A FORMER soldier who turned to cannabis use after developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) believes the $1000 fine he received in the Mandurah Magistrate’s Court on Friday was “excessive”.
Matthew James Howarth, 35, pleaded guilty to possession and cultivation of cannabis following a December 6 search of his home.
Police found four cannabis plants in a bedroom, the “mother plant” in a fridge, and two more plants in the backyard.
Mr Howarth, who has used cannabis for the past seven years to control “extreme anxiety”, said he resented being branded a criminal for using a drug he says helps with his chronic condition.
“If I don’t have a smoke it’s very hard for me to come down from a high anxiety level,” he said.
“And I don’t believe it hurts anyone else.”
The married father of three said he had “no quality of life” without the drug due to the horrific symptoms of PTSD which have plagued him since 2002.
Mr Howarth served in the Australian Army as an infantry soldier for more than 10 years.
During that time he was involved in harrowing military operations which led to his ultimate breakdown and discharge in 2003.
“I tried to keep working but it got harder and harder,” Mr Howarth said.
“I sought my own help but nothing worked like smoking pot.”
At his worst, Mr Howarth was prescribed “massive doses” of Valium and Serapax; medications he said “didn’t even touch the sides” of his anxiety.
He said he grew cannabis himself because he “hated drug dealers” and believed his choice should be legal.
“Alcohol and cigarettes are the biggest killers out there,” he said.
“But I don’t drink and I don’t smoke.
“There are definite instances when cannabis should be a prescribed medication.
“Society is all screwed up.”
Mr Howarth cited examples from overseas where cannabis was used to treat pain in cancer sufferers and said it was time Australia did the same thing.
“We’re being dictated to about what are choices are,” he said.
“And the sooner people become better educated about the health benefits of cannabis the better.”
WHILE cannabis has been shown to relieve pain and nausea in people suffering HIV, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and migraines, its effectiveness as an anti-anxiety medication is largely unproven.
The anti-spasmodic properties of cannabis are also believed to be useful in treating spinal-cord injuries, multiple sclerosis and Tourette syndrome.
Medicinal use of cannabis is legal in Canada, Austria, the Netherlands, Spain, Israel, Italy and some states of the USA.
In Australia a synthetic product known as Marinol has been available for 10 years and a British drug called Sativex was approved for use by the Therapeutic Goods Administration last year.
In order to prescribe these products doctors must apply for special authority from the Federal Health Department.
BY KATE HEDLEY