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On the campaign trail

Last year’s dramatic medical cannabis law change is due in no small part to the work of a handful of determined campaigners, as Cannabis Health reports.

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“It’s all about cannabis, and, of course, cannabis is respectable now,” says veteran campaigner Peter Reynolds, founder of CLEAR, the UK’s largest membership-based cannabis policy group.

An advocate of medical cannabis for over 40 years Peter says he noticed a change in public perceptions around 2012 with the development of the legal CBD (cannabidiol) market.

“People who never considered using cannabis to boost their health starting using CBD and found that it worked for them – and it became even more widely available,” he says.

Peter also believes there has been a change of attitude in the media, with a move away from the “reefer madness” rhetoric and an increasing awareness of the need for drugs reform.

Five years ago CLEAR flew an epileptic youngster and their family into a UK airport with their medical cannabis, only to see the medication seized by the authorities.

He says: “The media wasn’t ready to tell the story then. Back then, it was still a narrative of cannabis turns teenagers into psychotic, crazed axe-murderers!”

The United Patients Alliance was formed five years ago and co-founder Jon Liebling is now one of the country’s leading advocates for medical cannabis. It campaigns to ensure that patients can ‘access a safe and regulated supply of their chosen medicine, including the ability for doctors to legally recommend cannabis to their patients where appropriate’.

Families4Access (F4A) was established last year, and now represents some 100 families looking for help accessing medical cannabis. Co-founder Basia Zieniewicz says F4A gives patients an opportunity to have their voices heard.

The End Our Pain campaign is directed by Peter Carroll, a veteran of a number of high profile, public campaigns that have successfully changed Government policy.

One of these; The Gurkha Justice Campaign in 2008 in conjunction with Joanna Lumley persuaded the Government to allow Gurkha veterans to settle in the UK.

United Patients Alliance (UPA)

Jon Liebling first started using cannabis as a student, preferring it to alcohol. He says it helped him deal with stress issues, back pain, anxiety and depression. Over time Jon, who has forged successful careers as first a psychiatric nurse and later a tech expert, developed a deep understanding of the plant; a knowledge and passion he is always keen to share with others.

He says the only problems he has ever experienced have been related to its legal status. In February 2016 he received a 12 month sentence for Production of a Controlled Class B Drug, suspended for two years.

He was arrested following a police raid and the seizure of four plants, under cultivation in his home for personal medical use. “I tried to mention my health condition whilst being pinned to the floor and handcuffed, but of course this was totally ignored and my ‘anxiety’ was cruelly mocked.”

He remains defiant: “As far as I am concerned, it is and has always been an unjust law, and I no longer wish to apologise for doing something that improves both my mental and physical well being and does no harm to me or anyone else.

“I prioritise my health and well being as more important than an unjust law against growing and ingesting a natural and medicinal plant,” he says.

This conviction galvanised Jon’s efforts to see cannabis available via prescription and led to his work with the United Patients Alliance. Formed with the help of Caroline Lucas MP and Professor David Nutt, the UPA initially consisted a handful of patients who felt there was no organisation in the UK ‘focussing entirely on the patient, rather than the plant’.

Jon attended its first meeting in London in July 2014 and charged with zeal he is now the political director – ‘effectively working full-time on a voluntary basis’. He says: “The UPA have moved from being frontline grassroots activists to time-served, experienced, professional campaigners and lobbyists. “By engaging properly and respectfully with the authorities, police and parliamentarians we have gained the trust of all of them.”

It now works closely with the Multiple Sclerosis Society, the All Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform, The MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency), NICE and the NHS.

As well as hoping to see cannabis rescheduled as a Schedule 4 drug, the UPA aims to make ‘cannabis legally accessible to all patients who wish to consume it for therapeutic reasons’.

The UPA’s associate director Carly Burton, 32, a university lecturer, suffering with fibromyalgia, became the first UK patient to be prescribed medicinal cannabis by private pain specialist Dr David McDowell. Jon says this is one of the UPA’s highlights, but says there have been many ups and down over the last four years.

