Page last updated at 01:33 GMT, Monday, 25 January 2010

Free from pain but not prosecution


Multiple sclerosis sufferer Sarah Martin uses cannabis to ease her pain

Multiple sclerosis patient Sarah Martin believes cannabis is the best way to liberate herself from the daily pain she endures.

She says just half a teaspoon in a hot drink will keep her pain-free and spasm-free for about three hours. She also uses a vaporizer to ingest the drug.

But by obtaining the much sought after relief which enables her to walk a little more easily once her muscles have "freed up", she becomes a criminal.

She chooses not to take any regular - and legal - medication, maintaining it would give her side effects such as high blood pressure, ulcers and even the risk of heart failure and psychosis.

Sarah Martin using her vaporizer
Ms Martin says her muscles "free up" after using cannabis in a vaporizer

Ms Martin, who lives just outside Birmingham, told BBC Inside Out West Midlands that she wants the law to be changed so she can take cannabis free from the fear of prosecution.

Multiple sclerosis is a degenerative disease of the central nervous system and symptoms include a loss of balance and bouts of paralysis which can eventually lead to the person with the condition ending up in a wheelchair.

"When I wake up in the morning my knees, my ankles, I have all these muscles pull my leg to the left so I find it hard to walk straight," she said.

"With cannabis these symptoms recede to a point where I can walk OK-ish.

I just don't want to take the route of taking 13 pills a day when I can just use one medicine - cannabis - and I feel fantastic using it
Sarah Martin

"I want politicians to be nice to me... I'm sick."

With the possible side effect of psychosis one aspect that Ms Martin says stops her from taking legal medication, how much of an issue is it from taking cannabis?

Professor Glynn Lewis, from the University of Bristol, said studies suggested that people who regularly smoke the drug double the risk of psychosis, although it is still uncommon - perhaps affecting 2 or 3% of users in their whole lifetime.

However, the legal status of cannabis is different in other parts of the world with more and more countries, and 13 US states, allowing the prescription of the drug.

'Illicit market'

As part of her research, Ms Martin visited Amsterdam where medicinal cannabis is available with a prescription although she was unable to get any because she has not taken legal medication in the UK.

"I just don't want to take the route of taking 13 pills a day when I can just use one medicine - cannabis - and I feel fantastic using it," she said.

"I'd rather take the risk of breaking the law than go through that."

And remaining a criminal is what Ms Martin is facing, as government adviser Baroness Finlay has said it is unlikely herbal cannabis will be made available on the NHS.

Sarah preparing her vaporizer
Ms Martin says she is not put off using cannabis after her research

She cited quality and dose control and leakage into the illicit market as the main issues.

Lady Finlay said: "You can look at other countries and say: 'They do that, why can't we do that here?'.

"But you have to look at it in the context of the whole healthcare system, the regulation system and the philosophy of the society in which they are operating."

But Ms Martin still believes cannabis is the best treatment for her condition.

"I've not been put off cannabis for my illness because I've done all the relevant research available in other countries.

"Cannabis has a very strong medicinal value that can be a benefit to a great many people if it's made available."

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