The cannabis laws are rapidly descending ever deeper into farce because of the apparent ability to import medical cannabis from Holland under rights enshrined in the Schengen agreement mentioned a week or so back on this blog and several others. To recap the Shengen Agreement guarantees the right of a person prescribed medication in one member state to travel to any other member state with up to three months supply without need to declare it at customs. In the last blog the text of a letter from the home Office to a member of the public who enquired made the situation quite clear in that it also applied to people domiciled in this country. Since then UKCIA has heard on the grapevine that the Home Office has been briefing journalists that this is not the case.
A large number of people – including myself – have written to either the Home Office or their MP to ask for clarification and to date we haven’t heard of any replies.
One blog which has really got its teeth into this whole fiasco is the Peter Reynolds blog and Peter has just written an interesting update which provides more evidence that it is in fact legal to bring medicinal cannabis into the country and use it here without fear of criminal sanctions. As Peter writes and I can confirm, there has been an enormous amount of interest in these developments, yet the media has totally ignored it. As Peter writes the story
was offered to every quality national newspaper and The Daily Mail
Yet not one has covered developments, although the Mail has been running a number of cannabis makes you mad addicts stories.
However Peter does provide some more evidence of the legality of medical cannabis imported on prescription from Holland. He cites the (much hated by anti prohibition campaigners) United Nations Single Convention On Narcotic Drugs which states
the documentation required for the transport of such medicines across international borders as, simply, “a valid medical prescription”.
And article 23 of the Geneva Convention
protection is provided for the transport of medicines across borders.
As well, of course as article 75 of the Schengen Agreement. Peter points out that
The UK has been bound by this since 1st January 2005. In support of this, I refer to the proceedings in the European Parliament on 1st December 2009 on the Right To Freedom Of Movement In The EU, in which the European Commission Advocate stated unequivocally that article 75 of Schengen is “binding” on the UK.
Peter reproduces this letter to a Dutch resident from the UK Home Office dated 14th December 2009 which makes it all pretty clear (click for a full sized version):
This is clearly creating a huge problem for the Misuse of Drugs act. For a start, this letter “suggests” the person with the medicannabis to “keep your Shengen certificate and this letter with you” to act as proof if questioned by a policeman. But of course, there is no requirement to do that and so police now face the very real prospect of perfectly legit cannabis users popping up all over the place, you can, of course, use your medication anywhere.
What if a medicannabis user comes to stay in your house? He will of course be allowed to take his medicine in your house, but will you be allowed to let him because as the law stands (section 8 of the MoD Act) that would seem to be illegal.
Under the Misuse of Drugs Act cannabis is still a schedule 1 drug – it has no medical value apparently, yet it is now to be accepted as a legitimate medicine. That is simply illogical.
Actually the whole scheduling thing is a mess already because Sativex – the over priced hash oil product made by GWPharms – is still classed as a schedule 1 drug even though the NHS has approved it. This was supposed to have been changed to make Sativex a special exception as a schedule 2, but as far as I can discover this never happened. Indeed as recently as 24th May this year Cambridgeshire NHS (the wonderfully named Joint prescribing group) advised (PDF download)
Sativex remains a Schedule 1 controlled drug, although the Home Office has permitted an exemption to physicians who wish to prescribe (and pharmacists who wish to dispense) the product.
The result of this and many other similar rulings thousands of MS sufferers are unable to obtain the product and are thus left to suffer. This is an intolerable situation.
What’s caused this mess? In fairness to the present government they’ve only been in power for a few months – although they must have found out about this situation by now. The Home Office of course certainly has known about it for years which means the last government was aware and just left matters drift, preferring instead to play to the hype spread by the Daily Mail by sounding tough with reclassification to B.
Answers please Mr Brokenshire, PDQ if you don’t mind.