“The lows come as each two steps of progress we make, there is always a step to take back. The highs come from new patients experiencing the benefit of cannabis and from every patient who tells us that we have helped empower them.”

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Families4Access

Basia Zieniewicz is a co-founder of Families4Access (F4A), a campaign directed by Steve Moore, the former chief executive of David Cameron’s Big Society Network.

Less than one-year-old, F4A now advocates for over 100 families seeking CBMP’s for their children’s conditions. During this time, F4A has become a registered stakeholder with the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), partaking in the drafting of new Government guidelines for CBMP’s which will be unveiled this October.

Canadian by birth, Basia was living in California when cannabis was legalised for recreational use in 2016. Taking a long term sabbatical from her profession as an arts and SEN teacher, Basia had been ‘allowing her investigative curiosity’ to find a suitable way to inform her own ‘political artistic’ take on the world, she says.

Basia Zieniewicz

“Growing up in Canada, where medicinal cannabis use was always a non-issue, I couldn’t help but wonder what the fuss was about in California over the law change.

“In Canada, it is common place for people to use cannabis to alleviate suffering.”

Fascinated, and immersing herself in this Californian cannabis culture, Basia spent time attending medical cannabis conferences, researching the science and history of the plant and interviewing academics, patients and entrepreneurs. This resulted in a 180 degree turn in her own perspective. A personal experiment involving the creation of a cannabis infused balm for a ‘very conservative’ relative, suffering acute pain, confirmed this ubiquitous, positive narrative for Basia.

Returning to London in the summer of 2017 – where she’d previously lived for 12 years – she found her network of progressive health buff friends ‘had no clue about CBD’, but on her return in early 2018 she says ‘everyone was raving about it, whilst neglecting the other cannabinoids’.

Combining her teaching background with an interest in cultural shift and social justice, Basia made her experience known to Volteface, a Think Tank focusing on drug policy, and was promptly invited by Steve Moore to set up F4A.

“I wondered, how can cannabis be prohibited when it has been repeatedly demonstrated to transform people’s health and lives for the better? As a teacher, I naturally conclude that the answer is in education. So I went searching to find the people who were moving and shaking things.

“It doesn’t stop at CBD. There is a need to educate people and create the space for a more intelligent, and informed public debate.

“We currently find ourselves in a situation where parents aren’t able to access a range of potentially effective variations of CBMP’s. There is no one-size-fits-all type. You need to be able to cater to an individual’s endocannabinoid system.

“Some families feel option-less and exhort to leaving the country to bring medicine back quietly. My aim is to help make that change.

“To me it is unethical [that] a medicine, which is keeping a child alive, is deemed a prohibited substance!”

Basia says F4A gives parents an opportunity to have their voices heard. Its work involves collating data from families on their experiences, their ongoing dialogues with their medical consultants, and using this to inform its strategies when engaging with policy makers.

“Many families whom we support won’t engage on social media, as they do no want to draw attention to themselves for fear of being penalised by social services.

“For some, even a very limited show of support evokes a fear they will be accused of being neglectful parents. But, they are merely desperate for something that improves the lives of their loved ones, and in many cases, a chance to live.

“Hearing the profound testimonials on how it has helped so many people is something I just could not turn away from. We’ll get there, I have faith,” she adds.

*Since our interviews with Jon and Basia they have announced plans to join forces to create Cannabis Patient Advocacy and Support Services.

This not-for-profit service aims to support patients, parents and carers whilst ‘promoting safe, effective, affordable and equitable access to medicinal cannabis for all who can benefit’. It will be officially launched in the coming months. See www.cannpass.org and follow on Twitter @cannpass.

 

CLEAR

Peter Reynolds (pictured left) went on his first legalise cannabis march in the 1970s and gave evidenceto Parliament in the benefits of medical cannabis in 1983.

