Personal Column: Pain Relief

Patricia Tabram, 68, had her first joint three years ago. She was so taken with the drug, she started cooking meals with it for friends
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The Independent Online

For the past three years I've been cooking wonderful meals with cannabis. I cook just for myself now, but for a while I was part of a pensioners' cannabis cookery group. I grow it at home and have been raided three times. I believe in it so strongly that I'm prepared to go to prison, even at 68. After years of living with pain, I'm now well . I no longer have to wear a neck brace or use a walking stick.

In 1975, I found my son dead in bed. He was 14. I went into shock and the doctor put me on Valium. I attempted suicide and spent three months in a mental hospital. My marriage broke up, and I had to nurse my dying mother, father, grandmother and second husband. I was given ever stronger sleeping tablets and antidepressants and developed a range of illnesses. I had tinnitus, a rash, and so much bruising that I thought I had Alzheimer's and was falling without realising it. I was also bleeding from the kidneys and bowels.

It wasn't until 2003 that I read about the side effects of the drugs I was taking. I decided to come off them and went into depression.

One day, a friend, shocked at the state I was in, gave me a roll-up. Afterwards I slept for more than 12 hours. I hadn't slept naturally for 25 years; it was unbelievable. When I woke up I felt great and the spinal pain caused by an accident had gone.

I didn't like smoking it as it hurt my throat. My friend said that I could cook with it and told me about a dealer in a pub in Newcastle. I ground it down into a powder and put some into eggs. Within five minutes my head started to swim, I vomited and passed out. I'd taken too much. I tried again with a smaller amount, adding some chilli oil. It was delicious. I started experimenting with recipes, and put it into my hot chocolate before bed. After a week I was permanently pain free. I felt great and every day I was buzzing to get up.

A lady I'd known for many years said I looked great and that before she thought I was at death's door. She wanted to know where my stick and neck brace were. I said that I didn't need them any more as I was on a new medication and told her what it was. She phoned up a couple of days later and asked if she could bring a couple of friends round. Within three months there were five of us pensioners in a cannabis cookery club. We'd cook chicken and meat pie, lemon and lime cheese cake, casseroles, steak and kidney pies. We also played Scrabble and knitted. They flushed away their medicine.

We decided to grow it ourselves and each put £200 into a kitty for equipment. I started 31 plants off in the garden hut and then moved them up into the loft.

They were about 3ft and doing very well when there was a knock at the door. I knew it was the drug squad. Someone had tipped them off. I invited them in, admitted I was growing cannabis and offered them tea and coffee, and biscuits with it in, but they refused.

I was charged with cultivation and possession with intent to supply and put in a cell for five hours. After being interrogated three times for 45 minutes I was given a caution and taken home. Four months later I was raided again. I had 9oz of cannabis which I was putting in little bags for the ladies. I'd bought it the night before. I was fined £750 and given a six-month prison sentence suspended for two years. I decided to grow the herb just for myself after that. I stood at the general election for the Legalise Cannabis Alliance and got about 1,000 votes. I have also started a cookery book, Grandma Eats Cannabis.

Five months after the trial, I was raided again. My case comes up in March. I'm going to represent myself: I want to tell the jury why I medicate with it. I only eat it five times every other day now. After nearly three years I need less. I'm pain free. The only victims in the cannabis issue are the elderly, the disabled and the sick.

Interview by Julia Stuart. Patricia is in 'Stoned in Suburbia', on Sky One at 1am on Saturday