War Veteran Calls for Cannabis to be Legalised to End His Pain

Lance Corporal Callum Brown, who lost both his legs after stepping on a bomb whilst on active service in Afghanistan, is calling on the UK government to legalise medical cannabis. Brown also suffered a shattered pelvis in the explosion in Helmand five years ago, and claims that cannabis is the only thing that eases the agonising pain he lives with every day.

Speaking to the Daily Record, he said: “As well as my other injuries, I have no skin on my backside – it’s just thin scar tissue so the nerve damage and the phantom pains are the main reason for smoking.

“It also helps with depression as it’s easy to get a bit down. After seeing kids suffering and mothers of dead children screaming in my face in Afghanistan, asking why we did this, I decided enough was enough.

“I wanted to speak out to make sure children don’t go on suffering.

“Kids with epilepsy and other conditions can be helped with some of the active ingredients in cannabis.

“Cannabis has been used for thousands of years. Ancient people knew all about its medicinal qualities.

“I shouldn’t have to be a criminal to get something that eases my pain and makes life easier.

“After I was injured in Afghanistan, the doctors had me on strong painkillers. These chemicals had very strong side-effects – they could even make you suicidal, which obviously wasn’t good when I was trying to cope with my injuries.

“With cannabis, there is no down side. It eases my pain.

“My injuries mean I am effectively sitting on the base of my spine all day. When I am sitting down, I am sitting on bone. Cannabis takes the edge off the searing pain.

Brown’s argument is undeniable – he put his life on the line for his country, rightly or wrongly, and now suffers unimaginable pain as a result. But despite his sacrifices, the one drug which can ease his pain, without the many downsides of legal painkillers like opiates, is not available to him. Not only that, but if he continues to use it, he’s forced to become a criminal in the eyes of the law.

No one can honestly say that he is better off without cannabis, and the fact that he is willing to speak out about it and once again put his neck on the line should be applauded. However, just because he is brave enough to speak out and put pressure on the government with regards to medical cannabis use, that doesn’t mean that everything he says is worthy of our applause. For example, despite his relatively enlightened views on the use of cannabis as medicine, he displays a much more typically armed forces-like attitude when it comes to recreational use.

“It should be legal for medical use for people like me who really need it, not people who just take it to get high,” he said.

Unfortunately, this attitude is one that is shared by many, but unlike his view that medical cannabis should be legalised, Brown’s opinion in this case is not supported by the evidence. He’s only got half of his facts straight.

Simply campaigning for the legalisation of medical cannabis whilst continuing to stigmatise recreational users does nothing to stop the very real harm being caused by global drug prohibition, harm which directly fuels conflicts such as the one in which Lance Corporal Brown was so devastatingly injured.

The government’s own research has shown that punitive drug policy does not effect the rate of drug use in a country, but instead only succeeds in increasing the harm caused by drugs, be it cannabis or anything else. Easing the pain of medical cannabis users is one thing, but without a more systematic and nuanced approach to drug policy as a whole, we risk simply moving their pain onto other people, and potentially setting back the wider cause of drug policy reform in the process. So whilst Lance Corporal Brown’s voice is a welcome addition to the debate, the most important thing of all is still to follow the evidence, not just our hearts.

Deej Sullivan
Deej Sullivan is a writer and activist from the UK. He regularly writes on drug policy and politics for NORML UK, the UKCSCs, London Real, Politics.co.uk and his own blog, www.thedomesticextremist.co.uk


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