Thursday, December 24, 1998 Published at 22:20 GMT
Prince Charles rekindles cannabis debate
Some believe cannabis should be legalised for medicinal purposes
The Prince of Wales has sparked further debate about the legalisation of cannabis after he asked a multiple sclerosis sufferer if she had tried the drug to relieve pain.
"I do know from experience that the benefits that I derive from it are the fact that the spasms in my arms and legs stopped," she said. "Pain control was great and it gave me much more freedom to do what I wanted to do."
Doctors have welcomed a recent House of Lords science report recommending they be allowed to prescribe cannabis. But they point out that the drug is still too crude for medical use.
"When purer forms of the drug are available then that would be the time to make it available on prescription to those patients who would derive benefit for it," said Dr Bill O'Neill of the British Medical Association.
The prince's curiosity about cannabis can be linked to his public interest in alternative medicines.
But his aides have made it clear that in no way was he promoting the use of cannabis but simply making an inquiry on its benefits for MS sufferers.
A spokeswoman for Prince Charles said: "The Prince of Wales is aware of the current debate on the issue as to whether cannabis should be available to people suffering from severe pain brought on by MS.
"But he has never spoken publicly on the issue and his is a private view."