In the heart of Cumbria stands a two-bedroomed cottage wrapped in ivy that for half a century has been home to a lady named June. She makes a pot of tea in a cluttered kitchen brimming with fresh herbs in labelled jars, assorted saucepans and drying socks, then potters across the slate floor, and into a garden. Here lies what June calls “her private retreat”. An overgrown rose bush dotted with apricot-coloured blossoms creeps over a rusting bench and from one of the many ceramic plant pots comes the scent of rosemary. At the back of the garden stands a decaying shed, lost beneath a white climbing hydrangea, and nestled behind this sits a small grow tent, which June tells me contains a single cannabis plant. She pulls down the zip to reveal the hidden green leaves. “You wouldn’t believe it was only one plant!”
The sight is reminiscent of the film Saving Grace, where an elderly widow starts growing cannabis as a way of paying off debts – but June has no intention of making money from her plant, nor does she plan on smoking it.
Inside, on the mantelpiece, sits a brown envelope addressed to a nearby town. It contains a small bag of weed. “I’m sending this to a friend of mine with arthritis who I’ve been helping out for a few years,” she says. “I promised to have it delivered to her a few days ago but it took me longer than I expected to harvest this time so it’s a little late.”
June first started to grow cannabis in 2003, after a neighbour gave her late husband, Arthur, a sample. Arthur, who had suffered from MS from the age of 46, had developed secondary progressive MS and severe spasticity – involuntary muscle stiffness and contractions. June says she experimented with different strains of cannabis and found some were particularly effective muscle relaxants.
By Sarah Whitehead
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