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Thursday, 3 January, 2002, 16:17 GMT
'Pain drove me to pot'
Biz Ivol
Multiple sclerosis sufferer Biz Ivol has found a way to ease her shakes and pains - she smokes cannabis, as advised by her doctor. The Orkney Islander also sends "care parcels" to other sufferers.

I was diagnosed with MS in 1990 and tried all the usual things they give you - muscle relaxants, sleeping tablets, anti-depressants, painkillers. I was in constant pain, and a complete mess from all the drugs.

Biz Ivol protesting
Biz Ivol takes a stand: "I am not a criminal"
Everything I took had side effects - even the painkillers messed up my stomach and my waste disposal unit. I wasn't doing anything, just sitting in a chair gazing into space.

I tried THC injections [a synthetic cannabinoid] but my then doctor stopped it halfway through the 10-day course because the side effects were so horrific.

After that, he suggested cannabis. I'd used it back in the 60s when I went through my hippie era, but hadn't thought of it since then.

The fact that it's illegal really made me think about whether to try it. After a month, I decided: 'To hell with it, nothing else works.'

Homegrown remedy

I asked my doctor where to get it and he replied, 'Grow it'. So I did - I planted 30-odd seeds and they took over the house, floor to ceiling. The smell was awful.

Biz Ivol, photo by Ken Amer
"I always have a packet of biscuits by the bed"
But I've never had anything that alleviates the symptoms like cannabis.

When I stop taking it, the difference is frightening. I've got uncontrollable muscle spasms - my hand starts banging off the table, my legs fly up into the air - my eyesight goes and I feel ill.

And I can't tell when I need to go to the toilet without cannabis. I'm utterly and completely incontinent, I just sit at the table and piddle like a carthorse.

Pot through the post

In 1997, some naughty boys were doing their community service here. Their supervisor spotted my plants, and reported me to the police.

I get anonymous packages of seeds through the post

They took me to court, where I was slapped on the wrist and told not to do it again. It left me with a criminal record.

Cannabis took over my life after that. As soon as they took my plants away, I started growing more.

I make any surplus into chocolate sweeties, each with one night's dose, and send it off to people in our marijuana collective.

Cannabis relieves nausea and eases muscle spasms
Each time the local paper does something on me, I get anonymous packages of seeds through the post. But the last two have been stolen - the front of the envelope slashed open, the contents taken.

Within two days of the last article, I'd had 104 phone calls from people wanting to know how to get hold of it and what to do with it.

I'd say 95% are middle-aged women with MS, and most have been told by their doctors to try it.

Cannabis doesn't do anything to stop the MS - the disease still works its way through your body - but at least you don't have to put up with the symptoms.

Shock to the system

I've got some very understanding neighbours, who help me water the plants and who scraped me off the ceiling the first time I got high.

Biz Ivol, right, with fellow campaigners Claire Hodges and Bill Reeve
Biz Ivol and fellow activists send MPs Christmas cards
I'd been pruning the wee leaves at the top of the plants and licking the sticky stuff off my fingers. First my fingers felt numb, then my tongue died...

I send Christmas cards to politicians and MSPs, asking for their views on the medicinal use of cannabis. I get quite a few responses from the Liberal Democrats, some from the Conservatives, and none from Labour.

My current doctor doesn't approve, because cannabis is illegal.

But I'm not the criminal - the criminals are the politicians and the drug companies and the petrochemical companies that won't let us have this herb.

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