Peter Reynolds

The life and times of Peter Reynolds

Legal Medicinal Cannabis In Britain

with 91 comments

In The Pink

Last week Jim Starr flew into Bristol Airport from Amsterdam carrying 80 grammes of herbal cannabis as prescribed for him by a Dutch doctor.  That’s just under three ounces of dried flower heads.  He was carrying it in a parcel about the size of a telephone directory.

There was no one at customs, even though Jim went through the red channel and had telephoned ahead to advise the airport that he was bringing the cannabis in.  He waited, even looked around for someone, anyone, but there was no one to be seen at all.  He wanted to declare what he had with him.  He’s never wanted to break the law.  He knew that he was risking confiscation of the cannabis, possibly even arrest but the coast wasn’t just clear, it was deserted.  The authorities had evidently decided that in their “war on drugs”, this time, discretion was definitely the better part of valour.  They were in full scale retreat.

Jim had confirmed to the airport that he had the necessary paperwork to prove it was prescribed medicinal cannabis.  His doctor had told him that he was protected under Article 75 of the Schengen Agreement which states “persons may carry the narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances that are necessary for their medical treatment provided that, at any check, they produce a certificate issued or authenticated by a competent authority”

Prescription

Of course, even then, it didn’t stop the journey being a nerve wracking and tense experience.  Now, safely at home in Dorchester with his family, Jim understands from the Home Office that he is entitled to bring in the cannabis as prescribed for him by his Dutch doctor.  He can bring in up to three month’s supply at a time if he carries it on his person. Otherwise he has to apply for an import licence and have it shipped to a UK pharmacist.

Jim is 36 and is married to Emma, with whom he has two children.  Originally from Birmingham, he was a very active man in full time employment until in 1999 he was diagnosed with a degenerative disease of the spine.  In 2003 he was involved in a road accident and suffered terrible spinal injuries. His life seemed hopeless. The cocktail of powerful drugs he was prescribed, including morphine, were debilitating in themselves.  He couldn’t face a future in which he was turned into a zombie, unable to enjoy any sort of decent life with his wife and children. He admits frankly that he was suicidal.

One day in 2004, Jim was upstairs in bed in so much pain and despair that he could barely move.  A friend called round to see him and offered him a joint. Half an hour later Jim made it downstairs for the first time in three weeks.  Suddenly he had hope and the possibility of a future with his family.

Life since then has been a constant game of cat and mouse with the police and drug dealers.  Apart from risking arrest and even prison, Jim has also been in danger of being robbed or ripped off by dealers. He’s never wanted to break the law. He told his doctor the relief that cannabis provided and as soon as Sativex became available, even before it was officially licensed, his doctor prescribed it for him. Unfortunately, the very next day she rang to say that because of licensing and regulation problems she wouldn’t be able to prescribe it again.  In fact, Jim did manage to get another prescription for Sativex but again it was withdrawn, this time because his health authority refused to fund it.

Jim has been an active campaigner for the legalisation of cannabis ever since.  He has organised a series of marches, protests and petitions in Dorchester, Weymouth and even Downing Street. Over the last seven years, three MPs, Oliver Letwin, Jim Knight and Richard Drax, have written various letters in support of him.  He is a distinctive figure in his wheelchair with his dyed beard which has earned him the nickname “Pinky”.  Perhaps he has been a little too high profile for the Dorset police who he accuses of persecuting him.  Unable to obtain Sativex or afford the prices and risks of dealers, Jim enlisted the help of a friend to grow his own medicine. Inevitably, in May 2009 the police arrived and Jim was arrested.

Campaigning

In August this year at Dorchester Crown Court Jim was given a two year conditional discharge for growing cannabis. He is now pursuing a complaint against the police alleging brutal treatment during his arrest.  Other complications, allegedly at the police’s behest, have led to the DVLA revoking his driving licence although he has never been arrested, charged, convicted or even stopped on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Jim has become an avid recorder of everything.  He uses mobile phones, video cameras and audio recorders to retain evidence of every contact with the authorities.  He has a video recording of an officer saying to his wife “Look luvvy, whatever he grows up there from now on is up to him.  We promise it don’t bother us”.  Foolishly, he took the officer at his word.  Three weeks after receiving his conditional discharge the police arrived again.

