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Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Posts Tagged ‘Jim Starr

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.

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UPDATE On Legal Medicinal Cannabis In Britain

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My article on Jim Starr and his medicine has been bouncing around the internet for nearly two weeks now.  It was offered to every quality national newspaper and The Daily Mail but none have seen fit even to cover the story.  The Daily Telegraph, to its credit,  covered the BMJ article about how cannabis prohibition in the US is counterproductive.  Other than that all the press can be bothered with is trivia about celebrities and cannabis.  The truly important news that tens of thousands of people now have legal access to the medicine they need is of no interest to the erudite editors of Fleet Street.  I wonder what their readers would think?

The feedback I have received has been overwhelming.  I know of hundreds of people who have written to the Home Office asking for confirmation that they may follow in Jim’s footsteps.  Many have telephoned and it seems a different story or excuse has been given to each one.  What is certain is that the prohibitionists and legislators who care not one jot for others’ pain and suffering are in disarray.

I can now add further clarification and evidence in support of the rights of those who need medicinal cannabis.    Surely now those cruel politicians and civil servants who are depriving so many British citizens of the medicine they need must relent.  The truth is out!

1. Under the United Nations Single Convention On Narcotic Drugs, the UN International Narcotics Control Board determines the documentation required for the transport of such medicines across international borders  as, simply, “a valid medical prescription”.

2. Under article 23 of the Geneva Convention (which specifically applies to all parties even outside time of war), protection is provided for the transport of medicines across borders.

3.  Article 75 of the Schengen Agreement also provides protection for persons to carry their medicine throughout the EU.  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.  I also refer to the  letter from the Home Office dated 14th December 2009  to Mr Noel McCullagh concerning Bedrocan medicinal herbal cannabis.

UPDATE 9th November 2010

Noel McCullagh has asked me to remove the reproduction of the letter to him from the Home Office.  He originally published the letter on this site himself but now for reasons only known to him he wants it removed.  Suffice to say that in it the Home Office confirmed he was entitled to import Bedrocan herbal medicinal cannabis under the protection of a Schengen certificate.

Cannabis Law Breakthrough

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Celebration

Yesterday I revealed how Jim “Pinky” Starr has managed to obtain legal medicinal cannabis in Britain.  See here. I’ve been asked to clarify whether the method set out in my article applies throughout Europe.

I’m not a lawyer.  I believe that this information is correct but don’t blame me if James Brokenshire decides he’s going to ride roughshod over justice and European law!

All I know is that (with due respect to my friends with genuine illness), if I could develop the right aches and pains, I’d be straight over to Holland!

As I understand it, Ireland is now the only EU country where this wouldn’t work. However, that won’t last long. The reason that the procedure set out works is because of this:

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

So, the only remaining problem is actually enabling UK doctors to prescribe medicinal herbal cannabis and developing a local supply chain. It seems to me that as we’re all part of the EU this is going to be impossible to stop.

I think that the breakthrough I’ve been campaigning for since the late 1970s has finally happened!

Legal Medicinal Cannabis In Britain

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In The Pink

Last week Jim Starr flew into Bristol Airport from Amsterdam carrying 80 grammes of herbal cannabis as prescribed for him by a Dutch doctor.  That’s just under three ounces of dried flower heads.  He was carrying it in a parcel about the size of a telephone directory.

There was no one at customs, even though Jim went through the red channel and had telephoned ahead to advise the airport that he was bringing the cannabis in.  He waited, even looked around for someone, anyone, but there was no one to be seen at all.  He wanted to declare what he had with him.  He’s never wanted to break the law.  He knew that he was risking confiscation of the cannabis, possibly even arrest but the coast wasn’t just clear, it was deserted.  The authorities had evidently decided that in their “war on drugs”, this time, discretion was definitely the better part of valour.  They were in full scale retreat.

Jim had confirmed to the airport that he had the necessary paperwork to prove it was prescribed medicinal cannabis.  His doctor had told him that he was protected under Article 75 of the Schengen Agreement which states “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”

Prescription

Of course, even then, it didn’t stop the journey being a nerve wracking and tense experience.  Now, safely at home in Dorchester with his family, Jim understands from the Home Office that he is entitled to bring in the cannabis as prescribed for him by his Dutch doctor.  He can bring in up to three month’s supply at a time if he carries it on his person. Otherwise he has to apply for an import licence and have it shipped to a UK pharmacist.

