A cancer survivor has been prosecuted for growing four medicinal cannabis plants to help combat the side-effects of chemotherapy and treat her cancer.
Mother of two, Jacqui Ritchie, 49, from Stonehaven in Scotland, was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer in 2014, triple negative metaplastic breast cancer. Only around 600 others in the world have been diagnosed with this form of cancer.
Jacqui’s fight with cancer left her with a double mastectomy, but with a new lease on life. Until the police raided the cancer survivor’s house, leaving the mother with PTSD following the traumatic experience.
We spoke to Jacqui to find out what it’s like for a cancer survivor and medical cannabis patient to go through such an ordeal.
“I’ve been made to feel like a criminal, just for trying to save my life,”.
Explaining why she used medicinal cannabis rather than legal chemotherapy, Jacqui told us:
“Originally, I used medicinal cannabis to cope with the side effects of chemotherapy & the nerve damage caused by surgery.
“Then, I used it to treat lesions, then to repair the damage that was the side effects of the treatment which is: neuropathy, anxietyattacks, lack of appetite, severe weight loss.”
“The chemo also put me in a chemical menopause with all those associated symptoms: insomnia, mood swings, and hot sweats.”
Jacqui began her cannabis use back in 2014 after a fellow cancer patient gifted her the last of her cannabis oil.
“I’ve used it since 2014 after I was diagnosed with 2 different cancers at the same time. It helped immensely in comparison to the chemo and the pharmaceutical medications.
“After I began using it regularly, I did not need any steroids and got back to work and managed to sleep at night!
“In fact, the first time I took it at night-time I had the first night’s sleep in ages!
“After all the chemotherapy, it felt like I had started to get my life back. Since March, when they took my medication, there has been a return of most of the side effects from chemo.
“I’ve always had a reaction to allopathic medicines, so when I had a reaction to the steroids used with cancer patients my oncologist offered me anti-psychotics, or told me I could always be sectioned!”
“…the first time I took [cannabis oil] at night-time I had the first night’s sleep in ages!”
– Jacqui Ritchie
For medicinal cannabis patients in the UK acquiring their medicine is a difficult task, due to the fact cannabis is still a Class B substance. Due to these regressive laws, patients are stuck between a hard place and a rock: grow their own like Jacqui and face prosecution, or purchase from a street-dealer, which can often be expensive and not the right strain for their symptoms.
“I just couldn’t get the right quality of organically grown cannabis I needed for medicine,” Jacqui explained.
Jacqui claims that the police raid and resulting criminal trial has left her with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):
“I’m horrified! We need legislation for patients! It’s too archaic in Britain at the moment.”
Jacqui, a cancer survivor and mother of two young children, is now facing the prospect of being sentenced to community service, and could even lose her family home:
“A fine wasn’t even considered. I’m under a social work report for sentencing. They are considering community service! They must be joking.
“I’m still struggling with side effects from the chemotherapy, which is even worse since they took all my medicine!
“I am also facing eviction with my 2 teenagers & 5 cats. I’ve lived here for nearly 17 years!”
Jacqui’s sentencing is on the 10th October.