Medicinal Use of Cannabis
1. I have appeared in court as an expert
witness in numerous cases where defendants have claimed to be
using cannabis for therapeutic purposes, either in mitigation
or claiming necessity. Most Crown Court trials, where defendants
have invoked the defence of "duress of circumstances",
have resulted in jury acquittals on all charges.
2. Irrespective of policies on other aspects
of drug legislation, this issue should be addressed as a matter
of urgency. The Attorney General should draw up guidelines for
prosecuting authorities as many prosecutions clearly fail to take
account of either the reasonable prospects of a conviction, or
whether such a prosecution would be in the public interest.
3. At present, prosecutions would fail to
reach the 51 per cent threshold in all cases involving simple
possession or personal cultivation (production) for relevant medical
conditions (including chronic pain, multiple sclerosis and other
movement disorders, cancer chemotherapy or AIDS, epilepsy or glaucoma.
Perhaps a designated list should be maintained of conditions for
which prosecutions should not proceed where a medical diagnosis
is provided. In cases of supply to a medicinal user, prosecutions
are again unlikely to succeed, nor would "possession with
intent" charges on relatively large amounts claimed to be
for personal use, unless there is other (paraphernalia) evidence
of dealing. In cases of other medical conditions, the CPS should
seek expert advice before contemplating prosecution.
4. Such a policy should not fetter the hands
of the CPS where medicinal use is incidental to commercial supply
of drugs, or other criminal offences.