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“It felt like a witch hunt” – Patient speaks out after police seize cannabis prescription

Ryan Specter believes police need to be better educated about the legality of medical cannabis.

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Patient speaks out after police seize cannabis prescription

A medical cannabis patient has spoken out about being treated “like a criminal” after police seized his prescription from his home.

Ryan Specter, says police need to be better educated about the legality of medical cannabis, after his medication was seized by officers on Sunday 24 April.

Specter, who has had a prescription for medical cannabis since February 2021, to manage symptoms of his ADHD, found himself facing arrest after making a complaint to police about a neighbour.

The 27-year-old felt he was being unfairly targeted following complaints about the smell associated with his medical cannabis use. 

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Prior to the incident, Specter sent police video footage of an individual shouting a “foul language remark” at him, insinuating that he was using cannabis illicitly.

Alongside this, he says he sent officers documentation of his prescription, issued through Sapphire Medical Clinics, along with his Cancard membership details and photos of his labelled products and vaporiser.

But when police visited the property in Poringland, Norfolk, it was Specter who found himself facing questions from the officers around the legality of his medicine.

This is despite Specter showing them an electronic copy of his prescription and his prescribed product, which was correctly labelled and in its original packaging.

“In this case I showed them the best copy of my prescription I had at the time, which was electronic, and the packaging itself, which completely aligns with the advice given by pharmacies, clinicians and the community as a whole,” Specter told Cannabis Health.

“The defence the officer gave against believing me was that ‘any old person’ could print off a prescription label… they might but it’s a lot of effort to go to.”

The officers stated that they would need to take Specter’s medication while they gathered more evidence to prove it had been prescribed by a doctor, threatening him with arrest and placing him in handcuffs, when he refused to hand it over.

Patient speaks out after police seize cannabis prescription

Ryan has had a prescription for cannabis since March 2022.

“When they threatened to take me in, the only reason I didn’t let them arrest me was because I had work the next day and I’m self employed, so I can’t take a day off,” he continued.

“[In a way] in doing that, it’s seen as a signal of guilt on my part, but I don’t feel in any way remorseful for having access to medication.”

Police have since been in contact with Sapphire Medical Clinics to verify Specter’s prescription, and say they have now made arrangements for his medication to be returned. 

However, Specter says he will be pursuing potential compensation for the incident, adding that he was “extremely” alarmed at the lack of knowledge the officers had around the legality of medical cannabis.

“Unfortunately I don’t think this is an isolated incident,” he said. 

“Given that I’d say one third of their work is going to be dealing with low-level drug crime and possession, having an intimate understanding of the laws around it is important.

“I don’t think people should need a law degree to join the police force, but when it comes to laws you are actively dealing with, you should know them. Why are they not trained on laws which affect their day to day work?”

It comes just months after Liam Lewis had his prescription seized by police on the isle of Shetland, after the package was intercepted at the Royal Mail sorting office.

But Specter also believes that efforts need to be taken from the industry and central government to raise awareness of the fact that cannabis has been legal on prescription since 2018.

He said: “I think the messaging is a major issue at the moment, that needs to be addressed around the medical cannabis industry… but it’s not necessarily just on the industry, the Government doesn’t do enough to keep people up to date on laws.”

Specter hopes to highlight the need for better awareness of medical cannabis outside of the sector, by sharing how he was treated by police.

“I was treated as a criminal and not as a patient,” he said.

“It didn’t need to be dealt with as heavy handedly as it was. It should take far longer for a complaint being made by somebody to be turned into criminal scrutiny, especially given a body of evidence that was easy enough to access.”

Specter added: “Another thing I found frankly offensive was when they suggested I should make changes to my use to make it less problematic for my neighbours – we’re talking about a person using a cannabis vaporiser in a property with windows and doors closed and draft excluders.

“I felt like it was a witch hunt from the get-go.” 

A spokesperson for Norfolk Police told Cannabis Health: “Officers were called to an address in Poringland after a man reported ongoing issues with a neighbour who was unhappy about the smell of cannabis smoke emanating from his property. When officers arrived, the man said he had been prescribed medicinal cannabis and showed them a white plastic bottle of herbal cannabis.

“He didn’t provide them with a Cannabis Card (Cancard) so they couldn’t verify his claim using the Cancard app and the scheme’s helpline – which officers called while they were at the man’s home – was also unable to verify that he had been prescribed medicinal cannabis. 

“A label on a medication bottle is not sufficient evidence to prove that a person is legally allowed an illegal drug.

