Medical cannabis user: 'I could go to prison' for trying to ease pain

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A medical cannabis user suffering with chronic pain disorder says he fears being arrested whenever he buys the drug to help ease his symptoms.

Robert* (not his real name), 51, says his illness makes him feel like he’s being “kicked in the knee” every time he walks, and has found cannabis to have the least side effects compared to prescribed medication.

Easing side-effects

“I’m on 24 hour slow-release morphine, which makes you very ill over time,” he says. “Another drug I was on gave me nightmares every night.

“If I have to go and do something I have to take an extra drug, which is either oramorph (oral morphine) or tramadol. There’s a limit to how much I can take of those, and they make me very ill too.

“The worst thing that would happen [with cannabis] would be I’d get very stoned and fall asleep. It also helps with the nausea and nightmares."

Read more: Home Secretary launches review into medical cannabis use

Robert takes cannabis through vaporising it. “It’s easier to get hold of [than oil]” he says.

“But I could get arrested. I don’t know what the police would do with me considering I can’t even sit down for 20 minutes, but I could go to prison if they insisted on it.

Cannabis from street dealers ‘erratic’

“I’d love to have a supply that I could know what I was taking and it was bred specifically for medicine, but I can’t access that in Britain.

“Unfortunately here, you risk imprisonment and you get whatever somebody will sell you, it’s very erratic. I did take the CBD oil which is legal but it didn’t have much effect.”

Billy Caldwell prompted review

Charlotte Caldwell and her son Billy

Home Secretary Sajid Javid promised yesterday to review the use of medical cannabis following the case of Billy Caldwell.

12-year-old Billy has severe epilepsy, which his mother Charlotte was treating with cannabis oil containing the banned substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Read more: Canada legalises cannabis for recreational use

Last week the oils were confiscated at Heathrow Airport as she returned from Canada with them.

Billy was admitted to hospital days later with seizures, and Ms Caldwell was granted a 20-day license to use the oil. His condition has since improved and he’s been released.

Studies show ‘moderate’ effect

“According to law, cannabis has no medical use whatsoever and I find that ridiculous,” says Robert. “I know it’s improved things and tests in other countries show it does do good.”

In a research paper published last year, clinical associate professor Mary Barna Bridgeman from the State University of New Jersey noted that a review of 18 medical trials found that 15 of them demonstrated cannabinoids having a “significant analgesic effect”.

“Overall, evidence suggests that cannabinoids are safe and moderately effective in neuropathic pain with preliminary evidence of efficacy in fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis,” she added.

Support from doctor

Charlotte Caldwell speaks to reporters

Robert says his own doctor is supportive of his cannabis use.

“She sees what effect it has on me, and the effect the drugs she’s allowed to prescribe have on me. I wouldn’t expect her to put her job on the line, but i know in the privacy of our consultations, she’s quite happy that she knows what I’m taking and that I’m not stupid about it.”

Robert says he welcomes the government’s review, and disagrees with criticisms that legalising cannabis for medical use for adults could increase recreational use or lead to street dealers targeting adolescents, as Julia Hartley-Brewer suggested on the breakfast show.

‘This country is going backwards’

“It seems to be so ingrained that if you take it you’ll develop a habit,” he says. “It makes no sense ignoring medical advice. Worldwide, countries are getting more liberal, Canada has made it fully legal, but this country’s going backwards.

“In my dreams, I’d love cannabis on the NHS. That would be ideal but I doubt they’d ever want to pay for it.

“So ideally we’d get something like in other countries, where I’d grow my own plants. But unfortunately it’s in my lease as a council tenant that if I was caught growing it I’d be thrown out my flat.

“If they decriminalised it at least I wouldn’t have to worry about going to prison for trying to take my medication.”