested and charged in the first place is an outrage.
"The prosecution of Biz Ivol is a gross misuse of an unjust law. Who will stand up and accuse her of doing or intending harm to anybody? Only those paid by the state to do so.
"How can any public official have the heart to withdraw the supply of an essential medicine from someone who is clearly unable to cope without it?"
Hamish Crisp, of the Alliance for Therapeutic Cannabis (ACT) also questions the decision to prosecute Mrs Ivol in a letter to Ms Jamieson.
He told the minister: "As an MSP, we would presume you are not a God-less atheist.
"So could you explain how driving Mrs Ivol into her grave can ever be morally justified?
"We are all medicinal cannabis users, and the treatment we get from the authorities in this country is leaving us in suicidal despair.
"Surely, in a civilised society, we could expect to be helped, not driven into our graves for using the only medication available to us."
Mrs Ivol has already won backing from Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland, who said he hopes Mrs Ivolís prosecution will be the last of its kind in the UK.
Mrs Ivol was charged following a police raid at her home in August 2001. Her trial, which has been postponed several times, is now due to he heard at a sports centre in Kirkwall which has better wheelchair access than the islandís sheriff court.
She has pled not guilty to three charges of possessing cannabis, producing two cannabis plants and being concerned in the supply of the drug to others. The charges relate to cannabis-laced chocolates which she has allegedly been making and distributing to fellow sufferers across the UK.
She is a founder member of Therapeutic Help for Cannabis MS Sufferers which helps distribute the Canna-choc products to sufferers.
A spokesman for the group said yesterday: "Canna-choc would not be available to MS sufferers without Biz Ivolís selfless efforts.
"We are forced to ask ourselves why is the prosecution of a disabled
woman for medicating with cannabis, a drug that will be licensed for MS
in the next three months, in the public interest?"
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