25 February 2005
By Haroon Siddique
TWO Islington cannabis users face an anxious wait in their legal battle to take the drug for pain relief.
Anthony Taylor, 54, from Skinner Street, Clerkenwell, and May Lee, 28, from Dufferin Street, Finsbury, have appealed against convictions for cannabis possession because they use it for medication.
The two, who both suffer chronic illnesses, were part of a group of five arguing at the Criminal Appeals Court that they should be able to use the defence of necessity.
Rajiv Menon, representing Taylor, said: "There is no danger of this becoming a mask for anarchy.
"Prosecutors don't want this defence put to juries because they don't trust juries in cases like this, because the general public is more tolerant about cannabis than the law. Juries are more likely to acquit than convict, given the human facts at the heart of these cases."
Currently the necessity defence only applies when someone commits a crime to protect themself from serious injury or death.
But lawyers for the five argued the law should not distinguish between serious harm from an external source and physical or psychological pain suffered by a sick person.
Taylor runs Tony's Hemp Corner in Caledonian Road. Through his shop and clinic he imported high-quality cannabis from Switzerland to supply clients, many of whom are terminally ill with Aids.
Mr Menon said: "He didn't break the law in order to make money. This isn't a backstreet dealer - he runs an internationally respected operation that's not just about supplying cannabis but about an holistic approach to the health of human beings.
"He provides a unique service. Even those doctors who believe in the medicinal benefits of cannabis and refer their patients to Mr Taylor can't supply it, because they risk losing their careers and being prosecuted."
Lawyers also argued existing UK law is in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights, specifically the right to respect for private, home and family life.
A judgement in the case is not expected until next month.
Despite its concerns about the harmful effects of cannabis smoking, a spokesman for the MS society said: "We believe people should not be treated as criminals for self-medicating and we have asked the prosecuting authority to deal with people sympathetically.