Source: Disability Now, UK

Pub Date: Sept 1, 2003

Subj: UK Police 'persecute' cannabis users

Author: Lucy Glynn


Cited: Disability Now

Biz Ivol

Therapeutic Help from Cannabis for MS (THC4MS)

Medical Research Council




Therapeutic cannabis groups have called on the police to stop persecuting disabled people who take the drug to ease their conditions.

The call came after a disabled woman told how she was treated like a "criminal" for cannabis possession, during a six-hour police station ordeal.

Jane, from South London, has ankylosing spondylitis and was arrested, held at a police station until 4am and then cautioned, after a neighbour reported her.

Jane now has a criminal record and her name will remain on police files for five years. she is hiding her identity because she is so ashamed.

"Regardless of your disability they still caution you. It was really horrible. i have never been in trouble with the police before. I even paid my poll tax."

Jane's arrest has made her health worse and she is now terrified she will be arrested again for using cannabis.

Lezley Gibson, of Therapeutic Help from Cannabis for Multiple Sclerosis, encourages all disabled people to take their cases to court rather than accepting a caution, because that admits they are in the wrong.

An Association of Chief police Officers spokesman confirmed that possession remains a criminal offence but said officers could use their discretion.

But Gibson said inconsistency among officers and a softer line in Brixton while criminalising disabled people "stinks."

"They are doing it for fun. We do it to stop us being incontinent, in pain and in a wheelchair. We are not criminals. It's time the police stopped persecuting disabled people."

A Metropolitan Police spokeswoman said the force leaves such decisions up to the discretion of individual officers.

Don Barnard of the Lgalise Cannabis Alliance, said the damage prosecuting disabled people can do was shown when disabled campaigner Biz Ivol (DN August) tool an overdose when her trial was shelved.

He called for the government to clarify the law on therapeutic use, and said the Crown Prosecution Service should have a presumption against prosecution in such cases. he says disabled people should write to their MP's to demand change."

Meanwhile, the MS Society welcomed the National Institute for Clinical Excellence starting work on an appraisal of cannabis medicines for MS.

And the Medical research Council is recruiting 400 people undergoing surgery to take part in a study of cannabis as a post-operative pain relief.

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