He has fought for parliamentary seats in General Election on the legalisation of cannabis platform and this activism culminated the formation of CLEAR – Cannabis Law Reform in 2011.

Peter Reynolds

It now has approaching 250,000 followers on social media and 3,000 paying members.Peter and a committee of five people, who all work voluntarily from their own homes, have assisted over 500 people since its creation and at any one time is working with over 20 people seeking access to CBMP.

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He says: “In my experience cannabis is not particularly powerful as an analgesic but what it does do, is alter the perception of pain – for some it can go the other way – but for most it makes the pain easier to cope with.

“For a lot of people who are in constant, chronic, severe pain, conventional opioids, and the amount they have to take turns them into a vegetable; they end up just lying on the sofa, detached from their family and not relating to their kids.

“But where cannabis is used, it takes the pain away and allows them to continue to function and be much more productive.” Peter says that the emergence of the legal CBD market has allowed the debate on medical cannabis to gain traction in Parliament.

He added: “I have worked voluntarily in the cannabis industry years, but now also works as a consultant for a couple of Canadian producers looking to get licences the UK.

“The knowledge and experience I have built up over the last 10 years means that I am now beginning to see the benefit in terms of this consultancy work. I have the knowledge that people want.”

Peter’s cannabis advocacy came before the discovery of the human endocannabinoid system, over 20 years ago. Endocannabinoids are the chemical messengers that help maintain optimal balance in the body, and when disrupted, can contribute to a wide variety of conditions, including fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome.

This discovery of this endocannabinoid system, primarily in the brain and central nervous system, is viewed by many as evidence that we are built to have a natural relationship with the cannabis plant, which has been used by mankind in one form or another for over 10,000 years.

Peter added: “It’s just remarkable that the things a lot of people were saying about the benefits of cannabis, before the discovery of the endocannabinoid system, now have the rationale to support them.”

End Our Pain

“The dam has been breached,” says Peter Carroll, campaign director of End Our Pain.

“Certain patients have been given licences to use medical cannabis and the government has changed position fundamentally away from its constant mantra of the last decade that ‘cannabis has no medical benefit’.”

End Our Pain was instrumental in pressurising the government into rethinking its stance on cannabis. The hard work of this and other medical cannabis campaign groups culminated in the government’s decision last November to reclassify cannabis. The decision means that some cannabis-based medicines can now be prescribed in limited situations. While the news was hugely encouraging to many people keen to benefit from cannabis medicine, however, Peter (pictured above) feared at the time that the battle was far from won.

Peter Carroll

And his concerns were well placed given that, although medical cannabis is now legal, the vast majority of patients wishing to take it to alleviate pain cannot.

“The government has set a very tight definition of what counts as medical cannabis, who can prescribe it and in what circumstances. This is different from what we have been campaigning for. We are campaigning for the whole plant oil, as long as it is extracted, manufactured and produced through a standard at least equivalent to good manufacturing practice, to be generally available under prescription from GPs for a significant number of conditions.

That is the case in other countries like Holland. If the government says you can’t take the whole oil out of the plant, which has mix of CBD and THC – and use that without trials lasting three to five years with big pharma behind them – then medicine that has helped people like Alfie Dingley might not be allowed in Britain, which is crazy.”

Since the reclassification, many patients who may have travelled abroad for treatment, or self-medicated illegally, have been frustrated by the ongoing lack of access to cannabis medicine in the UK. Chair of the APPG on Medical Cannabis Under Prescription, Sir Mike Penning MP, recently described the application process as “extremely daunting”.

He added that: “The implication that any prescribing clinician will be taking on personal liabilities will deter many doctors from agreeing to take part even if they believe it to be clinically justified.”

Other hindrances include the fact that patients must have exhausted all other products before receiving access to medical cannabis, which could delay receiving a medication that works for many months. There is also a requirement that if the medicine has not been tried, by travelling abroad, then it must have been through a clinical trial – which, being illegal, most cannabis medicines have not.

