Cannabis is illegal in the UK yet around one million people use it to treat illnesses including Multiple Sclerosis and Epilepsy. Penny Fitzlyon is one of them and was diagnosed with MS in 2001.
Penny led a normal life until she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in her mid-thirties.
Doctors said that she would be in a wheelchair within months, which prompted Penny to do some research into alternative medicines.
“I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t move properly, why bits of me hurt so much”
Penny Fitzlyon, medical cannabis user
She discovered that thousands of people used cannabis to treat their MS and as she says, “the rest is history.”
Cannabis helps control her muscle spasms, chronic pain and has helped preserve her ability to walk.
Penny Talks about what life would be like without medical cannabis
Penny added: “It was really silly because when it first started showing symptoms people kept on telling me ‘its all in your mind’.
“Then I discovered that Multiple Sclerosis is your own immune system attacking your mind.
“So saying it was all in my mind was an accurate description.
“Trying to do things left me very upset. I couldn’t understand why, I couldn’t move properly, why bits of me hurt so much.”
In the UK, cannabis is a Class B drug and it is illegal to possess cannabis in any form.
“WE ALL PRODUCE CANNABIS IN OUR BRAINS”
DR MIKE BARNES, NEUROLOGIST
According to Dr Mike Barnes there are a few stigmas attached to cannabis use, “it’s a hippy drug that leads to taking other drugs” often comes up.
Young man with a cannabis joint at ‘420’ in Hyde Park, London
The Government say that legalisation would send the wrong message to young people.
Dr Barnes thinks otherwise: “There is a lot of mis-information around cannabis and I think that that does account for some of the negativism’s.
Dr Barnes explains how to reduce the stigmas around cannabis using good scientific evidence
“We all produce cannabis in our brains, there’s a natural human cannabinoid system.
“Everybody produces cannabis like substances, which have a natural role in the modulation of pain.
“They have a natural role in managing nausea, vomiting and appetite stimulation.
“Also in the management of epilepsy and many other conditions and types of brain function, and indeed in non-brain function.
“There are cannabis receptors in other parts of the human system.
“So it is a natural substance, and all we are doing by taking external cannabis, is boosting our natural cannabis systems.”
Dr Barnes recently published an in-depth report used by the All Party Parliamentary Group on drug reform titled ‘Cannabis: The evidence for medical use’.
The report graded the evidence into three categories: good, moderate and some.
There is good evidence for the efficacy of at least one formulation of cannabis in:
- Pain – both chronic pain and neuropathic pain.
- Spasticity – mainly in multiple sclerosis but there is no reason why it should not be just as efficacious in spasticity secondary to other neurological disorders.
- Nausea and vomiting – particularly in the context of chemotherapy.
There is moderate evidence for efficacy in:
- Parkinson’s disease.
- Sleep disorders.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Appetite stimulation – most of that evidence in the context of HIV infection.
There is some limited evidence of efficacy, but further studies are required, in:
- Epilepsy (particularly the drug resistant childhood epilepsies).
- Bladder dysfunction in the context of neurological disorders, especially multiple sclerosis.
- Control of agitation in dementia.
- Tourette’s syndrome
Dr Barnes added: “We analysed over 20,000 scientific and medical reports.
“The results are clear. Cannabis has a medical benefit for a wide range of conditions.
“I believe that with greater research, it has the potential to help with an even greater number of conditions.
“But this research is being stifled by the government’s current classification of cannabis as having no medical benefit.”
Dr Mike Barnes talks about the Governments contradictions on cannabis legalisation
Different strains of cannabis from a legal coffee shop in Amsterdam
On April 20th ‘420’, thousands of people peacefully protested and showed their support for cannabis legalisation in various places across the UK.
The recent 420 protest in Hyde Park, London
However, the Police’s view on cannabis remains clear. Cannabis is a harmful drug and anybody caught with it will be treated as a criminal.
Inspector Steve Wragg from Nottinghamshire police outlines their position on cannabis