More MS news articles for March 2000

MS sufferer 'stockpiled cannabis'

Thursday, 16 March, 2000, 18:25 GMT  BBC

Police found 40 cannabis plants at the home of a multiple sclerosis sufferer, a court was told.

Thomas Yates, who is severely disabled, said he used the cannabis to ease the pain of his illness, but denies breaking the law.

He has pleaded not guilty to the manufacture of cannabis.

Thomas Yates

A jury at Ipswich Crown Court was told the whole of the top floor of the former guest house in Lowestoft where Mr Yates, a father-of-two, lives was filled with the plants.

Special lighting and heating were in place to aid the plants' growth.

Police called at the house looking for a suspect who had stayed at the address some years before.

Sally Freeman, prosecuting, said necessity was not a defence for production of the drug.

She told the jury: "Mr Yates is a very sick man and that no doubt will attract a lot of sympathy.

"Mr Yates will in due course, I anticipate, be saying he had no option but to do what he did. It is the crown's case that that is not a defence.

"We will argue that what Mr Yates did is against the law and if that law needs to be changed it needs to be changed elsewhere."

Mr Yates is hoping to take part in government-sponsored trials, during which he would be legally allowed to take tablets based on a derivative of the drug.

Stockpile

He told the court he was trying to stockpile enough cannabis to use for 10 years as he knew in future he would have to spend more and more time caring for his wife who has been diagnosed with lung cancer.

He started to suffer from the symptoms of MS about 13 years ago and was forced to stop running his guesthouse five years ago. He is now living on disability benefits.

He has been prescribed various medication, including morphine, but they caused severe side effects leaving him sick, constipated and unable to eat or sleep.

Mr Yates will in due course, I anticipate, be saying he had no option but to do what he did. It is the crown's case that that is not a defence

He started growing cannabis five years' ago, he said, after reading about its potential benefits in a news article and being recommended it by fellow sufferers.

He added: "I tried cannabis and it got rid of all my pain within half an hour to an hour. The pain had all gone - 95% of it anyway. My quality of life was 100 times better."

Dr William Notcutt, a consultant anaesthetist at the James Paget Hospital, in Gorleston, Norfolk, treats Mr Yates. Dr Notcutt said Mr Yates was not the only one of his MS patients to use the drug.

He added that cannabis "is an effective way of managing pain for a lot of patients with multiple sclerosis and many other conditions".

Many patients suffered so badly from the side effects of morphine that they would rather have the pain than take the drug, he said.

Dr Notcutt is a leading authority on the medicinal use of cannabis and addressed a House of Lords committee on the subject two years ago.

The hearing was adjourned until Friday.