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Peter says: “Clearly the campaign is far from done. It’s vital now that we work to keep the pressure on the Home Office, Department for Health, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) and all the politicians in parliament interested in this, to make sure we come out with a solution which benefits a significant number of patients. It’s a massive job and a massive cultural change.

“Initially, we saw numerous instances where local health teams were reluctant to apply to the medical panel that the government had set up as an interim measure for people in real distress who wanted medical cannabis. The grounds they cited for their reluctance was that they didn’t understand what it was and the hospitals had no policies in place.

“There is a general concern that medical professionals won’t prescribe something that they don’t understand.

“It’s inevitable that we will have to train a very large number of people, including GPs, consultants and possibly nurses, to understand what medical cannabis is, what it is capable of and how it should be prescribed.”The momentum built up in recent years by medical cannabis campaigners, and the progress they have made to date, suggest current issues can be overcome with a concerted, coordinated effort.

Just a few years ago, Peter says, most people in the UK had zero understanding of medicinal cannabis. The pace of change has been remarkable since.

“Cannabis was only seen as being about smoking joints. So when you said ‘this could have medical benefits for children with epilepsy’ for instance, in their minds, people would make this false link between somebody smoking a joint and someone trying to cure a child.

“Over the last couple of years, the penny has finally dropped in the public’s mind that medical cannabis is a medicine, it’s not a recreational drug. They are two different things. Establishing that understanding has not been a trivial thing to do.

”Bringing about this change owed much to Peter’s experience in both government and campaigning generally. He is widely credited as the architect of Joanna Lumley’s Gurkha Justice Campaign and was also one of the founders of the UK’s most successful fuel taxation campaign.”

He has successfully run a series of other political, charity and community campaigns and co-founded public affairs firm Tendo Consulting with colleague Will de Peyer in 2015.

His and Will’s time as special advisors to the coalition government proved particularly helpful in shaping End Our Pain’s lobbying of MPs.

“When we were in government we were lobbied by lots of people, some very well, some very poorly,” Peter says.

“One of the great fascinations about campaigning is that the world is always full of many thousands of issues and policy calls which are all very important and really affect people. Taking one of them and making the government react to it is quite an art. One option is to build awareness of an issue over many years and produce a load of papers and case studies on it and approach think tanks to discuss it. If you are very lucky, a political party might take it up as a policy idea for a manifesto, but the odds of that are really quite small.

“The other option is that you take an issue and you get it to such a high profile politically that even though the government probably doesn’t want to address it, they have to because of the full weight of public opinion is so great that the government has to listen. The Gurkha campaign is an example of that.

“Gurkhas served in the British army for over 200 years and for decades people said they were treated unfairly when they retired from the army, being unable to live in Britain and having to go back to Nepal.

“In the end we forced though a change. It was the first time in 30 years that a government lost the vote on the House of Commons floor on an issue like this. This is effectively what we’ve helped to do with medical cannabis. We’ve pushed the issue so hard that it’s got through all the other very genuine issues that perhaps politicians should be looking at and we’ve got it on the political radar.”

At the time of writing, 83 MPs are now backing the End Our Pain campaign, as well as 14 peers and several high-profile figures including Russell Brand, Sir Richard Branson and Sir Patrick Stewart. The campaign, says Peter, won’t stop until the terrible suffering of patients who can’t get access to medicinal cannabis in the UK is adequately addressed.

www.endourpain.org

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Cannabis is medicine – just ask people with epilepsy

Dr Evan Lewis on why the opinion that cannabis is not a medicine is not only outdated, but is also dangerous. 

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Dr Evan Lewis has treated hundreds of epilepsy patients with medical cannabis

Dr Evan Lewis, a paediatric neurologist and founder of the Neurology Centre of Toronto (NCT), has treated hundreds of epilepsy patients, for whom there is no doubt that cannabis is medicine.

