Medical cannabis law has been left in a haze – John Binns and David Hardstaff write for The Times

Medical cannabis law has been left in a haze – John Binns and David Hardstaff write for The Times

BCL partner John Binns and associate David Hardstaff’s article ‘Medical cannabis law has been left in a haze’ has been published by The Times.

Here’s an extract from the article:

“In the midst of a generally troubled winter, consumers and producers of cannabidiol (CBD) products in the UK are facing a multitude of problems.

A compound within cannabis that contains little or none of its psychoactive component, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD is a success story in many ways, but the seemingly unstoppable force of demand for the products looks set to hit an immovable object in the form of UK drugs law, which manages to be both ambiguous and absurdly strict.

To most observers the legalisation of medicinal cannabis products in 2018, prompted by campaigns from parents of children suffering from epilepsy, was an important step forward. And yet medicinal cannabis, which can contain CBD, THC, or both, remains hard to obtain because of strict requirements for prescriptions, NHS reluctance to fund and, most recently, importing problems thanks to the UK’s departure from the EU.

With this backdrop, it may be helpful that the policing minister, Kit Malthouse, has sought clarification from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.

All of that makes for a significant role in the market for CBD oils and other products, not marketed as medicines, which are widely available in chemists and health shops. Many people, including sufferers of various chronic health conditions, are heavily reliant on their continued availability, especially while prescriptions are so hard to obtain.

What is the legal position? While Home Office guidance says that it is difficult to extract pure CBD from cannabis without trace amounts of THC, the common understanding that anything with a THC content below 0.2 per cent is legal is not reflected in UK law. Instead, CBD sellers have been helped by an arcane exemption for products that contain no more than 1 milligram of a controlled drug, and a general tolerance from law enforcement. Importers are left pondering that while the exemption may apply to small bottles of CBD oil, it cannot apply to whole vats of it.”

This article was originally published by The Times on 11/02/2021. You can read the full version on their website.

John Binns is a partner at BCL specialising in all aspects of business crime, with a particular interest in confiscation, civil recovery and money laundering under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (“POCA”). His business crime experience includes representing suspects, defendants and witnesses in cases invoking allegations of bribery and corruption, fraud (including carbon credits, carousel/MTIC, land-banking, Ponzi and pyramid scheme frauds), insider trading, market abuse, price-fixing, sanctions-busting, and tax evasion. He has coordinated and undertaken corporate investigations and defended in cases brought by BEIS, the FCA, HMRC, NCA, OFT, SFO and others.

David Hardstaff is an associate solicitor at BCL specialising in criminal and regulatory law. He advises individuals and companies in relation to controlled drug licensing and AML/Proceeds of Crime considerations in the context of the domestic and international cannabis market. He has particular experience in advising and representing individuals accused of sexual offences, drugs offences and offences involving violence. He is an experienced police station representative and advocate and represents clients in a broad range of proceedings at the Magistrates’ Court, Crown Court and Court of Appeal.

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