CANNABIS AND THE EFFECT OF DRUG DRIVING LAWS ON PRESCRIBED DRUGS- SATIVEX
A further issue arose with cannabis namely that people suffering with Multiple Sclerosis are often prescribed Sativex which contains cannabis.
The Government refused to set a limit which would mean those taking Sativex would fall below the limit. This despite the advice from the BMA that they should be exempt. Drivers taking Sativex of course have the defence that it has been prescribed but two issues arise from that. Firstly that the law will force people with a serious illness to go through the trauma of being arrested and charged and then having to provide evidence of their medical condition and prescription to avoid a conviction.
It is unlikely that the police will listen to this prior to charge and these innocent patients will have to prove their innocence in court with all of the stress that a court appearance will bring especially for those suffering from MS. The second issue with this was raised by a Doctor during the consultation period that is the situation whereby people suffering with MS often take cannabis to relieve their symptoms and do so illegally. One doctor argued in a similar vein that “the lack of widespread availability of Sativex leads to many patients having to break the law to obtain illegal cannabis to control their symptoms. As a clinician I am often asked my opinion on this from patients seeking information on the safest way to use it. Commonly they are patients who cannot tolerate opioids or Non-Steriodal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS) and for whom the few other options are ineffective. So many patients are prepared to break the law in order to achieve some symptom control, which the NHS can’t or won’t.”
In the Public Bill Committee on the Bill for this Act the Minister said as follows:
“Obviously it would cause the public some concern if that flexibility was so great that they felt the powers were not being used even-handedly. However, the police will be aware of the statutory defence of taking a specified controlled drug in accordance with medical advice. I would imagine that if a driver was able to demonstrate there and then that it was regular medication, the police might decide that it was not in anyone’s interests to take the matter any further. The CPS’s code has a requirement that prosecutors ‘should swiftly stop cases … where the public interest clearly does not require a prosecution’.
“I would hope that in a clear-cut case of, for example, an elderly constituent on regular medication, common sense would prevail straight away.”
In my experience as a Drug Driving Solicitor I am not confident that the police or indeed the prosecution will simply accept this and discontinue any action against the driver without it having to go to court. A common response is “we’ll leave it up to the court to decide”
If this is an issue that affects you call us on 01623 600645 for free and honest advice.