By Roland Sebestyén
From today, patients with a multitude of health conditions will have the right to apply for Cancard. The card, which is backed by police commissioners, communicates to police officers that a person should not be arrested for consuming self-sourced ‘illegal’ cannabis as a medicine.
Up to 1.1 million people could be eligible for a Cancard by 2021, removing the fear of arrest and prosecution for possession.
All patients with a health condition, that is currently being privately prescribed for at a high cost, will be eligible for the card.
Police forces nationwide will receive a briefing pack from the National Police Chiefs Council and all expert witnesses, who testify on behalf of the prosecution in court, are being trained on the scheme.
The card was the brain-child of Carly Barton who, despite living with chronic pain and seizure-like dystonic episodes, has been at the forefront of patient advocacy in the cannabis space since she became the first patient in the UK to obtain a private prescription.
She could not afford to sustain the cost of her private prescription, however, and returned to using illicit cannabis, thus inspiring the Cancard initiative.
Ms Barton has been a prominent advocate for law reform in this area and has worked tirelessly to bring together Police, MP’s, doctors and patients to collaboratively design a scheme that effectively decriminalises cannabis for over a million patients in the UK.
In its design and implementation, Cancard has a working group that extends to representatives from, among others, the Police Federation, the National Police Chiefs Council, the Police Foundation, and the Drug Expert Witness Board.
Police officers who encounter a patient in possession will be able to contact a policing helpline to help them verify the patient is genuine.
Ms Barton said: “We all know that cases, where patients have proved legitimate medicinal use, are unlikely to make it to court, and if they do these cases are consistently dropped.
“This is especially the case when a patient presents with a condition that is being privately prescribed for. There is currently no way of identifying these people before emotional distress has been caused, and public resources have been wasted.
“There is an opportunity to provide something that changes this by way of providing a service that benefits both the patients and the police.
“Cancard should give patients peace of mind and police confidence in using their discretion before any stress has been caused to vulnerable people.
“Without a law change, we have national guidance and discretion with which to build a solution, both of which are huge parts of the design of Cancard. Having the police on-board with the design and implementation of this has been essential to make this a plausible project.”
The patient will also be able to use an RFID, like those found on debit cards, to scan the card on their phone to confirm their ID to a police officer.
This is the first move in the UK to give police the tools and confidence to use their discretion for possession of an illegal substance.
It is also the first scheme that sees a grassroots campaign collaborate on such a scale with law enforcement, health professionals and policymakers.
The application process:
- The patient confirms their identity with a passport style digital ID check.
- A quick call to their GP will allow the patient to obtain a summary of care which is stamped and signed in their GP surgery. This is submitted as evidence of their condition.
- Checks are made and the card is issued to the patient.
- Cancard patients will all have the ability to download an app which corroponds to the RFID chip in their card meaning that they can scan and verify themselves as genunine in the case of a stop.
- Cancard patients will have access to a free legal helpline as provided by Mackrell solicitors.
The list of conditions you’re eligible for Cancard with
- Cancer: Anxiety, Chemotherapy-induced nausea, Cancer-related appetite loss, Depression, Palliative care
- Pain: Arthritis/RA, Chronic Pain, Fibromyalgia, Migraine, Cluster headache, Neuropathic pain, Palliative care
- Psychiatric: ADHD, Anxiety, Agoraphobia, ASD, Depression, Insomnia, PTSD, OCD, Tourettes
- Gastrointestinal: Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis, IBD, IBS
- Neurological: Autistic spectrum disorder, Epilepsy, Migraine, Cluster headache, MS, Neuropathic pain, Parkinson’s disease, FND, MND, Cerebral Palsy