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Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘Dutch

Legal Opportunities For Medicinal Cannabis Users

with 28 comments

Recent developments mean that there are new opportunities to challenge the prohibition of cannabis as medicine.    Now I am not a lawyer, so these ideas should be carefully discussed with your legal advisors before you even consider pursuing any of them.  I may be wrong about the correct procedure, process or terminology.   I am highlighting opportunities that I have identified, based on my personal experience and knowledge.  Qualified legal advice is essential.

Disingenuous

The British government’s current position on medicinal cannabis is absurd and irrational.  As I understand it, those are exactly the criteria for which the process of judicial review is intended.  That is one route.  Another, more risky opportunity arises if you are facing prosecution or have been convicted of an offence of possession, cultivation or production.  There are ideas here which you may want to consider as a defence or an appeal.  However, please be very careful.  If things go wrong, advancing such arguments might result in a heavier sentence, such is the cruel, oppressive and iniquitous intent of current government policy.

Dishonest

The Home Office is simply dishonest in its current stance saying that there “are no medicinal benefits” from cannabis.  James Brokenshire, the drugs minister, cannot hide behind a lack of knowledge so he looks either more stupid or dishonest every day.  David Cameron made the most dreadful, disingenuous comment about medicinal use in his Al Jazeera World View YouTube interview last week.  See here.  He said “That is a matter for the science and medical authorities to determine and they are free to make independent determinations about that.” That, of course, is absolute rot and Cameron should be ashamed of himself for such misinformation.

Obtain A Doctor’s Prescription For Medicinal Cannabis

There is nothing to prevent your British doctor from prescribing medicinal cannabis for you if he/she believes it is appropriate.  Bedrocan BV is the official contractor to the Dutch government for the production of medicinal cannabis.  Go to its website here and you will discover it has a range of products offering different proportions of cannabinoids and terpenoids for different conditions.  Prescribing information is available for your doctor in exactly the same way as any other drug.  All he/she has to do is select the product and write out a prescription in the normal way.  Your doctor can’t get in trouble for this.  There is nothing improper or unethical about it, but it is, of course, your doctor’s decision whether to do so or not.

If your doctor isn’t prepared to help, the next best thing is to go to a doctor in Holland, Belgium, Germany, Spain or Italy, all countries where medicinal cannabis is regularly prescribed.  In theory, you should be able to see a doctor in another EU country under reciprocal healthcare arrangements but if you can afford it, it may be simpler to go privately.

Another option is to go to one of the 15 US states that permit medical marijuana and obtain a doctor’s recommendation.

Once you have your prescription, you need to apply to the Home Office for a personal import licence to bring your medicine in from Holland.  The licensing section on the Home Office website is here.  If you obtain a licence you will also need to go through a similar process with the Dutch Bureau voor Medicinale Cannabis to obtain an export licence.  The correct section of its website is here.

Of course, the reality is that the Home Office is not going to grant you a licence.  You can then pursue the matter through your MP who should make representations to the minister on your behalf.  You are then at the point to make an application for judical review of the Home Office’s decision.

Challenge The Government’s Interpretation Of The Schengen Agreement

The Schengen Agreement provides protection for travellers to carry their medicine with them within the EU.  The crucial factor is your country of residence.  See here for detailed information. Although there is no precise definition of residency, if you are resident in an EU country where medicinal cannabis is permitted, then you may bring your medicine into Britain and, believe it or not, there is no restriction on your use of it.  You would be perfectly entitled to sit on the steps of Scotland Yard or even the Home Office’s Marsham Street HQ and smoke a spliff.  However, if you are a UK resident, even if you have obtained your medicine on prescription abroad, you are not protected.  This is clearly discriminatory under EU law and could be challenged in court.  I’m not certain whether you would apply to a British court or to the European court but your solicitor would advise you on this.