“That being the case, and as in all cases where officers suspect someone may be in possession of an illegal drug, they seized the drug and explained they would need to make further enquiries with the private pharmacy. This has now happened, and the private pharmacist has confirmed the drugs were legally prescribed. Officers have contacted the owner and made arrangements for the return of the cannabis.”

Specter is a Cancard holder and disputes the claim that he did not provide them with the ID card on the day. 

The scheme is designed to protect patients from arrest, by allowing police to check their legitimacy through its database, although it has no legal standing.

A spokesperson from Sapphire Medical Clinics said: “We are unable to comment on individual cases due to patient confidentiality. However, it’s important to highlight that medical cannabis was legalised for prescription in November 2018 across the UK.

“As the first medical cannabis clinic approved by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in December 2019, we abide by stringent regulations which include assessment by a specialist doctor and the requirement that prescriptions are dispensed by an approved and licensed pharmacy. 

“Fortunately we are assured that this is a very rare event, and Sapphire Medical Clinics is committed to continuing to expand educational resources to improve awareness, knowledge and understanding of medical cannabis.”

Home » Advocacy » “It felt like a witch hunt” – Patient speaks out after police seize cannabis prescription

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My daughter’s seizures reduced by 95% on medical cannabis – why is it not available on the NHS?

Clover Carkeet’s family have had to fight for her to maintain access to the treatment

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My daughter’s seizures reduced by 95% on medical cannabis
Emily Carkeet with her three-year-old daughter Clover

Three-year-old Clover Carkeet’s seizures have reduced by 95 per cent with medical cannabis – so why has her family had to fight so hard to maintain access to it?

Clover had her first seizure at just 12 weeks old. Doctors diagnosed her with infantile spasms, a ‘catastrophic’ form of epilepsy that is among the most brain-damaging conditions of its kind. 

Early signs of the condition were discovered when her mum, Emily Carkeet, was 30 weeks pregnant. 

She was told that Clover was missing the part of her brain that connects the left hemisphere to the right, known in medicine as the corpus callosum. 

Seventy five per cent of newborns with the condition will grow up to live completely normal lives, but sadly Clover is among the minority that develops neurological issues from early childhood.

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Like many children diagnosed with rare forms of epilepsy, Clover was started on a heavy dose of steroids which she took for six weeks. 

“It was a really awful time for us,” Emily recalls. “They made her extremely poorly. She was so upset and angry. She was basically just staring into space.”

After the steroids, Clover was started on a strong antiepileptic drug called vigabatrin, with her enjoying five months without seizures. The freedom gave her the chance to develop, and even learn to crawl.

My daughter’s seizures reduced by 95% on medical cannabis

Spencer, Emily and Clover Carkeet

Trying CBD

But it wasn’t just the vigabatrin that was aiding her recovery, Emily believes. 

When Clover was four months old, her parents began giving her tiny doses of over-the-counter CBD oil called Hayleigh’s Hope. In the early days of Clover’s diagnosis, Emily had connected with hundreds of families whose children suffered from similar conditions.

“I was always searching for the answers for Clover,” Emily says. 

“I found that the children who were taking some form of CBD all seemed to be developing fairly normally. Their seizures were well controlled and they were spending less time in hospital.”

She continues: “Every time we increased her dose she would learn something new, physically her development was ahead of some of her neurotypical peers, she crawled at nine months and walked at 13 months, all these things that they said she wouldn’t do.”

But after five months Clover relapsed and developed something called focal seizures. Despite increasing her pharmaceuticals, her condition worsened until she was having as many as 100 seizures a week.

95% reduction in seizures

At this point, Emily and her partner, Clover’s father, Spencer, were at a “crossroads”. Either introduce more pharmaceutical medication or pursue a CBD prescription.

“It became abundantly clear that what we could buy over the counter just wasn’t strong enough for her,” Emily says. 

“We were at a crossroads really; we could either add more meds… but we had made a vow in those early days that that was not what we wanted for her. We wanted to give her a chance to have a quality of life, and we believed the best chance of that was by staying as far away from heavy duty drugs as possible. 

“That’s when we decided to go down the prescription route.”

Clover met criteria and was able to access a legal prescription for medical cannabis in August 2020. By November, her seizures had dropped to just three or four per week – a 95 per cent reduction. 

The following April, the family added the THC-containing oil Bedica to Clover’s course of medication, which is when the number of seizures fell “dramatically”.

“THC was the game-changer for her. She was sometimes going 10 days without a seizure,” says Emily.

