Monday, November 21, 2005

medical cannabis: House of Lords reject 'medical necessity' defence appeal petition

MEDICAL CANNABIS users and suppliers who are prosecuted under the cannabis prohibition laws (1971 Misuse of Drugs Act), have been effectively banned from using the best legal defence argument they have, thanks to a decision by three House of Lords 'Law Lords', Lords Bingham, Carswell and Rodger.

The three guilty 'Law Lords' from the 'House of Lords', the 'highest' court in the land, (pictured above), have rejected a 'petition to appeal' to them after the 'Court of Appeal' rejected appeals by lawyers in several medical cannabis cases in which the 'medical neccessity' defence was refused by the original trial judges, who would not even allow juries to hear it.

The 'medical necessity' defence argues (simple version); that as it is legal to 'steal' a boat under English Common Law if you are doing it to save someone from drowning, or yourself from drowning, it therefore must be legal to use, or supply cannabis, if this brings effective relief to a person suffering pain or disease.

In one case heard by the Appeal Court (Jeff Ditchfield, Bud Buddies), the original trial judge allowed a jury to hear the medical necessity defence and he was aquitted. However the Crown Prosecution Service chose to appeal his "not guilty" verdict. His aquittal stands, but the the Court of Appeal said in effect that he should not have been allowed to present his 'medical necessity' defence.

Lawyers acting for the appealing defendants then 'petitioned to appeal' to the House of Lords, but they have received a terse letter from the Law Lords which says:

"Permission is refused because the petition does not raise an arguable point of law of general public importance which ought to be considered by the House at this time, bearing in mind that the cause has already been the subject of judicial decision and reviewed on appeal."

'News of the Weed' translation: "Go away and die in agony, we don't care; people who are sick are so dispensable we can't be bothered to even listen to their pathetic appeals for mercy. Buy shares in GW Pharmaceuticals, and score off them, or the cops will kick your door down on the shareholders behalf."

When 'News of the Weed' rang up the House of Lords, a clerk told us that the Lords were "finished" with the case.

The decision comes as a blow, and a surprise, to those involved in the case, especially as it involves LORD BINGHAM of Cornhill, who is the most senior Judge in Britain (not to be confused with Lord Bingham, son of Lord Lucan), and is considered to be one of the most in touch and generally 'cool' Law Lords ever, having gone on record to call the cannabis laws in Britain "stupid".

Lord Bingham (right: portrait by Cathy Fenwick) said; "It is stupid having a law which isn't doing what it is there for ... Everybody thinks our system is becoming soft and wimpish. In point of fact, it is one of the most punitive systems in the world." (Spectator 2002).

There is an fascinating lecture by him online about the future of Human Rights in Britain, which considering he is the 'Lord Chief Justice of England & Wales', and has raved about the "the priceless gift of individual freedom", is worth a read.

However, Lord Bingham's 'Human Rights' street cred may not save him from grief in this case, because the Law Lords decision on the 'medical necessity' defence is a massive snub to BARONESS RUNCIMAN whose credibility is excellent. She chaired the 'Police Foundation Report of 2000' which called on the government to specifically allow the 'necessity' defence for medical users. In the last few years many people have been acquitted by juries on this basis of this defence, thanks in part to her work.

At a recent drug policy conference Baroness Runciman was shocked to be told that people were still facing prison in Britain for their use of medical cannabis, in fact she would not believe it, and got quite heated on the subject. She needs to talk to the Cannabis Grandma who not only faces prison, but eviction from her home, just for using medical cannabis.

The 'Law' Lords decision comes as a further blow to medical cannabis users like CANNABIS GRANDMA who want to use a natural 'organic' preparation of the cannabis herb for medical purposes. It comes after a series of well publicised raids and arrests of medical cannabis users and suppliers in Britain, such as the Cannabis Grandma and THC4MS.

Cynics who said these arrests were the ground being prepared for the sale of pharmaceutical cannabis products may have been proved correct with the launch of Sativex® and the subsequent rise in the value of GW Pharmaceutical shares, which were as low as 59p earlier in the year and are currently up to £109.50.

Interestingly enough the THC4MS defendants have just been summoned to an unscheduled court hearing this coming Wednesday, the same day as the Home Secretary, CHARLES CLARKE (who has admitted more than inhaling cannabis in his youth), is due to make a major speach on drug policy. Will THC4MS be offered a deal; use Sativex® and the prosecution will be dropped?

A lawyer for Tony's Holistic Centre one of the defendants who attempted to appeal to the House of Lords told us:

"It is now a matter of urgency that the Director of Public Prosecutions issues guidelines to all his Crown Prosecutors telling them not to prosecute medical users at least where there is clear medical evidence provided. The government always stated that medical users would be treated sympathetically by the criminal justice system – we say they should not be there in the first place".

Now the only recourse left is an 'appeal to appeal' to the European Human Rights Court, which is currently being prepared by lawyers for some of the Appeal Court appellants.

In the meantime medical cannabis users facing prosecution can try to persuade the CPS that medical cannabis prosecutions are not in the public interest. Failing that, they can plead "not guilty", and seek to persuade the jury to return a 'perverse verdict' under the present mis-application of the law.

'News of the Weed' says: Sativex offers users guaranteed purity, and strength, and a legal path to the use of cannabis for medical purposes, all of which is good news. We say "congratulations" to GW Pharmaceuticals and Dr. Geoffrey Guy for managing to overcome all the hurdles they have had to cross to enable this to happen. However Sativex only works because it contains cannabis, and people who want to use 'organic' medical cannabis products, such as the THC4MS chocolate, should be allowed to do so. THC4MS should be given a license to supply medical cannabis to MS sufferers, and other licenses should be given to acknowledged experts in the field such as 'Tony's Holistic Centre', and others who follow agreed protocols. Instead we seem to be witnessing the 'pharmaceuticalization' of cannabis as outlined by PROFESSOR GRINSPOON, associate professor emeritus of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and a leading expert on medical cannabis. If this happens it will be to the detriment of public health in Britain.

• 'I Can't Get No Sativexion' is to be released soon by the 'Rolling Heads'.


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