Aritza Alunda has more than 20 granular cell myoblastomas, a type of benign tumor for which she has been considered to have a permanent incapacity for work. Some years ago, she decided to go live in a small country house in the Pasiego valleys in the northern region of Cantabria, where she dedicated herself to growing marijuana plants that she uses to make herbal tinctures, a remedy she applies herself by rubbing four times every day. “When a first tumor appeared on my neck, doctors just put a piece of metal inside me and prescribed multiple medications. At that time, I did not use medicinal cannabis, but this changed one day after visiting my doctor’s office. He told me about the ban on a medication I used, called Myolastan, following the death of several patients in France, and I took multiple doses a day! So, this is when I decided to stop taking the prescribed medication and only use cannabis”, Alunda relates. A total of 1,116 cannabis plants that can produce up to one and a half liters of tincture. She claims that she also uses other herbs and flowers to treat her pain, such as rosemary or calendula, but she recognizes that cannabis has by far the strongest effect on her.
“The pain feels like a knife stabbed deep into you, and the easiest solution is to take painkillers, but you end up becoming addicted like a junkie. Now that I have discovered the potential of this plant, I feel great and my doctor has recommended continuing this alternative treatment since it’s really working for me”, Alunda continues, highlighting the fact that when you consume cannabis, whether through rubbing, vaporizing, eating or smoking, it becomes a ritual. "That's when I get it to have more effect," she says.
On September 25, 2019, a special Guardia Civil police unit raided her home searching, requisitioning and destroying her crop, and she ended up being accused of a crime against public health. Moreover, the Prosecutor's Office requested a sentence of up to two years of imprisonment and a fine of 6,000 euros.
"During the trial, we explained that she was a regular user of medicinal cannabis since she had an extensive history of medical problems and health conditions for which cannabinoids have been found to be effective as relief therapy and palliative care for pain", lawyer Antonio Bezanilla explained, also pointing out that from the moment the Civil Guard forces entered her house and to the holding of the trial, Alunda has been unable to pay her house rent during this period because she has been forced to expend nearly the whole of her disability pension to buy food and cannabis, necessary to cope with her pain, as she could no longer use her homegrown plants.
According to her lawyer: "She lives a modest lifestyle; if she was a dealer, what could be suspected by the large number of plants, there would be signs of wealth, but her actual lifestyle do not suggest she was dealing with drugs at all”.
A year and a half later, she was acquitted by the Criminal Court at Law No. 3 of the city of Santander, understanding that despite the large number of plants, there was no indication that these were intended for drug trafficking. In addition, the broad Alunda's health history also demonstrated that these 1,116 cannabis plants were solely and exclusively for therapeutic use. A decision that, according to her lawyer, was greatly influenced by the recent UN Decision of December 2, recognizing the medicinal properties of cannabis, and eliminating the substance from Schedule IV of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. "It is a case of minor jurisprudence, but the court decision is still unexpected considering the number of plants seized" explains the lawyer.
This new ruling can be regarded as a judicial anticipation of legislation since the Spanish Congress has not yet recognized the medicinal value of cannabis in the treatment a wide range of pathologies. Despite the fact that the European Parliament has urged Member States to promote the medicinal use of this plant, when Josune Gorospe, from the EAJ-PNV, the Basque nationalist party, asked current Minister of Health, Carolina Darias, about their position on medical cannabis regulation, she responded that there are already two cannabis-derived drugs approved to treat multiple sclerosis (Sativex and Epidiolex, which are worth 500 and 1,000 euros per bottle and month of treatment, respectively) and also that more “scientific evidence” is needed to prove the effectiveness of other cannabis-derived ailments.
“Little by little, we gain awareness and the final regulation on medical cannabis is definitely closer. We do hope this case will serve as a step forward in that direction”, Aritza Alunda concludes.