Using medical cannabis in the UK is now possible

This is possibly the biggest development since prohibition was imposed on the UK and is really good news for lots of people who need cannabis for medical reasons. Over the past couple of weeks feedback to UKCIA has picked up considerably with people asking if it’s possible to obtain and use real cannabis – as opposed to the SATIVEX product – legally in this country. The answer it turns out is “yes”.

Two things have happened, neither all that recent. First there is the the Schenegen Agreement – the EU treaty which allows, amongst other things, for EU citizens to carry prescribed medicines anywhere in the EU. The other is Holland has legalised medical cannabis on prescription.

Article 75, sub 1 of the Schengen agreement reads:

As regards the movement of travellers to the territories of the Contracting Parties or their movement within these territories, persons may carry the narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances that are necessary for their medical treatment provided that, at any check, they produce a certificate issued or authenticated by a competent authority of their State of residence.”

The introduction of the certificate according to Article 75 Schengen aims to safeguard the free movement of travellers between and within the Schengen Member States, as national legislation on the availability and control of medical products that are (partly) based on narcotic drugs and/or psychotropic substances may vary between Member States. The presence of an authenticated certificate can avoid unnecessary delays and misunderstandings.

In cases where the patients reside in a Member State that does not participate in the Schengen Agreement, such as Ireland, they are advised to ask for prior approval from the Embassy/Consulate of the Member State that will be passed through or visited.

The same is valid for travels to a Member State which does not participate in the Schengen area without international border controls.

Even though there may be no formal medical passport control in most Member States, travellers may need to justify the presence of medicines that are (partly) based on narcotic drugs and/ or psychotropic substances in their belongings when found in checks.

In cases where patients pass through or arrive in a Member State without a Schengen Medical Certificate or a prior approval note from the authorities in question, they might be subject to arrest and further criminal proceedings, depending on the legislation and legal practice as well as on the status of the medication concerned in that country.

A medical cannabis campaigner wrote to the Home Office to clarify the situation:

Dear Sirs,

I am a UK domiciled person and I understand that I can legally import herbal medicinal cannabis from the Netherlands if I am in receipt of a prescription from a Dutch Doctor.

I understand that I would require a personal license if I possessed more than 3 months supply

Can you please confirm that if I return from Holland in possession of less than 3 months supply of herbal cannabis and I possess a letter from the prescribing Doctor stating

My name
My address
My date of birth
Dates of travel
The quantity of cannabis, the dosage and total amount
What it is prescribed for

Then I will be legally in possession of prescribed cannabis in the UK

Regards

The reply is quite clear

Apologies for the delay in responding to your enquiry.

Your understanding, outlined below, concerning importation to the UK of a controlled drug for personal use is correct.

Regards

Matt Donovan

Drug Licensing & Compliance
Drug Strategy Unit
Home Office
4th Floor Fry Building
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P

(original mail attached)

Home Office information here

So you need a Dutch doctor to agree to prescribe the cannabis then you  go to Holland and get some, There is a Facebook page all about it here. Cannabis obtained this way is 100% legal and you can use it anywhere you like without fear of prosecution. Going through this mill might take a bit of organising but it’s not impossible and once arranged you can bring up to three months supply back with you and you don’t even have to declare it at customs.

The Dutch government has licensed a company to provide the legal medical cannabis, you can see the details including how much it costs here. There are three strains available and it is real cannabis – ie buds of herbal cannabis and not the expensive product manufactured by GW pharms.

—————————————

Edit Thursday 30th 11.00am

I’ve been asked to ammend the blog slightly. Advice which had been included at this point to the effect that anyone who has been refused SATIVEX should take this route now is best advised to hang on for a little while. Don’t dive in and put yourself at possibly an unknown risk just yet. Without giving anything away, watch this space for news.

—————————————

The UK government has been keeping this very quiet but the secret is out now and will be hitting the media pretty soon, more about that later.

47 thoughts on “Using medical cannabis in the UK is now possible

  1. On the Dutch website it states when referring to quality:

    “Medicinal cannabis provided by the BMC is of pharmaceutical quality. This means it meets strict international quality requirements.

    Medicinal cannabis contains no pesticides, heavy metals, bacteria, mould or other potential pathogens. The active substances are the same in each individual harvest of any given product, ensuring that the strength of the product supplied to the user is always the same. To this end the BMC has set a number of requirements that must be met by all supply chain partners (including the producer and the logistical service provider). The cannabis is cultivated under controlled circumstances, in line with the rules for Good Agricultural Practice (GAP).

