Thursday, 21 July 2011

The Other Side of the Coin: MS and Medical Cannabis

Clark French from Action4MS talks about his experiences with medical cannabis.

For the majority, the letters M and S next to each other has no other connotations than to remind them of a not-so-unknown British high street shop. For me, however, things couldn't be more different. I was diagnosed with MS in August 2010. My mother and late step-father both suffer/ed from the disease so I was aware of MS and its effects on people from a very early age. "But what does this have to do with SSDP?", I hear you proclaim! Well, Drug Policy Reform is of course what brought me to the table, my efforts are focused on cannabis because it is my medicine. I work with Clear - a UK political party dedicated to ending the prohibition of cannabis, I also help out with SSDP and I run my own small charity Action4MS.

Being diagnosed with MS at 24 years old was a bit of a kick in the face. At the time of my most serious relapse - the one which I was diagnosed from, I was in my final year of my degree in Ancient History and Archaeology at Reading University. It really felt like my future had been taken from me, and to an extent it had. I have always been a cannabis smoker, preferring to relax with my friends than go out and get drunk, a fact confirmed with a record two nights out to the Students' Union in my whole time at University - it just wasn't my thing! Being an MS patient - I have no choice but to ingest cannabis on a regular basis, the problems with the police in this country make my life much harder to lead. Imagine if you faced being arrested, just for wanting to feel better. Cannabis gives me a life where MS took it from me.

Never have I really thought about the problems and issues I face on a daily basis more than I did on a recent trip to California. As many of you will know, in 1996 Proposition 215 was passed, giving patients with a doctor's recommendation the ability to purchase, consume and even grown their own cannabis all legally. I was instantly struck with the difference, cannabis is everywhere in California. If I was a resident I would have no problem obtaining a doctor's recommendation, and therefore would not face potential prosecution for using a plant to treat my symptoms. The British Government fobs people with chronic conditions off with the ruse which is Sativex. Make no mistake, the cannabis in Sativex is real and is grown in this country, yet our government continues with the lies that cannabis has "no known medical benefits". Meeting people involved with SSDP across the pond was a great experience, I got to share some of the horror stories printed in the Daily Mail with them. They couldn't believe the headlines such as "Cannabis kills 30,000 a Year". During my stay in California I got to visit a number of dispensaries and see the ins and outs of how this new, booming industry works.

Although it is far from perfect, the system in California means that people with serious illnesses like myself have access to the medicine we need. Cannabis prohibition on all levels is wrong, but I think medical cannabis is the first step along the road to the end of prohibition, a spear-head if you will. For me, cannabis means life, I feel morally obliged to try and spread the truth about its medical benefits and I hope that you will read this and just take a look at the amount of illness's that cannabis is proven to help with. It is unlikely that you, the person reading this, will get MS, especially if you have no family history of it, however in our lives it is almost certain that as we age we will start to develop problems, and it is also likely that some of those problems will be alleviated by using cannabis medicinally.

We need to stand together, and use every weapon at our disposal, talk about medical cannabis with people you know are "anti drugs" - you will be surprised just how many will agree once it has been explained properly!

See also: Canadian Drug User Activist on Self-medication, Harm Minimization and Pleasure Maximisation

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