What Happens to Medicinal Cannabis Users When the Police Come Knocking?
Following on from the first in our series of medicinal cannabis case studies, we are taking a look at the story of 26-year-old Steven Dalton from Grimsby, UK. He suffers from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a long-term condition that affects the digestive system, for which he self-medicates with cannabis.
“It’s all to do with stress, I’m a really stressful person,” Steven told me when I caught up with him this week. “Using weed keeps my stress levels down. I smoke it usually but if I’ve got enough I’ll eat a bit as well.”
“When it [his IBS] flares up I get a really painful cramp in my stomach and it sometimes creeps up towards my heart which makes me anxious and causes loss of breath. If I take some weed it all goes away, it eases off.”
Steven’s self-medication with cannabis eventually landed him in trouble with the police after they received a tip-off that he was growing the drug at his mother’s house. “I was growing four plants,” he admitted. “The police came in and I tried challenging them because it is my medicine, y’know? I need it. I didn’t see why they had the right to take people’s property away.”
All the cannabis found at the premises was Steven’s personal use. “It was all for me,” he confirmed. “They did try and do me for supplying because I had scales but there wasn’t any actual evidence because it wasn’t true. So I was charged with production for personal use.”
At Grimsby Magistrates’ Court he was sentenced to one year probation and ten drug rehabilitation appointments which he feels was unfair. “I’m not going to stop using weed; it’s a medicine,” he says.
What happens during his drug rehabilitation sessions? “I talk to the counsellor about what led up to me growing the plants,” Steven explained. “I just tell her it all, including my contribution to campaigning for the legalisation of weed [Steven is a member of the North Yorkshire Cannabis Club]. She eventually started writing stuff about that down and said she will look it up online.” Eventually, with six months of the drug rehabilitation left, that part of the sentence was withdrawn and he was no longer required to attend.
The conviction has affected Steven in many ways – he’s since struggled with unemployment which has led to an increase in the stress-related symptoms of his IBS. It’s a vicious circle; the only thing that helps his condition (cannabis) is the offence that was the root cause of his stress. No longer able to grow it, he is forced to buy his green from local street dealers. “I am getting it but I’m getting in debt with it,” he disclosed. “I’ve been pushed into the underground.”
Unless you’ve just awoken from a long-term coma or have exiled yourself to a desert for the past decade, you will have noticed that in the UK we are currently experiencing overwhelming cuts to our public services. Westminster Council has just announced plans to turn off all its CCTV cameras in order to save £1million per year in running costs, fire deaths in London have risen by 20 per cent as the result of cuts, and most police forces can’t even afford to fly helicopters anymore. I don’t think I need to point out that the police, courts and probation service could use their resources and time more intelligently than they did in Steven’s case.
If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article please contact Release.
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