A medical cannabis patient has been cleared of charges against him on the grounds that he has a legal prescription, after being pulled over by police for a second time. 

Nathan Williams was found not guilty of failure to provide a specimen at Welshpool Magistrates Court earlier this month, after he was pulled over by the same police officer just months after a previous case against him was dismissed. 

Magistrates determined that his legal prescription was a ‘reasonable excuse’ for refusing the roadside drug test, in what has been described as a ‘small victory’ — but one which will not set a precedent in UK law. 

Williams was on a driving lesson with a friend when he was first pulled over by police in his hometown of Newton in February 2023.

The 25-year-old, who has been prescribed cannabis for chronic pain since January 2020, refused to provide a roadside saliva sample, explaining that his medication was legal. After also refusing to give a blood sample at the police station, he was charged with failing to provide a specimen under Section 7 of the Road Traffic Act (RTA).

While patients with a prescription for cannabis are understood to have a legal medical defence if they are found to have levels of THC in their blood, this only comes into play once the case is with the Courts. 

Williams pleaded guilty, but his case was later dismissed by Welshpool Magistrates Court after the prosecution failed to provide any evidence. 

Just months later, in December 2023, Williams was stopped again by the same officer while pulling into his housing estate. He refused to complete the roadside swipe test and was arrested and taken to a police station over 40 miles away, where he once again refused to give a blood sample.

This time the Crown Prosecution Service pursued the case and Williams appeared before magistrates on Monday 11 March, 2024. 

The Court said the fact that he had a prescription for cannabis was a ‘reasonable excuse for refusing the roadside test’.

‘A small victory’ 

Speaking to Cannabis Health, Williams’ lawyer, Robert Hanratty, described the judgement as a ‘small victory’ and one of the first he is aware of where the prescription defence has been used successfully in this way.

However, he cautioned the judgement does not set a precedent and ‘each case turns on its own individual facts’.

“In this case, because of the background, I suspect they didn’t think the stopping was necessarily in good faith,” he told Cannabis Health.

“This particular officer had been engaged in an almost identical case previously, in relation to which the prosecution on that occasion offered no evidence. This time, they decided to run the case, but failed on both.

He continued: “The magistrates said: ‘we believe that the fact that he has a prescription for cannabis is a reasonable excuse for refusing the roadside test’.

“From my perspective, this clearly indicates that in certain circumstances, the provision of proof of your prescription will satisfy magistrates that you don’t have to give a roadside swipe.”

Hanratty also pointed out that in this case, the statutory requirements necessary to request a specimen analysis under Section 7 of the RTA had not been met.

“In other ways, it demonstrates a lack of training and awareness of the strict statutory requirements of the law’ among police,” he added.

“The police need to familiarise themselves significantly more than they have with the strict procedures associated with obtaining intimate samples.”

‘13 months of hell’ 

Despite the verdict, Williams says the whole ordeal has had a considerable impact on him and he fears that it is only a matter of time before he is targeted again. 

He says his health has deteriorated in recent months and he has been signed off work. 

“It’s now 13 months since this all started and it’s been absolute hell,” he told Cannabis Health.

“I’m terrified of going out in my car right now, I’m just waiting for the next time it’s going to happen.”

He was also reported to the DVLA, but has since been informed he satisfies the medical standards for safe driving. 

Time for an overhaul of UK driving laws?

A report published last year by the Cannabis Industry Council (CIC), produced with support from advocacy group Seed Our Future, called for an overhaul of UK driving laws following numerous reports of patients having been stopped by police and having charges brought against them, in some cases even losing their licence. 

The number of arrests for driving under the influence of cannabis are reported to have increased by more than 72% between 2016/17 to 2020/21. 

The report called for a review of the ‘consistency and effectiveness’ of law enforcement training around the legalisation of medical cannabis and patients’ statutory rights

Cannabis Health contacted Dyfed-Powys Police for a response and to ask whether any further action was being taken.

A spokesperson said: “Dyfed-Powys Police is committed to keeping the force area safe for all road users. Where officers have concerns over the quality of an individual’s driving, they can request a sample to determine if that person is driving while under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol. Failure to comply with this request is a criminal offence, and action will be taken to prosecute the individual.”

UK law requires that drivers tell the DVLA about any medical condition that could potentially affect their driving. The only condition requiring mandatory notification for which a CBPM is commonly used is epilepsy. There is no requirement for patients to inform the DVLA of their prescription, unless related to epilepsy.

DVLA guidelines require patients to be ‘free from any medication effects that would impair driving’ as a condition for continuing to drive or resuming driving following medication. The elements required for safe driving include: attention and concentration, good reaction time, and coordination. It is down to the individual driver to judge whether their ability to drive safely is impaired, as with any other prescribed medication.

The post Cannabis patient wins ‘small victory’ after months battling driving charges appeared first on Cannabis Health News.

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Author: Sarah Sinclair

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