Thursday, July 22, 1999 Published at 17:21 GMT 18:21 UK
Medicinal cannabis grower acquitted
Colin Davies was acquitted of intent to supply cannabis
A man who grew cannabis to relieve his pain from spinal injuries was acquitted on Thursday of cultivating and possessing the drug with intent to supply.
The case has sparked new calls for the legalisation of cannabis for medical use. However, a bill on the subject is likely to be blocked by the government on Friday without debate.
Supporters of Mr Davies, of Stockport, Greater Manchester burst into applause in court as the verdict was announced.
Mr Davies, an unemployed joiner, admitted starting to take cannabis three years ago after suffering from the side effects of conventional drugs which he took to relieve the pain caused by serious spinal injuries.
These were sustained in a fall five years ago.
Outside the court, Mr Davies called the verdict a "triumph for genuine human values".
He said: "The jury today have played their part in helping people with a wide range of illnesses.
"They have given people like me and them a chance that we might be able to get a little bit of stability back into our lives."
Mr Davies, who has pledged to continue operating his co-operative to supply sufferers of serious illnesses, issued a statement on behalf of his co-operative.
It said: "We would propose a moratorium on the prosecution of medical cannabis users pending a revision and modification of the laws regarding cannabis for authentic medical purposes.
"We would like to ask that a referendum be held to determine the true public opinion of the issue of medical cannabis."
Multiple sclerosis sufferer Andrew Caldwell, 51, from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, who is confined to a wheelchair, and has received cannabis from Mr Davies said: "Mr Davies has done more today for the medical uses of cannabis than anybody else in history.
"The people of this country have spoken and the politicians should please, please listen to what has been said. They should help us to help ourselves."
His counsel Richard Orme said in his closing speech: "This case is not whether you are for or against recreational cannabis-taking.
"It is about the treatment of sick, seriously ill or dying people."
But Howard Baisden, prosecuting, told the jury: "This case is about a breach of the law as it stands in this country at the moment. There is no defence because Mr Davies did cultivate cannabis and did supply it."
Mr Davies was arrested in November last year after police raided his flat and found 26 cannabis plants being grown with specialist equipment.
The British Medical Association has urged the courts and police to be aware of the beneficial effects of the drug when considering prosecutions until research trials are completed.
However, speaking in the Commons on Wednesday, Prime Minister Tony Blair ruled out a change in the law to allow multiple sclerosis sufferers to use cannabis for pain relief, although he did say that courts should take medical factors into account when sentencing sick people convicted of drug possession.
"I don't believe it would be right to change the law in relation to cannabis," he told MPs.
"The same regime applies to those people as to any others."