Jim is 36 and is married to Emma, with whom he has two children.  Originally from Birmingham, he was a very active man in full time employment until in 1999 he was diagnosed with a degenerative disease of the spine.  In 2003 he was involved in a road accident and suffered terrible spinal injuries. His life seemed hopeless. The cocktail of powerful drugs he was prescribed, including morphine, were debilitating in themselves.  He couldn’t face a future in which he was turned into a zombie, unable to enjoy any sort of decent life with his wife and children. He admits frankly that he was suicidal.

One day in 2004, Jim was upstairs in bed in so much pain and despair that he could barely move.  A friend called round to see him and offered him a joint. Half an hour later Jim made it downstairs for the first time in three weeks.  Suddenly he had hope and the possibility of a future with his family.

Life since then has been a constant game of cat and mouse with the police and drug dealers.  Apart from risking arrest and even prison, Jim has also been in danger of being robbed or ripped off by dealers. He’s never wanted to break the law. He told his doctor the relief that cannabis provided and as soon as Sativex became available, even before it was officially licensed, his doctor prescribed it for him. Unfortunately, the very next day she rang to say that because of licensing and regulation problems she wouldn’t be able to prescribe it again.  In fact, Jim did manage to get another prescription for Sativex but again it was withdrawn, this time because his health authority refused to fund it.

Jim has been an active campaigner for the legalisation of cannabis ever since.  He has organised a series of marches, protests and petitions in Dorchester, Weymouth and even Downing Street. Over the last seven years, three MPs, Oliver Letwin, Jim Knight and Richard Drax, have written various letters in support of him.  He is a distinctive figure in his wheelchair with his dyed beard which has earned him the nickname “Pinky”.  Perhaps he has been a little too high profile for the Dorset police who he accuses of persecuting him.  Unable to obtain Sativex or afford the prices and risks of dealers, Jim enlisted the help of a friend to grow his own medicine. Inevitably, in May 2009 the police arrived and Jim was arrested.

Campaigning

In August this year at Dorchester Crown Court Jim was given a two year conditional discharge for growing cannabis. He is now pursuing a complaint against the police alleging brutal treatment during his arrest.  Other complications, allegedly at the police’s behest, have led to the DVLA revoking his driving licence although he has never been arrested, charged, convicted or even stopped on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Jim has become an avid recorder of everything.  He uses mobile phones, video cameras and audio recorders to retain evidence of every contact with the authorities.  He has a video recording of an officer saying to his wife “Look luvvy, whatever he grows up there from now on is up to him.  We promise it don’t bother us”.  Foolishly, he took the officer at his word.  Three weeks after receiving his conditional discharge the police arrived again.

There was no provision for transporting him to the police station in his wheelchair.  The officers were warned not to lift him by his arms because of his spinal condition.  They wrenched him out of his chair by gripping his shoulders and underpants causing anal bleeding due to an existing condition. He was refused a doctor at the station. There was no provision for disabled people, even for his special toilet needs.  He was refused access to any of his prescribed medication or even his specialist anti pressure sore mattresses.

The following day he attended hospital and was diagnosed with torn shoulder muscles.  In fact, his spinal column is so delicate that any movement could potentially paralyse him. This is the basis of all his high profile campaigning and must be well known to the police.  Jim now faces another charge of cultivating cannabis and a possible prison sentence.

With Mr Nice

The trip to Holland was a last resort, only made possible by the generosity of a friend.  The Dutch doctor was horrified at the range of highly toxic prescription medicines given to Jim and prescribed two grammes per day of medicinal herbal cannabis.  He told Jim that he shouldn’t be using Sativex as the alcohol in its solution was like pouring petrol on a fire, given his medical conditions.

So at last, Jim seems to have the medicine he needs.  He will have to continue to rely on the generosity of friends to pay for it.  He is applying for a Home Office licence for the cannabis to be imported to a local pharmacist who can then dispense it to him.  He will continue to campaign for the right to grow his own for free.  The costs of cultivation at home are minimal compared to the rigmarole of importing from Holland or the massive “Big Pharma” cost of Sativex.

Jim is not the first person to get the medicine they need in this way but he is the first to go public about it.  Many tens of thousands may now wish to follow his example.  Most European countries and 15 US states already regulate the provision of medicinal cannabis. Surely it is time for the government to consider reform of what looks increasingly like an absurd and cruel law.