“The biggest doubt for me was that THC might have detrimental behavioural and developmental effects, it worried me, but less than having her on a benzodiazepine, wired up to machines in hospital. As her mum I’ve always followed my gut instinct.”

My daughter’s seizures reduced by 95% on medical cannabis

Clover’s parents say THC was a “game-changer” for her

Battling the BPNA 

Despite Clover’s parents seeing a huge improvement in her condition and quality of life, the family faced losing her access to the medicine when her prescribing doctor was reported to the General Medical Council (GMC) last year. 

Although she doesn’t know the details of how it came about, the complaint was made shortly after Emily wrote to Clover’s neurologist in the NHS outlining her daughter’s positive response to cannabis-based medicines. 

The complaint, believed to have come from the British Paediatric Neurology Association (BPNA), centred around Clover’s age as at the time, at 17 months old, she was the youngest child in the UK to be prescribed the medicine. It stated that the doctor was not a neurologist and therefore should not be prescribing. 

BPNA guidance claims that cannabis medicines can only be prescribed in children with epilepsy by a paediatric neurologist. But this is not stated anywhere in current legislation. 

The case ended up being dismissed, with the GMC’s independent medical expert quoted during the review as saying the BNPA position is “probably not in the best interests of children”.

“Doctors sign a Hippocratic oath then they don’t do what’s best for their patients. It’s very negligent to deny these kids a medicine that clearly works for them,” says Emily.

“What I don’t understand is this necessity to throw so many drugs at them just because they’re licensed.

“In my opinion – and logic should rule here – if a child finds something that works, why would you then force them to go back and try all these other things that may be detrimental to them? I find this concept of using cannabis as a last resort absolutely crazy.”

Emily believes that the BPNA guidance on medical cannabis is part of the reason why NHS access is so limited for children with epilepsy.

“They complained about Clover and made no effort to speak to me about how she was doing at all. They don’t listen to us as parents, even though, when you’re a parent of a child with epilepsy, you become the expert on their condition,” she says.

“It’s just so wrong on so many levels.”

Emily and Spencer, with Clover, on their wedding day recently

A “constant juggling act” 

Clover is doing well developmentally and starting to communicate more as she reduces her prescription drugs, something Emily puts down to the medical cannabis. 

“I had read about neuroprotective benefits from cannabis and genuinely think that because she’s had it in her life since she was so young, it’s probably protected her brain,” she says. 

“We’ve never seen any regression from any of her seizures and I honestly think it’s the cannabis we have to thank for that.”

She attends nursery and Emily has been able to return to work. Something which has been a lifeline in funding Clover’s prescription, which currently costs around £1,000 a month. 

Emily and Spencer are able to fundraise, but still pay £600 each month out of their own pockets. Emily describes the situation as a “constant juggling act”.

“I feel an extreme pressure to be working more than I am because we have this prescription to pay for,” she says.

“The person who suffers from this is Clover because she doesn’t get as much of her mum as she needs.”

But despite their struggles, Emily feels lucky they have access to the treatment when so many families in the UK are unable to obtain a prescription even privately. 

There is currently only one paediatric neurologist prescribing for children with epilepsy in the UK, and he is not currently taking on any new patients. 

“There are so many parents who are desperately trying to get this medicine, because they see the results,” she adds.

“It’s an injustice that they can’t access it.”

 

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Cancer survivor reveals how medical cannabis “saved his life”

Barry Freeman swapped his pain medication for medical cannabis.

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A US cancer survivor has shared how medical cannabis helped him manage debilitating pain and stop his usage of multiple medications.

Texan cancer survivor Barry Freeman – who also suffers from PTSD – introduced medical cannabis into his treatment plan in 2019 and has since eliminated the consumption of dozens of pain pills while experiencing a drastic reduction in symptoms with no side effects.

In 2015, a time he describes as “the worst year of his life,” Barry lost his son and received a stage-four colorectal cancer diagnosis.

After being initially turned away by multiple doctors due to his terminal diagnosis, Barry underwent 37 rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. He finally achieved remission in 2017 but his cancer treatment’s lasting effects combined with emotional distress led to continued symptoms of chronic pain, anxiety and panic attacks.

“I was in a very dark place that year. Living with cancer and losing my son caused severe depression on top of a barrage of physical symptoms that made my life miserable,” Barry said.

Barry then sustained a debilitating shoulder injury in 2018, exacerbating his condition and leading to a prescription of 12 pain pills per day. It was then his physician recommended medical cannabis as a treatment option.