Defence Or Appeal On The Grounds Of Medical Necessity

The Appeal Court disallowed a defence of medical necessity back in 2005.  A petition to the House Of Lords Judicial Committee and to the  European Court Of Human Rights was dismissed without any reasons given.  I understand that the Appeal Court’s reasoning was that there were no proven medicinal benefits of cannabis.  However, things have changed enormously since then.  The MHRA approval of Sativex and the Home Office’s issue of a general licence for it are conclusive proof of medicinal value.  Whatever misinformation the Home Office may promote, expert evidence would prove that Sativex is pharmacologically identical to, for instance, one of the Bedrocan products.  There is also now a vast resource of peer-reviewed clinical evidence of medicinal benefits.

There is an horrendously improper judgement (R -v- David King,  St Albans Crown Court), where a medicinal user was not allowed even to mention medicinal reasons to a jury on pain of imprisonment for contempt.  Your lawyers would need to study this carefully.  However, it is so clearly unjust that I do not believe it could be sustained.

Re-Scheduling  Of Sativex

Sativex is currently a schedule 1 controlled drug which means it has no medicinal value. As mentioned earlier, the Home Office has dealt with this temporarily by issuing a general licence for it.  However, it needs to be re-scheduled and the Advisory Council On the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) has recommended that it be placed in schedule 4.  See here for the full story.

Sativex cannot be re-scheduled under its brand name and the only pharmacologically accurate way of describing it is cannabis.  The ACMD left a possible escape route for the Home Office by saying that its “active” ingredients  would have to be specified. GW Pharma, the makers of Sativex would say that this means an extract of THC and CBD.  However, this is dishonest.  Sativex contains all the 60-odd cannabinoids that occur naturally in the plant.  There is no other way of describing it accurately than to call it cannabis. If Brokenshire and his cronies try to prolong this deception then they can be challenged by judicial review.  The aim here is to ensure that the re-scheduling is accurate and so cannabis becomes a schedule 4 drug.  This would then open up all opportunities for cannabis as medicine.

I have no doubt now that medicinal cannabis will be permitted in some form or another in Britain within the near future.   We may need to force the government’s hand through litigation or, perhaps Brokenshire will be moved to another department and then the Home Office can “adjust” its position.

At present, it is a monstrous injustice, an evil and obscene scandal, that those who need cannabis as medicine are denied it.  The way of politics is that a few years from now it may well all have changed and Brokenshire will be at the Ministry of Silly Walks or somewhere better suited to his talents. However it works out, what I care about is that those in pain and suffering get the relief they need.  One day soon, Brokenshire will have to answer to his constituents and later to an even higher power.  How he will justify his cruelty and negilgence I don’t really care but I know I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes on judgement day.


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SECOND UPDATE On Legal Medicinal Cannabis In Britain

with 68 comments

This is the third instalment in this story.

1. Legal Medicinal Cannabis In Britain

2. Update On Legal Medicinal Cannabis In Britain

Eventually The Guardian took some notice.   See here.

Despite the pleas of those in pain and suffering, the Home Office was talking to Mary O’Hara of The Guardian but not to them.   Dozens if not hundreds of medicinal cannabis users had written to the Home Office asking for confirmation that they could go to Holland for a prescription.  Not a word was heard.

Jim Starr, the subject of this story, wrote to his MP, and then he wrote again.  He heard nothing.  He wrote to the Home Office, chasing up his application for a personal import licence.  He heard nothing.  He wrote again.

Dilatory

Richard Drax, the first timer, newly elected Tory MP for Dorset South just happens to be my MP too, so I wrote to him on Jim’s behalf.

Jim has heard nothing.  Richard Drax asked me not to mention his name in any article about Jim. Jim wrote again.  I wrote again.  We have heard nothing.

Jim’s medicine has run out.  We told the Home Office and Richard Drax that it was an urgent medical emergency.  We have heard nothing.

