AS A mature student psychiatric nurse in the Seventies my studies were enhanced by hashish. And I gained the hospital's student prize. Both my wife and I have hip arthritis and appreciate a regular intake of the plant to eliminate spasm.

John Walsh, RMN

Address withheld

I AM 52 and married with two grown-up children. In 1979 I was diagnosed with arthritis and told I'd be in a wheelchair within eight years. I was prescribed drugs which were worse than the disease. After seven years my doctor suggested I try cannabis. I have had many doctors; the general opinion was that if it helped I should continue. About a year ago, everybody I knew had trouble obtaining it and I found I was supplying other sufferers. I am now in prison and told to expect a three- year sentence.

Roger Ridley

HM Prison Shropshire

MY SON is serving a nine-month sentence for possession and intent to supply. Court officials confided that as many as two-thirds of those engaged in the work of that court are regular users of cannabis.

Name and address supplied

DESPITE the claim of Graham Ball, the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 did introduce distinctions between cannabis and narcotics, as proposed in the Wootton Report. The Crossman Diaries notes that the Home Secretary, James Callaghan, was outvoted in Cabinet on this issue. Callaghan introduced the Misuse of Drugs Bill, which was reintroduced by the incoming Tory government. This legislation did not, as claimed, increase the penalties for possession of cannabis. It reduced the penalties by 50 per cent. A detailed history of cannabis law reform can be found in my article, The Wootton Retort: The Decriminalisation of Cannabis in Britain, which is on the Internet at http:///

Stephen Abrams

YOU reported that the Home Secretary's brother, Ed Straw, supplied cannabis to his friend in 1969. Ed avoided prosecution presumably because the Misuse of Drugs Act had not been passed. My son was sentenced to one year's imprisonment for doing the same in 1995. Does Mr Straw think it right that thousands are now put to the same risk, or does he think they should enjoy the same freedom that he and his brother did when young?"

Commander Mick Humphreys, RN (retd)