Medical study of cannabis begins

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A man who doesn't drink, smoke or take drugs yesterday won the first-ever licence from the Home Office to investigate the uses of cannabis as a medicine.

Dr Geoffrey Guy, founder of two pharmaceuticals companies, predicted that pain-relieving drugs made from extracts of cannabis could start clinical trials within a year.

"I'm interested in producing something helpful to certain people, such as multiple sclerosis (MS) sufferers, people with painful spinal injuries and pain from nerve diseases," he said yesterday.

His new company, GW Pharmaceuticals, will grow its own supply of cannabis plants under the Home Office licence. The site will be at a secret location in south-east England.

The staff will isolate chemicals such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from the plants. But smoking will not be among the "delivery" methods for THC and any other useful chemicals.

"Smoking is not the right way to deliver medicines. It introduces carcinogenic particles," Dr Guy said. But because some of the chemicals remain inert until they undergo a particular chemical reaction - usually instituted by burning, which heats them above 1200C - he is investigating the most effective techniques.