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I Could Die If Don't Have My Cannabis

The Gloucestershire Echo, 8th August 2006

Epilepsy sufferer Michael Rourke is demanding the right to use the drug that he says cures his violent seizures. Police raided the Brockworth home of the 37-year-old last month, confiscating the cannabis plants he says are vital in averting his fits.

Without his medication, Michael, who is originally from Manchester, says he could die as his night-time episodes increase in frequency.

"The fits I have are in my sleep and they could kill me," said Michael, who has moved to Tewkesbury since the raid.

"The last serious one happened in Rochdale and I had three fractures in my spine."

Michael was diagnosed with epilepsy five years ago after a violent beating outside a Manchester nightclub.

One of the offenders, who was never caught, attacked him with a knife and, as he ducked to evade the blow, the blade pierced his skull.

"It was only later on when I started fitting that I went to hospital - the epilepsy came afterwards," he said.

"I have tried to treat it with medication, but I had reactions to it - you don't know what you're doing with them.

"So a specialist told me, off the record, to take cannabis instead. Skunk is very expensive to buy, so I resorted to growing it for myself.

"It stops me from having fits and when I do, it takes the pain away."

Michael's home was raided on July 22 as part of Gloucestershire Constabulary's Operation Potter - a crackdown on crime in their Cheltenham and Tewkesbury Division.

They took away his plants and growing equipment. He was later arrested and charged with cultivation of a controlled drug and is due to face magistrates on Monday.

But Michael is more worried about the effect taking away his drugs will have on his health.

"Since then I have had two fits because I haven't been smoking it," he said.

"The plants were all I had and I'm not prepared to go on the streets to buy it.

"I have gone back to the medication - 1,000mg of Tegretol a day - which doesn't help me very much at all. It just wipes me out.

"I just don't think it's right that someone taking it for health reasons should be persecuted the way I have been.

"I have to go to court for something I think I should be given medically. There's a lot of people like me."

Cannabis is a class C drug, having been reclassified from class B in 2004.

It is illegal to use the drug but it generally only leads to arrest if taken in public or near a school, if public order is threatened, if the person is a repeat offender or under 17.

Although it has been used as a medicine for thousands of years, there is difference of opinion about its benefits.

Ingrid Burns, a spokeswoman for the Leeds-based Epilepsy Action charity, said: "We can't either condone or condemn this.

"It's important to stress that it's a class C drug and illegal.

"It is not licensed to treat epilepsy. There is anecdotal evidence that it can help some people with epilepsy, but with others it can make it worse."

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