80 year old Cornishman criminalised for self-medicating with cannabis – a personal testimony

Editor’s comment: we are running this story because one of our aims is to give voice to those who are otherwise ignored. We do not endorse the breaking of the laweven “in a specific and limited way“. We suggest reading this personal perspective with its companion piece.

When your doctors tell you your complaint has the potential to kill you, it turns your world upside down.
Then when they tell you there is no treatment, it is devastating.
When you have innumerable causes of pain and you are offered addictive opioids with awful side effects, what do you do?

You have two choices:

  • accept medical advice and treatment and their consequences – impaired quality of life quite often; or
  • look at alternatives.

This was the situation I faced at 80 years old and with stage three kidney failure. My research found that around the world cannabis medicine was being used to give pain relief and was proving beneficial. However, in the UK it is complicated. Cannabis is illegal. Nevertheless, my choice was to try cannabis as, seemingly, the only route out of my pain.

 I grew my own cannabis for two reasons.

  • To ensure quality of supply and that it was free from impurities.
  • To avoid involvement with criminals and ‘support’ for them through purchase.

In 2019, I was arrested for growing the plant and faced court proceedings. Since my homegrown medicine had exceeded my expectations, improving my kidney readings dramatically and eliminating pain, I chose to grow again. Once more I was arrested in 2020 and so faced another charge. I hear you say: ‘but medical cannabis is legal now.’ Well, that’s just not the case. A very few children have got access to it but the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has blocked it to most applicants and many doctors are ignorant [see this article] about it as a medicine. It is possible to get it privately, but it’s very costly and, therefore, available only to the rich, creating economic discrimination.

The UK is one of the world’s biggest exporters of medical cannabis, around 90 tons being produced annually from a site in Norfolk. Yet it is denied here in the UK. Around the world, more enlightened countries have, to a greater or lesser extent, legalised cannabis. Their experiences show that predictions of crime waves and mass addiction are false. Mexico and South Africa have legalised on the grounds of human rights. America, Canada, Spain, Portugal, Uruguay, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, Ecuador, Jamaica, Peru, North Korea, the Netherlands, Romania and Switzerland – all these countries, in some way or another, have cannabis available as medicine or as a recreational drug. So why is the UK lagging so far behind? Today the government still trots out the old and widely-disproved statement that there is strong scientific evidence that cannabis is a drug which can harm people’s mental and physical health and damage communities, yet international evidence shows this to be untrue.

The UK spends around £2bn annually on drug enforcement and yet it is proving totally ineffective. Advocates for change are ignored, sacked and ridiculed. The Police Federation supports the change, some MPs and some specialist doctors agree, yet all are ignored. Research has shown that alcohol and tobacco are far more harmful and dangerous, but these are legal. Would it be fair to assume that this is because to ban them would lose many votes?

The process known as homeostasis helps to balance the human body’s functions. The endocannabinoid system (ECS, present in all mammals) works to maintain homeostasis by utilizing cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors found throughout the immune system and central and peripheral nervous systems. Studies on the concept of clinical endocannabinoid deficiency have shown a link to several health problems and diseases. Suspicion is that this deficiency could be the cause of some of these diseases. UK doctors are not, to my knowledge, taught about ECS in medical school and so are ignorant of its benefits to the human body.

As things stand, I am to be punished for medicating myself and taking responsibility for my health when the medics were unable to do so. It seems a multitude of injustices are being carried out on me by the state. I consider this to be neither justice nor in the public interest.