Europe: Britain Goes After Medical Marijuana Suppliers

In two separate trials, one beginning this week and one beginning next week, British authorities are prosecuting medical marijuana providers under the country's drug laws, the Guardian reported. The continued prosecution of medical marijuana providers comes despite the government's downgrading of marijuana from a Class B drug to the less serious Class C in 2004.

Four members of Therapeutic Help from Cannabis for Multiple Sclerosis (THCforMS( faced charges of conspiracy to distribute marijuana this week in crown court in Carlisle. THCforMS supplies free cannabis exclusively to MS sufferers and says on its web site it has handed out 33,000 cannabis chocolate bars to patients.

Next week, Bud Buddies founder Jeffrey Ditchfield goes on trial in Mold crown court on nine counts of cultivation and distribution of cannabis. Bud Buddies offers a number of marijuana preparations for anyone with a proven medical need and requires documentation of that need from a physician.

Under current British marijuana law, all of the defendants mentioned face up to 14 years in prison.

Meanwhile, life has become more difficult for as many as 30% of British MS sufferers who use the herb to alleviate the pain and spasms associated with the disease. One of those patients, who asked not to be identified, said she had applied to use the marijuana tincture Sativex on a trial basis, but was turned down. The preparation is currently undergoing a three-year trial. "I find it inconceivable that the crown sees these prosecutions as in the public interest when there is still no legal way for the people who are helped by cannabis to obtain and use it," she said.

The British Medical Association said in a 1997 report: "While research is under way the police, the courts and prosecuting authorities should be aware of the medicinal reasons for the unlawful use of cannabis by those suffering from certain medical conditions for whom other drugs have proved ineffective."

Even if the crown prosecutors don't get it, some trial courts do -- or at least they did. Up until last year, medical marijuana patients and providers successfully raised the "necessity" defense, which allows illegal acts to prevent a greater harm. But an appeals court ruling last year held that the "necessity" defense did apply to the use of marijuana to relieve chronic pain.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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