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New initiative launched to protect UK cannabis patients’ rights

The #ReleaseMyMeds campaign aims to provide support for those patients prescribed medicinal cannabis in the UK.



Police seize medical cannabis

The national centre of expertise on drugs and drugs law, Release, has launched a new initiative to help protect the rights of medical cannabis patients in the UK. 

Despite medical cannabis being legal in the UK since November 2018, patients continue to report negative experiences of harassment and discrimination while going about their daily lives.

In November of 2023, the Guardian reported that it had received 24 individual stories from people who had experienced negative police interactions related to the use of their prescribed medication. 

Cannabis Health has also covered a number of stories featuring patients who report being prosecuted for driving offences, having their licence revoked and being threatened with eviction from their home as a result of their use of a legally prescribed medication.

Many others have reported being refused entry to events and venues with their medication and experiencing harassment from security.

In response to similar stories which Release has heard through its national helpline, the #ReleaseMyMeds campaign launched on 4/20 (Saturday 20 April), aims to provide support for those patients prescribed medicinal cannabis in the UK.

Patients who have had ‘concerning interactions’ with police are invited to fill out a brief questionnaire to ensure these instances are documented and used to demonstrate the need for a fairer and more just treatment of patients’ legal rights.

In addition, patients who do so, will have the opportunity for their cases to be reviewed by Release’s legal team and referred for further advice on potential legal challenges. 

Stephen Cutter, head of legal services at Release, commented: “Even though it has been over five years since the law was changed to allow for cannabis to be prescribed, we know that many patients continue to face confusion from law enforcement. This has led to patients being arrested, having their medication confiscated, or the validity of their prescription challenged.

He added: “This can and should be avoided, and it needs to change. Our campaign will help us identify what specific issues patients are facing when dealing with the police across the country, and what changes can stop this from continuing to happen.”

How it works and what you need to know

Patients are invited to complete a brief questionnaire about their experiences so they can be assessed by Release. Release’s legal team can also review the questionnaire and contact you about referring you for further advice for a potential legal claim.

In return, Release can offer patients:

Support: including advice on medical cannabis, drug laws and legal actions against the police. While the campaign is focused on legal advice for medical cannabis, Release can offer advice on issues with any other substances, or refer on to better suited organisations.

Mobilisation: The past five years have seen negligible improvement to the way patients are treated by law enforcement. As negative experiences aren’t centrally collected, documenting them will help understand the national picture better than before.

Action: While a lot of medications are also controlled drugs, a lot of people reach out to the national helpline for medical cannabis advice. Your experience may be what’s needed to help change the way patients are treated in the UK. 

What Release can’t offer

Release operates a national helpline to advise on drugs and laws about drugs. Through this it can offer one-off advice, and sometimes help with a referral if you are facing a criminal charge. However, Release is not able to represent you, or ‘take on your case’. While it does not have the capacity to do this, you can always call the helpline for advice.

This campaign is exploring what changes could stop the problems some patients have had with the police when found with medical cannabis. If you complete the form Release will review what you’ve shared and if they think what happened may be of interest to our partners you will be contacted to ask for permission to share it and check any details with you. There is no guarantee that if you are contacted that your case will then definitely be taken on.

You can find out more and complete the questionnaire here

Sarah Sinclair is a respected cannabis journalist writing on subjects related to science, medicine, research, health and wellness. She is managing editor of Cannabis Health, the UK’s leading title covering medical cannabis and CBD, and sister titles, Cannabis Wealth and Psychedelic Health. Sarah has an NCTJ journalism qualification and an MA in Journalism from the University of Sunderland. Sarah has over six years experience working on newspapers, magazines and digital-first titles, the last two of which have been in the cannabis sector. She has also completed training through the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society securing a certificate in Medical Cannabis Explained. She is a member of PLEA’s (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) advisory board, has hosted several webinars on cannabis and women's health and has moderated at industry events such as Cannabis Europa. Sarah Sinclair is the editor of Cannabis Health. Got a story? Email / Follow us on Twitter: @CannabisHNews / Instagram: @cannabishealthmag


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