“Medical cannabis saved my life,” he continued.

“I felt more relief than I’d ever felt through any pain pill. I could feel the calming effect of the medication come over me. I feel better than I did at 45-years-old. Emotionally and physically, it’s extraordinary to be here now and feel this way after being so sick.”

The Compassionate Use Program (CUP) was enacted by the Texas legislature in June 2015, allowing for the first legal use of medical cannabis products by patients with intractable epilepsy.

It was not until the program expanded in 2019 to include terminal cancer, all forms of epilepsy, autism, multiple sclerosis, spasticity, ALS and hundreds of neurodegenerative disorders that patients like Barry became eligible to access medical cannabis.

Following the 2021 session, the programme expanded to include all cancer patients and those suffering from PTSD.

Barry was provided with cannabis by Texas Original Compassionate Cultivation , a licensed medical cannabis producer that works across the state.

Morris Denton, CEO of the company, believes that more still needs to be done to improve access for patients in Texas.

“Barry was ineligible for life-altering medication for almost four years after his initial diagnosis,” Denton said.

“No one should have to endure a delay in treatment for symptoms that medical cannabis is proven to relieve. This is why continuing to expand the Compassionate Use Program matters.

“There are thousands of Texans who can and should be benefitting from the power of medical cannabis now and our team is dedicated to expanding the CUP to include each of them.”

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Growing “appetite” for medical cannabis among UK clinicians

Over 300 health professionals have signed up to learn more about medical cannabis.

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Growing "appetite" for medical cannabis among UK clinicians
The Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society (MCCS) now has revealed it now has over 300 members.

Over 300 health professionals have signed up to learn more about medical cannabis in the UK since 2019.

Just two and half years after its launch, the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society (MCCS) now has revealed it now has over 300 members, as it prepares to launch a series of in-person events this year.

Over 300 clinicians, including specialist consultants in a wide range of specialisms, GPs, nurses and allied health professionals, are now active members of the society, sharing best practice, learning from each other, and accessing regular expert support. 

Bosses say this growth demonstrates the “appetite” of health professionals to learn more about this “life-changing” medicine.

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Throughout 2022, the MCCS executive committee is planning to hold five in-person events across the UK, offering attendees a practical introduction to medical cannabis and CBD. 

The first events will take place in Manchester on Thursday 12 May and Belfast on 1 June, followed by sessions in Edinburgh, Cardiff and London before the end of the year. 

Further events are expected to take place in Liverpool, Newcastle, Bristol, Birmingham and Dublin in 2023.

Open to clinicians, medical students, scientists, researchers, professionals and patients curious about medical cannabis and the current state of prescribing, evidence and availability in the UK, the events will take place from 6.30pm for two hours, with networking and a panel Q&A for attendees following the speakers. 

Prescribing doctors from the executive committee will be joined at each event by society chair, Professor Mike Barnes, as well as medical cannabis patients.

Sativa Learning’s Ryan McCreanor and Volteface’s Katya Kowalski, will also present education opportunities and research insights. 

Professor Mike Barnes, chair of the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society said:  “The growth we have seen in our membership over the last two and a half years demonstrates the appetite the UK’s clinicians have to learn about this life-changing medication. 

“With significant restrictions meaning that only Specialist Consultants can prescribe, little to no cannabis education for medical students, and the fact that medical cannabis is only available via privately prescribing doctors, the number of clinicians choosing to educate themselves and access support via the Society should be noted by leaders in the health service and in Government.

“Our programme of events, which will see us visit Manchester, Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff and London this year, and Liverpool, Newcastle, Bristol, Birmingham and Dublin in 2023, are a fantastic opportunity for clinicians and medical students particularly to learn the facts about this treatment and practical steps to prescribing.”

Hannah Deacon, executive director of the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society, added:  “The Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society believes that everyone who could benefit from medical cannabis should have access to it. Our mission is to give clinicians access to evidence, training, expert guidance, peer support and licensed product information so they can prescribe life-changing medical cannabis treatments to all patients in the UK, on the NHS. 

“The Society is an expert-led, independent, not-for-profit community, dedicated to bringing this safe, legal and effective medicine to people living with chronic conditions.” 

The first event will take place at The Midland Hotel in Manchester at 6.30pm on Thursday 12 May. 

Dr Niraj Singh, consultant psychiatrist from The Medical Cannabis Clinics and executive committee member of the MCCS, will share his experience of becoming a medical cannabis prescriber. 

Prof Barnes will explore the history and evidence for medical cannabis.

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