Medical cannabis in the UK – Answers needed from the Home Office!

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):

Hoke Office letter

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.

11 thoughts on “Medical cannabis in the UK – Answers needed from the Home Office!

  1. We’ve all Heard the Saying. Silence is Golden!.
    This Saying seems to me too Sum this up.
    Clearly the Home office know that if they confirm the agrement is correct and lawful the flood gates will open up. Soo the only thing the system can do is stick their Ignorant heads in the sand and hope the smell of Cannabis disapears. As for the media not investing any time on this cover up shows yet again that the Mail and others are quite clearly in the pockets of the masters of world destruction. Shame on the lot of them for allowing sick people to suffer just to stop me growing respctfuly in my own home. Shame Shame and Shame on them again. How low can these people lower themselves for?. Its as plain as the noise on all of our faces that this is a collective turn the other way and collectivly pretend that this isnt happening. Disgusting in fact that they ar so interested in controling our minds that they let Ms, Cancer, etc patients just sit and suffer. This madness has to be stopped.

  2. If cannabis is so terrible when used recreationally but now seems to have some medical value then why not treat it as a medicine. There are many medically prescribed substances that are very much illegal to produce or possess without a prescription – so why not cannabis? I think the argument now must be to attack the Schedule 1 status of cannabis and argue that it does have some (however limited) medical applications – the thin end of the wedge

  3. Is there anything we can do to pressure them? Do you think it is worth writing to our MPs asking them their opinion on the matter?

  4. Hi Sam

    Yes it is! Please do write to your MP and ask for clarification as to the legal situation regarding imported cannabis on prescription, but also why cannabis is still a scehdule 1 drug when it clearly has medical uses.

    Let us know what reply you get please

  5. “I have noticed with some interest the development of some inconsistencies in the law regarding medical cannabis. I would appreciate some clarification on your, and the government’s, viewpoint on the matter.

    How can the government justify classifying cannabis as a schedule 1 drug with NO medical uses whatsoever, when there is glaring evidence to the contrary? For starters the NHS has approved the use of Sativex, a spray derived from cannabis. If that isn’t a legitimate medical use I don’t know what is.

    On top of that I have recently discovered that as we participate in the Schengen agreement, UK citizens seem to be perfectly within their rights to obtain a prescription for herbal cannabis in countries which allow medical cannabis, such as Holland, and can then bring a supply to last 3 months back into the country.

    This implicit acceptance of the legitimate use of cannabis as a medicine by the government shocks me. Not because I think the practise is negative or immoral, but because it strikes me as unusually cruel to deny medicine to suffering people when we could plainly relieve the pain of those suffering from diseases such as MS and cancer but choose not to.

    It saddens me that my government chooses to bury it’s head in the sand rather than recognise that a principled stand would benefit a large number of it’s citizens. We would not be alone in prescribing medical cannabis – multiple states in the USA have taken this step, as well as the Netherlands and others.

    As I said, I would really appreciate a response to this enquiry and look forward to hearing from you in the near future.”

    Fingers crossed – the last time I contacted my MP I got no response at all.

  6. Bad news everyone, the Home Office declared that denying relief to suffering people is still the right thing to do. God it riles me up that people would favour political posturing over giving people a better quality of life. So selfish it makes me disgusted in the whole system.

    They’ve said that only prescriptions obtained in the country of residence are valid for the agreement.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/oct/29/home-office-import-medicinal-cannabis

    Worms the lot of them.

  7. MR McCullagh is allowed to bring dope into the UK because he is not a UK national: Article 75 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.” ‘Tis those last few words…

  8. It’s nothing to do with his nationality, it’s his place of residence which is not a clearly defined term.

    Are we not all residents of the EU?

  9. Yes, but the EU is not a state. However, as long as a competent authority of the state can authenticate the documents issued by another state, then that would be all that would seem to be required to comply with that law.

    As far as I am aware, all members of the bar association have the status of competent authorities of the state, so if you got one of them to give you a document verifying the authenticity of the prescription, then a UK citizen should then be able to transport medicinal cannabis.

    Also, I happen top know that we expect this treatment for UK citizens traveling to the USA with their NHS cannabis, as one of the patients on a MS drug trial that my sister works with had to get the documents to allow him to transport sativex through JFK airport.

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