“Marijuana is a wonder drug capable of radically transforming the lives of very sick people,” according to the results of the first clinical trials of the drug, which were sanctioned by the British government. Marijuana is still illegal for doctors to prescribe in the UK and the US.

Until now, claims for the drug have been anecdotal. But the preliminary results of the trials, started last year, suggest that 80% of those taking part have derived more benefit from marijuana than from any other drug, with many describing it as “miraculous.”

The results make it more likely that governments will legalize the cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes soon. It was first used for medical treatment 5,000 years ago, and some scientists think it will eventually become as widely prescribed as aspirin and penicillin. Doctors believe marijuana could eventually be used to treat osteoporosis, cancer, HIV and Aids, arthritis, spine injury and certain forms of mental illness.

The British government started the first major marijuana trials in the world to see whether there was any scientific basis for its use as medicine. A license was granted to a drug company to grow the plants under controlled conditions in a secret location in southern England. Twenty-three patients, suffering from multiple sclerosis and arthritis, were part of the first trial and were given daily doses of marijuana by spraying it under the tongue.

Alex Ure, a former paratrooper, suffers from a severe spinal condition. The pain was so bad he considered suicide. He found legal painkillers turned him into a zombie and he was unable to have sex with his wife, Wendy, for five years. But after starting the trial he became a father. “I couldn’t even bend down and play with a child before. I could do anything now,” he says. His doctor, Willy Notcutt, is sure that marijuana is responsible for his improvement.

Tyrone Castle, a former bartender, started suffering from multiple sclerosis when he was 21 and became so incapacitated he needed two helpers to get him out of bed. He also suffered from uncontrollable spasms. Marijuana has transformed his life. “It has really helped sort out my spasms. It helps me sleep because I don’t spend the night jumping about. The difference in my legs is unbelievable, they are no longer stiff as a board,” he says.

Jo, the wife of a school chaplain, suffered so badly from multiple sclerosis she had to struggle even to lift her legs up in the air. Since starting the trial, she can lift her legs 25 times. “It’s miraculous, really extraordinary. I’ve never had any sort of relief of this kind, and I?ve tried pretty well everything,” she says.

Notcutt says, “The results have exceeded what I dared hope for. We’re getting 80% of patients good-quality benefit from the marijuana. For some we are getting almost total relief from their pain, with pain scores going down to zero.”

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