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Patients tell of relief from pain: Jonathan Foster on the arguments for allowing cannabis to be used as a therapy

COLIN believes it should be possible for him to score his regular supply of cannabis legally and locally.

Colin, 39, from Warrington, Cheshire, suffers from multiple sclerosis. He smokes a cannabis joint regularly, and did so before the onset of his illness. Now it has assumed a remedial as well as recreational role. 'I sleep better and, during periods of pain and spasticity, it definitely helps,' he said.

Jill, 46, also from the Warrington area, found cannabis helped to reduce muscle spasms. About 30 MS sufferers this year formed the British Association of Cannabis Therapeutics, a campaign for limited legalisation, which cites medical evidence that THC, the active ingredient of cannabis, calms inflammation, nausea and convulsions.

Claire Hodges, 36, who runs the association, said: 'I now wake up in the morning and my balance is sensat ional. So-called experts are always quick to point to the side effects, but if you read about the possible side effects of aspirin, you'd never take it again.'

Opinion among MS sufferers and researchers is divided. Yesterday's court case was not relevant to Colin or Jill, since the cannabis for which Dr Ann Biezanek was prosecuted had been supplied to her daughter, who does not suffer from MS.

In the United States, glaucoma sufferers have claimed cannabis lowered pressure in the eye. A handful of patients have established a legal right to cannabis to relieve chronic pain or the nauseating effects of chemotherapy.

Researchers in Cambridge have found a receptor site in the spleen which makes feasible the idea of administrating THC without any of the side effects of cannabis - short- term impairment of attention, memory, tracking and co-ordination. Some research suggests cannabis quickens heart rate dangerously.

Even among MS sufferers there is no consensus about the usefulness of the drug, and the leading MS organisation, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, is sceptical.

For Colin, yesterday's acquittal will not legitimise his supply. 'I just hope it means we are less likely to be prosecuted,' he said.