A woman at the centre of a government row over medicinal cannabis will continue to grow her own plants despite being warned by a police crime commissioner that she “is openly breaking the law”.
Carly Barton, 32, has been told that police will not “look the other way” if she cultivates cannabis, which she takes to alleviate crippling pain brought on by the chronic condition fibromyalgia.
The campaigner was the first patient in Britain to be prescribed the substance by a private doctor and later received an NHS prescription, but she was told she could not receive a dose through the health service as no “gold standard” clinical trials exist.
She has said she is tired of “meeting drug dealers in dark car parks” and wants to become self-sufficient by growing her own cannabis at home.
It comes as the number of cannabis users arrested by police was found to have fallen by 77% in some areas over the past decade, amid claims of a “de facto decriminalisation”.
Barton, who lives in Sussex, has told HuffPost UK she will grow her own supply despite Katy Bourne, the county’s elected police and crime commissioner, telling her she was “openly breaking the law”.
Barton said: “I am going to [grow my own cannabis]. I think we might be able to come to some arrangement with Sussex Police. I’ve not lost hope that that can happen.”
She has started to grow six of her own plants in her garage, although it will be months until they can be harvested.
While Barton said Bourne appeared sympathetic to her plight during a phone call last week, “she was not willing to put her neck on the line to advance this. She wants this to be someone else’s problem”.
“She’s saying ‘it’s a health issue, the health secretary needs to sort it out’. But the health secretary is saying ‘there’s not much we can do’. At the moment there’s a lot of buck-passing going on and not much in the way of solution-focussed plans,” Barton added.
Bourne’s office acknowledged the details of the phone call with Barton but did not comment further.
Sussex Police meanwhile told HuffPost UK it would not confirm or deny an ongoing investigation into Barton’s proposed cannabis cultivation.
“There’s a lot of buck-passing going on”
Barton added that, despite government assurances that medical cannabis would be made available to certain patients on the NHS, many still faced having to resort to crime to secure supplies, unless they can afford expensive private fees of around £1,500 a month.
She said: “We’re a year down the line to the point where the government announced access for those four indications of chronic pain, nausea and chemotherapy, intractable epilepsy and spasticity.
“Those patients are still denied [medical cannabis] unless they have the resources to pay £1,500 to be a legal private patient. If they can’t afford it the only other option is being a criminal. That to me does not sit right. Something desperately needs to be done for patients in that situation.
“The NHS is saying that randomised control trials have not been done for cannabis, which is why they can’t allow my prescription through on that basis.
“They want to see these trials which can take about three years per condition so cannabis, which can treat over 300 conditions, would take around 900 research years before someone can use a prescription.
“We need to do the studies and it’s important we do the work to understand the plant better. But it’s also true that this plant has been used for thousands of years and by millions in this country medicinally already.
“It’s not right that while they get on with their ticking boxes, patients are being criminalised.”
Barton wrote in a blog on HuffPost UK last week how she walked into her local police station with a signed declaration telling officers she intended to break the law.
“Attached to that disclosure was a proposition to collaborate on a pilot scheme dubbed Carly’s Amnesty that would kick start an access route,” she wrote.
Under the ‘amnesty’, Barton proposes that those with the proof they have conditions already accepted by ministers as qualifying for medical cannabis would be able to grow up to nine plants at home.
A register of patients with permission to cultivate cannabis would allow police to mitigate complaints and avoid wasting time on warrants or dawn raids, Barton added.
Close to 100 patients have been prescribed medical cannabis oils since a government climbdown last year, but delays remain for many more patients who would benefit from ingesting cannabinoids via other methods.
But the introduction of medical cannabis has “opened a Pandora’s Box”, the UK’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, said last month, with patients believing it can cure a host of conditions without evidence it is effective or safe.
Sussex Police said it would “not confirm whether or not we are investigating named individuals”.
A force spokesperson added in a statement: “Each case is dealt with on its individual merits taking into account our overall policy.
“Our policy is to deal appropriately with the cultivation, possession and supply of cannabis as criminal offences, as one part of our primary role of dealing with the crimes and incidents which present the highest levels of harm and risk, particularly to the most vulnerable members of our communities.”
The Department of Health said it wouldn’t comment on Barton’s case and passed HuffPost UK to the Home Office to discuss “the legalities of this situation”.
The Home Office said: “The government has no plans to decriminalise recreational cannabis.
“It would send the wrong message to the vast majority of people who do not take drugs, especially young and vulnerable people, with the potential grave risk of increased misuse of drugs.
“However, specialist doctors can now prescribe cannabis-based products for medicinal use where there is clinical evidence of benefit.”
What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia, also called fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), is a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body.
As well as widespread pain, people with fibromyalgia may also have:
- increased sensitivity to pain
- extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- muscle stiffness
- difficulty sleeping
- problems with mental processes (known as “fibro-fog”), such as problems with memory and concentration
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – a digestive condition that causes stomach pain and bloating