THC - The forbidden drug

Smoking pot just for the fun of it is forbidden. This is a great injustice. But anyone who ingests THC to alleviate their discomfort is also liable to prosecution. This is an unbelievable mess. Hemp is an ancient remedy - long before the pharmaceutical industry came into being, THC-containing hemp was used to combat various ailments. So you can use it for pain relief, need it as a sleep aid, use it as a relaxant (both for muscle tension and mental tension). Even today, cannabis is used by many patients, although its use is illegal (see box). We describe here, using the disease multiple sclerosis as an example, how this happens and what problems arise.

What is multiple sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a still incurable disease that disrupts the function of nerve cells. The body's own immune system attacks the sheathing of the nerve cells and gradually breaks them down. As a result, signal transmission from the brain to the arms and legs, as well as sensory perceptions (sight, taste, etc.) are disturbed. Common symptoms of the disease are: You have double or limited vision, you develop strange sensations in your arms and legs (tingling, numbness, burning, stinging), you often feel dizzy.

The disease begins, for example, with tremors, continues with general coordination weakness, so that one can no longer walk without a cane, for example. In more advanced stages, sufferers need crutches, and eventually many need a wheelchair.

In most cases, the disease starts slowly and worsens either continuously or in relapses, each of which triggers a new stage of the disease. There are about 10,000 people in Switzerland affected by this disease.

How is MS treated?

Most patients receive Betaferon. They have to inject this, usually every two days. However, it does not provide a cure, but only a certain limitation of the disease. It can have the effect that the damage to the nerve cells is slower, that the disease episodes occur less frequently or that the episodes are less severe. However, the possible side effects are massive: migraines, flu-like symptoms such as chills, sweating, muscle pain, fever, flushing. Or even depression and anxiety. Therefore, many patients have to give up this drug again.

What can cannabis do?

Most people with MS did not smoke pot before they became ill. But with the disease, many realize that hemp helps them: “When I have eye problems, I sometimes smoke. I noticed that it helps me,” says D. in the work on which this article is based.* Or C. says, “Now I treat myself with hemp,” after he too had to stop taking Betaferon. “The hemp takes away my tremors a little bit. But also when I have convulsions, it relieves them. I have to say the Betaferon has more side effects than the hemp does.” He was familiar with hemp before his illness, “I've always smoked one in between, that doesn't mean I was high all day. I realized that it really helps me. Once I have all the ingredients for a hemp liquor, then I stop smoking (pot).”

And P. finds, “Cannabis enables a bit of quality of life despite severe illness.” Cannabis is also frequently discussed in the many self-help groups that exist on the topic of MS. For example, V., president of one such MS group, says, “Hemp is also a big topic.”

What does conventional medicine say about THC?

The Montana High Altitude Clinic in Bern specializes in MS cases. Around 400 patients suffering from MS come here every year. The main goal of the rehabilitation stays is to improve the independence and quality of life of MS sufferers, since a cure is still impossible today. Claude Vaney, head physician of the clinic, was also asked about hemp: “We have had very good experiences with hemp.” At the Montana Clinic, a team of doctors conducted the Swiss Cannabis Study. MS patients who suffered from muscle spasms (i.e. very strong muscle tension) and were unable to get them under control despite their (conventional) medication were first given a placebo (i.e. a dummy medication) for a few days, then cannabis extracts. The patients became more mobile as a result of this treatment, i.e. they were able to move better again. Spasms occurred less frequently. Cannabis can help relieve the muscle spasms that many people with MS suffer from. It does not cure the disease, but it is a way to positively influence the course of the disease.

How do affected individuals consume THC?

Many people smoke joints. This is of course not very healthy, because smoke always (even if cannabis is smoked pure without tobacco) has many very harmful substances. Others make tea or cookies with hemp. Another possibility is inhaling with the help of vaporizing machines. However, many people are afraid to use cannabis: All the predator stories about smoking pot scare them. And then, of course, there's a big side effect with cannabis: it kicks in. Compared to many other approved drugs with their sometimes grotesque side effects, this is of course a minor side effect - many people even like it (just like those who use THC for the sheer pleasure of it). This run-in is frightening to some of those affected. But many learn to appreciate hemp in the course of their illness: As one of the few means that can help them.

How do they procure the hemp?

No doctor has the right to dispense products containing THC. Therefore, a doctor can only tell a patient that he has heard from many MS patients that it helps them. But the patients themselves have to search for the substance, they have to find the right dosage for themselves, they have to take the risks of the black market themselves. Of course, the secure supply of high quality and equally strong hemp is a big problem: In the illegal market, such properties, which are, after all, a matter of course in all other markets, simply cannot be found. In any case, we always have sick people calling Legalize it! asking how they could get THC-containing products. These are very difficult calls to make - after all, I can't tell anyone a reliable source. But to hear the suffering of these people is really a burden.

So M. says, “It can't be that people who rely on cannabis in their need are put in a criminal corner by legislation.” It must not be. But it is!

* Independent in-depth work “Living with MS” by Andrea L. and Barbara F. They wrote this work in their third year of teaching. We would like to thank them for making it available to us!

Medical consumption is also prohibited

If someone is caught using cannabis for medical reasons, such a person can also be reported and fined for it. It may be that a court does not like to punish a seriously ill person because of his THC use; the judge may stop the proceedings in such a case, issue a warning. This also happens occasionally. In this case, however, the hashish or weed found remains confiscated and is destroyed. The costs of the proceedings can also be imposed on the person concerned, which can quickly amount to a few hundred francs even without a fine.

In one case, for example, the Federal Court ruled that a woman who claimed to be using cannabis for health reasons should be punished: the products found had a high THC content (several percent), and the defendant had also stated that these products, when consumed, had a sedative and euphoric effect. Thus, such products are precisely narcotics and are prohibited.

In passing, the Federal Court also mentioned that a doctor who prescribes or recommends products containing THC to a patient is also guilty of a misdemeanor against the Narcotics Law - because telling someone to consume cannabis is also punishable. Even if this is done by a doctor.

Last modified: 2024/03/27 08:56

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Legal overview

Shit happens 15 (Summer 2023)

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