More MS news articles for March 2000

MS sufferer cleared of cannabis charge

Thomas Yates admits using cannabis to alleviate pain

Friday, 17 March, 2000, 17:17 GMT

A multiple sclerosis sufferer who cultivated cannabis and used it to ease his pain has been cleared of committing a crime.

Following the verdict, campaigners urged ministers to de-criminalise use of the drug for medical reasons.

Thomas Yates was accused of producing a controlled drug after police found 40 cannabis plants growing at his home in Lowestoft, Norfolk.

The law needs to be changed so that people can use cannabis for medicinal purposes

Thomas Yates

Mr Yates, 51, a former deep sea diver, said cannabis was the only drug that eased his pain without unpleasant side effects.

He said he was trying to grow a 10-year supply because his wife Andrea, 41, was dying of lung cancer and increasingly needed his time and support.

A jury at Ipswich Crown Court accepted his argument that he needed cannabis to ease his pain and cleared him of any offence.

After the hearing Mr Yates, a father of two, said: "All this has been a waste of time and money.

"The law needs to be changed so that people can use cannabis for medicinal purposes."

Police found the cannabis, plus a variety of cultivating equipment, in three upstairs rooms while looking for a fugitive who had been an acquaintance of Mr Yates' some years before.

The wanted man was not found at Mr Yates' home.

Switched to morphine

Initially Mr Yates had told police that the upstairs rooms were empty - although when questioned he made no secret of the fact that he was growing cannabis.

Mr Yates, who now uses morphine - a drug which leaves him feeling sick - to ease his pain, will be entitled to have his cultivating equipment back but the cannabis will be destroyed.

He said: "I know quite a few other MS sufferers who use cannabis. It really works and has no side effects.

"It makes your quality of life 100% better. But I don't think I'll use it anymore. I'll have to stick to morphine.

"I know other people who use cannabis are frightened they'll end up in court as well."

Mr Yates' consultant Dr William Nottcut told the BBC: "I am absolutely delighted for Mr Yates.

But he added: "His situation was fairly exceptional and should not be seen as a licence for everyone to start growing their own."

The message must be getting through to the Crown Prosecution Service that juries will not convict

Ben Smith, UK Cannabis Internet Activists Group

Ben Smith, an official with the UK Cannabis Internet Activists Group, said: "This is about the fifth trial that has ended up like this in recent months.

"The message must be getting through to the Crown Prosecution Service that juries will not convict. It's just a waste of time and money. The law must be changed."

Bev Clydesdale, welfare officer with the South Suffolk branch of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, added: "We don't want anyone to break the law. But the laws on cannabis needs to be changed to allow people like Mr Yates to use it. There's no doubt that it does ease pain."

Mr Yates, whose sister also suffers from MS, is hoping to take part in Government-sponsored trials under which disabled people would be legally allowed to take tablets made from a cannabis derivative.