Andreas Thörn was initially acquitted of drug offences in August 2015 after successfully arguing that his health was under immediate risk if he did not use cannabis for medicinal purposes. The prosecutor’s appeal then resulted in the new case, which took place on Tuesday at Svea Court of Appeal.
The trial has led to debate over how far an individual person should be able to control his own healthcare and when the state should be allowed to intervene. Pro-cannabis voices have pointed to medical studies that prove the positive effects cannabis can have on symptoms such as pain.
Thörn said that using cannabis also helped him to cope with ‘anxiety and suffering’. The 37 year-old, who broke his neck in a motorcycle accident in 1994, suffers from paralysis and neuropathic pain as well as anxiety and depression.
Having tried a series of strong, side effect-producing prescribed drugs that failed to help adequately with his symptoms, Thörn was left with methadone, an extremely strong morphine-based drug, as his only remaining legal option. Instead, Thörn began to use cannabis by putting a small amount of the drug in his coffee, reports Aftonbladet.
Claes Hultling, spinal injury specialist at the Karolinska Institute and witness at the trial, said at the trial that major scientific evidence-based studies show that barely a fifth of spinal cord patients can be treated with the drugs available today, according to broadcaster SVT.
“Eighty per cent of all nerve pain can not be helped. It's a veritable hell, a life full of difficulties. It's not just about physical troubles, but also the marks left on the soul,” SVT reported Claes Hultling as saying from the witness stand.
It is legal for Multiple Sclerosis sufferers in Sweden to buy the manufactured cannabis preparation Sativex – but its high cost has so far prevented its becoming available for others.
Prosecutor Carin Lantorp said that while she did not doubt Thörn’s description of his symptoms, his case did not represent an emergency use of the drug, reports SVT.
Swedish medical law contains an emergency clause (nödbestämmelsen) accommodating actions that would otherwise be considered illegal.
Thörn’s own lawyer Victor Regnér argued that, had a healthy person endured similar levels of pain, that person would be in acute distress.
Thörn, who will face judgement next week, has called on Justice Minister Morgan Johansson to set up a commission to look into proposals for changing the law, enabling more widespread use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.
Should he be found guilty, Thörn is likely to face a fine, with his medical condition preventing him from being given a prison sentence or community service involving physical work.