Last Week in Weed Issue 19

In this issue of Last Week in Weed, we look at US man arrest in Dubai, GPs concern over Cancard, and 100 MPs call for greater access to ‘medical cannabis’

Last Week in Weed

(Issue 19)

Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog from The Simpa Life

In this week’s issue of Last Week in Weed, We’ll be looking at an American man arrested for a positive urine test in Dubai, The BMA, and RCGP voice concerns about Cancard, and finally an all-party group of 100 MPs and peers call for greater access to ‘medical cannabis’ in the UK.

Image credit: Joe.co.uk

US tourist faces prison is Dubai for testing positive for THC

An American man who flew to Dubai has been arrested after doctors treating him in hospital following the sudden onset of Pancreatitis ran blood and urine tests. During the routine treatment, the police were called after tests on the man’s urine revealed he had trace levels of THC in his system. 

Peter Clark, 51 flew from Las Vegas to Dubai looking for recording studio space to utilise out in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Mr. Clark has claimed that he consumed cannabis back home in the US long before even boarding the plane. 

The police arrived at the hospital while Mr. Clark was still under the effects of drugs administered during the treatment that had left him disorientated from dehydration and a lack of food over the previous few days. The police handcuffed and removed him from the hospital before placing him in a holding cell with three others at Al Barsha police station.

”I was absolutely stunned to learn that I was being charged for having residue ‘marijuana’ in my system. ”I smoked it legally back home, long before I ever even got on the plane.” – Peter Clark

Mr. Clark was then arrested for, of all things DRUG POSSESSION and taken by the country’s anti-narcotics unit and caged alongside 10 other men in a small, cramped, and dirty cell. During processing, Mr. Clark was Hyperglycaemic and suffering respiratory alkalosis and had a blood sugar level tenfold usual levels due to pancreatitis.

Mr. Clark has expressed frustration and confusion as to why he was arrested as he didn’t buy, consume, or bring any drugs into the country. A few days later Peter was released and told to wait at his hotel and wait for further instructions.

”I knew about the country’s strict drug laws, but never for a moment did I consider that I could be thrown in prison over something I did in America. I tried to explain it to the police and be as cooperative as possible, but I’m just being thrown through the system.’The moment I went to the hospital, my time in Dubai was ruined, but I didn’t realise that was only the start of the nightmare” -Peter Clark

Now over a month later, Mr. Clark is still stuck in his hotel room in Dubai, potentially looking at several years in a foreign prison where he doesn’t speak the language, know the culture, or even deserve to be there in the first place. That’s got to be a daunting thought to be locked in a hotel room with for weeks on end. 

The founder of Detained in Dubai, an internationally recognised authority on UAE law, Radha Stirling is representing Mr. Clark. Radha says that visitors to the UAE who have consumed cannabis legally in other countries can face prosecution for possession if traces of THC are found in their blood or urine weeks and potentially months after last consuming cannabis. 

”The UAE’s arbitrary enforcement of laws and lack of predictable legal outcomes means that Peter potentially faces years in prison for legally smoking marijuana. Even if found innocent, he can be dragged through a slow and costly legal process. Visitors to Dubai who have planned for a short stay holiday can end up embroiled in a system that will easily cost them $50,000 – $100,000 in hotels and legal fees but some outcomes are even worse. ”Corrupt police informants have been used by the prosecution to upgrade possession cases to that of drug dealing, which carries a life sentence” – Radha Stirling, founder of Detained in Dubai

If no outside pressure is excreted then Mr. Clark is potentially looking at a harsh and lengthy prison sentence. As such Radha Stirling has said that “the US State Department needs to revise travel warnings to Americans who could end up arbitrarily detained.”