    To ensure that all requirements are met, the resulting medicinal cannabis is tested by independent laboratories for undesirable substances, such as heavy metals and pesticides, as well as for possible pathogens. Once it has been given the all clear the medicinal cannabis can be released for delivery to pharmacies.

    Leiden University has conducted research into the quality of cannabis available in coffee shops. The results showed that such cannabis is not of pharmaceutical quality, and is often polluted with pathogens. Using cannabis not obtained from a pharmacy therefore poses a serious health risk for patients.”

    How sensible… if only…

  2. Bad Luck for Me All the “Irish” users Again!,ah well However
    Guys Everybody must be made aware of this,
    fantasic News!…

  3. UK and Ireland are not part of the Schengen agreement in which case it states:

    “In cases where the patients reside in a Member State that does not participate in the Schengen Agreement, such as Ireland, they are advised to ask for prior approval from the Embassy/Consulate of the Member State that will be passed through or visited.”

    and

    “In cases where patients pass through or arrive in a Member State without a Schengen Medical Certificate or a prior approval note from the authorities in question, they might be subject to arrest and further criminal proceedings, depending on the legislation and legal practice as well as on the status of the medication concerned in that country”

    Confused please clarify.

  4. hmmm – the way I read it is that not all EU countries are signatories to the Schengen agreement This arrangement only concerns those which are. The UK is, as is Holland and there is no other country between us so this isn’t a problem for UK residents.

    Sorry about ROI though.

  5. God, I can’t wait for the Daily Heil to get their teeth into this one.

    Great news for people who are suffering under pointless prohibition though, even if it’s not an ideal solution.

    Jake also makes a good point – when regulated, cannabis is required to be safer. When not, the government openly advocates increasing the risks of harm…as they do now.

  6. You can’t be completely certain of any new procedure until it’s tested out properly but that’s why it’s being tested out properly. I’d recommend that people wait until a UK resident gives a fully explained and documented account of having brought in herbal cannabis legally. Don’t worry you won’t have to wait long.

  7. Fantastic news! Can we please get some clarification from a reliable legal source that confirms that the UK is included in the Schengen agreement? Would it be a good idea to perhaps go and ask the police and customs officials before any arrangements are made to go over to Holland and complete the maiden voyage? I understand that the Home Office has confirmed the UK’s position on the Schengen agreement but should we write to them again on mass to get several qualified answers that confirm the position without doubt?

  8. P.S: Reading the Home Office document linked to, does this mean that as long as you are not carrying more than a 3 month supply you may bring prescribed drugs into the country with only a letter and prescription from the issuing Doctor?

    Does it matter that we are not Dutch Residents, after all we are all EU residents? Does this amount to the same thing?

  9. Hi all

    Some interesting news indeed. As for the confusion regarding the Schengen treaty and the UK please check out this page:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schengen_Area#EU_member_states_with_opt-outs

    It would appear that we are bound by these regulations although its a reasonably recent development and so some resources still cite the UK as having opted out.

    This would explain the Home Offices reply above.

    One thing that concerns me more than how the border control or the home office reacts is how my local police force would react. Should I tell them in advance? What about my social landlord and their zero tolerance policy for drug abuse if the neighbours were to complain? What about my care team from the local authority etc.

    Am I allowed to use my medication outside my home – a thermos of tea for a long trip or a volcano in the office so I could return to work?

    I would want to see these issues addressed and would urge everyone – especially those of us who have disabilities to worry about – to take advice and be cautious as you dont want to be the one arguing treaty law in an eviction process or magistrates court…

    Once the legal issues are clarified it would be interesting to see if anyone gets their local PCT to authorise paying for this under the NHS. I could happily make the medical case for myself but in this time of austerity I could also make a pretty convincing business case too – the price quoted above is far less than the multiple controlled pharma meds I am on currently.

  10. @ Sanmoran:

    As far as the zero tolerance approach to illegal drugs are concerned, medically prescribed cannabis would actually be a legal medication which leaves those naive prohibitionists in a bit of a pickle!

    I absolutely agree, however, that this new loop hole needs adequate legal confirmation before anybody risks making the journey. One brave sole is going to make the test trip and then declare his prescribed medicine to the police upon his arrival back home. He is, indeed, a person of great moral fibre and good character for initiating the debate in the manner that he is. All results of this trip will be posted to the Face Book page linked to in this article and I suggest that everybody go and lend their unwavering support to this brave man’s venture.

  11. I just spoke with a dutch pharmacy (if the site admins want to contact me to find out which thats fine but I wont post it here as I dont wish them to be flooded with calls!) and its not quite as simple as it sounds.

