'CANNABIS GRAN' REMAINS DEFIANT
The woman known as Britain's "cannabis gran" explains why she eats marijuana five times a day - and why she'll keep on doing it despite the threat of a jail term.
Patricia Tabram takes a sip of hot chocolate after a long day.
She has just delivered a letter to Downing Street telling Tony Blair why she no longer trusts medicines prescribed on the NHS, having spent half the day travelling from near Hexham, Northumberland, to do so.
This is not, however, your average hot chocolate. Mrs Tabram, 66, has added a quarter of a teaspoon of cannabis powder.
"This will keep me covered from pain for five hours now," she says as she takes another sip. Mrs Tabram began taking cannabis in February last year to combat intense pain in her neck and back, as well as other complaints such as tinnitus.
She says the drug had an almost immediate impact.
"I had a walking stick, I was in constant pain. Now, through ingesting cannabis in my food five times a day, five times a week - minute amounts - I feel great."
She is writing a book about her experiences called Grandma Eats Cannabis, which she hopes to be in print soon.
Mrs Tabram is currently on bail awaiting sentencing after last month admitting possessing cannabis with intent to supply.
Police had earlier found more than 30 cannabis plants in her home, as well as another UKP850 worth of the drug with self-seal bags used to distribute it to others.
She was part of a cookery club, now with more than 100 members, that would add cannabis to their recipes for "medicinal purposes".
Among the group's favourite dishes are a chicken and leek pie and a lemon cheesecake, as well as the perhaps more predictable chocolate cake.
She says she faces up to four years in prison when she next faces court on
11 March. Yet she remains defiant.
"They can put me in prison as long as they like," she says. "I'm not afraid of going to prison. I'll come out and start buying it again.
"And then they can put me in prison again and I'll come out and start buying it again."
In the letter Mrs Tabram delivered to Downing Street, she listed the side effects associated with many popular pharmaceutical drugs available on prescription from NHS doctors.
All had at least 10, most had around 30 and one had more than 70 side effects, including dizziness, rashes, bruising and depression, the letter claimed.
Mrs Tabram says she compiled the list from the leaflets that accompany the medicines, along with anecdotal evidence from people taking it.
Cannabis, on the other hand, is a natural herb like mint or sage, she says.
"One of the major side effects is a loss of short-term memory. But I'm four years off 70 - I already had short-term memory problems!" she says.
She admits that some people may become addicted to the drug, but adds:
"People can get addicted to anything. Some people are addicted to soap operas, some are addicted to crisps."
And as long as people are prevented from taking cannabis as a medicine, she says, there are countless numbers of pensioners in Britain who are taking handfuls of tablets each day and who are needlessly in pain.
"People think of me as just a pleasant, harmless lady with a cardigan who eats cannabis," she says.
"I am that, I suppose. But I'm also very angry."
Recreational use of cannabis is illegal in Britain The maximum penalty for cannabis possession is two years in prison The maximum penalty for cannabis supply is 14 years' imprisonment