Looking at drug use across Britain. This episode goes on a road trip around the country to meet seriously ill people who believe cannabis is helping them.
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And let's blaze.
In the USA there's been a medicinal cannabis revolution.
It is now legal in half the country's 50 States
to treat illness.
-Michaela is a registered medical marijuana patient.
In Britain the drug is illegal,
with the government saying it's been proven to damage
mental and physical health.
I'm embarking on a road trip around the UK
to find out why many people believe in the medicinal power of cannabis
and are prepared to break the law to use it.
-It stops when it wants.
This is nothing. It gets worse, doesn't it?
How long is it going to go on for?
Only a couple of moments.
It's worse when it's...
..the whole left side that goes.
Andy had two motorbike accidents 17 years ago,
and sustained severe injuries all over his body.
He also developed epilepsy and osteoporosis...
..and is bedbound.
He uses cannabis to help alleviate pain.
All right, I'll be back. I'll see you later.
Is this bit really hard?
It's cos I can't move the shoulder much.
It takes so much effort to just even...
LOUD ROCK MUSIC PLAYS AS RINGTONE
I'm noticing every week it's getting harder and harder...
..to make a spliff.
You look like you're in pain.
I am in pain. It hurts.
I mean, I can't even open my hands properly.
I'm not doing this to get stoned.
I'm not doing it for fun.
You all right?
It causes a little pain, but it doesn't matter in the end, does it?
Because, at the end of the day, I've got a joint,
it's going to make me feel a little bit better up here.
I don't reach the point of getting stoned.
I never do. And as anybody who smokes these will know,
that's a very badly built joint.
So, the days of me being able to roll are rapidly running out.
I need to find another solution.
For many other people, that solution is Jeff,
a cannabis campaigner
who believes in the healing properties of the drug.
He has devoted the last 15 years
to campaigning for cannabis legalisation
and has been arrested 12 times.
Is your car a bit like an office?
I'd actually say, it's probably, some days, it's more than my office.
-It's more like home.
-Really, why do you say that?
Well, on occasion I've slept in my car overnight, on such missions
and, well, yeah, generally, it is my office.
I've got everything here I need -
Internet connection, Google and e-mail.
And cannabis oil in the boot?
-Just two weeks ago, Jeff Ditchfield was facing
a jail sentence for possession and intent to supply cannabis.
He freely admitted giving the drug to sick people,
and in a landmark ruling, a jury found him not guilty.
If a person is in need, needs cannabis,
then I'll continue to help them.
Jeff travels around the UK
distributing the drug in the form of oils
which he makes himself from cannabis plants.
-I brought you some more...
..so I can restock you. But what I've actually got here this time,
-is, I have two different versions.
His product is unregulated and illegal,
which makes people fearful about identifying themselves.
But there is a big demand all over the UK for his cannabis oils.
We are assisting the parents of over 70 seriously ill children,
just in the UK alone.
And through the Facebook page we are receiving roundabout 250 to 300
requests for help per week.
That's not just from parents, that's from adults, mainly,
and mainly cancer sufferers.
Do you make money from giving cannabis oil to parents?
No. People's ability to pay doesn't enter into our thought process
when we decide to help a parent.
Jeff is visiting a mother
whose daughter suffers from severe epilepsy.
The daughter is only four years old.
What is the risk of this condition that she has?
The most serious thing that can happen is, she'll die.
And that's the reason why parents like myself
have been giving the kids it,
because when you've exhausted every other avenue,
and every other drug...
Since I've been giving her the oil,
she doesn't jump the same in her sleep.
You would do anything, you know, to try and cure your own child.
You're not worried at all that the cannabis oil
hasn't been through the same of clinical trials
that her prescribed medication would have been on?
Definitely not, no.
-Because it helps her?
-Because it helps her, yeah.
I know I'm doing the right thing.
I know it's a lot safer than the drugs that I've got in my cupboard.
I have two versions of oil with me at the moment.
They're two for you to have and try.
It's not just desperate parents hoping for a cure.
Recently engaged Phil and Nicky
have placed a lot of faith in the drug as well.
So I was planning to propose to Nicky before Christmas,
when we went to London. I guess I just bottled it
and thought maybe I could find a better time to do it, or something.