    They do not have and have not heard of patients from the UK. They offer to post via TNT however not to the UK. This would be the case every time not just initially. They would not recommend a dutch doctor but did clearly state I would struggle to find one willing to help me as they wouldnt just write a prescription for a walk in patient. The want detailed medical histories and the right to contact my own doctors in the UK. I welcome all this tbh – sounds like a proper, well regulated *clinical* scheme rather than some of the dodgy business orientated medi weed places in the US.

  12. ^ Indeed, the clinical scrutiny is a must. However, I may be wrong but I think that as we are European Citizens, we are entitled to seek medical help anywhere in the EU and to be treated as if we were resident in the EU country we choose. Therefore, I do not think that a EU doctor is allowed to prejudice your chances of treatment. Of course, you will need a viable health issue to get the prescription as in all other cases.

  13. @ Leander

    Respectfully I feel its naive to suggest that small details like being right and having the support of the law means you would be shielded from the multitudes of jobsworths disabled people face daily. To give you an idea my own landlord has breached 4 separate acts in relation to myself but from their point of view they have acted properly in undertaking work required by the building regulations and its tough that it makes my home unsuitable for me. Instead of readapting my property they used their powers to issue me with a notice of seeking possession and initiated eviction proceedings. With the support of a pro bono lawyer I managed to stay in my home – but that notice stays on my record permanently (meaning I am now the lowest priority should I be rehoused) and like most social tenants have a probation period which I have to pass without incident or I can lose my tenancy – thus their error could still cost me my home. Moral – take care and think about all domains of your life not just the overtly legal ones!

    Glad to hear someone is organising a test case – I think this will add much more fuel to the current debate around legalisation and I send my thanks and best wishes to the brave soul willing to be the sunject of that debate! I have been on the phone to the netherlands all day and am keeping notes of my own experiences so it will be interesting to see what happens.

    You are correct that we are EU citizens however to clarify the info I posted above was from a pharmacist not a doc – he said they were not allowed to post out of the netherlands and that may well be the courier of course. As for a dutch doc wanting full med histories etc thats standard practise and would be no different from if yu moved in the uk and demanded a repeat prescription of a drug from a new GP. They were not being obstructive they were just being Dutch and up front about the hurdles to be faced. I just wanted peeps to realise that this is not your usual turn up with an old med cert and walk away with medicine type deal.

    PS please cross post here the updates from facebook – I wont join and would advise others either not to or to think about what they do on it. Yet more concerning news today that companies are actively scrapping facebook to search for ‘pre behaviour’ to screen out job applicants – thus supporting something that *might* lead someone to take illegal or immoral action *in the future* can land you on blacklists. The internet is a insecure network at the best of times – facebook has to be its leakiest pipe 😉
    PPS If you couldnt care less about the above remember with facebook you take your friends with you too…

  14. Thanks for your comments here sanmoran – and leander.

    I think the people involved know this isn’t a game and will have been through the mill enough to understand the rules of the road.

    I can only add my support to your comments about facebook though, but it extends to the whole of the internet to one degree or another. The web is a great way to spread news, but it’s not a place to hide or to plot in secret.

  15. Agreed on with the Facebook thing.

    If one were given a prescription by a Dutch Dr. would it then be okay to get the cannabis imported via mail? I already know of one such service, it’s bloody expensive though (coffee shop prices).

    Media opinion is swinging a bit (according to Transform) and I say it every time but California is almost certainly going to get legalisation in November, it won’t take the rest of the world long to follow.

  16. Hi Sanmoran,

    In your conversations with the Dutch pharmacy, did they mention if presribed medical cannabis would be/is common practice in the Dutch medical system? Or will it/is it similar to the ‘medi weed’ system in the U.S.?

    Also, I wonder how they assess someones need for medical cannabis.

  17. As for Face Book, well personally I have had enough of running scared. I am actively supporting the Pro-Legalisation Lobby through any means at my disposal.

    Martin Luther King Jr:

    “Just as it is the duty of all men to obey just laws, so it is the duty of all men to disobey unjust laws.”

    So, let them come and see my Face Book page as I have nothing to hide and feel confident that although my message disobeys the law, I am never the less undeterred in my duty to protest against it.

    Enough is enough! When 30,000 people die in Mexico because of America’s Drug War it is time to say STOP! The majority of those killed in Mexico have been innocent civilians (women, children, the elderly and men) caught up in the fire fights between the military and drug cartels. That’s 30,000 people who each have a knock on effect on the people who loved them, thus utterly destroying many more lives than simply those who were murdered in the name of the Drug War, a cause based in ideological nonsense an corporate / political corruption.

