In August 2023 I was relaxing by the seafront in Plymouth with my sister on what should have been a pleasant day. Instead, around 10 minutes after taking my medication, two police officers arrived who refused to accept my medication was legal and proceeded to detain me for 6 hours. Following my arrest I realised just how widespread the challenges facing medical cannabis patients were and decided to join The Sanskara Platform.
After my release, Devon & Cornwall Police admitted they were “ill equipped to deal with patients lawfully in possession of cannabis”. I liaised with the Diverse Community and Serious Organised Crime Branches where they have confirmed the force are implementing a number of packages, including training for frontline police officers in being able to identify genuine medicinal cannabis patients and clarification that a medical cannabis card is not required.
Despite the implementation of these packages, there are still a number of challenges that remain for medical cannabis patients, one such example is driving. Devon & Cornwall Police advised “If a positive test is obtained it is likely to lead to the arrest and detention of the driver on suspicion of being ‘unfit to drive through drink or drugs (S.5 RTA)’. Not until the individual has been through the ‘police custody experience’ would any lawfully defence such as a prescription be considered.”
Devon & Cornwall Police were open for further engagement on these challenges, so I got in contact with Guy Coxall from Seed our Future. Guy is a court expert on Cannabis and the Road Traffic Act, and lead author on the Cannabis Industry Council guidance on Cannabis and Driving. He was very happy to join the discussions. I got back in touch with the force and a meeting was arranged at their Headquarters in Exeter on 4th January 2024.
At the meeting we were joined by a number of stakeholders from Devon & Cornwall Police including a Drug Expert Witness, Diverse Communities Officer, Road Traffic Officer and Drug Impairment Lead. Guy did a presentation on the Road Traffic Act and Swab Tests which generated a number of interesting discussions. In addition we touched on a number of other issues facing medical cannabis patients such as discrimination and hate crime risk, and employees of the force using their medication.
We also received a number of interesting updates including the training package Devon & Cornwall Police developed being shared with 18 police forces, and processes being put in place so people in police custody can use their legally prescribed medication. Devon & Cornwall Police will share a report on their work so far.
In the end we didn’t have time to discuss all points, and I think we all came away with more questions than answers! But the day set a foundation for future work with Devon & Cornwall Police, and The Sanskara Platform and Seed Our Future will continue to work with the Force to address these issues. Our hope is that this work will continue to spread beyond Devon and Cornwall across the UK for the benefit of all patients.