I’m a paediatric neurologist and epilepsy specialist, with over 500 adult and paediatric patients in my practice currently being treated with medical cannabis for epilepsy and a broad range of other neurological conditions.

For these patients, there is no doubt that cannabis is medicine. 

Dr Evan Lewis medical cannabis prescriber

Dr Evan Lewis

As a start, five major randomised controlled trials have been completed, with recently published follow-up data, in complex, drug-resistant paediatric epilepsy. These studies show that medical cannabis exerts the same degree of anti-seizure control as our traditional anti-seizure drugs, with comparable side-effect profiles. 

It might also be helpful to point out that cannabis, in the form of a purified CBD oil called Epidiolex®, has been approved as a medical treatment for certain types of epilepsy in children by the FDA in the US, the EMA in Europe, and NICE/MHRA in the UK. 

I can personally share numerous stories of the children I have treated with unrelenting seizures who, after failing multiple medications for several years, finally responded to cannabis.

However, none of that is needed.

While there may be some subjectivity inherent in the management of pain and anxiety, the clear effects that cannabis can produce in drug-resistant epilepsy are difficult to argue.

A child is either seizing or they are not. The child is treated with a cannabis oil. The seizures stop. 

If that is not a medicine, then what does one tell the parents of these children they are giving to their child. 

Here in Canada, there is a well-defined medical pathway within the Cannabis Act that provides a mechanism by which patients can undergo a consultation with a physician or nurse practitioner and be provided medical direction, oversight, follow-up and medical authorisation to receive the treatment.

In the UK too, cannabis for medicinal purposes was legalised in 2018. There are now over 10,000 patients prescribed cannabis-based medicines, including about 150 children with drug-resistant epilepsy, according to the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society.

The majority of these children are thriving, several have now been seizure-free for a prolonged period of time, and all have seen dramatic improvements in their quality of life.

Despite the above and years of medical legalisation, families who seek cannabis treatment after trying numerous options are still met with reluctance on the part of the health care system. Some of that reluctance lies in the challenges that practitioners perceive with cannabis products and safety.

Producing a consistent cannabis product from batch-to-batch is one of the many challenges faced by licensed producers of cannabis, but that should not serve as rationale to delegitimise cannabis as a medicine or pressure families to feel compelled to work with medications they feel will not work for their child. This only works to reinforce inaccessibility, and children should not be the ones to suffer because of these challenges.

Reflexively turning away from the medical potential of cannabis for epilepsy does a great disservice to the many children and families struggling with the condition.

The opinion that cannabis is not a medicine is not only outdated but is also dangerous. 

​​Dr. Evan Cole Lewis is a Neurologist and Clinical Neurophysiologist with expertise in paediatric neurology and epilepsy. He is the founder and medical director of the Neurology Centre of Toronto (NCT) and VP Psychedelic Neurology at Numinus. He is assistant professor with the Department of Paediatrics at the Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Toronto.

 

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Simply CBD: The beginner’s guide to CBD

New to CBD? Simply CBD has put together a beginner’s guide to help you find the right product.

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Simply CBD
Simply CBD: The beginner’s guide to CBD

New to CBD? Simply CBD has put together a beginner’s guide to help you find the right product for you.

Chances are you may have seen or heard about CBD in recent years. And as we’re starting to learn more about it, a variety of new ranges are hitting the shelves, including lotions, oils, vapes, balms, edibles and water-soluble solutions. Here, Simply CBD gives you all of the information you need to get started.

What is CBD?

CBD products come from the cannabis plant. They contain minimal THC – less than 0.2%, in fact. As THC is the psychoactive component of marijuana, this means that they won’t get you high.

Popular with adults and pensioners, it is legally sold to people aged 18 and over. If you’re looking to buy products, you can find them in the form of oils, edibles, lotions, balms, gummies, capsules and more. They’re easily accessible too, which means you can pick them up on high streets and from a range of recommended online stores.