There was no provision for transporting him to the police station in his wheelchair.  The officers were warned not to lift him by his arms because of his spinal condition.  They wrenched him out of his chair by gripping his shoulders and underpants causing anal bleeding due to an existing condition. He was refused a doctor at the station. There was no provision for disabled people, even for his special toilet needs.  He was refused access to any of his prescribed medication or even his specialist anti pressure sore mattresses.

The following day he attended hospital and was diagnosed with torn shoulder muscles.  In fact, his spinal column is so delicate that any movement could potentially paralyse him. This is the basis of all his high profile campaigning and must be well known to the police.  Jim now faces another charge of cultivating cannabis and a possible prison sentence.

With Mr Nice

The trip to Holland was a last resort, only made possible by the generosity of a friend.  The Dutch doctor was horrified at the range of highly toxic prescription medicines given to Jim and prescribed two grammes per day of medicinal herbal cannabis.  He told Jim that he shouldn’t be using Sativex as the alcohol in its solution was like pouring petrol on a fire, given his medical conditions.

So at last, Jim seems to have the medicine he needs.  He will have to continue to rely on the generosity of friends to pay for it.  He is applying for a Home Office licence for the cannabis to be imported to a local pharmacist who can then dispense it to him.  He will continue to campaign for the right to grow his own for free.  The costs of cultivation at home are minimal compared to the rigmarole of importing from Holland or the massive “Big Pharma” cost of Sativex.

Jim is not the first person to get the medicine they need in this way but he is the first to go public about it.  Many tens of thousands may now wish to follow his example.  Most European countries and 15 US states already regulate the provision of medicinal cannabis. Surely it is time for the government to consider reform of what looks increasingly like an absurd and cruel law.

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91 Responses

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  1. [...] Legal Medicinal Cannabis In Britain Peter Reynold [...]

  2. Hello Peter,

    It’s Noel.

    Is it Christmas yet?

    mcula

    January 4, 2011 at 9:34 pm

  3. cannabis should be legal i have very bad sleeping problems because cannabis is ellegal in the uk i ended up abusing diazipam and before i new it i was tolerent to 400ml a day they were knocking me out when i woke up i would fall and could barly walk fell down stairs and had to use walls to prop myself up i then decided this is not good so when i tryed to come off them i had an unexspected fits after 3 or 4 days i had very bad withdrwal symptoms i just wanted to kill my self and had to go back on them and these are prescribed drugs cannabis is safer i could just relax in my bed with a joint and natraly fall asleep at the minute i am not smoking cannabis or abusing vallium i am now awake 2 or 3 days befor i go to sleep i need cannabis to sleep

    john

    January 21, 2011 at 4:26 am

  4. hi jim i wich doctor did u c in holland i live with cronit pain i going 2 holland can i go and c 1

    kirk

    February 2, 2011 at 2:21 pm

  5. hi jim i going 2 holland can i go and c any doctor in holland i live in cronit pain

    kirk

    February 2, 2011 at 2:26 pm

  6. [...] the campaign: Reform, Regulate, and Realise. On Pete Reynolds’ blog, I found that the message behind this is: REFORM the law and end [...]

  7. Hmm, So now you can legally import cannabis for your own medicinal use, Great!!

    But it would seem that you now risk having your driving license revoked as the police can classify you as a known risk driver – always stoned – to the DVLA who can simply take away your right to drive in the UK without any further court proceedings.

    Very sneaky and until you get round to CLEAR’n up that bit of over-arching police-statism, this may prove to be a very minor victory.

