#ReleaseMyMeds campaign launched by Release to protect medical cannabis patients’ rights

by Katya Kowalski

Despite medical cannabis being legal in the UK since 2018, many patients still experience harassment and negative interactions with the police, due to a lack of legal understanding for the drug. Release have launched a campaign to support the rights of patients prescribed medical cannabis in the UK and gather a greater understanding for the discrimination they face.

In November of 2023, five years since medical cannabis was legalised in the UK, the Guardian reported that they had received 24 individual reports from people who had experience negative police interactions related to the use of their prescribed medication. The paper concluded that “… among many police officers there is a lack of understanding about who can access [medical cannabis] and where it can be consumed.”

Release is a drug policy charity that advocates for the rights of people who use drugs, through their research and national helpline they hear stories of this nature all the time.

Release will be collecting any concerning or negative experiences that prescribed medical cannabis patients have had with the police, to ensure that they are documented and used to demonstrate the need for a fairer and more just treatment of patients’ legal rights.

Stephen Cutter, Head of Legal Services at Release commented:

“Even though it has been over five years since the law was changed to allow for cannabis to be prescribed we know that many patients continue to face confusion from law enforcement. This has led to patients being arrested, having their medication confiscated, or the validity of their prescription challenged. This can and should be avoided, and it needs to change. Our campaign will help us identify what specific issues patients are facing when dealing with the police across the country, and what changes can stop this from continuing to happen.”

How will the campaign work?

Release launched a medical cannabis questionnaire for prescribed patients to complete. They additionally offer patients the opportunity for their cases to be reviewed by Release’s legal team to advise whether there might be a challenge they can pursue for how they were treated.

Release can offer patients the following:

Support: including advice on medical cannabis, drug laws and legal actions against the police. While the campaign is focused on legal advice for medical cannabis, Release can offer advice on issues with any other substances, or refer on to better suited organisations.

Mobilisation: The past five years have seen negligible improvement to the way patients are treated by law enforcement. As negative experiences aren’t centrally collected, documenting them will help us understand the national picture better than before.

Action: While a lot of medications are also controlled drugs, we often hear a lot of people reach out to our national helpline for medical cannabis advice. Your experience may be what’s needed to help change the way patients are treated in the UK. 

If you are interested in learning more about the campaign or filling in the questionnaire, click here

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