Will it get me high?

This is probably one of the most common questions asked, and the simple answer is no. This is because products must contain less than 0.2% THC, which is the psychoactive part of the plant. You can even find products on the market that contain no THC at all.

Getting started

Want to find a product that’s right for you? The good news is that there’s an extensive range of products that are helping many people try it for the first time. Several factors determine which one to buy, and sometimes this comes down to preference of how you want to take it.

Simply CBD always advises that you should ‘start low and slowly grow’ when you set out on your CBD journey. Here are some of the options from the range that are ideal for beginners, and are great value too!

Premium oils

The Green CBD oil is a great starter product because it is low strength, and you can simply place it under your tongue. This is a full spectrum oil mixed in a base of hemp seed oil, which is high in both CBD and CBDa. Because it’s a full spectrum oil, it has multiple cannabis plant extracts, including essential oils, terpenes and cannabinoids.

Simply CBD

Liquid Gold CBD oil

The signature Liquid Gold CBD Oil with turmeric and black pepper combines full spectrum CBD with double-strength curcumin turmeric and black pepper. It has a pleasantly earthy, spicy and nutty flavour, and is placed under the tongue. This oil is low strength, and perfect for those looking to combine it with curcumin turmeric.

Alternatively, Entourage Aqua Water Soluble CBD is a full spectrum, water-soluble CBD that can be added to drinks. This revolutionary product is an alternative to taking traditional oils, plus you can add it to both hot and cold beverages.

Water Soluble CBD drops

CBD gummies

Simply CBD also offers CBD gummies that you can easily take on-the-go. They come in packs of 20 delicious, mixed fruit-flavours. Each one contains 10mg CBD extract, plus they are suitable for vegans and vegetarians.

Simply CBD

CBD Gummies

CBD balm

You don’t have to take products orally. In fact, other options such as balms are a great option. The CBD Muscle Balm is particularly great for beginners as it’s gentle on the skin and absorbs easily.

CBD Balm

CBD Patches

A new product is the CBD Patches which are a convenient alternative to starting with CBD. They are simply placed onto the body and last for up to 36 hours, even better they are discreet! 

Simply CBD

CBD Patches

How do I build up my use?

No matter what type of product you choose, it’s important to follow the ‘How to use’ instructions.

Simply CBD offers a complete range in varying strengths, types and flavours to make it accessible to everyone. What’s more, its products are all independently tested and are extracted from Dutch high-grade cannabis. You can also benefit from customer support and join the unique, thriving Facebook community forum with over 45,000 other members. Here, users share their experiences and views on products, which can help you decide what you want to try. Ratings are an average of 4.93 stars!

The company also offers express delivery on all orders shipped in the UK and promises to supply products at competitive prices. The team is happy to answer any questions or concerns you might have.

To find out more, visit simply-cbd.co.uk

Read more: What’s the best way to take CBD?

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“Millions of cannabis patients face criminalisation behind the wheel – even if completely unimpaired”

Campaign group, Seed Our Future, is calling for urgent reforms to protect patients from criminalisation on the road

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Many police officers are unaware that cannabis was legalised for medical use in 2018.

Urgent reforms are needed to driving laws to protect patients from criminalisation on the road, writes Seed Our Future founder, Guy Coxall. 

In October 2020, Seed our Future released our first report, Cannabis and the Law – No Evidence, No Crime, a report which assessed the unjust and unfounded cannabis laws in the UK via the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (MoDA).

The report concluded that cannabis laws are based on ideology, racism and political motivations and that the alleged harms associated with cannabis use are not based on scientific evidence but causal assumptions. It also demonstrated the urgent need for reform so as to protect our health, the environment and our economy.

The second report, developed to support the complete removal of cannabis from the MoDA 1971 via a judicial review, covers approximately 130 years of investigation into the alleged harms of cannabis and the story of prohibition to the present day. 

