Medicinal cannabis users prosecuted as drug-driving arrests double in four years – The Telegraph
Medicinal cannabis users face being prosecuted for drug-driving as arrests have doubled in four years amid a police crackdown.
The number of people taking medicinal cannabis is expected to rise from the current 15,000 to 30,000 by the end of the year after the Government gave the green light to prescriptions largely to treat pain from cancer and other illnesses as well as psychiatric illnesses such as PTSD.
However, traces of cannabis capable of registering a positive result in police roadside drug tests can remain in the body for 72 hours, meaning patients face arrest and prosecution even though medical studies have shown their driving capability is not impaired.
Police are increasingly targeting drug drivers because of their potential links to other criminality with some forces such as Merseyside prosecuting more motorists for drug than drink driving, according to transport experts.
Drug driving arrests for cannabis have increased by more than 140 per cent since 2016 when the Government changed the law to allow roadside saliva tests, according to police figures obtained by The Telegraph under Freedom of Information laws.
Campaigners said medicinal cannabis users were being unfairly targeted in the crackdown and should be treated in the same way as users of other prescription drugs such as opiates like codeine or fentanyl, which are also used to treat pain.
Patients taking such prescription drugs can drive even if they are above specified limits as long as they follow their doctor’s advice and do not take the wheel when they feel “unfit” to do so, according to the Government’s official guidance.
‘A massive injustice’
David Dancy, 33, who has been prescribed medicinal cannabis for multiple conditions including arthritis, insomnia and anxiety, is being prosecuted after being found to be over the drug-drive limit even though he says he was not impaired having taken his prescription 12 hours previously.
The father-of-three said he was randomly stopped by police who then smelt the cannabis on his clothes after he had taken it as usual by vaporiser. He said he never drove until at least 12 hours after taking the drug and unless he was competent to do so.
“I have been driving for 10 years and never even had a parking ticket,” he said. “I am going to fight it all the way because I feel it is a massive injustice. My life is dependent on this.”
Lyphe, one of the biggest groups of clinics and registered doctors prescribing medical cannabis, advises its patients to carry their prescriptions with them so they can present them to police if stopped as well as to follow the Government guidance not to drive if they feel unfit to do so.
However, Jonathan Nadler, the group’s chief executive, said that despite this, patients were being “demonised” and prosecuted. “They are pretty much instantly arrested even though they have a prescription. These are normal people with families and jobs. You have lawyers, doctors and accountants. It is really concerning,” he said.
He urged police and the Government to review the rules so that roadside tests assessed impairment rather than being purely based on the level of medical cannabis in a driver’s bloodstream once the patient had demonstrated to officers they had been prescribed the drug.
“Otherwise, we will be criminalising people who are sick and looking to have a normal life,” said Mr Nadler.