Yeah, I can't imagine it's easy.
So how did the doctors pick it up?
I woke up in Countess Hospital in Chester.
I had a seizure upstairs, yeah.
And that was the first seizure you've ever had?
Yeah, never had a seizure before.
Just before I proposed, we had been to Walton to see my neurosurgeon.
He'd looked at all the scans he'd got from Chester,
and he had said, "What you have here is a glioma."
You were diagnosed with brain cancer in January of this year.
Cannabis contains at least 400 compounds.
The most widely known are CBD, which is legal,
and THC, which is not.
THC is the compound that gets you high.
There are conflicting opinions on which compounds work best
for different conditions.
I take CBD oil, and I take that through the day
and I will then vape THC.
I just want to use this for shrinking this tumour
or whatever's left of it.
Phil has already had surgery to remove the tumour
and a course of radiotherapy,
but he believes the traditional medicine alone
is not enough to beat the disease.
Alongside cannabis, he eats a special carb-free diet
and wears blue blocker sunglasses.
In a week's time he goes back to the hospital to find out
if there is any cancer left in his brain.
In her quest to help Andy deal with pain, his wife, Ruth,
is learning how to make cannabis oil for his vape.
He wants to quit smoking it because of the impact on his lungs.
I've had to learn how to do all of this...
..because nobody, sort of, tells you.
So, Ruth, can you tell me what are we doing in your kitchen today?
Right, we're going to be cooking up cannabis vaping oil,
so that Andy can put it into his vaporising machine and he vapes it.
Why can't you just buy the stuff?
Because it's illegal.
Doing this, I'm committing a criminal offence.
So give it a test and see what you think.
I think you've got the mixture right.
But I just need to get the flavour right?
-It's just the flavour.
I don't know, really, what words to describe it, other than...
What I want is something safe for him to use, and for me,
even though it's not really...
..something I would normally have ever done,
I've got to the stage now where I think, I've got to do something,
because this is what works.
It stops him shaking. He can, you know, get out and about.
He doesn't want to get stoned, he just wants to, sort of,
lead a normal life.
I was doing the cheese for my cheese on toast.
She begged, so I said, I'm not going to, erm...
..give it to you until you sit down.
She sat down first time.
Andy used to take more prescription medication before using cannabis.
Since he started taking the cannabis,
what medications has he stopped using?
These ones that I'm pulling out now.
So, one, two, three, four, five,
-Oh, and the fentanyl patches.
-And the fentanyl patches.
So that's eight...
So that's eight prescribed medications that he's off
-since taking in the cannabis.
The spasms have already slowed right down.
And I'm probably ten minutes into smoking this.
None of my medicines work this quickly.
None of them.
I've researched all of Andy's medical conditions.
I research all of this.
And I know, basically, what it does to his body.
So I would rather have this than all the pills he was taking
any day of the week, because I get the person I married back again.
I was extremely tired towards the very start of radiotherapy
and as soon as I started using endocannabinoids,
all that tiredness went away.
I didn't have to go on steroids through radiotherapy
and I got to the very last day of radiotherapy, and the day after,
I did a full day's work.
And I've been working full-time ever since.
I really don't think I would have been able to continue working
if I hadn't have used cannabinoids.
I'm, well, I'm ready whenever you guys are.
Today Phil gets the results of his scan.
This is the CBD oil.
It kind of tastes like, eurgh, vegetable oil.
Babe, don't worry, because whatever happens, even if it was bad news...
..there is a lot of...
extra things I can do.
I would rather be illegally alive, than legally dead.
And that's the way my whole family feels.
This is a life and death situation here.
Andy, Phil and Jeff were all telling me cannabis was a powerful medicine,
but if this is the case, why is it illegal?
The government says the drug has no recognised therapeutic value.
I spoke to Dr William Notcutt,
a hospital consultant who has run trials into cannabis treatment
for multiple sclerosis and pain relief.
Is there any evidence for cannabis? Does it actually work?
There is a huge amount of evidence that it does work.
This book shows the current evidence that's there for cannabis,
from basic science and also from clinical trials.
I have some good examples of people with chronic pain problems
who've been through all the standard remedies,
and with the use of a cannabis extract, have been able to achieve
good quality pain relief.
