A new medical cannabis card initiative in the UK is designed to provide a legal argument for exemption from prosecution for possession of cannabis. It won’t just be good for patients, but also police.
While cannabis medicines became legal in the UK in 2018, many patients are unable to afford costly prescription products, so they source cannabis via illicit channels. This not only carries risks relating to quality, but also prosecution; creating stress for patients and drain on police and court resources.
Designed with the input of doctors and supported by senior representatives of the Police Federation, CanCard provides a signal for police to exercise discretion by understanding the cardholder in possession of cannabis is medicating for their condition.
The creator of the card is Carly Barton, who was the first person in the UK to receive a prescription for herbal cannabis privately since the law change in 2018.
“Together we can unofficially decriminalise, for those most vulnerable, as we greatly reduce the possibility of a obtaining a conviction,” says Ms. Barton.
While it’s not clear is if all police officers will heed the card, it has some very high-level support within the force and the National Police Chiefs counsel has briefed forces throughout the UK about CanCard.
“The CanCard will provide them [patients] with assurance that their ill health will not lead to a criminal record, while it will also be a valuable tool to help frontline officers, saving them time by providing immediate verification of genuine medical patients and therefore giving them confidence to use their discretion,” said Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill.
In order to get a CanCard, an applicant must have one of the eligible conditions listed and then needs to upload supporting evidence including a summary of care from the patient’s GP’s surgery. The surgery is obligated to provide a summary of care without explanation for the request and regardless of a GP’s view on the use of medicinal cannabis.
The card is being provided for a fee of £20 a year, plus a one-off ID check fee of £10. However, there appears to be some support for patients unable to afford those fees.
“I did not join the police to arrest people who are simply unwell and trying to manage their symptoms or pain. In fact I joined to help people in that position,” says Simon Kempton, Drugs lead at The Police Federation. “Initiatives such as Cancard are important because they give police officers vital information which they can use when they have to make decisions on the street.”