    F'Rocker

    March 29, 2011 at 5:37 am

    • isnt that stupid to say you can have a driving licence revoked but you can have one drink and drive ive known people to be tippsy off that one drink and use some medications which may make you drowsey and not to operate machinery or drive if affected surely you should have the right to choose and know when your not fit to drive ? absoluetly ridiculois pardon my spelling i have to get it typed before my head forgets lol
      what about the chemicals in tobacco ie palonium 210 etc lol it makes me laugh the laws we have hear ive learnt so much whilst suffering with this disability about our laws it leaves me sick to the stomach that they decide what and how to deal with you and what you can and carnt do since ive been increasing and changing my meds to try to give me some mobility and pain relief ive noticed there is so much change in me which has never affected me over the many years while ocassionaly smoking cannabis WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE SYSTEM it wouldnt cost anyone to grow a few plants legaly in your own home i will continue to fight my conditon and hope to be hear long enough to see change for the many suffering in the UK and wish all of you well bless

      zach

      December 21, 2011 at 11:23 am

  8. I have never smoked how do i get this into being to help me, jeff

    Jeff Wright

    April 28, 2011 at 9:44 am

  9. Are you saying this is a special case, allowed by the Home Office, and, exceptional – that most people living here who would have cannabis prescribed abroad can’t bring it in?

    Also, I don’t understand why you mentioned Schengen as The UK is not a party to The Schengen agreement. Was it because the Schengen terms were used by the authorities in the special exception case? Otherwise, is there a British law that is relevant?

    G.M.C.

    May 1, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    • The UK is part of the Schengen Agreement since 2005

      Peter Reynolds

      May 1, 2011 at 3:40 pm

  10. Having been treated like Jim had, certainly I’d have fled this awful country to live in The Netherlands as soon as possible.

    An initially lonesome life, as family and friends would be back at home, would surely be at least bearable compared with the great pain in The UK and constant, imminent risk of death in that condition from police assault.

    British people registered with a disability who receive income support from a disability allowance should be aware –

    that they can move to another European country and receive a foreign benefit income there (to a very similar money amount as in UK, as pitched against the foreign national economy) – for E.U. member countries.

    E.U. law states this – it is, actually, you might find it strange, part of the bedrock European Union laws of Freedoms of Movement. Those who are unable to work can move to another E.U. country to live and receive the national benefit level – similar to that received at home, as compared with the foreign economy. So, for France, a slightly lower economy, things are a cheaper, you’d receive slightly less.

    All E.U. countries honour this law, and have processes and forms for you to go through in order to move. They should enable it for you to be receiving a first benefit payment during the first month of your new domicility. And it would continue, just as in The UK, as long as you adhere to the rules; for example, register with a doctor and see the doctor as requested, and other practitoners as relevant, and go for examinations if requested.

    This would, for most countries, include housing benefit, if you receive that or are entitled to receive it in The UK, as well as the maintenance support of D.L.A. and Income Support.

    G.M.C.

    May 1, 2011 at 3:02 pm

  11. Could you give me more information on this? id be very interested to move there if i can still get my benifets.

    Thank you

    Timez

    timez

    May 14, 2011 at 9:46 pm

  12. Hi, first I’m sorry for my poor English, it is not My mother tongue. I have bipolar disorder diagnosed few years ago. I’ve been treated by 9 psychiatrists, mostly they made medical experiments on Me by combinations of many drugs which damaged My liver and kidneys. I had problems with sleeping, eating and just a normal live. I’ve read this article about year ago and decided to try cannabis as a medicine. There was many doubts about that because it is illegal, ofcourse. In My country We says that “drowning man grasps a razor”, so did I. Because of obvious reasons I can’t say where I get marijuana from, but it was illegal of course. I didn’t realy believe that it can help Me, but I did try. It was February when I tried it first time. Me and My wife was amazed how good it works for Me. It was the best year since I’ve been diagnosed. I start regulary eating, sleeping, meeting friends adnd what is the most important my mood was much more stabilised. Unfortunately… this what is giving Me a chance for normal live is illegal. I’d do everything to get it legaly, but there are no medical proove that is working for bipolar. To get Sativex is a miracle. When I tried to speek with My doctor about it, first he said, that it is very bad idea to use narcotics to treat any illness (what about morphine then?), and later, that probably I’ve drug problem and this can be a reason of My bipolar… Before February I smoked marijuana as a teenager only few times, now I’m 33. I can do nothing. I’ve read, that to get a prescription from the Dutch doctor, the opinion of My doctor is neccesary and I’ll never get it. Even if I’d get it, it would be probably very difficult to find a doc in Holland who would be helpfull and prescribe foreigner a cancabis. This world is realy strange, that what can help you or even save your live is illegal, but that what kills is fine, and gives some peoples good money legaly. I hope that you understand My English, sorry for that again, but is the best I can do. Cultivate, use, legalise. Keep care, Bart.

