8. Policing illicit medicinal cannabis

Our eighth paper for Decalogue is written by cannabis campaigner, advocate and patient Carly Barton. Carly is also the Founder of Cancard, the UK’s first patient medical cannabis identification card.

Policing illicit medicinal cannabis | Abstract

The general attitude of law enforcement in the UK around the consumption of cannabis have significantly changed in the past two years. Despite there being a lack of Home Office/police guidance around the law change in 2018 that brought about an access route for medicinal consumers, we have seen a dramatic uptake in engagement from forces who have felt the pressures of criminalising patients for whom this model doesn’t fit.  In this article we will explore the appetite for law change within the criminal justice system, focusing on the recent data that has been produced following the launch of Cancard, a policing tool that aids use of discretion for cases of simple possession.  In previous studies we were able to ascertain that medicinal consumers in 2018 were frequently being charged, fined or issued a cannabis warning which impacted their ability to pass CRB checks for employment or volunteering roles.  In new data we have found that 98.8% of stops and searches have resulted in Cancard patients not facing a criminal record or having their medicine confiscated.  It is important to note that while discretion has always been an option for officers on the street, historically we have never seen this tool being utilised at such a high rate.  The implications of this defacto decriminalisation against Home Office guidance for medicinal consumption could be significant. It suggests that those in uniform who have first hand experience of policing in this area feel that the time is right for change.