    Children are dying and yet the war drags on regardless. I would hazard a guess that even in this one particular case, never mind the global ramifications, more lives have been destroyed by the Drugs War and prohibition than could ever have been destroyed through the use of drugs.

    It is now time for everybody who sees the evil of prohibition to stand up and be counted. Demand a better world and be proud of your humanitarian position. F**K anybody who disagrees with you because they are the promoters of death and misery and you are the shining light of freedom, rationality, human dignity and responsability.

  18. @ Adam Cecils
    The pharmacy said they were not able to send it out of the country but did say they could post it within – sounded like a normal pharmacy set up really they said I was the first to ask from the uk. A bit like ringing Boots in Bristols indoor market and asking them to ship your valium prescription to France 😉

    @ Mark
    It was a regular pharmacy and this is all part of their health system not just medi weed operating under a loophole.

    Everyone in the netherlands speaks english btw just in case you all think I can speak other languages!

  19. Pinky is a true hero! My respect and admiration for a man who is so selfless that he would risk his own liberty in order to promote the cause of reason, rationality and humanity. With Israel being the latest country in the domino chain of regulation, surely it is now time for the UK to radically reconsider drug policy and reform it utterly?

  20. Peter, can I ask for a friend request on Face Book if you have a page? Can you link to it in your reply if you do?

  21. Thin end of the wedge maybe. Should be quite straightforward to now argue the next step. If a Dutch doctor can prescribe and you can import the medicine then some one should be able to prescribe, manufacture and supply in this country. The same arguments that led to the discussion of people travelling abroad for assisted suicide in cases of terminal illness.

  22. The UK opted in for article 75 of the Schengen Acquis, which does indeed allow for free movement of prescribed psychotropic substances. It does specifically say that …

    “persons may carry the narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances that are necessary for their medical treatment provided that, at any check, they produce a certificate issued or authenticated by a competent authority of their State of residence.”

    N.B. competent authority of THEIR state of residence.

    So yes, a Dutch prescription may be valid if a UK GP can “authenticate” (what does this even mean?) the prescription, but it obviously cannot be issued by a UK GP since cannabis isn’t a medication recognised by the UK.

    However, the UK also opted in for article 76, which reads …

    1. The Contracting Parties shall, where necessary, and in accordance with their medical, ethical and practical usage, adopt appropriate measures for the control of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances which in the territory of one or more Contracting Parties are subject to more rigorous controls than in their own territory, so as not to jeopardise the effectiveness of such controls.
    2. Paragraph 1 shall also apply to substances frequently used in the manufacture of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
    3. The Contracting Parties shall notify each other of the measures taken in order to monitor the legal trade of the substances referred to in paragraphs 1 and 2.
    4. Problems experienced in this area shall be raised regularly in the Executive Committee.

    So the second the government see this “loophole” as causing harm to the “war on drugs”, the government can “adopt appropriate measures for the control of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances” … which presumably means prosecutions under the MDA for possession of a controlled substance.

    They’ve got their backs covered on this one guys.

  23. I don’t doubt this last post is closer to the truth that the hysteria around one guy bringing cannabis back from Holland without even declaring it formally upon his return. If anything the point of this in my mind would be to expose the unequal treatment between various EU nationals, which is probably unsustainable and the closing of the loophole would mean unreasonable restrictions on the freedom of movement we agreed to in the EU.

  24. Dragoncaviar I agree there is a debate to be had here, however the question asked of the Home Office I reproduced above was

    >>
    I am a UK domiciled person and I understand that I can legally import herbal medicinal cannabis from the Netherlands if I am in receipt of a prescription from a Dutch Doctor.
    >>

    The Home Office apparently have confirmed that is OK. We do all have the right to equal treatment in the EU and a Dutch doctor can give me any pill he deems fit for anyone else.

    There is a conflict with the prohibition laws though and it will be interesting to see how this pans out and as I say there should be more news on this soon.

    This might be a change of mind under the new government, it might be as the result of indecision and inexperience in office. Who knows? I think we can safely assume things will be clearer soon, for one reason or another.

    As regards the individual mentioned on another blog linked to above, I wouldn’t open the champers just yet.

  25. Let’s all work together, eh? Let’s stand together against prohibition and not worry about who’s getting press coverage or who’s getting the credit. We’re all on the same side aren’t we?

    All credit to Pinky for having the balls for God’s sake. It look as if his picture is going to be in the local paper tomorrow displaying what he brought back. If Plod is going to pounce, this is his moment. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for him.

