UK: Cannabis patient wins ‘small victory’ after months battling cannabis driving charges

Cannabis Health News reports

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.”

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Cannabis patient wins ‘small victory’ after months battling driving charges

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