He's 51, she's 49. They're in constant pain, but their remedy is illegal. It's cannabis

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The Independent Online
John Fordham has a debilitating disease which is causing his spine to crumble and will eventually leave him in a wheelchair. Aged 51, the former builder also suffers from asthma and emphysema. He is in so much pain that he can't sleep at night.

His wife Ruth, 49, has had three heart operations, a double mastectomy and conquered cervical cancer. She is in constant pain from arthritis and cannot sleep at night.

But despite trying all manner of pills and tablets, medical science can't help them.

Instead, the couple, who live in a one-bedroom council flat in Stockwood, Bristol, turned to an age-old herbal remedy - cannabis. It helped ease the pain at night, and reduced their stress during the day.

However, the hope that it once offered has now been taken away after police found four cannabis plants growing among the tomatoes and lettuces in their greenhouse.

They both admitted cultivating the drug but were given a one-year conditional discharge after Bristol magistrates heard that although doctors had prescribed a cocktail of pills, smoking cannabis was the only way the couple could sleep.

Mr Fordham, aged 51, was forced to stop work five years ago. He takes 10 tablets a day - pain killers, anti-inflammatories and sleeping pills.

"The pills are not much good because the sleeping tablets give me nightmares and I get stomach pains from the anti- inflammatories," he said.

"But cannabis has been around since Biblical times and at least it gives me a good night's sleep - and you can't overdose on it either. It helps me relax and gives me a little inspiration to go out and potter around in the garden.

"The Government is content to rake in taxes from cigarettes and alcohol even though they ruin people's health. But because we are trying to relieve a bit of pain in our own way they jump on us - it just does not make sense."

He has been married to Ruth for 26 years and have two grown-up sons. Mrs Fordham said she began taking cannabis when she was 15 after her second heart operation.

"I was unable to sleep and in a lot of pain - physically and mentally I was going through hell and I couldn't handle the physiotherapy," she said.

"A friend asked if I wanted to try some cannabis to see if it would help - and it did. I've used it when I've needed it since. "

She said her husband started using it after he also found himself in great pain. She stressed that they have never taken the drug for pleasure.

Police have warned the couple they will make future checks and Mrs Fordham insists they will not cultivate the drug again. "But we can't risk growing cannabis again. We got caught, we were given a lenient sentence and now we will have to cope.

"By evening my husband is near enough crying with pain and it's going to be extremely difficult. I feel despair for the future - not just for us but for people who are in worse pain and could benefit if doctors were allowed to prescribe it."

GPs have been unable to prescribe cannabis for pain relief since the Misuse of Drugs Act made it illegal in 1971.

The Fordham's solicitor, Robert Morgan-Jones, said: "This is not a case of cannabis being used as a recreational drug but it helps them get through the day.

"If it is legalised they will be the first on the list for a prescription. They are otherwise law-abiding citizens."

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