It is clear that the evidence of relative safety was ignored, whilst propaganda campaigns of fear and lies protected political and corporate interests, whilst millions suffered and died.

Rising numbers of driving convictions

Although the chance of being incarcerated for personal possession or cultivation of cannabis is unlikely these days – a caution, suspended sentence or community order is more likely – but these still carry a criminal record. The seemingly forgotten recent developments in driving laws are the greater threat to cannabis users in the UK, where over 10,200 people were convicted in 2019 and these numbers are increasing year on year.

Up until March 2015, cannabis users who drove a motor vehicle were provided with a fair and impartial trial as the police had to provide evidence of driving impairment in order to secure a conviction. 

I’m sure we can all agree that anyone getting behind the wheel of a vehicle whilst impaired should have the book thrown at them as they are endangering other road users. But for the majority of cannabis consumers, like those who use prescribed medicines such as opiates and benzodiazepines, are responsible enough not to drive when unfit to do so. 

Due to a low conviction rate, the police struggling to carry out field impairment tests properly and to follow other European and international countries, a review was carried out, led by Sir Peter North in 2010 to assess the implications of drug driving. A later report was published in 2013 by a so-called expert panel on drug driving. The findings of both led to an amendment to the Road Traffic Act, Section 5 (A) which essentially removed the need to prove impairment and relied entirely on blood tests showing above a per se zero tolerance level of specified schedule 1 drugs. 

The evidence used was seriously lacking and completely inconsistent as much of the data of road collisions showing THC in the system also showed presence of alcohol or other drugs and so there was little to no evidence of cannabis being a primary cause of driving impairment, in fact many trials showed that cannabis users were more careful drivers.

No evidence of impairment

Due to global changes in legislation for cannabis, a great deal of research has been carried out over the past several years to assess the implications for road safety. The new evidence shows that collisions have stayed constant, that the blood tests have no correlation with impairment and are thus inadmissible in a court as evidence of impairment, validated by the UN and that the blood tests do not provide evidence of recent use.

What does this mean? Millions of cannabis users in the UK are at risk of being criminalised and punished every time they get behind the wheel, even if they are completely unimpaired and may not have consumed cannabis for several days.

In court you will not be provided with a fair and impartial trial, as there is no evidence that you were a risk to road safety, no evidence of impairment or even that you consumed cannabis on the day of arrest. The lack of evidence and the infringement on our civil and human rights doesn’t seem to matter and at present, tens of thousands of drivers are being unfairly prosecuted every year.

The ‘medical defence’

Only those with a medical prescription are provided with a ‘medical defence’, but this does not stop the many police – who are still ignorant of the change to legislation in 2018 – dragging you through the courts and unfortunately, thousands of those with prescriptions are currently unable to meet the full criteria for the defence (something Seed Our Future are looking to rectify in the coming weeks).

What about the millions of cannabis users who use cannabis medicinally but simply can’t get access on the NHS or can’t afford a private prescription? Seed our Future have been supporting several members with this issue over the past year and have built a defence which we hope will soon set a precedent in law. It’s high time that the courts accept that to criminalise people for using essential medicine, is a clear breach of human rights and that persecuting people for not being able to access or afford a prescription is medical and financial discrimination. 

What happens now?

As more people become aware of the unique and expansive therapeutic properties of cannabis and as the roadside use of swabs (which detect only cannabis and cocaine) are increasingly used, Section 5 (A) of the Road Traffic Act has become the leading cause of criminalisation and punishment for cannabis users in the UK.

Seed our Future feels it imperative that the Department for Transport revisit the legislation, using the most recent evidence and take the recent change in legislation for medical cannabis use and the current inability of access into account in order to protect our human rights and civil freedoms. We recommend and will call for cannabis being removed from section 5 (A) of the Act and reverted to Section 4 where evidence of impairment was required.

Guy Coxall is a prominent cannabis campaigner, and the founder of Seed Our Future. To access the report and for more information visit www.seedourfuture.co.uk 

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