Buying, possessing and growing cannabis for medical purposes will effectively be decriminalised in the UK to prevent users who primarily use cannabis to treat an array of medical conditions such as epilepsy, fibromyalgia, arthritis, chronic pain and cancer. The card will ensure that anyone in the UK who is using cannabis for medicinal purposes can avoid being arrested or prosecuted.
Over one million people throughout the UK have applied for a police backed ID card that allows holders of the card to grow their own cannabis at home or acquire cannabis through over methods.
While it has been legal to prescribe cannabis since November 2018, progress in ensuring cannabis-based medicines are used by those who most need it is still minimal. There have been very few prescriptions issued on the NHS and anyone who wants to acquire a medical cannabis prescription for a chronic pain condition will have to visit an expensive private clinic and pay for the medicine out of their own pocket. With the total cost of the eligibility consultation, appointment with a prescribing doctor and the cannabis-medicine itself often costing in excess of £500, medical cannabis in the UK is simply unaffordable for most people. Especially those with chronic conditions which inhibit them from working full time jobs.
The high cost of legal medical cannabis means that many choose to instead grow cannabis within their own home. Patients have found that cannabis relieves the symptoms of chronic pain, migraines, anxiety, insomnia and nausea. However, many live in fear of prosecution for simply enabling the treatment of their condition with a plant that grows naturally. It is quite insane that a plant that can have such a wide variety of therapeutic effects is illegal and those using it to treat a disease they suffer from could face prison for doing so.
The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCCP) and the Police Federation have officially endorsed the CANCARD. The CANCARD is similar in appearance to a driver’s license and has been designed by activists who want those who possess a CANCARD to be treated with a more sympathetic enforcement of the law by police.
The program is run by cannabis activists as opposed to the UK government. However, law enforcement agencies will urge officials to respect users that are using cannabis for therapeutic effects. Each police officer is going to receive an information pack from the NPCC which asks them to act with discretion if they encounter a medical cannabis user and the suggestion is that they are not arrested.
Growing and using cannabis outside of certain medical parameters will remain illegal, but the police have stated that their time is wasted on tracking down users who are simply using cannabis to improve their health and are just unwell with no intention of criminality.
The CANCARD program is being launched on the 30th of November 2020 with an estimated 15,000 eligible users. To be deemed eligible for the program, patients must receive a letter from their GP stating that they have a disease for which cannabis or cannabis oil can be prescribed. Throughout the UK, there is an estimated 1.1 million people who are eligible for the CANCARD.
The conditions that are encompassed by the CANCARD are those for which medical cannabis can be prescribed. They include anxiety, chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia and arthritis, PTSD, migraines, epilepsy, cancer and Crohn’s disease.
The activists behind the CANCARD believe that eligible patients in possession of a CANCARD will be able to grow their own plants or buy cannabis on the street before proceeding to smoke a joint or vape the cannabis. So long as the purpose behind using cannabis is to relieve their symptoms.
The Chief of Drugs and Deputy Chief for Lincolnshire Police declared that arresting patients that use cannabis to treat their health condition could be deemed unacceptable.
It is simply not fair that two patients with the same condition could be classified differently in a legal sense for using cannabis for the same purpose. Someone who has the means to pay for a privately prescribed medical cannabis prescription can possess and use cannabis freely. Whereas someone who cannot afford the cost of a medical cannabis prescription must live in fear of prosecution. It does not make any sense and that is why the CANCARD is revolutionary for medical cannabis and is a sensible program that will prevent innocent people from having to defend themselves from prospective prosecution. You cannot criminalise someone for their illness and surely it is their prerogative to decide what treatments work on an individual basis.
The CANCARD was conceived by Carly Barton who is a fibromyalgia patient entitled to a medical cannabis prescription but elected to self-medicate with non-prescribed cannabis due to the cost of a medical cannabis prescription.
In cases where patients demonstrate a legitimate medicinal use of cannabis, they are unlikely to have to appear in court. Even in cases where it does progress to court, the charges are more often than not, dropped. The emotional stress that this can cause on someone who is already suffering from a severe medical condition cannot be ratified and it is an unnecessary cause of stress that can cause mental health and physical problems. It also wastes public resources.
The CANCARD offers a solution to this problem and enables those who use cannabis for medical reasons to not have to live in paranoia of what might happen if they are caught in possession of what they deem to be medicine.
The CANCARD is an extremely positive step forward in enabling more patients to experience the full benefit of using cannabis for medical purposes. The more people who report the therapeutic benefits to their doctor, the more the medical community will begin to respect cannabis as a medication. The result should be medical cannabis becoming more accessible to the patients who could discover life changing benefits to using cannabis to treat their disease.
The potential of using cannabis as a medicine is still nascent and much research needs to be carried out to prove the efficacy and safety of using cannabis as a medication. The collation of data is crucial and there is an app that is being developed to enable medical cannabis patients, CBD users and recreational users to track how their use of a cannabis-based product is helping them to deal with their symptoms.
Progress is being made to change the perception of cannabis in society with it gradually shifting its association with criminality and decadence. Cannabis is increasingly being viewed as a medication to treat conditions such as chronic pain and a therapeutic that can enable people who are living with debilitating conditions improve their quality of life. There is a long way to go before this shift in consciousness results in cannabis prescriptions becoming available on the NHS and the full decriminalisation of the plant. The CANCARD represents progress.
How to Apply for the CANCARD?
If you believe you are eligible for the CANCARD please visit https://www.cancard.co.uk/ - here you will be able to fill out an application form that will enable the CANCARD team to assess your eligibility and explain what is required for you to obtain a CANCARD.
Finally, if you would like to learn more about the current regulations surrounding CBD in the United Kingdom, then please visit our comprehensive guide to CBD laws in the UK.