Millions of Britons with health conditions are set to benefit from a new “cannabis card” that will identify a user as a “registered medical cannabis patient.”
3.5 million users
Once launched, up to three and a half million patients could benefit from the card. Target users include those with debilitating conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, depression, arthritis, and many other illnesses. Police chiefs have applauded the move saying that it will provide a justification for not arresting a person in possession of the drug.
The Police Federation of England and Wales together with the National Police Chiefs Council are working with the card’s organizers on the design and implementation. In many instances, police officers find themselves at crossroads with patients suffering from devastating conditions.
They end up arresting them yet they are eligible for using cannabis to alleviate their symptoms. This is prompted by a lack of proper identification mechanisms to show they are genuine patients for cannabis prescriptions. According to reports, more than a million Britons out of which 90,000 have cancer and 230,000 have arthritis, use cannabis for self-medication. Most of the substance comes from the black market.
Our members didn’t join the police to lock up these people. This is an initiative that I support, for a number of reasons. Primarily, it gives officers information on which to base their decision-making, around whether or not to use discretion or to arrest a member of the public, said Simon Kempton, of the Police Federation.
Strict rules on medical cannabis
For almost two years, cannabis has been legal in Britain. However, this comes with stringent rules that ensure that only a handful of people have access to an NHS prescription. On the other hand, private consultation and prescription are usually too expensive.
This has forced many people to buy the drug mainly from black market or to grow their own plants against the laws. Anyone found in possession of marijuana without a valid prescription faces an arrest and grim penalties. The victim can spend up to five years in prison, pay unlimited fine, or both.
The cannabis card (CanCard) is a private project that should begin in November 2020. It aims to help those who need medical cannabis but cannot afford a prescription avoid arrest by police.
John Harwin is a member of the Police Council. Regarding this development, he said:
This is a real live issue, where the police service finds itself stuck in the middle of a situation where individuals should legitimately be able to access their prescribed medication but because of availability and cost, they can’t and therefore to address rely on having to use illicit cannabis. The card isn’t a get out of jail free card…it does not give holders the right to carry illicit drugs. It’s a flag to us that the person should be accessing medication.
At the same time, the Police Council will ensure that members of organized crime do not exploit the card. Besides, the Council is planning to launch a uniform approach across the country when officers are presented with the card. A cross-party group of MPs are also supporting the CanCard initiative, which is being funded by companies that manufacture medical cannabis products.