    Bart

    November 12, 2011 at 8:45 pm

  13. Ive been suffering with a few problems in my spine for some years now and it seems to just get worse with time as it has now finaly pushed me /forced me out of work at time almost over the edge just a week ago i was so confused full of meds and still had the pain to deal with too now im a fully fledged prescript zombie some of the time head up in the clouds uping and lower ing my dose to balance my pain and the side effects its no fun being unable to walk at times and lying and sitting is no joke, ive had in injections in my lower back and all types of procedures and tests with more to come which i think have also made the problem worse now im out of work and over the last few years as things have declined ive ended up with barely any life at all as i was very active and on the go dealing with the disability is bad, the pain i have to balance out all the time my meds “ITS NO LIFE” ive used on occasion the cannabis as a great form on release from severe pain and plus NO SIDE EFFECTS SO “WHY” which is why its a shame the law is in the UK as it is and those in a position to do any thing regarding the law SHOULD BE MADE TO LOSE THERE JOBS AND HAVE TO SUFFER WITH CHRONIC PAIN to the point they are desperate and need to manage there pain feeling suicidal confused and consumed by there illness and effects of prescribed drugs maybe then they would appreciate and understand the position of those suffering with chronic pain which as ive been told will damage my liver tell me what is worse the dealer at the medical centre where you see your doctor or the drug dealer in my eyes they are both the same kind, maybe then they would appreciate and understand the position of those suffereing with chronic pain what is so wrong with a law abiding person who would normaly be in work contributing to the system and has in the past numerous years, not aloud to make his own mind up what way he/she intends to tackle and stabalise his/her pain problems why carnt you grow a plant it harms no one else but its fine to be in chronic pain and harmed my prescripts meds which may even take your life intime

    I had read so many people like myself who have realy suffered and still do suffer i will leave with this note they say that there is stronger strains out there and that smoking can make you phsycotic im note medicaly trained to answer this but i do know that over the years ive held down may jobs and am able to function properly until my illness stopped me that is whilst smoking for recreational and social/spritual purposes so how can this be ive also seen in my years many people ive known die from ALCHOHOL and over time PRESCRIBED DRUGS i think if some one is to become affected it happens early on and ive never seen anyone over the years lose the plot from smoking cannabis the our country is up side down and back to front the system tells you what you can and carnt do and in my country they even want people with cancer to keep working including my condition im unable to get disabilty support as and when needed and mad to live off the smallest amount

    I thank those for there comments and experiences it helps to know you are not alone one love and for all those in the struggle wish you strength and peace “LET THE MOVEMENT LIVE”
    Zach

    zach

    December 21, 2011 at 11:07 am

  14. [...] medicinal cannabis by doctors outside the UK to import the drug has recently been (semi) closed. Recently patients have been documenting online how they have been emailing airports to notify them that they are bringing cannabis in to the [...]

  15. I have some type of arthritus possibly ostioarthritus or ostioperosis i am only 25 and am on loads of pills from my dr butfind i still throw up at least twice a day and am in so much pain that i can not eat but have to eat 3 times a day to take all my meds i find canabis realy helps me stop vimiting and enables me to eat and take my meds and helps emensly with pain i would like to contct jim starr would anyone know how?

    kitty

    July 28, 2012 at 1:19 am

  16. […] Legal Medicinal Cannabis In Britain. […]


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