A multiple sclerosis patient who grows cannabis and makes infused edibles to manage her condition has walked free from court and had charges against her dropped.
Lesley Gibson, 55, and her husband Mark had been arrested in January after a police raid on their property discovered ten young cannabis plants and three home-made cannabis-infused chocolate bars.
The couple were charged for possession and cultivation of cannabis, and faced a prison sentence of up to five years each and/or an unlimited fine.
Prosecutors at Carlisle Crown Court said there was no public interest in pursuing the case. This was after it became clear that Mrs Gibson had recently got a private prescription for cannabis from a British doctor.
There was a loud applause in the public gallery at Carlisle Crown Court as Judge Michael Duck announced that the case was over.
Mrs Gibson has been a long-timer user of cannabis to manage her symptoms and previously used NHS-approved Sativex – a spray containing cannabis plant extracts THC and CBD – before it was withdrawn by her local NHS.
She is also the founder of THC4MS, a group which helps MS patients to access and use cannabis to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. Needless to say, her operations have caught the attention of the police before.
Medical cannabis in the UK
Medical cannabis has been legal in the UK since November 2018.
It is thought that cannabis is widely used by sufferers of MS in the UK. Thanks to the difficulties of getting a prescription for the drug, most get their medicine from the black market.
In November, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) approved Sativex as a last resort for MS patients with “moderate to severe” spasticity. Prescriptions are at the discretion of each local NHS authority, however.
Patients who can afford to pay for a private prescription will have an easier time at new private cannabis clinics.
A spokeswoman for the Crown Prosecution Service said: “We have a duty to keep all our cases under continuous review. Since charges were authorised, we now understand that one of the defendants is being lawfully prescribed a cannabis-derived medication from an accredited doctor.
“We have therefore concluded it is not in the public interest to continue a prosecution against either of the defendants and offered no evidence.”
Tayab Ali, Mrs Gibson’s solicitor, said: “It can’t be right to prosecute a person who has no choice other than to use medicinal cannabis to alleviate serious symptoms of a condition such as multiple sclerosis.
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“I cannot see a situation where it would be in the public interest to prosecute a person in such circumstances.
“The law needs to be reviewed so that we no longer put seriously ill people through the humiliation and trauma of a police raid, arrest and prosecution only for the prosecution to be later halted because it is, so obviously, not in the public interest to continue it. The law clearly needs to change.”
Does the outcome of this case set a precedent? Whilst it doesn’t change the law, it does highlight the fact that it’s not in the public interest to prosecute patients who feel they have no other option but to grow their own cannabis medicine.