You sort of get to play doctor, really, don't you?
I really, really don't like the doctor term.
Main reason being, I have no medical qualifications whatsoever.
I'm not a clinician.
And I would much, much prefer it if the UK law was changed
so doctors and pharmacies could do what I'm doing.
Then I wouldn't have to be a criminal,
and these parents wouldn't have to act in a criminal manner either.
I've met a man who gives medicinal cannabis oil
to the parents of sick children.
Is that safe? Should he be doing that?
I haven't a clue.
I don't know what he's giving.
Cannabis itself is a very complex plant.
If you take an extract of cannabis,
it has 400-plus different compounds in it.
So, unless I know what is actually on the label,
how active it is, and so on like that,
I have no idea, as a doctor,
whether it's going to be of use or not -
and until we get proper clinical trials going
on these sort of things,
all we are going to have is just anecdotal evidence.
And I've known patients who've been on such oils
who have gone and died soon afterwards.
I just don't have the answers for this at the moment.
At the end of the day,
you are providing an illegal substance to these parents.
Are you just a drug dealer?
In spite of all the evidence and experience you've got,
you are still giving these oils that are illegal.
They've got the THC, you're giving them to parents.
Fair enough, you're not making any money from them...
No, no, nothing material, anyway.
But when a parent contacts me, they've generally made the decision
that they are going to give cannabis oil to their child
because they believe it is the child's only chance of survival.
So, it's a decision I have then,
I can say, "No, I'm not going to help you,"
or, "Yes, I can provide the oil," and if I don't do that,
or my buddies don't do that,
then these parents aren't going to stop and give up.
They are then going to continue on the internet,
like some of the parents who have been conned and scammed
out of thousands of pounds - and receiving substandard oil.
-Our oils are tested...
-HIS PHONE RINGS
-'Hi, Jeff. How are you?'
-I'm OK. How are you?
'I'm very well, thank you.'
-'I'm calling about my father.'
'He's been battling cancer for almost eight years now.'
-'And he's had numerous conventional treatments,
'and he's now at the point where they said they think he's terminal.
'Since I had him on this oil that I've purchased,
'I feel like he's gone downhill.
'I'm so scared at the minute that I might have poisoned my dad
'and that I've made things worse.
'And, to be honest, I don't really know where to turn.'
Oh, bless you.
-It's OK, it's OK, it's just that...
It's unlikely to have done him any harm, but...
..it's impossible for me to rule that out,
because obviously we don't know the source of this oil,
how it's been made...
'No. Of course.
'The alternative specialist that we've seen...'
'..has said that she thinks the cancer is spreading now.
'I don't know how much longer he's got.'
That's OK, darling. I can send it off to the lab I use in Spain,
at Valencia University, who test my extracts,
-so we can find out exactly what's in it.
We'll do what we can.
'Thank you very much.'
-OK, you take care.
-'OK, thank you. You too. Bye.'
It's OK. I'm just going to... I'm going to have to clear my head.
I'll be back in a minute.
He's really mad.
Her dad is dying, and she's going to do whatever it takes
to keep him alive for a bit longer, and...
I think, for me, and certainly for Jeff, just to hear her saying,
"I don't know if I've poisoned my father,
"I don't know if I've shortened his days", I think...
I think that's tragic.
How do you navigate through, you know, this online...
..medicinal cannabis world?
You can't. You can't, and that's the problem with it.
This is a useful medicine,
it's a valuable medicine in clinical practice today,
and it's a scandal that we are so slow at moving forward
with a medicine that's very safe,
when it's used in properly controlled amounts.
Jeff is going to meet the woman who phoned him two weeks ago.
He wants to see the oil she was sold.
So we used this for a little while,
and it really wasn't doing anything, so that's why it's still...
-there's still a lot in there. Because we just stopped it.
Unfortunately, the people who are often involved online,
they fall into two categories in my mind.
There's the people who are well-meaning, and should shut up.
And there are people who are just down and out scammers and conmen.
We've tested some oils that people have bought to treat cancer
and we've actually found it contains zero cannabinoids.
What I'd like to do, if it's OK with you, is take half a gram of this,
and then I'll send that off to Valencia University
-and have it analysed...