I spent the last week on the telephone and exchanging emails with the Home Office.  This is the result:

A Home Office spokesperson said:

The UK’s position is clear – cannabis is dangerous and has no medicinal benefits in herbal form. It remains illegal for UK residents to possess cannabis in any form.

Britons benefit from reciprocal laws which allow EU nationals, in limited circumstances, to travel with controlled medicines. We are working with European authorities to ensure the system is robust and not open to abuse.

The Home Office says you can import cannabis to the UK and use it without restriction provided you “are resident in a country where that drug is legally prescribed”.  So it’s OK for the Dutch and the Belgians and the Spanish and the Italians and the Czechs and the Poles (and many others) to smoke weed in Britain but not if you’re British.

We Won't Give Up

This is clearly unequal, discriminatory, unjust and unsustainable in law but the Home Office is not about to give in.  The only way to resolve this is that either someone must appeal a conviction all the way to the Supreme Court or there must be an application for judicial review.

Stay tuned for the next exciting instalment.

In the meantime, Jim and thousands like him will manage as best as they can.

He’s still heard nothing from either the Home Office or Richard Drax.

The Truth About Sativex

with 49 comments

Sativex is super strong, concentrated cannabis.  Nothing more, nothing less.

GW Pharmaceuticals would have you believe that it’s a “pharmaceutical” product because according to its research that’s what patients prefer.  As the GW spokesman puts it, “It’s a pharmaceutical solution, formulated with the ability to deliver a precise dose and with stringent standards of quality, safety and efficacy”.

In fact, what GW does is grow high quality cannabis under pretty much the same conditions as most illegal growers.   It uses clonal propagation to ensure consistent levels of cannabinoids.  Lighting and hydroponic nutrition is computer controlled with automatic ventilation. It really is no different from the most sophisticated and efficent illegal cannabis farms.  It’s a recognised and proven technology now also used by Bedrocan in Holland, the Dutch government’s exclusive medicinal cannabis grower and Gropech in California which is building a new 60,000 sq ft facility in Oakland for a crop worth $50 million per year.

Bedrocan Grow

The difference between these crops from legal and illegal growers is insignificant.  It’s similar to buying your tomatoes from the supermarket or the farm shop.

GW Grow

GW takes its high quality cannabis, chops it up and makes a tincture by heating it under pressure with CO2 and then adding ethanol to precipitate an oil. Then, with the addition of a little peppermint oil to mask the taste and some preservative, the filtered liquid is packaged into tiny little aerosol bottles.  Each spray delivers 2.7mg of THC and 2.5mg of CBD.  What GW doesn’t tell you that it also contains all the other 100+  cannabinoids found in the plant, each of which has its own mechanism of action and effect.  It also contains flavonoids, terpines and other compounds.  Everything that is found in the plant.

Illegal Grow

I applaud GW Pharmaceuticals for bringing the enormous benefits of cannabinoid therapy into the 21st century. It’s nothing new though. The medicinal value of the plant has been known and widely used for thousands of years.  Only in the last century has it been demonised by lies and propaganda.  It would be a mistake though to think that Sativex is anything different from the plant itself.  It’s just been wrapped up in a marketing and physical package which has enabled stupid and cowardly politicians to accept it.

In fact, Sativex remains just as illegal in Britain as herbal cannabis.  Even though it has received MHRA approval for use in the treatment of MS spasticity and may be prescribed by a doctor, it remains a schedule 1 drug under the Misuse Of Drugs Act.  The Home Office has indicated that it intends to amend the law but has not yet done so.  This means that any pharmacist who dispenses Sativex at present is guilty of exactly the same criminal offence as any street dealer in weed or hash.

The Home Office will, of course, turn a blind eye to this but not to medicinal herbal cannabis even though, in every sense, it is identical to Sativex (except that Sativex also contains alcohol and peppermint oil).  The stark idiocy of British law is revealed.

Never before has there been a better example of the how the law is an ass and so are the spineless politicians who support it.