Cannabis in Kamares

Cannabis in Kamares
NAN MACKENZIE meets a respectable grandma who smokes a joint every night before bed and calls for the legalisation of medical marijuana and the decriminalising of cannabis use Driving to Jane Smith’s villa I tried to imagine what a 60-year-old retiree who admits to smoking cannabis on a daily basis would be like. No doubt she will waft patchouli oil in her wake, have eyes that look like road maps and a downstairs lavatory poster shrine to the Grateful Dead, Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix. In reality this ex librarian looked like she was about to chair a Women’s Institute meeting. Marks Spencer with a splash of Chanel, her clear blue eyes edged only with some laughter lines. I had been invited to listen to her story, the idea being that what she had to say might help others and even start a dialogue to decriminalise cannabis for personal use. She, like so many others, wants the government to change cannabis’ current classification so it is decriminalised and the medical use of the drug is authorised, it be given on prescription. As the law stands a person in Cyprus can be sent to prison for using cannabis, and if found in possession there is a maximum sentence of eight years. If a first time offender is under the age of 25 the law can imprison them for two years. Those found with three cannabis plants or more or in possession of 30g or more of the drug are then presumed to be using it to supply. So the big question had to be, why this seemingly respectable woman with the responsibilities of grandchildren, two dogs and a cat, chooses to run the risk of drug squad officers knocking on her door? “The choice for me is to break the law to be well,” she said “and when given the choice, my health and quality of daily life is far more important to me.
A marijuana plant
“I was diagnosed two years ago with a recurrence of breast cancer and once again followed the protocol laid out by my oncologist of chemotherapy, surgical removal, followed by radiotherapy and every three weeks an intravenous injection of the drug Herceptin. Then bone cancer was also suspected in my hip joint and cancer protocol dictated a monthly infusion of the drug Zoometa, a drug capable of filling up the holes in bones which have been eaten away by the cancer.” Chemotherapy treatments over the years have left Jane with permanent neurological damage, constant numbness in the tips of her fingers and toes, combined with terrible night cramps and hip pain which led to many sleepless nights. “I was initially prescribed liquid morphine for the pain, also as a means to sleep, but one dose had me wandering around the house looking for my brain, and I was rendered semi-comatose for most of the next day”. So was smoking cannabis a throwback to her student days? “Absolutely not, I was only recently introduced to the drug via another cancer patient who told me how it had helped him as he also had a condition which disallowed heavy usage of morphine. Interestingly, he was a retired police officer from Limassol”. Jane belongs to a generation that considers smoking cannabis was only for the lazy and rock musicians, where all druggies were deemed depraved, lost beings who used drugs as a way to disrespect authority, smoked regularly only by those who aspired to a lifetime dedicated to pleasure rather than work. It’s a mindset that still holds strong. “One friend is concerned that I will in the long term suffer from some form of ‘reefer madness’, my sister and other members of my family know and understand what I do. My sister recently gifted me an ordinary gent’s wooden pipe as I find my joint rolling technique with numb fingers isn’t up to scratch. Using the pipe I now find is so much easier. Another close friend was worried that cannabis would act as a gateway drug to other stronger opiates,” said Jane. For the past 80 years the gateway argument has been a popular one, with the assumption that cannabis use leads to harder drugs such as heroin, cocaine etc. But prescription drug abuse is actually a bigger gateway, with drugs such as hydrocodone, morphine and oxycodone being not only highly addictive but also easier to find. “These pills have a very different effect. Smoking cannabis creates a high and in my case allows me to sleep, versus prescription drugs that are created to temporarily remove the feeling of pain and sedate the users.” When the legal supply is cut off, prescription drug abusers turn to illegal drug markets looking for the same ‘stuff’ and even at this point drug abusers will skip over cannabis and go for the hard opioids such as heroin. Drug dealers help introduce people to crack, meth, heroin and any other form of illegal practice that is on offer by the black market. Legalising cannabis, of course, will not stop this, but campaigners say it is relatively benign and if legal could be better controlled with its sale no longer being in the hands of unscrupulous dealers. Ignorance however is something one cannot afford when it comes to living with cancer. “A wide range of medications are meted out to patients,” said Jane “and the thing is, everyone is different, as is their cancer. One treatment may work, others on the same drug regime may find it intolerable, so knowledge and taking back a form of control regarding this disease is essential. “I have done my research and it was thorough, and although the evidence is there few, if any, large scale clinical trials have been completed to confirm that cannabis does kill cancer cells. The main active ingredient in cannabis is cannabinoid and we as humans actually create cannabinoid-like chemicals known as endocannabinoids, and there is now research going on to investigate the other family of cannabinoids in our body known as GR and these receptors are being tested to see if they could lead to effective approaches for treating cancer. Note that I use the word ‘treating ‘cancer because no one has yet been able to say with any level of certainty that using the oil, smoking or having medical cannabis cures cancer.” One important finding is that it will soon be possible to develop drugs that target CB2 which will have an anti-cancer effect but which crucially won’t have the mind bending effects of many cannabinoids. “But anyone on this rather tortuous body bashing and mentally exhausting cancer journey will find that smoking cannabis relives pain and is also an active agent in relieving the nausea from chemotherapy treatments. Plus it aids appetite and if I can’t eat, I cannot heal, if I can’t sleep, I cannot heal. Until I started smoking cannabis I was, to put it bluntly, in bloody awful shape, both physically and mentally – constant sleep deprivation doesn’t exactly make one the most fun person at dinner parties.” Not only is Jane’s research measured but so is her use of the drug. “I only smoke one joint every night before I go to bed, which is preferable to taking pharmaceutical medication as these are designed to shut down your system, which cannabis does not do. A month’s supply will usually cost me around €50.” Jane then produces two boxes of barely touched morphine oral solution and after reading the information on the drug, two pages of no-nos and dire warnings, I could understand why she had sought alternative sleep medication. And in her opinion cannabis was the only thing that hadn’t on its own killed anyone. But how does Jane manage to get hold of her ‘sleep potion’. She hardly fits the stereotype of hanging around clubs and pubs trying to score a few grams. “I was fortunate to know a herbalist who has been making cannabis oil and cultivating the ‘buds’ so I know my source, and the stuff I receive every month is not a genetically engineered superstrain as he understands what strains of cannabis can be used for different conditions and patients. As for scoring outside of this comfort zone, I firmly believe there is a need to get rid of street dealers who often mix cannabis with other stuff. “The stigma attached to cannabis is that it is bad be…

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