The UAE creates the illusion of being a modern party place and although visitors accept that certain behaviours are illegal, it is very easy to be confused when police only randomly enforce the law. ”On the one hand, prostitution, homosexuality, and indecent behaviours are unlawful, and yet they are seen more blatantly in Dubai than most other world cities. ”It is easy to see how visitors might be trapped into believing that anything goes and the police will turn a blind eye” 

The UAE should not be prosecuting visitors for acts committed outside their country. Peter has committed no genuine crime within Dubai. ”It is clear that the UAE must alter the technical wording of their drug laws to ensure foreigners are not unnecessarily persecuted” 

We’ve seen foreigners arrested for drugs taken outside of the UAE, specs of almost undetectable marijuana ‘dust’ at the bottom of belongings, a poppyseed from a bread roll consumed at the airport, pharmaceutical and prescription medicine, and even a glass of wine served onboard Emirates airlines. ”Arresting someone for smoking marijuana in their own country, weeks before they even entered the UAE, is unfairly persecuting tourists who have behaved well within Dubai itself. ” – Radha Stirling, founder of Detained in Dubai

This is such a tragic but not unfamiliar tale. The ‘legalisation’ of cannabis in various regions around the world has led to a false sense of security. There are still many places like the UAE that can and will lock you up for having THC in your system. 

GP’s express concern about use of Cancard

In our second story in this week’s Last Week in Weed, we’ll take a look at a recent article that came out on PuleToday.co.uk, a leading publication for GPs in the UK which launched back in 1960. In the article, the authors warn against British medical patients purchasing the new Cancard ‘medical cannabis’ discretion card. 

The piece is written by two of the most respected and well-established health institutions in the country, the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP).

In the article the organisations express concern and worry about Cancard and say that they do not support or endorse the scheme. This stance is rather counter to the narrative being portrayed by Cancard, who has previously claimed to of “designed the card in collaboration with GP’s.” Something that doesn’t inspire a great deal of confidence in their other claims and the system as a whole. 

The Cancard UK website states that the Cancard has been designed in collaboration with GPs but as far as we are aware there is no formal endorsement from the Royal College of GPs, nor has the BMA, as your trade union, been consulted’ 

Whilst we sympathise with patients who struggle to pay a private prescription charge, we do not believe that this is a justifiable reason to encourage the purchase of unregulated unlicensed cannabis products from unregulated or illegal dealers.’ – Statement by the BMA and RCGP

The Cancard costs £19.99 a year, plus an additional ‘one-off’ £10.00 admin change. For their money the consumer is provided with a holographic credit card-sized bit of plastic that the creators have claimed will help you to avoid prosecution for possession of cannabis without a prescription. The idea is that you show the card to a detaining police officer and they’re supposed to click through to a website, read a few documents and simply let you walk away with your cannabis.

The concept that Cancard sold itself on was that it provided discretion and protection to those that qualify for ‘medical cannabis’ but who cannot afford to access it via a rather costly private prescription. Recent articles in pro-Tory rags claim that Cancard has sold 20,000 cards, at £30.00 a pop, that’s £600,000 raised from some of the most vulnerable and sick individuals in society. Individuals that should be receiving their cannabis subsidised on the NHS anyway. 

In order to obtain a Cancard a ‘patient’ must first meet strict qualifying criteria before applying, far stricter than that of the private clinics. First, the ‘patient’ must have an active diagnosis confirmed by their GP and have tried at least two other forms of medications or ruled out those options due to concerns about side effects or potential dependence issues. Once these criteria are met a ‘patient’ can then ask for a copy of their summary care record which they would then send to Cancard to ‘verify’ their eligibility. 

In their joint statement, the BMA and RCGP stated that although they support the use of ‘cannabis-based products for medicinal use in humans’ (CBPMs) under supervision or when prescribed a MHRA- authorised product by a specialist. They “cannot support the use of Cancard or the suggestion that UK registered GP’s sign a declaration confirming a diagnosis in order for the card to be issued.”

In order to verify the patient has a condition there is the option for a patient to submit a summary of care, or, we can confirm with their GP that they have a diagnosis listed. ‘This is in no way implicating a doctor in the recommendation of using or not using a medicine, it is simply a way of confirming the patient has a condition.”