    The importance of this development is that it exposes the absurdity of UK law. If they try to close this loophole, then the European courts can get involved.

    This is exactly the sort of development we need to knock Humpty Dumpty off his wall!

    As for Facebook, I despise it:

    http://peterreynolds.wordpress.com/2010/05/23/facebook-its-a-snide-snide-world/

    But with 500,000,000 members you’d have to be a fool to ignore it,particularly if you want to reach people, communicate and change opinion.

    Facebook is the best possible way to mobilise our campaign. If you hide in your cave you won’t achieve anything.

  26. Peter

    It’s not a case of “standing together” or worrying about who’s getting press coverage, it’s about doing things right and of being certain of your position.

    Jim Star seems to have got a Dutch doctor to prescribe him cannabis and he managed to get it into the country but he hasn’t proven it’s legal to have it here.

    It is possible that he could establish that it is not legal to do this, which would mess things up for a lot of very needy people. I hope it doesn’t go that way, I really do.

  27. Sometimes you have to TAKE your rights. If everyone dithers and waits to be given a 100% assurance – well,we might as well call ourselves Germans.

    This is a loophole. It may work. It may not. I am not a personal friend of Pinky but I give him credit for his courage.

    It precisely IS a case of “standing together”. This site revealed the correspondence that, I think, gave Pinky the courage to do it. You should be ready to give evidence on his behalf if he gets nicked.

    “It is possible that he could establish that it is not legal to do this”

    – Please! What, would you rather not know?

    I know that many people have written to the Home Office in the last few days. Pinky thinks he’s pictured in the paper tomorrow surrounded by bags of Amnesia Haze.

    How this will unfold, I do not know but we must all stand together!

  28. Peter, I don’t think anyone is actually opposing what “pinky” has done, it’s just a matter of not claiming too much.

    This isn’t about exploiting a loophole, it’s about establishing a right, two very different things.

  29. Sadly, I think that’s what it has come to, exploiting a loophole – but in order to claim and establish a right.

    I think we should err on the side of caution with regards to celebrating a victory over an oppressive cruel law, but at the same time to cower in fear is inappropriate. This Pinky fellow has taken a great risk doing this, and had he waited for explicit 100% permission (though I don’t know how much more permission you need than the letter he received), I’m positive the Home Office would have slammed the door shut in his face if they could.

    I don’t think there was anything to lose. It’s not like it’ll become more illegal due to this. But I’ve probably overlooked some horrible outcome that could arise.

    Brokenshire is in Peru at the moment so who knows what’ll happen when he comes back…

  30. Well, I can see that things are not cut & dried here -but this has definitely made my day (or even year). I cant believe it has taken me so long to find it, i’m a regular visitor.

    Nice one pinky. I agree he is an important figure & should not mix with tobacco for the above reasons. I think a large group within our government will be going all out to try to prevent this progress at all costs. Come on Lib Dems, show us your progressive attitude.

  31. guys and girls, i have researched indepth about this schengen agreement and have looked into all laws with the UK and EU. this is how it stands at present – u are only allowed to travel with the required medication ( cannabis ) if u are a born citizen in a country where it is legally prescribed, so cut long story short, other EU countries can bring it with them to UK, but uk citizens cannot take it or bring it back, there is supreme court action going on right now tackling equality laws…

  32. Now then Judge Dredd you haven’t researched it very well, have you!

    What the government is saying is that people who LIVE in these countries have the right to import cannabis prescribed to them, it has nothing to do with where you’re born.

    It is a right based on residency, not nationality. Trouble is residency isn’t a well defined term.

    Worse, we now have the criminal law operating differently in this country based on where people live. Also, some aspects of our misuse of drugs act still do not allow this legally possessed cannabis to actually be used.

  33. I beg somebody from a country where medical cannabis is legal to come and light up in front of a policeman. I’d pay good money to see it.

  34. My apologies for not wording my statement precisely. ( i am well dosed up on morhpine, and tend to struggle a little when reflecting what i have read… ) just for the record, i`m on the same boat as u, and dont mean to rock it the wrong way…

  35. Article 75(1) in Schengen states that “individuals may carry narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances in connection with medical treatment, provided they produce at any check a certificate issued or authenticated by a competent authority of the State of residence.”

    I.e. Dutch can bring dope to the UK, but UK nationals cannot…this is discrimination on the grounds of nationality under Article 14 of the European Convention? It’s going to take a court case!

  36. Brainputman125 – you have it wrong as well – it’s not based on nationality but on place of residence.

    But yes, it is discrimination.

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