A PEMBROKESHIRE pensioner is on a campaign to have the class B controlled drug cannabis legalised, a campaign, he says, has cost his 50 year marriage. 72 year old, Eric Mann, a former coal miner from Pembroke Dock, appeared this month in Swansea Crown Court after admitting to growing and supplying cannabis and was subsequently given a 12 month suspended sentence after pleading guilty. The judge, Paul Thomas, responded to his claims that the drug was for medical use telling him to ‘find legal pain relief’. However, Mr Mann was unrepentant and stated that he believed the drug should be regulated for medical use. This was not the first time the pensioner had fallen foul of the law having collected a string of convictions over the years including a 9 month suspended sentence in 1997 and a prison sentence in 1999.
He spoke about the effect the campaign has had on his everyday life and, in particular, his marriage: “I have lost my marriage because of it. My missus got fed up and left. That was three years ago. I have been married 50 years this year and now I am going through a divorce. I have got to sell my house and move out. That’s life and it’s not easy. But there you go. My wife, Bridget, had put up with the long campaign for nearly three decades but finally decided she had had enough. The house kept getting raided and being searched. People were talking all the time and she did not like it.” He went on to describe a prison sentence he served back in 1999, saying: “I quite enjoyed it actually.
I went to an open prison with my own room and a key. I helped a young boy to read and enjoyed the company of people. I came out and just got on with my life. They left me alone for about nine years after that.” He went on to talk about his sister’s death from cancer, and his own fight with pain, after having been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis: “That made me determined to fight for its (cannabis) use as a medicine. I’m not screaming about social use. I just want it to be made available as a medicine. She, June, (my sister) was drugged up and lying there in pain and was like that for a year until she died.
It just made me determined to get people to understand cannabis is a medicine. I would have given June the cannabis oil if I could have. It would have stopped her being in pain. It could have given her a better quality of life. That’s what it does for me. I contemplated getting rid of myself because I was in so much pain. It was hard to stand that pain. I was taking medication but it was getting worse.
Then someone said, ‘Have you tried cannabis?’ It did not take the pain away but it was more acceptable and it meant I could get a night of sleep, which I could not do before,” On the people to whom he has supplied the illegal drug, and how he uses it, he said: “They have always benefited. It makes me angry to think people are suffering because of this stupid law. Whatever I do I am going to keep secret. Official information about cannabis is all lies. The problem is that judges and people like that believe it. It worked better than legal medicine for me.
I’ve not taken pharmaceutical medicines since ’92. All I take is my cannabis oil. I don’t have flu jabs or anything. I was not selling it, I was just giving it to people, anyway. I use oil and I mix it with honey. I take a little bit in the morning and some in the afternoon and some at night. I just have it on the end of a tea spoon. I don’t take a lot. I don’t walk around zonked-out all day.
I’m not too bad, I keep OK, but there is going to be a time when I have to go to hospital or a home. And I don’t intend to do either of those. I’ll die before I go in there. I don’t trust doctors because I’ve had lots of problems with them. I’ve lost my faith in the medical profession”. On whether or not this latest conviction would change his approach to the drug he told The Herald: “I’m not frightened of policemen or judges. Britain is not a fair society because it has unjust laws.
However, If I was in the US I would have been sentenced to life in prison. I’m grateful for the place I live in.” Earlier this month experts, however, expressed concern that the use of cannabis was leaving young adults with ‘lungs of 80-year-olds’, and that the drug was not as benign as some would have people believe. The findings came from a Bangor University study that found some hospital patients in Gwynedd had accelerated forms of emphysema in as early an age group as the 30’s, and they went on to state that they believed lungs became damaged at a faster rate when cannabis is mixed with tobacco.
Dr Damian Mckeon, a consultant in respiratory medicine at Ysbyty Gwynedd and honorary senior lecturer at Banger University, said: “We are seeing young people on the wards with lungs of 80 year olds after less than a decade of smoking cannabis and tobacco. Our study was in a rural region of north Wales but we believe these cases may represent the tip of the iceberg.” In October of 2014 Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, had called for a change in direction on cannabis laws asking for a focus on treatment rather than punishment, although the Government has remained steadfast in its drugs policy, that it said, would not change