55-year-old Lesley Gibson was growing cannabis to relieve the pain of multiple sclerosis, just like she should. She lamented to the red top the Daily Mirror that “six police officers with blue lights flashing on their vans” raided her home in Morton, Carlisle, at 4pm on January 19 2019. They seized 10 baby cannabis plants: “just enough for me and my symptoms.” This was in front of her six-year-old granddaughter, who was left “absolutely traumatised” – “She was asking why the police were taking away her grandma.” Gibson spent the night in a police cell, as did her husband, Mark, who is also 55.
Except for this, she’s “a law-abiding person”
Gibson is otherwise “a law-abiding person” who has “never done anything dishonest in my life.” After six months of fretting, she found herself in the dock at Carlisle Crown Court for growing cannabis. This might have incurred a sentence of as much as five years in prison and/or an unlimited fine. On Thursday 12 December 2019, the Crown Prosecution Service declared that the case was not in the public interest because Gibson could get cannabis-derived medicine on prescription – this has been legal in the United Kingdom for more than a year. A round of applause from Gibson’s supporters in the public gallery was heard.
Getting cannabis on prescription
The MS Society believes that 10,000 British people could use cannabis to relieve pain and muscle spasms and has campaigned to this effect since 2017, but only a handful of prescriptions have been made. The prescriptions are for Sativex, which the local NHS authority must approve. Doctors often decline to prescribe it due to their lack of knowledge. Those who purchase the drug themselves face no such restriction.
Ask the DPP to reconsider
Gibson’s legal team will ask the Director of Public Prosecutions to reconsider its policy on prosecution of people who use cannabis in response to illness. Her solicitor, Tayab Ali, remarked that it couldn’t be right to prosecute someone who had no alternative to using medicinal cannabis: “The law clearly needs to change.”
Prosecutor Brendan Burke admitted that Gibson only found herself growing cannabis when she couldn’t get a prescription for Sativex but, while this case was withdrawn, she would face prosecution once more if her wrongdoing continued.
Gibson praised the convenience of Sativex: “just a spray that you squirted under your tongue.” This, alas, came to an end on cost grounds. Now, she instead pays £700 a month with her credit card. She owned a hairdressing salon but abandoned it when her MS, which first hit her at the age of 19, became too severe. She now complains that she will be made bankrupt because the law forbids her from growing cannabis; she could get it on prescription but doesn’t, falling victim to the postcode lottery infamously affecting provision of Sativex in the United Kingdom. She paints the law’s treatment of her as “cruel, horrible, wicked and pointless”. The affair has “taken a massive toll on my health.” Without cannabis, she is struck by intense pain, body spasms and sight loss. She is, however, hopeful that “the law is listening – at last!”