-..and find out exactly what's in it.
And some cancer sufferers believe that, you know,
medicinal cannabis is helping to cure them.
Is there any research to back this up?
There's clinical trials already going on,
on a particularly difficult type of cancer to treat - brain cancer
called a glioblastoma.
There is good evidence, also, in other types of cancer...
..that the activity of the cancer cells is modified
by the use of cannabinoids -
but it's not been translated
into, really, into significant clinical practice.
So the patient is left with a problem...
..that they may have come to the end of standard chemotherapy
and find, you know, what else is there, out there?
I, myself, have been approached by many patients
to say, "Look, I bought this cannabis oil on the internet.
"How much do I need to cure me of my cancer?"
And I have to say, "Well, I don't really know what you're taking,
"what its effect is going to be,
"how much of the cannabis that you've got in that bottle of oil
"is going to be of use to you, or anything like that,
"because it's not been worked up as a medicine."
It was better than good results.
-How do you feel?
-Tears of joy.
The good news is, on the MRI, there's no sign of disease.
A couple of months ago I was told that I was going to die young.
This is a very aggressive cancer that I've got,
and there's nothing I can really do
to avoid a nasty end.
If you leave the milk out, it goes off.
You said that you've seen a difference, and you have a son,
-he's also seen a difference?
Can you just tell me what he was like with the medication
and what he's like after he has cannabis?
He had dad at home, but dad wasn't here.
So... He would describe it as having a shell.
And it's there, but it doesn't do anything.
It was always me taking him out, taking him to school,
it was me out in the playground.
He'd never got that until Andy started using cannabis.
This is the only thing I do in my life that's illegal.
It helped improve the relationship with my son,
because, even if I'm really ground down from pain,
I can still find that ten minutes for that chat that he needs,
that he can't talk to his mum about.
I'm going to push you out of bed.
Don't, because I can't get up!
-What do you want to watch?
I don't really care. You'd be like a turtle.
Except for the part where you wouldn't be able to move at all.
What do you want? Copycat Killers?
I'll tell you what, they've got the Tupac one.
-You wanted to watch Tupac.
On opiates, he's got even less chance of that.
You know, opiates, it's like alcohol,
it's not conducive to a family life.
He was the true working man's poet.
-I've been wondering why death rates are going up
and suicide is going up.
More kids are being handed crack than they're being handed diplomas.
I think that rich people should live like poor people
and poor people should live like rich people,
and they should change every week.
And you would say that before cannabis
and after cannabis is a total..?
Yeah, it is polar opposites, really.
-Like, he's just a lot happier.
He's more... He can do more stuff, like,
he tries to cling on to the little things like putting a T-shirt on.
Because with his shoulders and everything like that,
it's impossible, but because of the medical cannabis
it gives him the will to do it.
I guess it's just, like, better for the whole family
because we are all just less stressed
and we are all more relaxed.
The only thing you really need in your life is family.
If something is legal, I'd rather take the legal option,
any time of the week.
I don't want that fear of prosecution.
It's degrading, that worry.
Because you're doing something to help your pain, and to help...
..your family from breaking apart,
because being disabled is a great strain on family life.
What do you think of cannabis?
Do you see it as, sort of, a medicine?
Or do you see it as an illegal drug?
I see it as a medicine, but I can also see why it's an illegal drug,
because if you don't understand it, you just get high on it,
but I don't think people should be persecuted
for wanting to help their illnesses.
People think it's hard for the disabled person, but it's not.
It's far harder for the family of the disabled.
And that's the aspect I find the hardest to deal with, mentally,
I find it the most upsetting.
I know it's illegal,
but it gets to the stage where you think, "Society can judge me,
"I don't care."
This episode goes on a road trip around the country to meet seriously ill people who believe cannabis is helping them. While it is seen as having no therapeutic value in the UK, in half of the USA's 50 states it has been legalised for medicinal use. Andy, Phil and others all believe that cannabis can - if not cure their condition - give them much-needed pain relief. The programme also meets Jeff, a cannabis campaigner distributing cannabis oil to the sick for free. But by resorting to this illegal and unregulated drug, what risks are they all taking?