Cannabis campaign: Users' stories help medical research

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IN AN unprecedented arrangement with the Home Office, Dr Geoffrey Guy, the entrepreneur licensed to farm cannabis in Britain for medical research, will now be able to make use of the experience of patients who have been taking the drug illegally.

The doctor has been advised that patients who find their symptoms are alleviated by cannabis will not be liable for prosecution as long as they contact him through their own doctors. His company, GW Pharmaceuticals, will then be able to use their evidence to direct its own research.

"Over many years a whole wealth of research has been going on illegally in the homes of sufferers all over the country," said Dr Guy. "The difficulty has been finding a way of tapping this information for the use of the scientific community."

The Home Office permission means that doctor/patient confidentiality will be maintained and people with illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, cancer, Aids or glaucoma will be able to communicate their knowledge of the therapeutic value of the drug without fear of prosecution.

The agreement follows up the work of the newspaper Disability Now and the campaigning group Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics which last month joined together to help Dr Guy set up a register of sufferers who could take part in clinical trials.

In this month's issue of Disability Now, published by the charity Scope, disabled readers are being encouraged to consider taking part in the Government-backed trials. The journal's support for Dr Guyfollows a reader survey last year in which nearly 98 per cent of respondents backed the legalisation of the drug and 67 per cent had taken cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Dr Guy believes the opportunity to investigate anecdotal evidence is invaluable.

"We now have a legal framework to make enquiries into patient groups," he said.

Patients can contact Dr Guy through Disability Now at 6 Market Road, London N7 9PW.