CANNABIS CAMPAIGN: Legalise it, say Townswomen

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AT THE age of 70, and newly appointed the head of an organisation that itself is approaching 70, Marjory Hall is an unlikely radical.

Yet, as chairwoman of the Townswomen's Guild since Thursday, Mrs Hall is now manoeuvring her 80,000 troops behind the campaign to legalise the medical use of cannabis. It is a prospect she relishes.

"I have a very clear mandate to go forward on this issue," she told the Independent on Sunday this weekend as she took in the outcome of the Guild's historic decision.

Delegates who attended the annual meeting in Birmingham voted overwhelmingly to back a proposal that the use of the drug should be legalised for the alleviation of pain. The vote was 1,153 for the decriminalisation of cannabis and 407 against.

"I was surprised when it became clear that there were such strongly supportive views from the floor," said Mrs Hall.

"It soon became clear that they were not going to be in favour of smoking it for pleasure, but they were very supportive of the medical case."

Mrs Hall concedes that the average age of the Guild's membership is probably 60, but she says age is a question of mindset and the organisation is recruiting hard among the younger generation. She points out, too, that the organisation has radical roots. Founded in 1865 from the women's suffrage movement, the Guild's slogan was then, and is now, "Leading women forward".

The Guild's stance on the cannabis issue will now be militant, Mrs Hall is determined. Members attending the debate found the personal testimony of Clare Hodges, a 38-year-old mother, MS sufferer and director of the Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics, particularly convincing, she said.

"Listening to that mother, I thought, 'How can I deny her something that will relieve the pain?'

"After all, we have never heard of any deaths from cannabis. It is about fighting for the right to care for these people."