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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 February, 2005, 15:59 GMT
Cannabis wrangle returns to court
Cannabis plants
Cannabis has been downgraded to a Class C drug
The legal debate over how the law should treat people who use cannabis to relieve pain has returned to the Court of Appeal.

The court will rule whether "necessity" can be used as a defence by someone charged with possessing the drug with intent to supply it to sufferers.

It is seen as a test of the law's attitude in such cases after cannabis was downgraded to a Class C drug.

The court is hearing the appeals of five people convicted of possession.

Their cases were adjourned in October to allow Attorney General Lord Goldsmith to refer a point of law for the court's opinion.

'Painkillers ineffective'

Edward Fitzgerald QC had told three appeal judges that two of the appellants, Barry Quayle and Reay Wales, were both afflicted by serious and chronic conditions.

Quayle had both legs amputated below the knee and suffered pain from damaged tissue and "phantom limb" sensation, while Wales had serious bone and pancreas conditions.

Both men found prescription drugs to be ineffective and to cause serious side effects with a risk of addiction, Mr Fitzgerald argued.

The judge at Quayle's trial ruled a defence of necessity was not available as, in order to use it, he had to show that the cultivation of cannabis was necessary to save life or prevent serious injury.

The defence of necessity exists as a realistic and humane concession to human frailty, excusing a breach of the law in extreme circumstances
Mukul Chawla QC

In Wales's case, the judge left jurors to decide whether he could use necessity as a defence but warned them that this depended on whether the defendant believed he would be killed or seriously injured if he did not use the drug.

Mr Fitzgerald said there had been a "rigid" adherence to what was thought to constitute "necessity" when in fact the defence also extended to cases where it was necessary to relieve serious pain.

Opposing the five appeals, Crown counsel Mukul Chawla QC said the defence of necessity was not intended to be used in continuous situations.

"The defence of necessity exists as a realistic and humane concession to human frailty, excusing a breach of the law in extreme circumstances."

As well as Quayle, of Market Rasen, Lincolnshire, and Wales, of Ipswich, appeals are being heard in the cases of Graham Kenny, of Shipley, West Yorkshire, and Anthony Taylor and May Po Lee, both from London.

The case was adjourned until Thursday.


SEE ALSO:
Cannabis user loses 'pain' appeal
19 Sep 03 |  Northamptonshire


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