The feedback from GPs so far has been incredibly positive, it is very much being seen as a harm reduction tool in order for their patients to feel less stress over possible criminalisation simply for maintaining their health.” – Carly Barton, Founder of Cancard

It boggles my mind as to why you have to be sick first to be concerned about “maintaining your health” surely if more ‘well’ people consumed cannabis prophylactically then we would have a hell of a lot less disease, illness, and mental health problems pervading our society today. 

MPs call for ‘greater access’ to ‘medical cannabis’ in the UK.

100 MPs call for greater access to ‘medical cannabis’ in the UK.

Our final story this week focuses on a cross-party group of MPs and Peers that are calling for greater access to ‘medical cannabis’ in the UK. The group chaired by Labour MP Tonia Antoniazzi wrote a letter to PM Boris Johnson expressing their outrage and concern. They state that nearly three years after ‘medical cannabis’ was ‘legalised’ in the UK only three prescriptions have been fulfilled by the NHS.

“We sympathise with every patient and every family courageously confronting life with hard-to-treat conditions.” – Spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care

In November 2018 the UK government created a new classification called ‘medical cannabis’ under schedule two of the 2001 Misuse of Drugs act. This ‘legalised’ limited prescribing of ‘medical cannabis’ which was defined under the act as ‘cannabis-based product for medicinal use in humans’.

In the letter, the group calls for ‘compassionate funding’ to be made available for the families of sick children that are currently forced to pay up to £2,000 a month to access cannabis-based products on private prescriptions. The funding would be temporary until either the private sector is allowed to finish the NHS or MPs step up to save the NHS by funding it through cannabis cultivation and in-house product production and distribution.

In the letter signed by 100 MPs and peers, Ms. Antoniazzi said that “Parents were having to fundraise up to £2,000 a month to pay for the treatment privately. In any circumstance, this is a severe financial burden for families already having to cope with very sick children and Covid restrictions have rendered most fund-raising impossible.”

“The reasons for the lack of NHS prescriptions appear to be complex and will inevitably take time to resolve. However, the families to which we refer simply do not have time. They are emotionally and financially broken and their children are at risk of being without their life-transforming medicine within weeks.” – Cross-party group letter

The cross-party group is supported by the campaign End Our Pain, one of the groups that helped to ‘legalise’ ‘medical cannabis’ back in 2018. Their director Peter Carroll said to the BBC that “When the law was changed, we thought as campaigners ‘job done’, there will be prescriptions – but it didn’t happen.” 

“We are in this crazy situation where it is totally legal, but hardly any specialist doctors will prescribe it” – Peter Carroll, director of End Our Pain

Juxtaposed to this letter is the recent news that the UK is still the world’s largest producer of ‘legal cannabis’. A recent report by the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board estimates that the UK produced 320 tonnes of ‘legal’ cannabis in 2019 – more than triple that of 2016s 95 tonnes. This accounts for 75% of all global trade, which in 2019 stood at 468.3 tonnes of ‘legal’ cannabis

Now just imagine if the NHS cultivated and profited from all that ‘legal’ weed. Instead of private companies exporting it, forcing the public to have to pay ridiculous sums to import cannabis grown in other countries. 

Think about it there would be no more overinflated ‘NHS funding crisis’ headlines, no more hollow slogans like ‘protect the NHS’. We could finally afford to fully fund every vital operation, treatment, and drug needed by the British population. We could more than adequately pay our front-line health staff and key workers. 

We could be at the forefront of discovering and developing new exciting innovations, applications, and novel products for cannabis that could help save countless lives. If only the UK wasn’t so corrupt and capitalistic. 

If nothing else this shows that it isn’t a case of if cannabis prohibition will end, it is now simply a matter of when it will end and who will be the ones to prosper and profit.

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter

Simpa is a passionate drug law reform activist, mental health advocate, blogger, freelance writer, and host of The Simpa Life podcast.

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