CANNABIS CAMPAIGN: Hope for those in pain

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The Independent Online
THE growing consensus about the merits of cannabis in the alleviation of pain was strengthened last week when it emerged that a government-commissioned report backs its therapeutic use, writes Vanessa Thorpe.

The Independent on Sunday campaign to decriminalise cannabis won a second significant boost last week when a jury in the north of England cleared a man who admitted to smoking the drug to alleviate his chronic back pain.

The report, commissioned by the Department of Health and compiled by the Royal College of Psychiatry, found that prescribing cannabis to sufferers of some forms of cancer and Aids is merited. It states that it would be "irrational" not to explore the use of cannabis in other treatments as well. The report also calls for changes in the law to allow properly controlled scientific studies.

News of the study's findings came the same day that Colin Davis, a 30- year-old joiner who broke his back four years ago when he fell from a bridge near Stockport, was cleared by Manchester Crown Court of drugs charges.

The court heard that when Mr Davis was arrested in November, police found 18 cannabis plants in his bedroom. Mr Davis told the jury that he had turned to the drug out of desperation when prescribed medicines failed to cope with spasms of pain which threatened to immobilise him. A verdict of not guilty of cultivating cannabis under the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act was returned by the court in only 40 minutes.

Mr Davis's solicitor, James Riley, said the case was ground breaking and reflected changing attitudes to the use of cannabis in medical cases.

At the time of Mr Davis's arrest last year the British Medical Association released a report suggesting that the courts should not penalise those who were driven to use the drug by chronic symptoms. Mr Davis told the IoS he only started to grow the plants because he had not liked the idea of buying from a dealer.

On another note, football supporters who are also fans of the IoS campaign to decriminalise cannabis should be wary of taking up an evangelical stance if they travel to France this summer.

Not only is smoking the drug there illegal, but so, too, is the public display of the image of the cannabis leaf.

A team of aspiring British film-makers who drove down to Cannes to raise money for a new project discovered this fact the hard way. Their new film comedy, Amsterdam, written by London mini-cab driver Stephen Loyd, tells of a group of working-class lads who spend time together each year at the eponymous Dutch city's cannabis festival.

As part of the attempt to draw attention to it, Loyd and his colleagues had painted the side of a 10-year-old BT van with the leaf logo - an act for which they were promptly arrested by French police and ordered to leave the country.